I have a curious toddler. Actually, if anyone has a toddler, they are probably pretty curious. While the world is not necessarily new to them anymore, it is new in terms of being able to engage, interact with, and explore it in all new ways. For me, this meant putting together exploration station ideas in order to encourage free play and creative thinking. It was definitely one of the best things we have done and my daughter can get lost in it for hours on end!
How to put together a Creation Station for toddlers
Putting together a station is not difficult, nor does it have to expensive. While eventually, we want to build something semi-permanent outside, right now we have everything in a three-drawer rolling cart that can be moved indoors or outdoors depending on our desires at the time. In the end what we have is kind of like a kids and toddler version of Whose Line is it Anyway? where she can play, dress up, and be imaginative. (Remember the props game? That. Just for toddlers).
If you have followed my blog at all, you know that I rarely purchase anything brand new and that I could probably be considered a thrift shop junkie. That being said, we set out over the course of 3 weeks to collect items from thrift stores to get our creation station started. This made it that much more inexpensive, that much more creative, and that much more fun.
Some people stop at just making a music wall. I think that is great and it is a wonderful idea. However, as much as my daughter would love an outdoor music wall and is such a musical child, she needs more stimulation that just music and sound. Also, I wanted her outdoor play center to encompass a broader range of creativity. So concepts I wanted to keep in mind and actions I wanted to foster through this exploration station were:
- Get moving – I want her to play and play hard. This is the only childhood she gets and I think it should be spend moving, playing, and learning without hindrance.
- Create Sound – Explore sound and how shapes, textures, consistency, and more affect the outcome of the noises made.
- Connect with the Earth – Too much time is spent indoors. Finding things like shovels, buckets, sifts, and more actually encourages her to dig into the dirt rather than just stand in her creation station.
- Explore Textures – From finding materials that have fun textures to simply make sure she had baskets and buckets to collect things from around the yard in meant exploring textures.
- Make something – So many little things can be found in thrift shops (or even purchases new) that can be used for creative and open-ended play. For instance, a metal dryer tube makes a perfect “build something” item that can be used to explore sound, roll balls down, make a hat, and so much more. Again, limitless play with no boundaries is the goal.
- Be Silly – I was also looking for things like vests, hats, glasses, and more whee she could dress up and pretend to be someone else.
- Improve Practical Skills – I went looking for things like spoons, pitchers, and other items that could be used to encourage her independence and improve practical life skills like scooping and pouring.
In the end, I spent $50 collecting an entire tub full of things that are for our creation station. Right now it sits in the corner of our patio, but it also comes indoors occasionally. As the weather gets nicer again, I am sure we will build something a little more permanent to allow her to see almost everything at once to really get her imaginative juices flowing!
Examples of things we found (not all pictured):
- Buckets, shovels, and scoops
- A wooden-handled jump rope
- Pepper Mills, grinders, and goblets
- Bells and small musical instruments
- Sifters and Sorters
- Muffin Pans, Pizza Trays, Book ends
- Pans, Trays, and pitchers
- Chalk and jar lids
- A rolling cart to store it all… and MORE
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Kara is an author, wife, and mother of 3 children living in Boston, MA. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and even helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!