Make Your Own Activities for Those MELDS

After a trip to the local Dollar Store, the Membership Committee had a table full of low cost activities that support Domains/Indicators for the Maine Early Learning Developmental Standards (MELDS) ready to share a the Spring 2016 Conference. Did we come up with all these ideas ourselves? Not all. Thankfully there are many willing to share ideas from their classroom experiences. To help gather ideas in one location, MaineAEYC has established a Pinterest page where we will be continually pinning resources that support the work of Early Childhood Professionals.
Here are some a few of the activities from the 2016 Spring Conference:


  1. Cat toy which included a jingle bell. We stuffed with different lengths and pieces of fabrics, ribbons and yarns. Young children love to get their fingers busy pulling these pieces out and stuffing back in. Lots of sensory, problem solving and fine motor. Also fun to just roll along the floor.
  2. A simple fruit juicer with a cut piece of sponge adds a new exploration to water play. Fun hand work out.
  3. Jazz up your dice. Take plain wooden square and add googly eyes (a kid favorite) to represent whatever numbers you want. Have found great for normal 1-6 dice. If have those super small eyes can go higher.
  4. These are free ABC exercise cards from Home School Share’s Human Body Unit that have been doctored up with ABC letter stickers. Keep on a keyring for storage and easy flipping to use.
  5. Ice cube tray with chip bag clip and some of the pom-pom that always seem to be around and early ed classroom. Fine motor to start, but depending on the pom-poms you can count, sort, match, pattern build…….

What to do with a Dollar Store foam Alphabet Puzzle? You don’t need another puzzle, but it’s just $1……

Buy it, remove the letters and hot glue them onto popsicle sticks.
2016_04_25_IMG_0131 Now you can take them outside and hide them around your space for an Alphabet Hunt. Or use in circle as the sticks make them easy to hold. Or…………….

2016_04_25_IMG_0132Don’t throw away the puzzle form!

Cut it up for each letter area to be separated.

Now you have what I think of as negative letter forms.

Use for the tactile experience, use in sensory bins, press into sand/salt/playdough, lace in alphabetical order, use as a stamp for painting…….



Button Threading Snake:

Simple, low cost, adaptable and very easy to make.
Length of ribbon, at least 15”
Button at least ¾” wide
Fabric pieces at least twice width of button
– Adapt with textured fabric or a fun alternative is a multi-colored pack of kitchen scrub sheets.
– Adapt with shape. Squares are easiest to cut and 2” square usually works well.

To make the button slit fold in half on the diagonal and snip at center point of fold in about ¼”.
Sew button on one end of ribbon. I like to knot the other end and place a stopper piece of fabric, so we have button on and button off practice. Many examples have it left as an open end and the children just slide the buttoned pieces off. With the stopped end they have to unbutton. 


ABC Nesting Spoons:

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 8.56.29 AMYou’ll need 2 sets of different colored spoons (having one clear has benefits), one color for uppercase, and one for lowercase. On one set of spoons write the uppercase letters using a sharpie. On the other set of spoons write the lowercase letter. Can write in the spoon bowl or on the backs depending on how you want the spoon to nest.
Use for ABC placement. Use to match upper and lower. Or use as shown here matching to ABC flashcards or strip.
Here is a free downloadable printable for the ABC strip from Confessions of a Homeschooler who has a wealth of other ABC activities posted for sharing.


Number Nesting Spoons:

2 sets of spoons: clear ones with the numbers written on them and white ones that had dots in the amounts of the numbers. Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 8.57.02 AMMake another set with number symbol and written name to extend learning.
Subitizing Spoons  (Children may be able to identify a number without actually understanding what it means. Subitizing is an important first step in gaining true number sense/knowledge. Subitizing is the recognizing of groups automatically without having to count the individual items within the group.)

One great use for these spoons can be found at Mrs. Lirette’s Learning Detectives ~
Lay all of their spoons with the number out on the table and hold the clear spoons with the dots.  Call out a number and the children find the spoon with that number on it and nest it with the spoon with the corresponding amount of dots.


Crazy Straws:

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 9.02.53 AMFirst match your felt pieces to your crazy straws. Using your scissors, cut out 2×2” squares out of fabric. Now cut small slit in center of each shape.
Put out for play!
Will they match? Count? Put them all on one straw? Make patterns?
This activity works for many ages from toddler up. Great practice for counting, matching, sorting and fine motor.
Do the colors really need to match? What about shapes? Different fabric for a different tactile experience? (We cut up kitchen scrub pads in different colors)



Slime Basket:

Familylicious provides us with a twist on slime with a Slime Basket
1/2 tsp borax
1 1/3 cups hot water
In a separate bowl:
2 cups school glue
1 1/2 cups hot water
liquid water color or food coloring
Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 9.08.55 AM


  • Mix borax and water
  • In a separate bowl mix glue, water, and coloring
  • Stir mixtures together

It falls through the holes in a basket slowly and keep the runny consistency even after cooling. Think about providing scissors for the children to cut the strands that come down. Or maybe try holding at different heights? Wonder what other ways the children will imagine to explore this?
Be sure to have a bucket to catch the slime that makes it to the ground.


Plunger Painting:

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 9.46.15 AM Mummy Musing and Mayhem had some nice example of this fun for all ages activity that is super fun outside.
Plungers provide resistance when painting. Not to mention gross motor (arms, core), cooperation, color blending, and that beautiful circle shape.
“Heavy Work”
Take the paint away, clean off the plungers and add in a scooter and you have a whole different gross motor experience. The Motor Story has a detailed Scooter and Plunger activity.



Lacing or Weaving Mat?

2016_04_26_IMG_0137Tie a length of ribbon to one corner and let children sew, loop, and twist throughout. Or weave the long or short (hotdog/hamburger) way. What materials will you use? Ribbons, yarns, fabric strips, pipe cleaners, straws…… Think eye-hand coordination, fine motor (pincer grip), approach to learning, and math (patterns).
Don’t forget undoing it is half the fun.

This sink mat was cut with regular scissors in half. For smaller pieces could be easily cut in half again.




Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 12.30.59 PM Straws are passed through holes in a basket (circular is best) to form a lattice.

The pom-poms are then placed on the top and held in place by the lattice.

Players take turns removing a single straw from the basket while trying to minimize the number of pom-poms that fall through the lattice to the bottom of the basket.
Once a player has committed themselves to a particular straw by touching it, they must remove it.

The player who counts the fewest dropped pom-poms wins.
But who’s to say you cannot make up your own rules?
2016_04_25_IMG_0126Think fine motor, counting, social studies (rules), approaches to learning, social-emotional.