Reggio Activities for Toddlers

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My little daughter Sarah is almost two. She is a mischievous little girl, but also oh so inquisitive and curious. She wants to explore everything. She is at such a great age; still exploring most everything with her senses, but also starting to ask questions and express what she sees and hears and feels. Every fortnight or so, sometimes monthly, I bring out some new materials for Sarah (and her almost 4 year old brother Jack) to play with and explore. Here’s what we have on our playroom shelves at the moment.

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Natural gems & rocks: A tray of uniquely textured rocks and gems is very appealing to little people. My daughter enjoys the colors and smoothness of the agate as well as the sharp spikes of the amethyst.

The smaller gems, with their brilliant colors reflected in the small acrylic mirrors, instantly caught Sarah’s attention. Each one with a different weight, shape and color. She likes to run them through her fingers as well as use the small cups to drop the stones into as she listens to the sounds they make.

I try to use natural materials whenever possible. At almost two, Sarah still explores heavily through her senses. I bought these stones from a local science store. Although collecting stones and pebbles, or maybe sea glass if you are lucky enough, would be just as appealing.

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Exploring color & light: This exploration is a favorite at our house. Careful experimenting is needed to make the crystal ball and the prism cast rainbows across the walls. While the color paddles make the world change color when placed up to a little one’s eye.

Playing with mirrors: Right from when Sarah was a newborn, she has had mirrors to gaze into. She never seems to tire of watching her face move. Mirrors can be used for a simple exploration like this one, or to add a different perspective to investigate, like in the gems exploration above. I like acrylic mirrors as a base as they won’t break, but when using the mirror to investigate her own reflection, I prefer glass as the image is clearer. These are shaving mirrors I picked up from the supermarket and a home ware store.

Sarah is still scribbling, she isn’t drawing figures yet, but she enjoys mimicking her older brother, who is a prolific drawer, and so this exploration has a small pencil and paper. The mirrors alone though are enough to engage her curiosity.

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Magnets: This is another exploration which is continually on our shelves. At first I had some non-magnetic items on the tray but Sarah soon tired of these, not interested in distinguishing between the two, instead more fascinated by the way the magnets worked and how many magnetic items should could pick up at the one time.

Natural materials for imaginative play: Everyday, Sarah’s pretend stories become more intricate. She started creating little stories when she was about 18 months old; small wooden people started to say ‘hello’ to each other. As her interests grow, I like to have a range of materials on offer for small world play. Natural materials make wonderful additions to any play scene. These simple tree blocks were made from a fallen branch and the green bush is simply fluffy wool rolled into a ball. Rocks and shells, sticks and flowers all add extra appeal.

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Playing with color: Do you remember when your child first understood that things could be different colours? For my son it was yellow. For Sarah it started with red, everything was red. These two activities help her to identify different colours. She enjoys matching the apples to the cup and the shooting stars to the colour swatch. I put the swatches on a keyring so Sarah can play with them when we are out. She likes to flip through them and say the colours, often incorrectly, but that doesn’t matter.

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Using real musical instruments: Real percussion instruments are reasonably priced and are so much more pleasing than cheap plastic ones. Children are more likely to be attracted by the sounds of a genuine instrument and so will want to play. In our basket we have claves, finger cymbals, a cabasa, castanets, a triangle, guiro, harmonica, tambourine and a two tone block. Along with some small drums and bells. I like to keep them in a small basket next to some play silks for dancing.

Nuts & bolts: A simple and very engaging activity for toddlers. Considerable effort and persistence is needed for this activity. Although it’s quite challenging, my daughter finds it very rewarding. You can see I have one nut and bolt together, a subtle hint of how she might approach this activity.

Reggio Activities for Toddlers

Wind wand: Six lengths of long ribbon and one small cane hoop and you have a wonderfully whimsical toy just perfect for spinning and twirling. Sarah likes to dance with hers to music, run throughout the house with it trailing behind her. Quite often we’ll take them to the park on a sunny day. We have several, in all different colors. They take no time at all to make and cost only a few dollars.

Perfect pairs: Sarah was given this set of 12 matching pairs for Christmas. It is just right for her age. Each fabric square is unique enough so she can find the matching square. Again, another simple project you can make. Each square is 10cm x 10 cm (4″x4″). Start with matching one pair, then two and once they have understood the idea, introduce more pairs.

Reggio Activities for ToddlersAn evolving nature tray: A tray of interestingly textured natural materials is instantly appealing to little people. Sarah wants to investigate every item, holding it in her hands, pressing it to her face and crunching it between her fingers. This is one of the easiest explorations you can put together.

Colored window blocks: We love playing with these blocks in the morning light as they cast colorful shadows across the carpet.

An investigation is something that encourages your child to think, experiment and explore with their senses, and doesn’t have to be difficult to put together. It doesn’t have to be expensive either. I really enjoy thinking about new investigations to create for Sarah.

She is at such a wonderful age where almost anything engages her if presented in an appealing way. The best part for me is watching her play and explore, seeing the deep concentration she has when she is experimenting, and smiling when she sees something or feels something, for the very first time; that sense of wonder. That’s what it’s all about.

 

 

Kate

Kate Gribble lives with her husband and two little ones, Jack and Sarah, in Canberra, Australia. She is a former high school teacher but now spends her days happily homeschooling. Kate likes to dabble in a bit of photography, is a hopeless but aspiring kitchen gardener, and loves a bit of crafty goodness. You can find more inspiration over at her blog, An Everyday Story.

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  1. The way Kate incorporates mirrors into play/investigation is always inspiring. So many of the activities I do with my children are similar to these but I love how she focuses on simplicity and the little extras like mirrors.

    Also, where did you get those trays Kate? I like seeing what you use because they’re sometimes things I have or have access to (I got a bit excited when I saw you using Kmart baskets :P)

      1. Where did you get these trays!! (asked in the previous question and not answered). Love your ideas!

    1. I like having a pile of small cardboard boxes stashed in a corner for the kids to use when inspiration strikes. They are such wonderful things, aren’t they? Just today we had a volcano, robot and an archer’s bow. All from a little cardboard box 🙂

  2. I really love the simplicity of these ideas. We need to remember that kids don’t need fancy activities with all the bells and whistles… just beautiful, interesting items and ideas to explore.

  3. Wow! What an amazing array of activities. I love them and the photographs make it all look so inviting. For young and old! I just know Miss Two would love so many of these and I can’t wait to try them. What an extraordinary blog Kate has… can’t wait to see more of her posts on Playful Learning! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  4. What a wonderfully inspiring post Kate…we do some of these ideas here with my 2.5yr twins but i have gained so many more ideas and enjoyed reading your thoughts on why you include them.

  5. I’ve been wanting to get those coloured window blocks for ages. I just love this way of learning and am instantly drawn to the gorgeous trays and natural materials. Thanks for the extra inspiration 🙂

  6. Kate is one of the most inspiring bloggers on Reggio and early childhood education, and I’ve long been a fan of her work. Mariah, I’m so glad that you discovered her and are sharing her work with a bigger audience. This post is gorgeous.

    1. Thanks Rachelle! I am a big fan of Kate’s and so honored to have her sharing her gift at Playful Learning… Isn’t it gorgeous, inviting, brilliant, yet practical all rolled up into one!

    2. You guys are embarrassing me 🙂 Thank you so very much. That really means a lot. 

      I am so inspired by Reggio though and really just read and read…I can’t get enough. It really does make me so happy to see Reggio being talked about more and the principles being applied at home. It is so engaging for children (and parents)

    1. I found very similar wood boxes at Joanne Fabrics – they are 12″ x 12″ shadow boxes meant for displaying momentos. They work nicely for many of these activities. I use their 40% off coupons to lower the price from $7.99.

  7. Hi Kate. this is so terribly inspiring. I have a few q’s if you don’t mind: do you set out all the trays at once?
    do you find your daughter throwing the things around…im asking this annoying question coz as much as i’d like to do these for my daughter i know she’ll jsut throw them around in the end.
    which books on reggio do you read?

    1. I have a few trays out at a time. Some of the trays with smaller materials I bring out for her. She did throw materials but a gentle and consistent reminder seems to have helped. I think if you are concerned that your little one will throw the materials than maybe try sitting with her and exploring an activity together, then pack it up together when you are finished. Over time I have been able to leave more and more materials out for Sarah to access independently.

  8. What an absolutely inspiring post! Isn’t it amazing to watch toddlers discovering materials like this with inquisitiveness and curiosity?! I’m inspired to switch up our activities after seeing this. Kate, I just discovered your blog and am loving it!!

  9. Hi Kate thank you for inspiring me. I am just starting on the road with Reggio and would appreciate any ideas for the 12- 18mths age group. Unfortunately hardly any of them are actually verbally communicating so finding provocation and documentation quite hard. This is my first year as a teacher. Thank you so much xx

  10. I love these ideas. The bolt and screw is so simple but I think my daughter would love it (if I can keep it out of her mouth). My so is an animal lover so would love the evolving nature tray. Thanks so much for sharing.

    Alison
    Theguiltymommy.com

  11. Hi Kate
    Thank you for sharing such great ideas! I was wondering where you got the pieces for colour exploration? Like the cups+apples and the stars with the swatches. Thanks 🙂

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