Since starting The Paige Diaries on Instagram last year I had seen plenty of posts with these metal rimmed counters from The Creative Toy Shop popping up in my feed and after seeing just how versatile they seemed to be, they went straight onto my Christmas list for Paige and Samuel last year.
We absolutely love our coloured counters and magnetic wands so I wanted to share some different ways that they can be used by preschoolers, toddlers and babies.
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Recently Paige has been really interested in letters, in particular the letter P as it’s the first letter of her name. But at the moment, she thinks that the P is her whole name #StillLearning
To encourage name recognition (and to enjoy the sunlight that streams into her room most afternoons) I wrote her name backwards on the non-sticky side of a sheet of contact paper, then stuck it to her window (sticky side facing away from the window) for her to use the counters to make her name.
This activity would also work really well with different shapes or numbers.
Counting and Grouping
This was a SUPER simple set up to encourage number recognition and counting. I provided the numbers 1-5 from one of our number puzzles, plus a handful of counters. Paige and I worked together to order the numbers, then count out the amount of counters to match each number.
If this is too tricky for your little one, you could always provide the counters in groups already (a counter by itself, a group of two, group of three etc) and ask your child to match the numbers to each group.
The counters are a perfect way to introduce patterning to your preschooler. I remember when I first introduced patterning to Paige (she would’ve been about two and a half), I started a pink, purple, pink, purple pattern with the counters. Then I asked her what came next. Her response? ‘Chocolate?’ Ummmm, nope! Good try though, kiddo!
Paige is still a long way from being able to do patterning independently, but I figure it’s not going to hurt to continue to expose her to the idea so I provided a few templates for her to match the coloured counters to. We worked together to match the counters from left to right and talked her through the patterns as we made them.
Colour Mixing on a Light Table
I was really keen on getting a light table for Paige for a long time but I didn’t really see it as a necessity and I couldn’t justify spending lots of money on one. But then I started noticing a few people using this Kmart light box as a cheaper alternative and we finally got one a month or so ago. We used our counters to explore colour mixing by stacking one or two on each other and to see what colour it made. My favourite was the red and magenta which made a beautiful shade of pink!
This activity was a really great way for Paige to develop her fine motor skills as those counters can be tricky to pick up, especially for a two year old! I used some paint chips we had lying around and Paige worked on sorting our counters into each colour. Instead of paint chips, you could use coloured paper, or even use coloured pencils to draw shapes in different colours to sort the counters into.
Rainbow Rice Fishing
Last Summer I made a massive 2kg batch of coloured rice for Paige and one of her favourite things to do was use a magnetic fishing rod to ‘fish’ for coloured counters hidden in the rice. I also extended this activity by giving her the coloured paint chips to sort the counters as she found them. If you don’t have a magnetic fishing rod, you can always use a magnetic wand to find them, or even just your hands!
I made a mini version of this activity about a month or so ago by putting a handful of counters into a bowl of rainbow rice, and giving Paige a piece of paper with coloured circles that matched the counters in the bowl. As Paige found the counters, she matched them to the circles on the paper, which again was a great way to build those fine motor skills.
Loose Parts Play with Playdough
Loose parts play with playdough is always a fun way to encourage imagination as it is so open ended and there are no wrong ways to play! We recently celebrated @EarlyLearning101’s first birthday on Instagram by making cakes using playdough, some straws, patty pans and our coloured counters. Paige decorated the cakes with the bright counters and then added some straws as candles. Of course, there are endless ways to use the counters with the playdough, see how creative your children can be!
Sorting magnetic and non-magnetic items
This is another really fun and easy-to-set-up activity to expose your children to magnets. I collected some different metal and non-metal items from around the house, plus a few of our metal rimmed counters, a magnetic wand and two different containers marked with a tick (for items that are attracted to the magnet) and an x (for objects that don’t attract). We worked together to sort all the magnetic objects from the non-magnetic ones. I explained to Paige that if something stuck to the wand then it meant that it was magnetic, and if it didn’t attract to the wand then it wasn’t magnetic.
This simple activity is a perfect way to introduce babies to magnets, but please be sure to constantly supervise your little one when using the counters as they are a choking hazard. I gave Samuel a tray of counters and a magnetic wand to hold, then I let him explore. At first, all he was interested in was eating the wand but soon he started hitting the end of the wand into the tray and seemed a bit surprised when some of the counters stuck! I kept taking the counters off and putting them back into the tray, and he would hit the wand in the counters and see them stick again. A few times he put the wand in handle first but soon figured out which end had to go in for the counters to stick. This was a fun activity for Samuel and we probably played with them for about twenty minutes, which I think is a pretty good effort for a nine month old!
Magnetic Discovery Bottle
Of course, if you think giving your little one is too young to be playing with the counters, a great alternative is to pop some into a clear bottle or container, and let them see how the counters attract to the magnetic wand through the plastic. I taped the lid of our bottle with sticky tape so that Paige wouldn’t be able to tget the lid off and I could leave it out as a discovery bottle without worrying about any little counters getting out and finding their way into Samuel’s mouth (like everything else that he gets his hands onto these days!). Samuel and Paige both enjoyed playing with the new discovery bottle and watching the magnetic wand attract the counters.
Like I said before, these counters are a choking hazard, so please ensure you closely supervise your children while they are out (not just babies), and make sure that when you aren’t using them they are stored somewhere safe where little hands can’t find them.
Do you have magnets or metal rimmed counters at home? What are your favourite ways to use them?