Dollar Stores are great places to discover unexpected items that become my kids’ favorite toys. Last year I bought a bag of flat marbles for $2.99 and they’ve been getting a great amount of use. From budget math manipulatives to fine motor play, from art tools to game pieces, I want to share with you some ideas that keep my kids happy.
1. Russian roulette – Marble Edition
This famous Russian drinking game is a test of bravery and
stupidity courage. In our version, there are no weapons, just a can, wet paper towel and a bag of marbles. Be prepared for lots of excitement.
- Find a can. I like Quaker Oats containers. We decorated ours.
- Get a paper towel wet. I put it under the running water and squeezed the excess water out. If you get one of those double-ply kinds, I separate them and use only a single layer.
- Tape the paper towel to the can or hold it in place with a rubber band.
- Take turns putting marbles in the middle of the towel.
The suspense: how many marbles can you put on the towel before it rips.
Agree in advance what is the fate that beholds the one that loses at this game of chance. In my house, the loser might stand on his head or sing a song. My kids like to tell me, Mommy, if you lose, you will have to bake a cake…. I never loose 🙂
2. One-to-one counting with marbles
It just looks like they are playing, but in fact, they are practicing one-to-one counting, hand-eye coordination, focus/concentration, and more. It’s only necessary to do this activity together once or twice before it becomes great independent activity kids can do, while I am cooking dinner.
Objective: Count out marbles that match the number of dots on the card.
How to get started:
Point to #1 and ask what number it is. If they don’t know it yet, say “one” and put your finger on a black dot. Then take one marble out and place it on the dot. “One.”
Repeat the same sequence with all the numbers.
3. Marble Push
You can work on developing crucial fine motor skills with just an empty can and some marbles. We decorated the empty Rolled Oats container in a Russian fairy tale style and made a slit at the top to push the marbles through. My preschooler had so much fun with it, and my older kids couldn’t wait for him to be done so that they could have a turn (or ten) too. It’s amazing how much fun kids can have with this simple activity and if they are developing fine motor skills and concentration at the time same time all the better.
4. Jello & Beads
My kids love playing with jello (but not eating it). We make this sensory “toy” often and especially for the holidays. You can say that red jello for Valentine’s Day and green jello for St. Patrick’s Day is a family tradition. It’s even more fun for my kids when they can look for something in it. To hide a surprise just follow the directions for making jello, then before putting it in the fridge add plastic snakes (swamp), gold coins (St. Patrick’s Day), flat marbles (any day!). Touching and squeezing jello-covered flat marble beads offer a new level of tactile excitement.
5. Marble Art – Mixed Media Collage
If you are looking for inspiration to create some mixed media art, flat beads are your friends. This particular piece of work on a photo was done by my oldest son at one of his art classes. They started with tempera paints and glued on beads and marbles of various sizes. We have since incorporated flat marbles in many other ways like decorating papier-mache bowls and magic wands.
6. Scooping and Transferring
The easiest activity in the world, but so functional. You wouldn’t think twice about grasping a spoon and using it to transfer marbles from point A to point B. Easy, peasy… for YOU, but not so much for kids who are still working on strength, focus, and coordination. Grab some bowls, cups, scoops, and spoons and ask your little one to transfer the marbles from one place to another. You might have to demonstrate the activity if this is their first time.
7. Sorting and Pouring
If you have flat marbles in different colors you can easily set up a wonderful sorting activity. Mix all the colors together and ask your child to sort them into muffin cups. Once the sorting is done, I bring a beaker of water to “water” the beads. And once watering is done, out comes the sieve and a spoon. Now the task is to scoop the marbles out, so they can dry for the next activity. All together this activity can easily take the best part of an hour. A definite win!
8. Painting with Marbles
This is something we just discovered recently. Paints, water, and marbles create wonderful and exciting art. Get more instruction here.
9. Super Truck Marble Rescue
If you have a little boy or girl who enjoys playing with tracks, flat marbles are gold. Round marbles slip, bounce, and roll all over the place. Flat marbles stay put.
Set up a diamond excavation site on one side of the room, have the diamond counting station on the other side. Have your little truck lovers move the marbles from one place to another. Little ones can pretend that they are excavating diamonds, or that each marble is an animal they need to rescue from a polluted site.
If they have a little trouble starting, prompt them with a short story. One of our favorites, “Once upon a time there was a big yellow truck who was an enchanted prince turned into a shape of a truck by a wicked troll, who promised to turn him back into a prince once he delivers 100
marbles diamonds…” Set up a counting station. Older kids would enjoy helping younger ones to count the marbles… Who doesn’t want to help a hapless prince…
10. Toilet Roll Marble Run
If you have some leftover wrapping paper, use it to cover toilet rolls to make it extra festive. But if you only have a few minutes to set up this activity just attach toilet rolls to the wall with masking tape and give them some marbles. Older kids can even build it on their own. Once the kids have been at it for a while and begin looking less interested, add a bowl of water. When marbles land in a bowl with a huge splash, it will add another level of excitement.
There you have it! Ten fun Learning Activities with dollar store flat marbles that are perfect for any season. Do you have a flat marble activity that is not included here? I would love to hear from you!