No-Prep, No-Cost Indoor Motor Activity for Toddlers: Food Tower

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RoShamBo Homeschooling motor activity where a toddler is carefully stacking cans of food into a tower

My favorite motor activities are usually simple. Our family does A LOT of motor activities, so it’s important to me to come up with motor activities that are fast, easy, and FREE. Food Tower fits all of my boxes.

If you’re like me, you bought way too much canned food at the start of quarantine. I had this plan of only going to the grocery store once a month… that hasn’t quite worked out as I planned! Put those cans to good use with this no-prep, no-cost activity.

(And don’t forget to wear shoes!)

RoShamBo Homeschooling motor activity where a toddler is carefully stacking cans of food into a tower

Food Tower Activity

For this activity, I wanted to work on both fine and gross motor skills. I also wanted to give my toddler a chance to work on his perseverance and focus, like we do in many of our other motor activities.

I picked out a wide variety of can sizes. The olives and tuna gave the game an extra challenge with their unique shapes. We used the bench from our kid’s table to stack on. I like the extra little bit of height because he had to crouch for the bottom cans and stretch for the top cans. Ideal gross motor practice. (First, he tried stacking on the carpet. Great experimentation to learn about cause and effect!)

My son tried a bunch of different combos. He quickly learned that trying to stack anything on top of the olives was a big mistake. It’s just like playing with Tobbles—kids really have to work on the cognitive skill of size order. The more ways they can practice this new skill, the better!

RoShamBo Homeschooling motor activity where a toddler is carefully stacking cans of food into a tower
Line everything up…
RoShamBo Homeschooling motor activity where a toddler is carefully stacking cans of food into a tower
And build more!

This motor activity was also perfect for building focus and perseverance. Look at how serious and focused he is! Even after multiple failures, he kept trying again and again to build the tower with every single can until he had it down. He also got in some fine motor skill practice after I showed him that straightening and lining up the cans before adding a new one can increase your chances of a solid tower.

Different Types of Towers and Different Skills

It’s important to practice the same skill with as many variations as you can think of. All of those slight variations provide an opportunity for mastering new skills. And they’re helping your child develop cognitively because the unique skills for each activity must be differentiated in order to succeed!

RoShamBo Homeschooling motor activity where a toddler is standing next to a tall tower of blocks he built
We love these chemistry blocks with the periodic table on them for one of our many Tower Building Variations. I can’t wait until he’s older to actually use them for science too!

For example, building a tower with blocks of all the same size requires shifting to a completely different cognitive perspective.

  • The blocks are all the same size, so the order doesn’t matter like it does for cans, Mega-Bloks, or Tobbles.
  • There are far more of these blocks than cans or Tobbles, so he has to learn that the higher you build, the less stable the tower is. He can choose between making a shorter tower that HE gets to knock over, or trying to build them all and having the tower collapse on its own. He also has to learn that he can’t keep building higher than he can stretch!
  • With blocks of the same size, it’s much more important to spend time straightening them after placing each one. He has to remember to be extra careful about stacking them so that they’re perfectly aligned.

Knowing which of these specific elements is required for each variation of Tower Building (and being able to switch between the requirements easily) is an important cognitive skill for toddlers to start developing! Plus, before they’ve figured out the differences, the game is all about perseverance and not giving up!

So just keep building!


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