12 - 48 Months

Welcome spring with these colorful, toddler-friendly DIYs

Child and mom looking at flowers outside

One of the best signs of spring is the return of color: the tops of yellow tulips, the fringe of green grass, and a robin’s red breast ❤️ Incorporating color into these fun DIY activities stimulates your toddler’s senses and deepens their learning.

Here are 4 colorful projects to help you and your toddler celebrate the beginning of spring:

Straw threading sensory bin

Threading pipe cleaners through pieces of drinking straw sharpens your toddler’s fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and spatial awareness. This activity is fun for 18 months and up. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Cut plastic drinking straws into 2-inch pieces—4 per straw—and place them in a clear plastic bin (children who are ready to practice using child-safe scissors will love doing some of the snipping)
  2. Add pipe cleaners to the bin.
  3. Invite your toddler to hold a pipe cleaner in one hand and thread the pieces of straw with the other.  
  4. If they need more stability and control, you can place a small cardboard box with holes cut into the top inside the bin. Push the pipe cleaners into the holes so that both of your toddler’s hands are free to thread the straws.

Felt number puzzle

These 2-piece puzzles are perfect for two-year-old toddlers, who are just starting to recognize numbers. One puzzle piece has the numeral, and the other has a design with the corresponding number of dots in the same color. Each puzzle interlocks in a unique way so your toddler can tell quickly if they have connected the right pieces—making this an activity they may be able to tackle independently. At this stage, your toddler is more likely to match the colors and shapes of the puzzle than the numbers or quantities, but the connection is still meaningful. Here’s how to make it:

  1. Cut 10 different-colored circles out of felt (trace a glass or measuring cup if you want a perfect circle).
  2. Cut out each numeral and the corresponding number of dots from felt in contrasting colors for numbers 1 through 10. Make each puzzle’s numerals and dots the same color for easier matching, like a blue “7” and 7 blue dots.
  3. Cut each circle in half in a unique way—zigzag, triangle, squiggly line, etc.
  4. Glue a numeral on one half of each circle and the corresponding dots on the other half. 
  5. Encourage your toddler to try to put each puzzle back together.
  6. Count the dots out loud with your toddler and point to the numerals as you say their names to reinforce vocabulary and number sense.

Sensory number cards

Your toddler reinforces their cognitive and fine motor learning with sensory feedback when they trace numerals with their fingers and touch pom-poms as they count. This activity is ideal at three years old, when one-to-one correspondence emerges, but your toddler can start to explore it as early as 18 months. Here’s how to make it:

  1. Cut out 10 rectangular pieces of cardboard.
  2. Bend pipe cleaners into the numerals 1 through 10. You may need to trim them to fit onto the cardboard.
  3. Glue one pipe cleaner numeral onto the left side of each piece of cardboard.
  4. Glue the corresponding number of poms-poms onto the right side of each piece.
  5. Encourage your toddler to touch the math boards. Count the pom-poms out loud, pointing to the numbers as you say their names to reinforce vocabulary and number sense.

Alphabet posting box

Toddlers love posting—poking objects into little holes and openings—so before you recycle that cardboard box you got in the mail, use it to make this simple matching and posting activity. Magnetic or craft letters attached to popsicle sticks make practicing the alphabet a fun tactile experience and reinforce your three-year-old’s letter recognition at the same time. Here’s how to make it:

  1. Measure out and mark 26 short lines on the top of a cardboard box (four slots per line works well).
  2. Use a marker to write a letter of the alphabet beneath each line. 
  3. Cut the lines into slits wide enough to fit the popsicle sticks.
  4. Glue one craft letter to the top of each popsicle stick.
  5. Invite your toddler to match the alphabet sticks with the corresponding letters on the box.


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Posted in: 12 - 48 Months, Fine Motor, Math, Sensory Play, Playtime and Activities, Child Development

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