3 Ideas for your Block Play Area

Unit blocks are an important staple in most early learning rooms. They are invaluable for supporting every area of the curriculum.

Here are 3 ideas to extend and complement your block play area:

Windows & Doors are an exciting new option to add detail to house structures. An ideal addition to a structure, windows and doors are a fun challenge to build with, as children learn how to make space for their window or door and continue to build for strength.

The five piece set includes 4 windows and 1 door and is available as a single set or double. They are scaled for use with standard unit blocks and recommended ages are 3+. The window and door panels are permanently attached.

Rainbow Blocks are an adventure in colour and light. Indulge children’s appetite for exploration by combining blocks to form new colours, or stack the blocks in a different order each time to form new and exciting shapes.

These Rainbow Blocks are standard unit block measurements and include 8 squares, 4 1/2 circles, 2 large triangles, 6 small triangles and 10 rectangles. The rectangle measures 7cm x 3.5cm x 14cm (2-3/4″ x 1-3/8″ x 5-1/2″). and recommended ages are 2+.

Organize your unit blocks easily with this storage unit designed just for that. The Block Shelf divides blocks according to size and shape. We often forget that choosing the correct block for its purpose and then sorting and returning blocks to their home spot, is an important part of the learning process. Having a permanent home for each type of block in your Unit Block Set makes this process much easier.

The Block Shelf accommodates a 150 piece block set and comes fully assembled with a 15 year warranty.

Happy Block Playing!

Top 5 Manipulatives for Infant and Toddlers

Manipulatives are designed to build strength in infants and toddlers, whether that be hand eye coordination, memory, leg or core strength. Here are our 5 most popular manipulatives for infants and toddlers:

Oballs

The fun and flexible Oball is incredibly easy to grasp and safe to throw. The bright colours and smooth feel are captivating for little hands, while the virtually indestructible design withstands tougher toddler play. Perfect for all ages, Oball is sure to be an instant favourite! The Oball with Rattles is the same classic Oball that everyone loves with four clear rattles filled with colourful beads. Both are available in assorted colours.

Toddler Tough Vehicles

Take to the air, tracks or road with these tough vehicles, including a race car, train, dump truck, airplane, fire truck and police car. This Toddler Tough Vehicles set features no pinch axles and wheels. The cute painted on faces make them even more appealing for little hands. 3″L x 2″W x 2-1/4″H. Ages 12 months+.

Egg Shakers

A classic, these brightly coloured egg shakers are enjoyable for children and adults alike. Sturdy and durable, these larger Egg Shakers (2-1/2″ tall) are suitable for infants and toddlers. They are available individually or in a set of 5. Let’s get music making!

Stack-Up Cups and Cubes

Unbreakable square cubes and round cups can be stacked or nested. An essential for exploring size relationships, Stack-Up Cups and Cubes are fun to stack, smash, build and bash. Their ability to build a large tower and alternatively nest together amazes infants and toddlers alike.  Full stack is 14″H. 18 piece set.

Animal Links

This set of super light interlocking Animal Links can be easily linked together to create a variety of fun chains or exciting three dimensional structures.18 large easy to manipulate pieces made in 3 animal shapes in 6 bright colours, ages 12M+. Stack the shapes, sort by colour and style, make a pattern. Washable and safe, they have been specifically designed to meet the developmental needs of smaller kids, and they don’t make any noise when they fall!

Check out the rest of our wonderful collection of Infant and Toddler manipulatives here.

All About Me Activity Cards in Action

I have used All About Me Family Counters for a few years. They are the go-to, grab and go activity as all three of my children now play with them, in different ways.

Here you can see how we have played with them in the past: Fun with Family Counters.

I did have a male ECE correct my stereotyping as I displayed them with the baby on the Mama’s hip and have successfully balanced the baby on the Papa’s hip also!

These counters are the perfect size for dramatic play/restaurant waiting/older sibling activity waiting, and of course for their original design: math concept teaching!

Here you can see the All About Me Family Counters in use with the NEW All About Me Activity Cards in my classroom.

The students are watching a demonstration of how to continue a sequence, such as the purple, blue, purple, blue, you can see in the bottom left of the photo. They are also reinforcing characteristic descriptions such as “smaller”, “boy”, colours and patterning.

Adding: person and cat style! Our next step is to use the formal written number which some of these students are still learning (we were reinforcing the subtraction with finger counting here!).

The structure of these cards allows for group work and discussion as we did here but also for independent and gradual skill building. They are an awesome addition to the math resource collection.

Here is the low down on the All About Me Activity Cards:

Help children learn essential early math skills while learning about themselves and the world around them with 20 double-sided, write & wipe Activity Cards. Illustrations on these full-colour Activity Cards match the actual size of the All About Me Family Counters (202090) and are perfect for developing patterning, early addition and subtraction, and sorting skills. Includes over 40 activities and a guide. PreK+. Ages 5+.

Fun with Family Counters

These All About Me Family Counters are one of the favourite things to play with at the moment.

I am not sure if it is the colour, the quality or the sheer amount of people that make them so appealing, but something works!

Daisy enjoyed organizing them into parties. Here is a circle of friends.

She made patterns and asked Rose, “What comes next?”.

These counters are designed for making your family, patterning, sorting and counting but in our house, everything is used for dramatic play.

With a little balancing, the baby can sit on mama or papa’s hip.

Yet another of the girl’s parties. Rose likes to grab a few people, have conversations and move them about the house.

Yes, they do end up everywhere.

They will be venturing outside to play in the garden soon. We will keep you posted as to what they get up to.

Counting with Transparent Chips

I loved using invitations to play with my children. Sometimes these invitations are independent and others I join in on.

In this case, joining Rose allows me to spend a few minutes one on one between chores. I focus totally on her and ignore the chaos for a quick break.

We used:

I set up the option of paper and crayons also.

Rose started by counting the chips and placed them carefully on the number.

I didn’t direct, just allowed her to lead adding information such as “yes, that is a number 2” or “yellow”. She is learning colours and doesn’t always get the colour correct. If she names an incorrect colour I will correct it with “it is blue” but we certainly don’t stress about the necessity of knowing all the colours yet.

She liked the added challenge of trying to pick up the chips with a mitt on. It was entertaining.

Counting out five. This is a number she tends to avoid. Not sure why. Her counting usually goes like this; “one, two, three, four, six, seven..”

This was an extension lead by Rose. She placed the counter on the paper and said, “Please colour mama” so I obliged. Hey, who doesn’t like to colour. We named the colour together as we drew.

Learning Opportunities:

  • Identify and name colours
  • Count to ten
  • Sort by colour
  • Match colours

Sorting and Identifying Coins

Following on from our Money Awareness post, we decided to look at actual money a little closer.

I dumped out the contents of my change purse on a tray and let Daisy look at it.

What coins have you got here?

She immediately began sorting them. The quarters and nickles are quite similar in size and it took her a few seconds to learn how to tell them apart.

We looked at what was on the coins, the queen’s face on one side and then a different image for each coin. Others she compared by size and matched similar sized coins.

When they were all lined up, Daisy counted them. She found the appropriate stamp, stamped an image and wrote the number of coins she had counted.

This gave me a great opportunity to see which numbers she was happy writing and which needed revision.

We spent quite a lot of time making the number big, in the air to practice number formation. The number eight was particularly challenging. We did do lots of work on the letter/sound ‘S’ quite a while ago but the lack of consistency since has resulted in Daisy writing ‘S’ back to front. Forming the number eight requires her to make an ‘s’ first before joining it into an ‘8’. Great practice for writing letters too!

Five was also a challenge for her. Again we formed the number in the air a few times and then wrote it.

Look carefully and you can notice a mistake in my adding…..

I forgot to count the toonies!

This is what we used:

Learning Opportunities:

  • Counting to 20
  • Forming numbers correctly
  • Sorting: Identifying common characteristics; size, colour, design
  • Describing common characteristics