Educational toys, games, flashcards, puzzles, books, and other kids activities can cost a fortune. Moreover, young kids and toddlers learn and develop so rapidly that they may quickly lose interest or grow out of those expensive learning toys.
Plus, new (or used) learning toys, games, crafts, and workbooks start to take up a lot of space. That means more things to organize, store, and clean up.
When I started implementing tot school lessons at home, it quickly became clear that I needed to find a better way to provide learning materials that was not only cost-effective but also didn’t add a lot of clutter.
A lot of parents have different solutions to providing educational toys and activities. From thrift stores to toy libraries to repurposing household items, there are a lot of ways to incorporate quality learning materials into your toddler’s daily routine.
While we do all of those things, I’ve found that there’s been one small investment we’ve made that’s provided endless learning and play resources for my toddler. And the best part is that it’s not only cost-effective, but it doesn’t take up very much space!
My favorite resource for learning toys and activities is my laminator. It’s easy to use, adapts to my toddler’s learning needs and interests, takes up very little space on my desk (talk about a space-saver to toy organization!).
With my laminator, I’ve made reusable games, busy books, wipe-clean worksheets, lacing cards, play dough mats, and so much more! The best part is that I can change up my tot’s favorite learning activities by swapping in materials with a holiday or seasonal spin.
For instance, we played with some mermaid-themed play dough mats (free printable here) in August while learning about ocean life (and feeding into her mermaid obsession at the time). In late September, I switched our play dough mats to an Oktoberfest theme (free printable here) while we learned about there German culture.
I love that I can use my laminator to adapt our lessons based on my toddler’s interest. For example, she loves playing with tools, so I made her a matching game and some pages for her learning binder (free printable pack here). Learning activities included sorting tools by size, matching tools and hardware (prewriting), and more. I love that my laminator gives me the freedom to adapt our lesson plans to any interest.
We’ve used our laminated activities to learn shapes (free printable board game), colors, sorting, numbers/counting, and so much more. I’ve made educational busy books based on toddler milestones (available here on Etsy). If you’re interested, here’s how I make my travel-sided quiet books.
Laminators are small and easy to use. Mine is only a little bigger than my hair straightener and works in a similar fashion. Just put the paper you want laminated in a laminating pouch and feed it through. It takes about a minute (maybe two)!
Amazon has laminators starting at under $25. I have a Blusmart Laminator (like this one on Amazon), and I like that it has a tool rounds corners so there are no sharp edges. Lamenting sheets are pretty inexpensive as well. AmazonBasics has a cost-effective one. Personally, I prefer a thicker, sturdier lamenting pouch like this 5MIL one.
When it’s time to switch up our activities, I can easily store or give away whatever we no longer need. For seasonal games and activities, I pack them away with my seasonal decorations. That way, it’s something “new” that we can get out and play with next year.
For other learning binder and busy book pages, I give them away, rotate them, or put them in a file for a rainy day. Having a few printable activities that I can pull out of my file truly makes sick days, rainy days, and other times when we are stuck indoors so much easier.
So that’s our secret! My laminator provides a cost-effective way to provide new learning materials, lets me adapt educational games and activities based on my child’s interests, and takes up very little space.