Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Put Me in the Zoo and Poker Chip Play

My mom taught me that play should be organic and built off of simple things. She claims that I could keep myself occupied for hours by putting cloths pins into containers, dumping them out, and then dropping the pins back into the container.
In our house, the equivalent to cloths pins has to be poker chips. Years ago, we were given poker chips as a Christmas gift. The problem is we don't play poker. They sat in the closet collecting dust until I decided to pull them out to occupy my oldest daughter one day when I was desperate for a few minutes peace. I was amazed how much she enjoyed playing with them. I am certain that the poker chips have been played with more than any other toy in our house.In fact, when we have play dates, the kids are always drawn to the beautiful clink of these gorgeous clay chips.

The way my kids play with the chips reminds me of the way Spot plays with his spots in the book Put Me in the Zoo (Beginner Books(R)). This book was indeed one of my favorite books growing up.

In the book, Spot believes that he belongs in the zoo. He spends the entire book showing all these clever ways to play and show off his spots to the kids in the book. Finally, at the end of the book, the children suggest to the fabulous leopard that he actually belongs in a circus. The book is great for teaching colors, and is the type of fun, whimsical book that kids will love to hear again and again.

There are so many ways that we play with our "spots" in the house, but I thought I would share with you ten different ways I kept my toddler calm and occupied when she was home sick yesterday.

1. Read the book Put Me in the Zoo (Beginner Books(R)) to see all the ways Spot shows off his magical spots. 

2. Fill a container with spots. Old Tupperware works great. This one had a nice lid to open and close. 

3. Drop the spots into a slot. This is a great activity for fine motor skills. I cut a slit into the lid of an old sour cream container and a plastic container that I pulled from our recycling bin. I guess the trendy term to use would be upcycle your trash.

4. Decorate the spots with stickers. My go-to for a few minutes of peace and quiet (especially when traveling) is to pull out some stickers. Kids love stickers, and it is great fine motor skill practice to pull the stickers off the sheet and put them on paper or "spots" in this case.

5. Cover up the empty spots. I used a scrap piece of cardboard and traced several spots onto it using a poker chip. I then let Little J cover the circles with spots. 

6. Line up the spots. My kids love to make long lines of poker chips and then have animals or Little People hop from chip to chip. It cracks me up, and it keeps them busy for a long time.

7. Sort the spots. I used plastic Ikea bowls for sorting. Even though the colors didn't match exactly, she got the point.

8. Make a tower of spots. Seriously what is more entertaining than building a tower and knocking it down? 

9. Count the spots. All throughout the play, as we placed the spots into containers or lined them up, we counted. I had a proud mommy moment when I left the room to do something and could hear Little J pretending to count as she dropped each spot into the slot. She can count to two, but after that she kept babbling, keeping the cadence of counting. 

10. Put letters on the spots. I had picked up a packet of stickers from the Dollar Spot that had letters on them. We sat and lined up the letters of the alphabet on the spots and sang the ABC song. While she is too young to know her letters, learning takes place through constant exposure and repetition. Meanwhile, my oldest enjoyed making words out of the spots.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks so much Christine! Most of the activities the kids came up with on their own, so I cannot really take credit.

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