The Plastic Egg: Ideas for Infant and Toddler Play

The moniker “plastic egg” gives no indication of the value of this hand held open-ended treasure.

Time to Explore


Before they become known as candy capsules to my toddler and infant, these marvelous plastic egg-shaped containers are simply open-ended play things.


Instead of holiday-themed play, we reveled in using these small containers as just that – containers.


In some of our play provocations, you’ll notice that I tried to keep the eggs to one color to minimize unnecessary distraction so that the play itself would take center stage. The eggs themselves, of course, were not overlooked. After having some time to use the eggs without any prompts or other props, the girls (24 months & 9 months) were ready to use them in a variety of ways.


Guessing Play



I filled them with several things around the house for Greysen to discover. Without suggestion, she opened the eggs, and was thrilled to find the everyday things inside.


Sensory Play Accessory



Inspired by this play with eggs and rice here, I set the eggs alongside some cornmeal and spoons. Again, no directions. Greysen and her cousin J spent more than half an hour filling these containers, struggling to close them, only to empty them and start all over. Moon was more involved with the cornmeal than the eggs at this point.


Simple Shakers


I prepared four eggs shakers for Moon to encounter. Each egg was filled with varying amounts of dried beans for her to explore the concept of sound. Based on Dr. Montessori’s principle of isolating one factor, in this case sound, I kept all the other variables constant. That is, these eggs were all yellow, and were all filled with the same material – dry beans. That concept, coupled with RIE’s practice of giving infants toys without mysterious mechanisms that they can not see, is why I chose to use translucent eggs for her shakers.


I also taped them so that the contents wouldn’t be changed by our resident toddler, Greysen.


These did not turn out as visually appealing as I had envisioned, but they were shaken no less for it  . . . I think.


Sound-Matching Play


These six eggs were filled in pairs with three different types of things. The pairs included things I had on hand – bells, necklaces, and walnuts. Greysen shook an egg, and I prompted her to keep shaking the other eggs one at a time to look for its matching sound counterpart. She was as pleased as she looks to find each match.


Based on her guessing experiences, she easily identified the contents.



Transferring Activity




We first tried this Montessori-inspired transferring activity at the preschool our moms group sets up. Greysen was not yet ready at the time we first started doing it, so I have been eager to try this now that she is a bit older.  The tongs were a bit too long, but she was up to the challenge.  She persisted in this until she filled the crate. The full crate inspired her to crack the eggs and start cooking. I love when one idea seamlessly leads to the next.


For some more open-ended ways to present plastic eggs check these ideas out:






Toddler Made Lemonade


Our generous lemon tree inspires us in so many ways. This time, however, we’ve put our lemons to a more conventional use.


Eager for real experiences, Greysen is determined to help prepare foods for anyone and everyone.



We used the only juicer we have – a levered one.  This adult-supervision-necessary juicer gave Greysen the chance to act independently and purposefully. I am, admittedly, tempted every now and then to redirect her away from preparing foods, especially when she asks to do so at busier times. In trying to slow down throughout the day, I realized that no matter what I am cooking, there is always a way for her to make a genuine contribution to our meal preparations.


Having a hand in the food prep, more likely than not, results in several good things – not just for her, but for me as well:

  • She taste-tests the ingredients, sometimes eating them right then and there. This is great when she’s working on the good stuff, but not so much if there is butter anywhere in the vicinity, which she loves.
  • She is more interested in the cooking process.
  • She helps me to slow down. Explaining things to her and watching to make sure the child’s knife is used with care helps me focus on the moment.


Our recipe: Lemon, water, and sugar (yes, GeeGee, we used sugar – organic turbinado, but sugar nonetheless) to taste. Having never tasted lemonade before, she was very content with a very, very sour lemon-to-water ratio.


This juicer was a little too effortless. I’d like to try to find and another type of handheld juicer, one that requires more effort and provides a different kind of motor experience. Regardless, she seemed empowered both by turning the lemons into a drink, and by using the juicer competently on her own.


I’m thinking oranges next.






Transfering Activity: Marbles

Now that spooning objects is a familiar task, I decided to offer Greysen a new transferring activity challenge – tongs.

I purchased these tongs from Montessori Services a while back. When I bought them, I had intended them to be used at mealtimes for serving food, but did not even glance at their size when ordering. Too small to serve food, they have been in our utensil drawer for some time.

Now excited for them to make their debut, I wanted to set up a transferring activity for Greysen using small objects, but what to use?

Pom poms are a favorite in Montessori circles for this activity because their round shape makes them easy to pick up from any angle. Again, I did not want to buy anything for this activity, so off I went on another hunt around the house for something Greysen could use instead.

Something round and small enough to be picked up by her tongs…. Hmm….

I decided to try some marbles despite their slippery surface, which I feared might be too challenging for Greysen’s skills at this point in time.

I set up the marbles in small glass bowls and placed them on a platter intended to catch any marbles that might decide to roll away.

Having never used the tongs before, I thought Greysen might need a demonstration. I showed her how to squeeze them and pick up objects by transferring a marble to another bowl before handing her the tongs.

She got right to it.

The marbles proved to be challenging but manageable. Greysen transferred the marbles to the bowl one at a time.

These transferring activities are a great way for Greysen to work independently at an age when independence is all she craves.

Serving Up Independence

At 18 months, Greysen is eager to try to do many of the things that I used to do for her for herself.  To make the most of this emerging independence, I am always on the lookout for new ways in which she can assert herself constructively.  In support of her developing skills, I offer Greysen a small pitcher of water or milk at each meal so that she can pour her drink into her cup.

In this video, Greysen is learning to pour her liquids from pitcher to cup. As she is learning, I offer her guidance. After she has poured her water/milk, I generally set the pitcher out of reach to reduce the chance she’ll play with it. In the first part of the video, you’ll notice that she spills, pours back and forth, and drops her glass pitcher. In the second part, a few days later she has become more familiar with the routine and she pours easily.

Foundational to Montessori teachings, the development of “practical life skills,” such as those developed while pouring your own drink, are opportunities for young children to be active participants in their everyday lives and routines. By incorporating the practical life skill of transferring water from pitcher to cup at meals, Greysen is making a genuine contribution to her care. Yes, this practice also hones her hand-eye coordination and strength, but it also contributes to her feelings of personal responsibility.

Any small creamer would make a suitable pitcher. We bought a glass creamer from Montessori Services, but in the classroom I have used stainless steel creamers that worked just as well, if not better.

My 3 Favorite Pitchers for Learning How to Pour:

1. A Small Stainless Steel Creamer
This creamer is small and lightweight, and since many toddlers first pour their drinks from the wrist rather than by lifting their arm and shoulder, this is a great choice for a first pitcher.

2. Faceted Acrylic Creamer
If stainless steel isn’t for you and glass is not an option, this pitcher still offers the visibility I look for in all Greysen’s dishes. The creamer is lightweight and easy for children to handle on their own.

3. Small Glass Creamer
Though this is the pitcher we have, I don’t think its necessarily the easiest to learn from. Though the design of some of the porcelain pitchers would make spills minimal, the tradeoff in lack of visibility isn’t worth it. The pitcher is a little heavy, and Greysen still needs a little help to lift it high enough to get the last drops. However, I like that there is still a little bit of a challenge left in a skill that she has nearly mastered.