I set Eden up with a shaker from the kitchen (could also be a parmesan cheese shaker, or a colander, or a sieve), and some pipecleaners and a bag of hair beads (children of the 90's, remember these?). I didn't even need to direct her at all; she immediately began putting the pipecleaners into the holes in the shakers, arranging and rearranging them until she was satisfied. Then she threaded the beads onto the pipecleaners. Of course, this was the object all along, but I was thrilled that she had figured it out for herself.
She asked me not to pack it away that night, because she wanted to play with it in the morning, and in the morning she went back to it, continued to thread the beads onto it, and declared that this was her 'pretty bird'. So I made a 'beak' with yellow paper, wings from extra pipecleaners and put some blutack on the back of the beak and on the back of some googly eyes. She stuck them onto the shaker to make a face, and taped the wings on. Voila! Her 'pretty bird' is finished and ready for play. I twined the tips of the pipecleaners together to stop beads from flying off as she slid it around the table.
This activity is an opportunity for your tot to use their creativity, imagination, and their emerging fine motor skills. I thought you could also make the pipecleaner-ed shaker into a girl: twist the ends of the pipecleaners over so the beads don't fall off, then bend the pipecleaners down for hair, add a face and there you have it! Make a few, and you've got some puppets who can interact (further stimulating your child's imagination).
This post has been linked to Monday Madness over at Art For Little Hands