DIY Toddler Learning Materials

Our toddler Z turned 26 months a few weeks ago and is growing bubbly, talkative, and full of energy. We don't usually buy toys for her except for special occasions. Most of her toys were gifts from friends and family. I don't like toys to just clutter our small house. I prefer getting her learning materials. But the cheapskate and practical mom that I am, I get her DIY learning materials instead. Ha ha!

Homeschooling Little V since birth has helped me realize that there are so many things at home we could use to learn. And I'd like to share with you some of the cheap DIY learning materials for toddlers that are Montessori-inspired.

Reused Box

In this activity, we used a box we got when the items from Human Nature were delivered. I asked Z to paint the box as part of her activity, and poked holes on the box after drying. There were different holes on the box - some would fit coins or poker chips, while other holes could fit popsicle sticks.

The child slips the popsicle sticks or coins inside the holes. These would help her learn about sizes. It is also a pre-writing activity as she turns her wrists to orient and fit the sticks in the holes.

Bottles with lids

My kids love to open and close lids. Whether they are bottles, plastic containers, ice cream tubs, if it has a lid, they'll play with it. These are great materials to practice those hand-and-eye coordination. Twisting lids is also a great exercise on the wrists as a precursor to writing.

Coin Banks

Since Z doesn't put everything in her mouth, we have been using coin banks and coins in developing her fine motors. All you need is just a coin bank and a coin! So easy!

Wooden Clips or Clothespin

I find wooden clips expensive specially the tiny ones that comes in different colors. When we started homeschooling V a few years ago, I had a hard time looking for wooden clips. I always find them at craft stores at hefty prices hence I opted to use the sipit or the clothespins. These also came in different colors so we were able to use these for sorting, fine motor skills, and counting. So many things you can do with sipit for just twenty pesos!

Used shampoo or body wash bottle and cotton buds

I have shared a video last year with Z putting paper straws inside the straw hole of a mason jar lid. Another variety of those materials are used bottles of shampoo or body wash.

For her activity, we used a body wash bottle that has a hole on top and a lid. Toddler Z would pick up a cotton bud and shoots it inside the bottle through the hole. This helps develop her fine motor skills.

Egg carton and manipulatives

The sungka I bought almost 20 years ago is still with me. We use sungka to play games of counting and transferring. If you don't have a sungka at home, you can also use egg cartons.

You may use shells, pompoms, dried beans, corn kernels, or uncooked rice as manipulatives. We mainly use pompoms and shells because I don't like the idea of using food. Hehehe. But that's me.


Z loves scooping and transferring. She uses her toy pots and spoons to scoop and transfer shells. She can do this for a long period which gives me ample time to cook lunch.

Coriander and pipe cleaners

I didn't know anything about pipe cleaners before we homeschooled. I just learned about it when I was searching for materials we could use with our then 3-year-old Little V. At first I was scared to use these because the ends can be prickly. However, my son loves using pipe cleaners as it helps him explore possibilities while playing with it and it's cheap so I was happy that Z was gifted a set.

For this activity, you will just need pipe cleaners and coriander. The child will just insert the pipes cleaners inside the holes. No coriander? No problem! We used a basket before.

Little V when he was still a toddler imaging the basket as a spider

Bubble wraps

An easy and inexpensive way to develop your toddler's fine motor skills is by popping bubblewraps. This will help strengthen her fingers in preparation for pre-writing.

cheap toddler toys
Z's favorite work

Check out our video:

Name that Number!

Use this fun and lively guessing game as a way to help reinforce number concepts while keeping your child entertained. It’s perfect to play during restaurant waits, car rides, or anytime you have a few extra minutes to kill. In the grand tradition of “I Spy,” “Twenty Questions” and the other guessing games you may vaguely recall from your childhood, this is a do-it-anywhere, no-equipment-required diversion.

What You Need:
Just yourself and your child

What You Do:
1. Think of a number from 0- 10. Tell your child she'll have ten guesses to figure it out.

2. As she makes guesses, you'll give “higher” and “lower” responses to help steer your child to the unknown number. A typical game might go like this: Parent: I'm thinking of a number between 0 and 30. Child: Is it 20? Parent: No, lower. Child: Is it 10? Parent: No, higher. So now we know it's between 10 and 20....Like that, with encouragement until your child lands on target.

3. As your child's ability and confidence grow, change roles so that you're the one guessing the number and your child gives the clues.

4.Eventually, increase the range of numbers to 0-50, or change the range to start with a higher number, such as 30-50.

Kids will likely focus on the fun of the guessing, and the added delight of tricking mom or dad with clues. But they're also learning a key preschool math concept: how to compare, describe, and order numbers by more or less. If the game is too hard at first, you can give extra support by jotting down a quick number line for your son to reference when he needs a hint. If it's too easy, you can limit the number of guesses your child can make, or challenge her to guess the number within a certain time frame.

Do you have other cheap DIY activities for toddlers? Let me know in the comment section!


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