You'd be surprised how entertaining the simple act of stacking is for toddlers and preschoolers. In fact, parents should be encouraging their kids to engage in these fun stacking activities!
Stacking activities are good for fine motor development, hand-eye coordination, reasoning skills, learning the concepts of balance and strength, and problem solving. Not only that, but toddlers and preschoolers are learning one to one correspondence, an early math skill. Whew! That's a lot of essential growth and development right there!
Best of all, setting up stacking activities for kids at home is so easy and they can keep kids entertained without screens while you get a chance to drink that second cup of coffee you so desperately need!
You don't need any special materials, or to go out at buy fancy stacking toys. Giving your children different types of objects to stack is better than using the same stacking toy over and over again because it gives them the opportunity to explore how different materials behave and get creative in their stacking techniques.
Table of contents
We discovered the joy of stacking objects when I pulled out a vintage box of sandbakkelse molds. My toddler loved the small size of them and how they fit neatly into each other and then into their little box.
Items for Stacking Activities
If you don't have sandbakkelse molds (who does?) try these objects you probably already have around the house!
Blocks (this seems obvious, but sometimes we forget the simple things)
Paper cups -- will they stack them in a single stack or in a pyramid shape?
Sofa cushions -- this is great because it also uses gross motor skills
Dice (only for children who don't put objects in their mouth)
Cheerios or similar cereal
Dominoes - this is fun because they can try to stack end to end or large, flat side to large, flat side
Spools -- such as spools of thread
Lids and caps (small lids are only for children who don't put objects in their mouth)
Plastic storage containers -- there is an extra layer of problem solving here if the containers are of different sizes. They will also notice how smaller containers nest inside larger ones.
Rocks -- great for outdoors
Checkers (this is a great way to repurpose those game pieces!)
Boxes -- all sizes!
Books - board books work particularly well.
Coins or buttons (only for children who don't put objects in their mouth)
Get ready because the absolute best part of stacking is knocking it all down with a big crash!
Stacking Activity Variations
Older children can try these variations which add in an extra layer of difficulty to stacking objects.
- Use tongs or chopsticks to pick up items to be stacked.
- Use only one hand to stack objects.
- Stack items from different categories. For example, mix blocks and paper cups in a single stack.
- Thread stacking items that have a hole in the middle onto a stick. For example, stack spools onto a chopstick. This is similar to a lacing activity.
How to Talk to Your Child While Stacking
You don't need to get down on the floor and help your child unless you want to. But making observations to your toddler or preschool about what they are doing is a great way to boost their brains. Fortunately, you can do this from the couch, with coffee in hand.
Avoid criticism or non-specific praise. Say things like:
You are making a tall stack!
I wonder how tall your stack will get. I can't wait to find out!
That one is larger, how will it balance?
Wow! That balancing act is tricky. You keep trying to make it balance.
Those marshmallow are sticky? Does that help with the stacking?
Which way do you prefer?
Now, get stacking!