(This post contains affiliate links.)
Indoor exercise that can wear out a toddler… ahh, there’s nothing like it. My son and I had been spending so much time playing games putting these balls in various bins and boxes that I wanted to switch things up a little bit. When we first started playing this one, he was at an age where he was really interested in trying to figure out what things would fit in which places. Would a macaroni fit in his cup of milk? Yes! Would a bagel? Not so much. I wanted to give him an activity where he could practicing fitting things in places, as well as getting some exercise running around to find all the balls to fit into the box.
When we first did this (around age 1.5), it had the added benefit of letting my son explore the cognitive developmental skill of object permanence. Where do objects go when we can’t see anymore? Do they still exist? Do they disappear forever? Young babies won’t look for an object after it leaves their eyesight because developmentally, they’re incapable of object permanence—their brains tell them the object doesn’t exist. Once babies get a little older, they realize objects DO still exist when we can’t see them… and it’s endlessly fascinating to figure out where they went and what’s going on with them after they’re gone!
We also used this activity to practice colors and sorting. I’d have him do all of the same color at once. He’d bring a pile of balls closer to the box, and we’d work together to sort them out to the color we wanted to do. Now that he knows his colors, I can just yell out a color, and he’ll bring that one over. He’s always really proud to show off.
You could also use this activity to teach counting and one-to-one correspondence. I only made 4 holes because I couldn’t find my X-acto knife (you really need one! doing this with scissors was rough!), but if you made additional holes in a bigger box, you could ask your kiddos to place a certain number of balls on the holes as “resting” like in the photo with the green balls, and count them before popping them inside. I love that this activity helps with both gross motor skills (all the running and climbing on top of the box) and fine motor skills (carrying and throwing small balls and pushing them into the box). Activities that integrate multiple skills are my favorite!