A couple years ago, I made a bottle cap learning activity for my oldest child, and now my youngest can play and learn with it! This Color Matching and Fine Motor Skills with Recycled Bottle Caps activity is so easy to set up! Since kids outgrow baby/toddler toys quickly, I try to DIY simple ones with recycled materials. In an effort to be environmentally conscious and minimize clutter at home, I am trying not to buy any more narrow-ended toys! I’ll share tips on how to set up the activity and show how we have it available in our play area. At the end of the post is a video demonstration of different ways to play and learn colors!
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Making learning fun for multilingual children
My children are learning to speak English, Chinese, and Korean. Since I mainly speak Chinese with my kids, this activity includes Chinese characters. However, you can apply the concepts to any language. Chinese is a minority language in our community, meaning that we cannot use this language with most friends and neighbors. Therefore, I try to make the language as fun as possible at home so that my kids develop positive memories of it. It’s never too early to surround a child with beautiful Chinese characters, because they are subconsciously learning about everything they see. Plus, the Chinese words serve as visual prompts for my kids and I to speak the minority language at home.
- 颜色 (yánsè / color)
- 红, 橙, 黄, 绿, 蓝, 紫, 粉, (hóng, chéng, huáng, lǜ, lán, zǐ , fěn / red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink)
What you need for the color matching bottle caps activity:
- Large and small recycled bottle caps
- Colorful dot stickers (we used these 1″ stickers for our large bottle caps) and/or acrylic paint
- Sharpie marker or Posca paint pen
- Tongs and chopsticks (the set we have is no longer available but here is one with good reviews)
- Optional: pom poms, buttons, paper clips, Grimms rainbow friends peg dolls
Safety first – activity for children age 3+
Because pom poms are small, please make sure that children are supervised at all times during the activity. Although my 2.5-year-old son is playing with it, due to small parts, professionally I should say that the activity is for children ages 3+ who are no longer mouthing. I usually keep my pediatrician hat separate from here, but I thought I would share safety pearls as I have seen unfortunate accidents firsthand. This is also a common question that readers contact me about.
First, it’s normal for babies to explore with their mouth! Usually, they will be just fine after putting random stuff in their mouth including dirt!!! However, 3 main dangers to consider:
- Choking hazards
- Lead or other poison (eg detergent)
- In my son’s case, accidentally eating allergic food
Around age 1 (give or take), I start pointing out what things are food and what things are not food. Food goes in the mouth. Non-food stays out. I say in a playful way: “Is that food? Noooooo. Can you put that in your mouth? Nooooo. Can Daddy eat that? Nooooo. Can Mommy eat that? Nooooo” Can 姐姐 eat that? Nooooo” Can you eat that? Nooooo” etc. Children usually think it’s funny to say “Nooooo” (or “不可以”)! Then we talk about things that we can eat & say “yessssss”. When we’re eating, I will ask “Can you eat that? Yes! Yummy!!” Before we play, I’ll ask “Are these toys or food?” Consistency is key but also being playful and not shaming. Both of my kids stopped mouthing random things well before age 18 months!
How to set up the bottle caps color matching activity:
- Tape colorful dot stickers or paint inside of bottle cap with desired color. I painted the inside of the small white bottle caps because we didn’t have small dot stickers at the time, but it needed a few coats to stick to the slippery plastic surface.
- Write color name on the outside (opposite side) of bottle cap. If the cap is slippery, write the color name with a paint pen (marker might wipe off). If the cap has a rougher surface, you should be able to write on it with a Sharpie.
Ways that toddlers and preschoolers can play and learn:
- Using the large bottle caps, cover the small bottle caps so that the color is hidden. Looking at only the word, guess the color that’s hiding under the large bottle cap.
- Turn the large bottle caps upside down so your child can only see the character. Have your child match it to colored paper or another object with that color. The color on the other side serves as a control so you know that you have matched the correct word to the color!
- Use tongs and chopsticks to pick up pom poms and place inside the cap!
Here is my son working on the activity while my daughter is focus on reading. Normally he is running around my daughter in circles, so this is a brief peaceful moment! He works on this for only a few minutes at a time, which is normal and expected for his age. However, learning is cumulative, no matter how short it is!
Montessori Inspired set up of the bottle cap pom pom activity
My kids have a corner behind our living room that has their toys and learning activities. I rotate the options periodically to keep the area interesting for them. Sometimes it takes trial and error to figure out the best layout! In the photo below, you can see that I have a tray with bottle caps and a separate bowl for the pom poms. The tray is helpful so that he can carry it independently, and it gives boundaries for the pom poms.
Video of Bottle Cap Color Matching Activity
Here’s a video demonstration of different ways to use the bottle caps for color matching and sight word review!
Also check out how @ourlittleplaynest matched the bottle caps to colored paper!
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If you try this Color Matching and Fine Motor Skills Activity with Recycled Bottle Caps with your child, please let us know! Leave a comment and don’t forget to tag @chalkacademy on Instagram and Facebook!
More color learning activities for toddlers and preschoolers
Check out all of our simple yet educational color activities for toddlers!
You can also explore all activities by topic here. All of our activities are organized by theme for the convenience of planning around your child’s interests!
Bilingual English and Chinese Facebook Parent Support Groups
As always, please leave a comment with any questions, and I’ll try my best to answer them! Or better yet, ask other supportive parents in these bilingual Facebook groups:
- Montessori-inspired Kids Learning Chinese and English
- Christian Parents Raising Bilingual Children in English & Chinese
- Raising Bilingual Parents in Chinese & English