Toddlerhood is so exciting – everything they do is a learning experience. The explosion of vocabulary manifests itself all throughout the day, so they are able to verbalize the things they are discovering. (Of course, it helps to have attentive adults who can assist in labeling experiences and objects for their ever-growing minds.) With all this comes the beginning of learning the “things they need to know,” such as animal sounds, body parts, numbers, letters, shapes, and… COLORS!!!
Notice I said the “beginning.” Little toddlers don’t need to be drilled on academics – it should be introduced in ways that they will be naturally interested in exploring. This way of playing with colors is something they were very interested to participate in, so much so that we have been doing it every week for the entire year!
And what are they? Color bottles! The concept is very simple – just reuse a plastic bottle and let the kids stuff several objects of the same color inside. I usually write “____’s [Color] Bottle” on the outside and fill it with that color of sand before letting the children drop items inside.
Then at the end of the month, I tape it (with that color tape if I have it), and they get to take theirs home.
I have a huge trash bag full of donated plastic water bottles, so every month each child gets a new one to fill. We usually make it a weekly activity, so on Wednesdays each child gets the chance to drop 2 or 3 items into his or her color bottle. By the end of the month there are lots of interesting things rolling around in there!
And what kind of things do we place inside? Whatever can fit through the hole at the top! Here are a few ideas:
- dried-out markers
- dyed pasta
- paper clips
- crepe paper
- cloth scraps
- foam shapes
- fake flower petals
- pipecleaners twisted into curlicues
- balloons (not blown up)
- cut-up straws
- Easter grass
- mini gift-wrap bows
We have focused on a different color each month, casually incorporating that color throughout our days, books, and centers. Here’s what we did:
January: black and white
It has been amazing to watch the kids learn about colors. At the beginning of the year as I talked with them about “yellow,” they just looked at me. Several months later, they began labeling colors too, and not just during this activity – toys around the room, my clothes and earrings, their cups and backpacks, foods, paints. They love their colors!
But even if it wasn’t for the color-learning aspect, this activity would still be a valuable teaching tool for practicing fine motor skills. The children take turns doing this so that I can supervise them with the small objects they will be placing inside.
But when Wednesday comes around and I announce that it’s time to fill our color bottles, everyone finds a seat at the table, and they all watch in silence as their friends concentrate on fitting these objects through the hole. That’s probably the quietest they get all week (other than naptime)… except for the in-between times when I’m getting the objects for the next student, and they’re all yelling, “My turn! My turn!”
I was a little worried that they may want to put the objects in their mouths at the beginning, but because I was supervising and they went one at a time, we haven’t have any troubles. Since they hadn’t been exposed to such small objects before, they were fascinated!
Grasping the objects and dropping them in the mouth of the bottle have been great finger exercises. And I wish I could show you their eyes so you could see how focused they are!
It’s also been a good sensory experience, letting them feel the difference between things like a soft, squishy pompom and a hard, smooth rock.
Problem-solving skills also came into play as they had to figure out how they would get the long, thin ribbons into those holes – it’s harder than it looks! (Pompoms are probably the easiest.)
While we fill the bottles I speak quietly about the object they are putting inside, labeling it with a color.
And throughout the week, as they see the color bottles in the window, they can pick them up and turn them around, finding all the little things that are hidden in the sand.