One Toy, Many Ways

A while back I wrote about toy rotation and how it can keep your home from being overrun by play materials. With all the options for young children, it can be difficult to keep things simple! But lots of toys (especially the more open-ended ones) can be used or presented in a variety of ways. This idea (that there is more than one way to use a material) is a huge part of Montessori curriculum (and is especially true for Sensorial materials). What it means for you and your child is that you get several toys in one. 

Made by Melissa & Doug, available here.

Made by Melissa & Doug, available here.

Take this shape sorting and sequencing puzzle. There's a lot going on - three different solids, each a different color, with varying heights and removable blocks. As it is sold and packaged, this material is great for a preschool aged child. But here are five other ways to present this toy:

Offer just one kind of solid and it becomes a very simple grading activity for a toddler, a lesson in comparitives and superlatives for a preschooler, or a grasping/stacking activity for an infant. 

Offer just one kind of solid and it becomes a very simple grading activity for a toddler, a lesson in comparitives and superlatives for a preschooler, or a grasping/stacking activity for an infant. 

Combine the longest of each solid, and the tallest of each block, and it becomes a simple matching activity (a wonderful visual motor material for an older toddler). 

Combine the longest of each solid, and the tallest of each block, and it becomes a simple matching activity (a wonderful visual motor material for an older toddler). 

Switch out the tallest blocks for the shortest, and you have yet another kind of visual motor matching activity.  

Switch out the tallest blocks for the shortest, and you have yet another kind of visual motor matching activity.  

Put the solids back into the base (but leave out the blocks) and it becomes a sorting and grading activity in one. 

Put the solids back into the base (but leave out the blocks) and it becomes a sorting and grading activity in one. 

Put some or all of the pieces into a basket or tray and it becomes a really cool set of blocks - completely open ended (and appropriate for a child up to age 5). 

Put some or all of the pieces into a basket or tray and it becomes a really cool set of blocks - completely open ended (and appropriate for a child up to age 5). 

Voilà! This has just become a toy that can be purchased when your child is a baby and be used again and again until she goes off to kindergarten - saving you money, space, and reinforcing creativity and ingenuity for your little one.

PS. If you have this toy, there are even more ideas for how to use it on the underside of the base. Good ol' Melissa & Doug!