Monday, August 18, 2014

Back to School: Creating Activity Kits for Preschoolers

As a participant in the Walmart to Go First program, I’ve received a personal invite and payment for my time and efforts in creating this post.

Everywhere you look communities and stores are gearing up for back to school. Whether your little one is ready to head off to school or not, they may be excited about everyone else going back to school and want to go to school too. Portable activity kits allow you to take supplies and a snack with you wherever go to.

Essential Items to Include in Preschool Activity Kit


Gates loves to learn something new and her quest for knowledge seems unquenchable at times. I want to encourage her inquisitiveness, but sometimes it's hard to come up with an educational activity on the spur of the moment. To satisfy her curiosity and relieve the pressure on me, I created activity kits that I can pull out when needed. Our current modules are Colors, Counting, and The Alphabet.

San Francisco Counting Activity Kit for Toddlers San Francisco Counting Activity Kit for Toddlers


Making Your Activity Kit

I'm a big believer in reusing materials that would otherwise be headed for the garbage or the recycler. As I subscribe to Le Tote, we have lots of sturdy, similar shaped boxes lying around. For our kits, I decided to decorate two Le Tote boxes. Depending on the age of your little ones, you can have them help you make your activity kits. Because I used scissors to punch holes through the top of our boxes to secure visor organizers, Gates did not help with this project. The larger art supply bins that we created using Plated delivery boxes were completely decorated by Gates.

For this project, you'll need as many boxes as you want kits. We currently have two boxes, but will eventually have a total of six. (We have three days where we have Gates full time, so we'll have two activity boxes for each day, one for the morning and one for the afternoon.) Separate activity boxes make scheduling activities and restocking kits after you complete an activity a breeze. If you're creating your own container, you'll want an organizer that will keep little pieces from getting lost. An organizer intended to be placed on your car's visor works especially well for this project as it has velcro strips that allow you to position it securely to your box.

Supplies You Need to Decorate Your Box


You'll also want one to two thick rolls of solid colored Duck Brand tape and one thin roll of patterned washi tape or Duck Brand tape. The thick rolls of tape are used to reinforce weak spots on your boxes as well as disguise any branding. The thin roll of tape is used to hide the seam or overlap of the thicker tape so that you don't have to cut it or worry about perfectly aligning each layer. If you want a perfectly smooth exterior, remove all of the packaging tape from your box before you begin decorating. (I didn't want to compromise the structural integrity of the boxes, so I left some clear packaging tape on our boxes and applied the colored tape over the top of it.)

Step by Step Instructions for Creating Decorated Storage Box


  1. (Optional) Remove any old mailing labels and packaging tape. (You'll see the outline of the edges of the labels and any imperfections in how the original packaging tape was applied through your decorations.)
  2. Flip your box over so that the bottom is facing you. You'll want to start with the bottom of your box rather than the sides so that the edges of your tape on the bottom of the box are covered by the tape you apply to the sides.
  3. Align your first strip of tape with the edge of your box and slowly affix the tape to your box.
  4. Align the next strip of the tape alongside the edge of the first strip. If you can't cover the bottom of your box without overlapping your tape strips, place your next strip of tape alongside the edge opposite your first strip.
  5. (Optional) Cut a strip of tape to cover the odd width or overlap a piece of tape down the middle.
  6. Flip your box over so that the back edge of the box is facing you. Tape about an 1/8 inch along the back edge, lining up with the top edge of your box, and begin pressing the tape over the corner and along the side of your box. Work slowly pulling the tape and pressing it down as you turn the box until you return to where you started. Cut the tape to cover the 1/8 inch edge.
  7. If you want a perfectly smooth edge to your box, pull a strip of tape long enough to cover the edge of your box and cut to size. If you don't cut a perfect straight edge, tape about an 1/8 along the back edge of your box lining the tape up with bottom edge of your box, and begin pressing the tape over the cover and along the side of your box. Work slowly pulling the tape and pressing it down as you turn the box until you return to where you started. Cut the tape to cover the 1/8 inch edge.
  8. To disguise the overlapped edges of your solid tape, choose a thin patterned tape. tape about an 1/8 along the back edge of your box placing the tape over the overlapped edge of the solid tape. Begin pressing the tape over the corner and work slowly pulling the tape and pressing it down as you turn the box until you return to where you started. Cut the tape to cover the 1/8 inch edge.
  9. Reinforce the front edge of your box with a strip of colored tape.
  10. Reinforce any weak spots on the top of your box as well as cover branding.
  11. Once you have decorated the top of your box, open your box and line up your visor organizer in the center.
  12. Punch four holes for the straps and feed the velcro straps through to secure the visor.
  13. Place your activity kit essentials into your box.
  14. Place your supplies that are specific to your learning module into your box. For our counting module, we have a San Francisco Counting Book and numbered stickers.
  15. Close your box and put away until you need it.
Affixing Visor Organizer to Your Box


Stocking Your Activity Kit

I used Walmart To Go to stock my kits as I can find everything I need in one place at low prices without having to shop around for the best deal. Because Walmart offers the brands you know and love, Crayola, GoGo Applesauce, Duck Brand tape, and more, at low prices, common school supplies are frequently out of stock. (One downside of the Walmart To Go interface and service is that you can't see whether items are out of stock until you add them to your shopping cart. However, just because you find an item that is in stock, you won't actually know if it's unavailable until the Walmart To Go truck shows up at your door.) For this reason, you'll want to stock up so that when you run out of an item you won't be scrambling. You'll also want to order seasonal items well in advance of any in store or online promotional sales.

Supplies for An On the Go Activity Kit for Toddlers and Preschoolers


For convenience, I stock each kit with the same basic essentials and then add materials specific to the topic we're exploring. Items to include in all of your activity kits are:

  • Ruler or measuring tape
  • Bound journal
  • Crayons, colored pencils, or washable pens
  • Construction paper
  • Pocket tissue pack
  • Alcohol-free hand wipes (only with supervision)
  • Snack
  • Double-sided tape (if under 5, only with supervision)
  • Rounded tip scissors (if under 5, only with supervision)

What items do you include in your kits?

In addition to the items pictured here, I'm going to add a basic digital camera (with SD card) to each kit so that we can record what we see, print the items out, reflect on, and expand the activity. (The cameras I wanted for my kits were out of stock.) For example, getting through the entire alphabet in one sitting with an active toddler is often unrealistic. By printing out the items you've found that match a certain letter, you can pick up where you left off or add to as you find more objects that start with a given letter.

One upside of the Walmart To Go service is that the drivers call you to tell you they're on their way. Many of the other services I use may send an email reminder or a text message, but the personal call really helps me plan my day. If I'm in the middle of cooking and find out I'm missing an ingredient, I can dash to the corner store and grab what I need without having to worry that the deliveries will show up while I'm gone. For this reason, if you're in San Francisco, I highly recommend signing up for Walmart To Go First - VIP Experience.

genuinely eden

Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.