Rusty Divine

Live, Love, Learn, Teach

Three Weekend Projects for a Toddler

We’ve been getting creative this winter to keep our three-year-old busy! A closet dedicated to art supplies, including boxes and canisters that can be re-used, can be a source of inspiration when looking for something to break up the day.

Make a Geometric Puzzle


This puzzle was inspired by the 7-piece tangram puzzles, which would also be a fun project on their own. We weren’t sure our son would be interested in a nice wooden tangram puzzle, so I created this cardboard puzzle of a fish to test his interest level.

  1. Do a Google image search for something, like fish.
  2. Click on Search Tools and change Color to Black and White and Type to Line Drawing.ImageSearch 
  3. Download the image and print it on a sheet of construction paper.
  4. Cut out an 8.5x11” section of cardboard box, and use some Elmer’s glue to glue the picture on. Putting a book on the page for 30 minutes will be enough to let the glue set.
  5. Take a blank sheet of paper and draw some line across the page. Make each line intersect an edge of the page, and make about 7 internal shapes for the best configuration. Make sure there is a little bit of the image on each piece.
  6. Lay the page on top of the picture and use a ruler and razor to cut out the pieces.

Make a Monster Truck Hauler

monster_hauler monster_hauler_inside

We had some mailing tube end caps laying around that looked a lot like monster truck tires; and there’s nothing my three-year-old likes more than monster trucks.

  1. Take some mailing tube ends and use a razor to trim off the rim so that they look more like wheels.
  2. Find 4 washers and screws where the washers are large enough to cover the holes in the mailing tubes.
  3. Trace around a 3/4” dowel where the axels will go through a box; approximately 2” from each edge and 1/4” from the bottom of a box.
  4. Use a razor blade to cut out the holes in the box where the dowel will slide through.
  5. Find the right length for the dowel by pushing it through the box and putting the wheels on; leave about 3/8” spare so that the wheels have some room to turn.
  6. Cut the dowels and then assemble them onto the monster truck with the washers and screws.

We found it rolls well on carpet, but slides on smooth surfaces.

Make a Snake Car

snakecar_1 snakecar_2

Our son fell in love with a wooden snake toy we found at a nature center here in Lincoln. It was made by someone here in town who has an Etsy shop, but this toy doesn’t appear to be listed at the time of this writing (he may make one for you if you ask, though).

I made this toy one afternoon with a hand drill, which made it difficult to get the holes drilled straight. After that lesson learned, I asked my mother nicely if I could buy or borrow her drill press, and she kindly obliged. So, although you can do this project with a hand drill, it will turn out better with a drill press.

  1. Cut 12 wheels in 3/4” segments off of a 3/4” poplar dowel.
  2. Cut 10 body parts in 2 1/2” segments from a 5/8” square poplar stick. Sand these to round the edges. Drill a 5/8” hole in the end of each segment – in two of the segments drill only one hole; these will be for the head and tail segments.
  3. Cut 6 axels from 1/4” oak dowel at about 3 1/2” length (enough to go all the way through the wheels and leave some wiggle room for the body segments).
  4. Use a drop of wood glue on each axel and push it flush into a wheel, then thread on the body segments as shown in the pictures above.

Our son loves to play with this car and have it wrap up onto itself. It reminds me of a Jacob’s Ladder in that fluid sort of way.

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