Resources for the Preschool Years - 1001 Ideas for Toddlers and Twos
updated November 2, 2016
Yes, you say, yes...
I understand that Waldorf early childhood programs are play-based (here is some important reading on the value of play) and do not include early academics
But what does that LOOK LIKE? What do you do with your child each day?
Rhythm is key at this age and comfortable and familiar routines reign supreme. But it is also nice to throw in some new experiences and
stimulate those curious little minds! Get those pudgy fingers and toes moving and exploring! And sweet eyes twinkling and little bellies rumbling with laughter!
This is not an exhaustive list and it is not a curriculum (the word curriculum literally comes
from a Latin word which meant "racetrack"). Replace that idea of a "race to the finish line" with the thought that you
are instilling a love of life, and a love of learning. This list is
neither meant to be restrictive nor prescriptive; rather, it is meant to be descriptive. We all
enjoy seeing and hearing about new ideas. So I hope these help to inspire you and
I welcome your suggestions! Just email me.
Here are 1001 ways to enjoy your child during these wonderful, and all-too-short,
years with your precious little Buttercups and Bumblebees.
NOTE: This project was started on Mother's Day 2016. My son was just turning one year old.
May 2016 - twelve months old
1. Lie in bed together for a few minutes first thing in the morning and hang out and cuddle.
2. Clap or gently tap out rhythms on your body and your child's body. Repeat a few times, then change it up a bit and watch
her giggle. She's noticing patterns and predicting.
(For example, clap three times, pause, clap three times, pause, clap three times, pause, clap twice and then tap your head. Look surprised!)
3. Lightly tickle the soles of your baby's feet with a clean dry paintbrush.
4. Take a walk around the yard to look at the gardens. Feel the flowers, the leaves, the tree bark, the sunshine and the wind.
5. Take a walk around the block to look at the birds and squirrels. Stop for a while and watch them go about their day.
6. Wherever you go, point things out and name them for your baby.
7. Stand barefoot in the grass.
8. Stand barefoot in a puddle.
9. Play "so big," "patty cake," "pop goes the weasel," "peek a boo," and "this little piggy."
10. Sing the storytime song "Where is Thumbkin?"
11. Eat frozen peas.
12. Go down to the farmer's market for some people-watching.
13. Take a rose apart petal by petal.
14. Splash in the tub.
15. Learn baby sign language. Zac's first sign was "more."
16. Gently pet a dog.
17. Watch the cars go by.
18. Hold your baby on your lap and swing on a swing.
19. Pull all the playsilks out of the basket. Open all the shoeboxes and dump the shoes on the floor. Pick up all the folded laundry, one piece at a time, and drop it behind the sofa.
20. Rock in the rocking chair. Sing your baby to sleep.
21. Place a drawer upside on the floor and cover it with a blanket. Let your child use it to practice climbing up and down stairs.
22. Put your little one in a large open cardboard box and pretend it is a boat. Slide it all around the room.
23. Look at yourselves in a mirror. Wave!
24. Tear fresh herbs and hold them under your child's nose so he can smell them. Sage, mint, basil, rosemary, and lavender are all good choices.
25. Go outside at night and listen to the frogs.
26. Give your baby a massage. We like sweet almond oil.
27. Make silly faces at your baby.
28. Talk to your child all throughout the day. (For example, Now let's go downstairs and put the laundry in the dryer. Yes, the clothes are all wet. Look, they're wet. We need to put
them in the dryer.)
29. Imitate your baby's sounds. Get excited when she talks. Take turns.
30. Take a walk in the gentle rain.
31. Put an old pot out on a tree stump in your yard. Fill it with water all the way up to the rim. Watch the birds come and enjoy their new birdbath.
32. Start a compost pile. We just built a simple bin using three pallets screwed together to make a box with three sides (see pictures here of our project). And it's so easy. We have a little pail in our kitchen. When it is full, walk outside and let your child help you put the fruit and veggie scraps into the pile.
33. Plant lamb's ear (Stachys byzantina). Kids love to pet this sweet fuzzy plant.
34. Cover a toy with a playsilk and have your child uncover it.
35. Make a stack of blocks and let your child knock it down.
36. Find simple ways for your toddler to help you with household tasks. If you use soap nuts your child can drop the soap nuts pouch in the washing machine.
If you use wool dryer
balls your child can help throw the balls into the dryer.
37. Hold your child on your lap and bounce on a yoga ball.
38. Visit the public library and find the board book section. We just discovered Mary Murphy's Quick Duck!
39. Sing Skip to My Lou.
40. Go strawberry picking! Let your baby feed you a strawberry.
41. Help a turtle cross the road.
42. Tickle that little belly. Blow raspberries. Nuzzle your baby's warm neck. And give lots and lots of kisses! Two Thousand Kisses a Day is a great book on gentle parenting.
June 2016 - thirteen months old
43. Show your child how to do a high-five. Giggle together.
44. Spray a table with clean water and give your child a washcloth. Let him wipe it clean.
45. Put the toys back in their baskets when you are done with them.
46. Make sure to say and/or sign "please" and "thank you." It's fun to learn new signs as you chat with your child and toddlers can continue to learn and use signs even when they are already talking. We just added please and egg to our repertoire.
47. Bang on the table with a block. Bang on a pot with a wooden spoon. Bang on a block with another block. Bang on lots of things!
48. Roll a wool ball along the ground to your little one. Make a wool ball for your child.
49. Sit outside quietly.
50. Shaker eggs! Shaker eggs! Shaker eggs!
51. Wave at new people you meet.
52. Try a new food together.
53. Make a fish finger puppet using the templates in Feltcraft: Making Dolls, Gifts, and Toys by Petra Berger. Find a blue playsilk. To make a puppet show out of a nursery rhyme, read my notes from The Healing Power of Nursery Rhymes workshop with Suzanne Down.
Ickle Ockle, Blue Bockle
Ickle ockle, blue bockle,
Fishes in the sea,
If you want a pretty maid,
Please choose me.
54. Go see Shakespeare in the park.
55. Have a picnic lunch.
56. When your child in on your hip, he can reach the light switch. Show him how to turn off the lights for you when you leave the room.
57. Spin a lazy Susan. Around and around and around and around and around.
58. Visit a stable. Learn the sign for horse.
59. Build a fort out of sofa cushions.
60. Water the garden. This is fun with a watering can, a sprinkler, or a hose.
61. Build daily rhythms and your child will know what to expect, which is comforting. Learn a grace to say before each meal. We like
Earth who gives to us this food. Sun who makes it ripe and good.
Dear Earth, Dear Sun, by you we live. All our thanks to you we give.
62. Discover a new park in your hometown.
63. Visit a friend or relative who hasn't seen the baby in a while.
64. Pick flowers to put on the dinner table.
65. Drink out of a real cup! We started with a few tablespoons of liquid at a time.
66. Brush your teeth together. Wash your hands together. Find some songs you like for these simple daily routines at The Singing Day by Candy Verney. I so appreciate that she includes a CD because
lots of Waldorf books don't... and I can't read music.
67. If you want to, put a little potty in your bathroom. Nova Natural has an adorable red and white polka dotted chamber pot. Let your child imitate you when you go in and sit down on the toilet. This is NOT forced toilet training. This is imitation.
68. Sing a clean up song when you pick up the toys and put them back on the shelf. I needle felted a "Miss Mousie" finger puppet who leads the verse when it is clean up time. Miss Mousie always likes a clean little housie...
69. Use a little creamer as a child-sized pitcher and let your child help you pour his/her drink at the table.
70. Measure your child's height on a growth chart, or use a pencil to make a mark in a doorway.
71. Take a walk and find something new to add to your Nature table.
72. Go to the aquarium or the zoo. Marvel at all the animals!
73. Grab some block beeswax crayons and large sheets of newsprint and scribble.
74. Cover the high chair tray with pudding and let your little one get messy!
75. Get down on all fours and put your behind in the air. Pretend to be a dog wagging its tail. Bark and play with your child.
76. Watch for the first fireflies of the evening.
77. Sing your child a good morning song every day. We made up our own:
Good morning, good morning, it's a brand new day. Good morning, good morning, chase those
sleepy eyes away. Good morning, good morning, it's time to get up and play. Good morning, good morning, today!
78. Choose a summertime hat.
79. Put a set of cups in the bathtub for pouring water.
80. Have some milk that is getting a little bit sour? Add it to your baby's bath to soften her skin.
81. If you haven't done so already, eliminate unneeded toys. Kim John Payne has created a 10-point checklist on "toys without staying power;" read it here.
82. Visit a farm and pet a baby piglet. Gently feel that tough little piggie nose.
83. Stroke velvety magnolia blossoms.
84. Plant sunflower seeds. Direct sow sunflower seeds and okra seeds together for a beautiful combination.
85. Stack and unstack a stacking ring tower.
86. Arrange board books in a front-facing toddler bookcase (or use this great idea for rain gutter bookshelves) and let your child pick the next story.
87. Read a board book with lots of movement in it! Our current favorite is From Head to Toe by Eric Carle. It was so exciting
the first time Zac clapped along with the seal!
88. When your child cuts those first molars, try thoroughly saturating the tip of a cotton swab in coconut oil, then
very lightly graze it on the inside of the cap of a bottle of clove essential oil. Dab on those sore teeth. Diaper rash
also often accompanies the cutting of teeth. We mix a few drops of tea tree oil into 1 cup of coconut oil to make a diaper cream.
89. Let your child be a part of what you do each day. I have the playpen in the corner of the kitchen, by the pantry. When we finish meals, I pop him in the playpen and say, Mommy needs to do her clean up. Then he watches me wipe down the high chair, sweep, wash the dishes and put them away, and wipe down the counters and stove. Then I get him out and
we can play together! He's used to this routine and it doesn't bother him one bit. We also keep a basket of special toys just for the playpen time.
90. Boogie with your baby! Find catchy music and snap your fingers, clap, and dance all around. Putamaya Kids makes fantastic music collections.
July 2016 - fourteen months old
91. Give your child a little whiskbroom so that she can imitate you sweeping. We actually use a large soft 6 inch wide paintbrush for this and it works beautifully.
92. A lambswool duster is also a wonderful child-friendly cleaning tool. Find one in the For Small Hands catalogue, a Montessori supply company with high quality child-size tools. We love the crumber for tabletops.
93. Make some hummingbird nectar and hang up a feeder. Watch to see how many you attract (hummingbirds, not ants... although they will probably find it too).
94. Rhythm sticks! Rhythm sticks! Rhythm sticks!
95. Invest in a really nice set of wooden building blocks. We have the beautiful rally building blocks set by Spiel und Holz. It is just gorgeous. The ammonite/nautilus puzzle is also nice for more organic shapes. I find the giant rainbow, however, is too fragile for this age. We've had several of the arches break.
96. Put your child in the stroller and take a nice long walk all around your neighborhood.
97. If there's a college or university campus nearby, take a walk there in the summer while the students are mostly gone and campus is quiet.
98. Go to an art museum and look at the paintings and sculptures.
99. Go to the beach and put your toes in the sand. Find a shell to bring home. Watch the birds. Down by the Chesapeake Bay we would see bald eagles, osprey, seagulls, great blue herons, and mallard ducks. Get in the water and let your baby splash. Look at the little
fish swimming by. Sit right at the edge of the waves and pick up the wet sand and feel it.
100. Bend your knees and bounce VERY lightly on a trampoline. Hold your baby close to your body and hold his head and neck securely against your chest.
101. Slide down a little slide. Slide down a big slide!
102. Watch a hamster scurry through his maze of tubes.
103. Practice sharing and taking turns. Toddlers won't learn to share if they don't see you do it! And your car keys and cell phone never seem to be available for them to play with... nor do you ever seem to share them with anyone else! Think carefully
about how a child could interpret what he sees you do.
104. Erect a bamboo pole tipi in the yard. We got our bamboo from our community garden's stash of extra pieces -- five lengths of bamboo in exchange for a $10 donation. Weave yarn in and out to make a trellis. Plant morning glory and moonflower seeds at the base of each pole. Watch the plants grow and climb. When
the tipi is covered with vines, sit inside it and have a summertime snack.
105. Watch a lawn being mowed, a swingset being built, a car being washed, a tree being trimmed, a deck being powerwashed, etc. Children are fascinated by REAL work and tools.
106. Go to the grocery store for the weekly shop. Decide in advance how you're going to handle repeated toddler sign language (or loudly vocal) requests for food. Pack snacks? Sample the produce? Get a free cookie from the bakery? I add one toddler snack item to the cart as the last
purchase and then have the cashier scan it first, open it, and give it to Zac. My mom, though, never fed us in the store, so it's a personal decision!
107. Go to Karen's Living Books on eBay, shop the vintage titles (she has almost 1,000) and find a favorite from your own childhood. Buy it! Mine was This Boy Cody by Leon Wilson. I have always regretted culling it when I was in high school. But, beware... she has so many incredible books! This is how I found out eBay limits your Watch list to 200 items.
108. Enjoy some ice cream on a hot day. I can always justify the Talenti line because their containers make perfect reusable nonbreakable food storage containers for picnics, lunch boxes, and car trips. They're also clear so you can see the contents.
109. Visit the international foods grocery store.
110. Give your child a small spoon and fork to practice holding.
111. Let your little one tear a corn tortilla into tiny pieces.
112. Blow kisses!
113. Make homemade bubble bath. Zac loved playing with the bubbles but be very careful... it does make the tub much more slippery.
114. Vist the farmer's market... drink lemon balm tea... try a sample of goat milk lotion.
115. Refill the rabbit's bedding. Zac spontaneously got handfuls of bedding out of the bin and dropped them in the rabbit cage. He knew just where it was supposed to go. So sweet.
116. Put a bunch of daylilies and buds on your nature table. Every day look to see which new ones have bloomed.
117. Tofu is a great food for little hands. I suggest serving it cut into chunks, not crumbled. If you grab it too hard it just falls apart completely. Not hard enough, it slips away away. Getting the pressure just right is good fine motor skill development.
118. Take your child to see her great-grandparents. Zac has three, two of whom are in their nineties!
119. Lots of rhymes, finger plays, and games. Does your child look where you point? Does your child point to show you things? Mix lots of communication into your day in a fun way! Waldorf doesn't do early reading, but counting, body parts, animal names, colors, and so on are all part of lots of
early childhood play.
120. Take a walk and look at the green sweet gum balls growing, the green magnolia cones, the green dogwood berries and holly berries, the green tiny acorns in their green little caps... all things which will ripen and fall from the trees in Autumn.
121. Give your son or daughter a gigantic cardboard box to play in.
122. Picture books in foreign languages are just as good as wordless picture books. Our new favorite is in Chinese: Dong wu yan see by Brian Wildsmith.
I thought it was just an animal book until on the seventh reading or so I realized they were arranged by color! Pink, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, white, grey, brown, black. I always bark like a seal when we get to the last page. Books where you don't have any words to read are fun and they inspire you to be more creative!
123. Listen to A House Filled with Music at lunchtime.
124. Play children's music in the car. We love 101 Toddler Favorites by Music for Little People, as well as the CDs by Mary Theines Schuneman.
125. Paint your child's hand and foot with tempera and make prints on paper. Don't forget to do your own hand and foot as well.
126. Sit on a bench in a beautiful garden.
127. Go down to the beach and draw in the sand with a stick. Watch the waves come up and tickle your feet. Hold hands and walk along the seashore.
128. Take the dog for a walk. Watch the cats play with ribbons, lounge lazily about, come excitedly to get their dinner. Learn how to pet all kinds of animals gently and not grab their tails.
129. Show your child how to rock in a child-size rocking chair.
130. Go to a baseball game and have french fries for the first time! And learn to drink from a straw. Zac can blow out now, too, so he is learning to blow raspberries on my tummy and blow bubbles in his cup of juice.
131. Go on a long road trip. Sleep in a hotel.
132. Pick wild raspberries. Watch out for thorns... and poison ivy!
133. Eat at a restaurant.
134. Watch a game of horseshoes.
135. Listen to happy music. Zac just started to jiggle/bounce/wiggle/dance along and he's so proud of himself! We like Hap Palmer's Rhythms on Parade.
August 2016 - fifteen months old
136. Thump on a watermelon together to see if it is ripe.
137. Play with a large brown paper grocery bag. It is so much fun to put things in and take them out.
138. Hang out together and eat a tuna fish sandwich.
139. Watch the rabbits play in the yard.
140. Put out pecans or pistachios in their shells for the chipmunks and squirrels. We love to scatter these on the ground under our bird feeder
and watch them discover the treats!
141. Wash your child's high chair tray, then put it in front of your child still wet and give him a cloth to dry it off with.
142. Sing "The Itsy-Bitsy Spider" on a rainy day. Go outside and feel the rain falling on your hands. Sing "It's Raining, It's Pouring."
143. Sing and act out "I'm a Little Teapot." It takes a lot of balance to stand and bend over without falling!
144. Throw a ball to your child and have her throw a ball to you. Balls that bounce are a lot of fun. Zac likes to throw everything on the ground to see if it bounces!
145. Lots of things from the kitchen make great toys. Pots and pans, wooden spoons, and salad bowls are great for stacking, nesting, and banging!!
146. Go for a walk on a farm and watch the chickens run around at your feet. Watch the proud turkey toms strut. See the baby chicks. Pick fresh green beans and snack on them. See the rosy apples hanging from the trees.
147. Eat a delicious ripe cantaloupe.
148. Make a smoothie with yogurt, fresh or frozen fruit, milk, and a drizzle of honey or agave nectar. Different every time!
149. First dentist visit!
150. Take a minute to make sure the picture books in your house are multicultural. Our current favorites:
Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes,
and Happy to Be Nappy.
151. String some colorful chunky wooden beads to make a nursing necklace to occupy your toddler and keep curious hands busy.
September 2016 - sixteen months old
152. Walking and talking and sign language are really picking up here! It's so much fun to have a toddler. To enjoy Zac reaching up his little hand and taking my hand to walk along with me in the park,
or patting me on the back when he gives me a hug, or blowing raspberries on my cheek when he kisses me. He refuses to go backwards down the stairs and wants to hold the railing now.
Take lots of videos. They don't stay little for long!
153. Listen to a fire truck siren as it goes by.
154. Feel the tires on a tractor.
155. Scientific exploration! Right now every single thing that Zac gets in his hand he tries to put between the bars of the rabbit's cage. What will fit? What will not?
156. Messes. Be patient with food on the floor. Easier said than done.
157. Ride on a rocking horse.
158. As the weather cools off, decide how you feel about socks. And shoes. Pick up and look at everyone's shoes in the house and try to fit them on your feet.
159. Try to put the lid on a cookie tin. Try to take the lid off a cookie tin. Fill the cookie tin with blocks.
160. Silverware! And eating off of a plate instead of a highchair tray.
161. Make Bathtub Finger Paint. Really fun (but use it within a few days
or it will spoil.)
162. Ring a silver bell.
163. Go to the county or state fair to see all of the animals. And to eat ice cream, of course.
164. Brush your baby's hair and let him brush your hair.
165. Roll that cookie tin lid on its side. Watch it spin and start to flatten out, then land.
166. Learn as many signs as you can. Zac signs "bird" while we are reading books with bird pictures and it always surprises and delights me. Animals
are a big hit. He is signing "please" now which is adorable. Now I am working on teaching him to "wait."
167. Identify nouns with their colors. We have a new favorite color book which is not too academic. And the illustrations are just gorgeous!
168. Take a walk around the block. Stop to watch ants running in and out of their anthills. Pick the last dandelions.
169. Baby-friendly insect repellant is a must for evening walks. We love Badger Anti-Bug Balm.
170. Climb up a big pile of dried mud. If you happen to have a telephone pole that was newly installed near you, that
works well. Pick up hard clumps of mud and throw them on the sidewalk and watch them break into smaller pieces. Keep picking
up pieces and throwing them until they've completely fallen apart.
171. Put your stuffed animals and dolls in a doll buggy and push it all around.
172. Write with chalk on a chalkboard and then erase it with an eraser.
173. Walk in a Japanese garden. Visit a koi pond and look at the fish.
174. Pick up red sassafras leaves which have fallen. Add them to the nature table.
175. Throw all the things in the house that you can find -- and reach -- over the baby gate to see what kind of noises they make.
176. Sit on the front steps of your house and eat Green Tomato Bread.
177. Use a cloth and some warm water to wash the walls. Zac loved this!
178. Make Strawberry Coconut Chia Pudding. It's fun to stir, yummy to eat, and makes for great sensory play. Zac used it as a fingerpaint
all over my dining room wall (see #177).
October 2016 - seventeen months old
179. Build a fort with sofa cushions and play silks. Then climb around on the sofa while it has no cushions on it. Fascinating!
180. Feed the rabbit a carrot. Zac runs to the fridge door when he wants us to feed the bunny.
181. Tie a long playstand-canopy length silk to your waist and let your child walk you around like you are on a leash. Hilarious! (For playsilks,
I absolutely love the Etsy store Beneath the Rowan Tree.)
182. Go down to the farm pond and put your toes in the water. Watch the older children swimming and enjoying the last few warm days.
183. Watch the last monarch butterfly of the season sip on flowers.
184. Watch a long line of motorcycles go by.
185. Gather acorn caps for the nature table. Pick up a fat hickory nut and carry it around.
186. Try apple cider.
187. Try chocolate milk.
188. Go to a friend's house and run back and forth between the four cats saying "cat" delightedly. For two hours.
189. Stomp in a big pile of dried autumn leaves.
190. Go to a stable and say "neigh" to all the horses.
191. Zac has learned how to spin! Stand in the middle of the room and spin around in circles until you fall down laughing.
192. Read a rhyming book. Our current favorites are Rhymoceros
and Orange Pear Apple Bear.
193. Pick green tomatoes and put them in a basket. Hunt for ripe persimmons which have
fallen from the persimmmon tree.
194. Watch the deer walk through the yard.
195. Watch the black walnuts fall from the tree. DON'T stand under the tree to do this.
196. Put shapes in a shape sorter. To help scaffold this for your child, cover up all the holes which the shape will not
fit into, and let her just focus on the correct orientation for the shape she is holding.
197. Push on a tire swing and then discover it will come back and bump you and gently knock you down.
198. Swing in a hammock.
199. Watch a sports practice session. Zac watched Becca practice her archery.
200. Go to the lake and feed bits of bread to the ducks.
201. Look in the newspaper to see what things are going on locally. My homeschool co-op students
were learning about inventors. So we went for a ride in the Dymaxion replica car, invented by Buckminster Fuller! We also had a tour of his geodesic dome home.
202. Set up a straw bale cold frame so that you can still grow food outside during
the cold winter months. We used four straw bales arranged in a square with an open space in the middle for the seeds to grow and got an old window to rest on the top. Keeping an eye on the
temperature is key. Sometimes the cold frame should be open, sometimes covered, sometimes vented. Put a thermometer inside your cold frame and don't forget to check it. The straw bales do the rest of the work, providing phenomenal insulation. We planted radishes, parsnips, and golden beets and they are looking very healthy!
"For Spring and Fall plants like beets, carrots and lettuce the temperature inside the cold frame should not get above 60 degrees.
So if the temperature outside is 40 degrees, you need to vent your glass lights.
If the temperature outside is about 50, you need to remove your glass lights.
Put them back on once it is late afternoon and the sun is not beating down on them. This will keep the frames warm throughout the evening and cooler night."
203. Carry chunky wooden animals around in your hands. We love the Holztiger Camel.
204. Choose some new music for sleepy time. I know that Steiner was against recorded music but I don't agree
in this situation. I think that relaxing music during naptime and bedtime is a soothing predictable routine. We started with
Ultrasound: Music for the Unborn Child (classical music selections) and
later added Chant:
Music for the Soul (The Cistercian Monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz). The chanting CD is magical and puts me right to sleep too. To this day, I still have never heard the end of this recording.
205. Clean up together. Zac will climb up on a stool and put his dirty dishes in the kitchen sink.
206. Make a mess together. Pile all your blocks into a basket and then turn it over and dump them out.
207. Run across the room and give your stuffed animal an enormous hug.
208. Mix up a batch of yummy smelling no-cook gluten-free pumpkin pie play clay.
209. Make a Card Slot Drop Activity in 30 seconds. Watch your toddler have an absolute blast with this completely free toy.
210. Find pumpkins on clearance (try October 31st) and bring a bunch of them home with you. Carve them, paint them, or just feel the textures of their skins. Try to roll them. Try to carry them. Even give them a bath!
Go to the next page: 18 months +