Starting at about 15-18 months, both of my kids became obsessed with touching everything and loved anything that was very tactile and they could easily manipulate. To help foster their fine motor skills a bit, and get out some of that need to constantly touch everything, I found a few things that were safe and somewhat easy for their fingers to manage and work with on their own. I’m hoping these items also work with baby #3 when the time comes because they sure were life savers the first two times.
1. Large Stickers and Paper – Stickers were a lifesaver, or should I say a sanity saver for me, when the kids were in the touchy stage. I bought packs of stickers by the bag full and brought them with us to restaurants, doctor’s appointments, and kept them handy by their high chair so they could occupy themselves when I was cooking. There was sometimes the challenge of keeping the stickers ON the paper, but with some guidance the stickers went where they were supposed to go and didn’t end up all over my house.
2. Contact Paper – I know this sounds strange, but a roll of contact paper cut into strips can be a fascinating thing for a budding toddler. Spread out a roll on the table and give them leaves, scraps of pretty paper, ribbon, those puffy craft shapes, and watch them go to town sticking objects all over the contact paper. They love that their objects stick to the paper without moving, but can easily be picked up and placed in a different spot without frustration. You can even make cute pieces of artwork to hang to inspire your budding artist.
3. Shaving Cream – On a hot day, fill a cookie sheet or some other container with shaving cream and watch your little one go to town sliding their hands (and maybe even their bodies) around in the stuff. If you have an art easel, give them a paint brush and let them paint with the shaving cream too. Make sure they’re not too interested in putting fistfuls of the cream in their mouth so they don’t get a tummy ache. But for the most part, after 18-months-old they’ll probably be more interested in manipulating it than eating it.
4. Play Doh – Good old play doh is always a good standby for babes wanting to squish and squeeze everything in sight. Sure it can be messy, but it’s worth it and easily sweeps up once dry. There are a ton of homemade play doh recipes out there as well that I can vow are a cinch to make and will save you some money.
5. Finger Paints – Before you worry about brushes, try out some tubs of finger paints and see how your baby responds. Some don’t like the slimy feeling of it on their hands and some love it. But if your baby loves it and you can stand the mess, finger paints are such a great way to inspire touch and creativity.
What were some other inexpensive and easy items you’ve found to please the tactile stage of baby into toddler-hood? I’d love any other secrets for the next time around!