After seeing a post on Chasing Cheerios, I went to the dollar store in search of a parmesan cheese shaker.   I was very happy when I found one!   Since I have a baby at home too, I was a little worried about the use of toothpicks (which was the item she used), so I went in search of another material and eventually came across a bag of 500 coffee stirrers.  I presented my son with the coffee stirrers and the cheese shaker.   He immediately went to task putting the coffee stirrers through the tiny holes on top of the shaker.   He enjoyed this activity and it kept him busy for quite some time. coffee stirrer collage A few weeks later, we came across the coffee stirrers in the closet and decided to play with them again.   I gave him the cheese shaker and, although he enjoyed it for a while, he was in a feistier mood this time, and the quiet concentration he once showed me was not what was in store for that afternoon.   Therefore, we moved the activity from his table onto our living room rug and let loose.   I took out every colander we have (which we have used with pipe cleaners in the past) and coffee stirrers went everywhere. (affiliate links) Every colander had stirrers fed through the holes.   Some holes were bigger and the stirrers fell right through, but my son enjoyed discovering the design they made on the rug when the colander was finally lifted up.   Some holes were smaller which allowed for the creation of a sculpture.   Imaginary birthday cakes were created with the stirrers acting as candles. colanders Even my baby daughter got in on the fun “ under close supervision, of course.   She liked dumping the coffee stirrers out and putting them back in the colanders.   She simply liked to run her hands through all of them.   We even had fun sticking them between her toes and watching her figure out how to remove them.   Yes, she tried to chew on them “ that's why a watchful eye is a must! baby plays with coffee stirrers There were a few activities that were clearly my son's favorites.   One was making it rain coffee stirrers “ though we needed to protect our eyes for this activity.   Another was decorating my head by sticking coffee stirrers through my hair as if I were a colander!   It tickled a bit, but the giggles made it worthwhile! dumping out coffee stirrers The activity that my son enjoyed the most was not amongst my favorites, but once we turned it into a game, I had no choice but to get on board.   This one involved clean up.   It was getting on dinner time and I thought it was appropriate to put the stirrers away and so, we started gathering them up.   As soon as we got a decent pile and began working on the next batch, the first one got dumped out again by my baby girl.   Of course, then, my son had to repeat this in hopes of getting more laughs.   Dinner could wait a few more minutes, I decided.   So, we made a game out of it where I would gather some (I stopped trying to actually clean up) and put them in the basket and then I would make a big, overly dramatic fuss about them being dumped out again.   Luckily, my son knew when to take me seriously and we eventually got (most) of the coffee stirrers back into a Tupperware container.   I did find a few strays over the course of the next several days. Fine motor skills, cause and effect, creative and artistic play, and just plain fun came out of this simple $2.00 activity.
Here are some more fun ideas for your little ones’ busy hands to use coffee stirrers (or straws):

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  1. We have done the pipe cleaners and colander – it really does keep them busy!

    I just washed out a plastic Parmesan cheese shaker to recycle… Now I’m thinking I’m going to keep it and see what we can do!

  2. This looks like my kind of fun! I love seeing the great action shots and that you discussed how you made sure you provided an activity that would also be suitable for your baby. This is something I think (and write) about a lot since my kids are similar in age to yours (2.5 yo and almost 1 yo). I recently did a bee bin for the toddler + a modified edible one for the baby.