In this activity, you and your child will discover different ways to explore and play with stacking and nesting cups.
Learning Area(s): Language and Communication; Physical Development
- stacking and nesting cups
- optional: small toy or snack item to fit under the cups; playdough (for two-year-olds)
Choose one set of nesting cups for your child to play with at a time. These games work well when you and your child are seated on the floor or at a table.
Age 6-12 months
By about six months, infants are actively working on reaching for something they see. As they get older, they become more skillful at reaching and grasping. They also examine toys by turning them around, passing them from hand to hand, exploring them with their mouths, and banging, dropping, or throwing them to see what happens. You can encourage your baby’s interest and physical development by trying the following activities:
- Hand your baby one cup and let her grasp, explore, and put her mouth on it. Then offer her another, and see if she can hold one cup in each hand.
- Encourage your baby to make noise with the cups in different ways (e.g., gently banging a cup on the table or floor, tapping on the cup with fingers, or clapping two cups together).
- Hold the opening of a cup to your mouth. Hum, say your baby’s name, or make sounds into the cup. Then hand your baby a cup and encourage her to copy you.
- Put a small snack item into a cup. Encourage your baby to reach into the cup for the snack or dump it out of the cup.
- Turn several cups upside down and stack them in front of your baby, counting as you stack them. Then encourage her to reach for a cup and take it from the stack.
Age 12-24 months
As young toddlers learn to walk, they usually like to be on the go and will be ready for more active games with the stacking cups. It may be more challenging to interest children in activities that require them to sit, but if you are flexible (e.g., letting them stand at a table or play with the cups in a bathtub), stacking cups still provide many fun opportunities for learning! Try the following activities with young toddlers:
- Stack the cups upside down and encourage your toddler to knock them over. He can then help you rebuild the tower by placing cups on the stack or handing cups to you. Demonstrate counting skills by counting each cup as you add it to the stack.
- Put a cup on your head like a hat, and invite your child to take it from your head and put it on his own head.
- Play with the cups in a tub of water outdoors or in the bathtub. Show your child how to scoop water into the cup and pour it out. If your child is in the bathtub, gently pour the water onto different parts of his body, naming each body part as you do so.
- Show your toddler how to nest the cups inside each other. At this age, a toddler will most likely not be able to nest all the cups in their correct order, but he can still benefit from practice putting smaller cups inside larger cups.
- Play a hide-and-find game by turning a cup upside down and placing a small toy or snack item underneath it. You may need to show your child how to uncover the toy or snack by picking up the cup. If your toddler can easily do this, you can play this game with two cups!
Age 24-36 months
Two-year-olds can understand simple games and are beginning to do activities from start to finish, following a step-by-step process. They show pride in completing tasks and love to have adults cheer for them.
- Encourage your child to help you build a tower using all the stacking cups. She may want to take turns with you or to try it all by herself. If your child starts to get frustrated, you can help by lining up the cups in order of size or handing her the next one to add to the stack. This is a great opportunity to talk about comparing sizes by showing her what bigger and smaller mean.
- Show your child how to nest all the cups inside each other from biggest to smallest. Then encourage her to do this herself. This is a challenging problem-solving task, so your child may need encouragement or a little help to figure it out.
- Play a more challenging hide-and-find game by lining up three cups and hiding a snack item or small toy under one of them. Encourage your child to keep looking under each cup until she finds the item! Your child may also want to take a turn to be the one to hide something under one of the cups.
- Use the cups with playdough! Encourage your child to press the bottoms of the cups into playdough. Describe the shape imprints to her and try making a pattern of alternating shapes (e.g., square-circle-square-circle).
- Remember that it’s normal for babies to explore objects by putting them in their mouths. They may also be teething and like the feeling of chewing on the cups. Try not to frustrate your baby by keeping her from this natural way of playing.
- Watch and follow your child’s signals as you play together. When your child fusses, turns away, or scatters the cups, this may be her way of letting you know she is frustrated or not interested. It’s okay to stop and try again later. She may signal interest or delight by watching and copying your actions, smiling or laughing, or handing you a cup to continue the game.
- Some vocabulary words you can use with your child include: cup, stack, fit, bang, build, bigger, smaller, shorter, taller, uh-oh, fall down, pour, scoop, fill, hide, find, color words (e.g., red, blue, purple), shape words (e.g., circle, square), and number words (1,2,3…).
- Feel free to simplify or add challenge to match your child’s needs. For example, your child may be ready for an activity in the next age range or he may be more interested in a simpler activity from a younger age range.