Stealthy Teachers Reuse Materials



When I look for new toys and learning materials I always look for things that are open-ended multi-taskers.  I want something that can be used for many different activities or easily turned into new games.

One of my current favorites is this alligator that I found on Pinterest.  Here’s our version of it:

Alligator bin made from a Cascade tub, one piece of green paper, white paper, and a sharpie. This one took me about four minutes to throw together.

I like to save all sorts of containers because you never know what you might be able to do with them.  This was an empty Cascade tub that we’ve been playing with for about 2 years.  It has recently been reborn as an alligator.

Alligator bin made from a Cascade tub, one piece of green paper, white paper, and a sharpie. This one took me about four minutes to throw together.

Basically how this game works is, you put some letters inside, the child reaches in and pulls one out, and then says the letter name or sound.  While trying not to be bitten by the alligator.  (Ok, maybe that’s just at my house!)

Alphabet letters. Always a classic. Use whatever type of letters you have laying around. Don’t be afraid to switch them up either, to a toddler it’s a new game!

Now, the original post came with cute little cards to print and play with, but that seems like a little too much work for me.  And not very stealthy.

One of the keys to being stealthy is seeing the potential in the things all around you.  That includes recognizing when toys and games you already have can be re-purposed and reused.

What I really love about this alligator is how versatile it is, because, well, alligators eat anything.  Our little gator has already been  four different games in the two weeks we’ve had it.

Ready to move on from letters? Try throwing in whatever sight words your kiddo is working on. I used these pre-made cut out bugs (because I already had them) but index cards and markers work just as well.

First in were the foamy letters.  Then apple letters (which is a totally different game if you’re two).  Then were sight word cards.

This fake fruit is my daughter’s current favorite kitchen toy, but throw in whatever play food you have!

Then my little smarty pants decided her alligator needed a better diet and fed him some fruits and veggies.  You can see where I’m going with this.  Pair this with a very cute, very generic chant and the game possibilities are endless.

Alligator, Alligator down by the lake.  Lets find out just what you ate!

Here are more ideas for alligator food:

  • Play food (vocabulary)
  • Toys (including baby toys) (vocabulary)
  • Toy Animals (vocabulary)
  • Blocks/ Colored Objects (color names)
  • Shape Blocks (geometry/ shape names)
  • Letters
  • Numbers
  • Math Facts
  • Sight Words
  • Family Photos (learning names/vocabulary)
  • Name Cards (of friends and family members)
Did she notice that we had a different set of shape toys in here yesterday? Ummm….maybe but that didn’t stop her from playing again!

These things do not have to be fancy.  Index cards and a pack of markers do wonders.  By using an open-ended material like the alligator tub, you can target any skill you need, and it can work for virtually any age from about 10 months to 6 years (depending on what you put inside).

Can it get anymore fun than an alligator eating a bison? Only when he eats a giraffe!

By using toys and materials you already have you are saving time, energy, and money while still providing new activities and learning opportunities.

After your kiddo has tons of fun pulling those letters out, don’t stop there! Match upper case and lower case, put them in ABC order, spell words, match and build sight words, or name a word for each letter!

You’re also being super stealthy by drawing your child’s attention to their toys in a new way.  They may stack their blocks everyday, but they may not think much about the shape or color.  There’s nothing like pulling something out of a gator’s mouth to get you to notice the details!

Pull out blocks and name the colors and shapes, or add a STEM challenge and have them create something as they go!

This is also a great way to bring attention to toys that may not have been used in a while, or to reintroduce materials.

Add numbers for numeral identification, or practice putting them in order.

Starting to think the alligator game is to simple for your child’s learning needs?  Add an extension to the game!  Just play as usual, and then give them a challenge after they pull out the toy.

Extension Ideas:

  • Sort by colors or shapes
  • Put numbers in order
  • Put letters in ABC order
  • Build words
  • Spell sight words
  • Create silly sentences with sight words
  • Match family photos with name cards
  • Add word cards for any materials and match (colors, shapes, animals)
Start with whatever shape toys you have and name them as they come out. Spice it up a little and have the kiddos sort by shape or color too!

Don’t like alligators, or want something else for a little variety?  Try a shark, dinosaur, or monster!

There is nothing stealthier than sharing your ideas!  Let us know what you feed your alligator!

Happy Learning!

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