After hours of finger-painting and gluing dry macaroni to picture frames, you might be looking for less-messy activities that will still enchant your toddler or preschooler. Look no further than your kitchen pantry, because aluminum foil fits the bill. It's cheap, easy and safe for kiddos -- as long as you make sure they don't try to eat it, of course. Best of all, it's versatile, so you can use it for several different kinds of activities.
If you've ever eaten a burrito wrapped in aluminum foil, you may have already tried your hand at aluminum foil sculptures. Kids love to sculpt with foil because it's so easy to shape, and you'll love that it's not as messy as clay or papier-mache. Offer your toddler or preschooler a few sheets and help her sculpt animals, people or superheroes. With a bit more foil, she can even make skyscrapers or castles.
Because it's so shiny, aluminum foil is a welcome addition to a collage. Use it to make scales for a fish or snake, for example. Cut out foil stars and hearts, and help your child glue them to a notebook cover or cardboard crown. Glued to a black background, foil can resemble twinkling stars or city lights. If your child crinkles the foil before gluing it, no biggie -- she's just adding texture to her artwork.
Show your toddler or preschooler how to roll foil into long strips. Use the strips to form letters or words depending on your child's age and interest in her ABCs. She can make the whole alphabet over the course of a few days. You can hang the letters from a mobile or help make her name to prop up on a windowsill. Help her form numbers that she can mix up, then put in order. Plus and minus signs are also easy to make out of foil for more math practice. You can also help a toddler work on recognizing shapes by easily bending foil into circles, triangles, squares and more.
Since foil is waterproof, you can help your toddler or preschooler use it to make a boat that actually floats. Make sure she uses an entire sheet of foil for the bottom to help prevent leaks. Fill a kiddie pool or bathtub with water and have a boat race. See how many pennies, action figures or other small toys the boat can carry before it sinks. Make big boats and little boats, and ask your child which ones will survive a big splash.