Perhaps you are wondering what open ended, maybe even Reggio inspired presents you can get a toddler who has everything. Maybe your toddler is like mine and plays with a toy for a day then never again. Frustrating right? Well I am going to share the best gift my toddler ever got, one that has many uses and over a year later is still around.
Would you believe it is…
A box of Buttons. Yes that’s right! When my girl was about 18months/2years her grandmother brought out a box of random buttons she had collected over the years. I mean if your grandma doesn’t have a box of random buttons, is she even your grandma? Of course with supervision she, (toddler not grandma) played with the buttons looking at all the different sizes, shapes, colours. If your toddler is one of those that can’t resist chewing anything and putting everything in their mouth, make sure there are no super small buttons in the mix for now, supervise them carefully or wait until they are out of this stage, up to you.
I am going to share a few activities my toddler and I have done using the buttons.
In the beginning she would just put her hands in the box and enjoy feeling all the buttons and making a noise as she moved her hand around mixing all the buttons up. She then began to look more closely at the buttons, picking up one at a time inspecting its shape, size and color. Granny and grandpa would sit alongside her, verbalizing what they could see. For example- “This is a very small button. This button is shaped like a heart. This button is blue.”
They then moved onto seeing if they could find the same buttons. “Let’s see if we can find all the heart buttons. Can you find any other pink buttons?” Searching amongst a pile of buttons is a great visual discrimination activity. Visual discrimination means you can identify and see the differences in things amongst other items (think of Where’s Wally books) and is an important pre-reading skill.
Buttons are so versatile, you can put some out with blocks and see what your child does with them.
You can set out a few buttons with playdough or super soft dough
Sorting and classifying (math)
When she was ready, we started sorting the buttons by color. I got a tray like the one pictured below at the container store/ hardware store. Or you can use a chip and dip plate (pictured above) to sort them out. As you can see in the picture above, there are jumbo tweezers, pompoms and large buttons. When your toddler is ready they can use the tweezers to pick up the buttons and pompoms from a box and place them in the tray- combining math and fine motor practice! They could sort them by colour- buttons and pompoms mixed or by shape or by type.
My little girl normally automatically sorts them by color but the other day when playing I wanted to show her how to sort them by different characteristics (She is now 3 yrs 3 months). As you can see in the picture above we put in flowers that are the same shape and the buttons with the same expression on their face and there are also all hearts together. This was not an easy exercise and I had to help her through it all and I had to stop as soon as she lost interest but she did really well! It was good for her to practice looking closely at the details to see which were the same regardless of color. It is sometimes difficult for them to ignore color and see what is the same.
I was lucky she was keen to do the sorting activity but if she wasn’t I would have left it and tried again another day. If your toddler is not interested then don’t waste their time or your time trying to make them do it.
It is not about them getting it 100% correct but making them aware of the possibilities of sorting items according to various characteristics. Children love to sort things and you will often see them setting out their toys or dinosaurs into groups without them realizing it. Learning through play is truly the best way!
If you don’t have a box of random buttons, start collecting!