This post is written by guest contributor Jessica Walters. We think you’ll love her creative uses for educational learning with our name puzzles!\nHey there! I’m Jessica. I’m a mama to two wild toddler boys, a wannabe minimalist, a nature lover, and currently a Texas resident. \nI’m a teacher turned corporate marketing professional, turned stay at home mama. We live in Texas where we fill our days with adventures, learning activities, and the occasional kitchen dance party. I’m excited to be on Smiling Tree’s blog today to share some of our favorite ways that we use our Smiling Tree Toys in our everyday activities! \nWe’ve been playing with our Spell Well Name Puzzles for a couple of years now and we absolutely love them. My boys are obsessed with them and we use them everyday (no lie). One of my favorite things about these puzzles is that we can always have them in rotation for our everyday activities AND they can be used in so many different ways. \nMy boys are 2 and 4. They are wild and free little things. They are full of energy, have vibrant personalities, and love bouncing off the walls. So having sensory activities that allow them to focus and concentrate is a must for our family.\n\nToday I’m going to share some ways you can use your Spell Well Name Puzzles as more than just puzzles! These name puzzles are versatile, durable little tools that every toddler needs in their life.\nWhen it comes to doing activities with my boys, I always look for ways to integrate motor skills, sensory activities, and play-based learning. Children truly learn best through play, so that is always our goal. We also use a lot of Montessori methods, so when I can find materials that support the Montessori philosophy, it’s a win win! The texture and simplicity of these puzzles make them perfect for Montessori activities. \nHow to Use your Smiling Tree Name Puzzles for Toddler Sensory Activities: \nI recommend introducing these activities in a Montessori style that allows your child to explore the materials and their environment and independently choose how to use them. Put the materials out for them, but don’t tell them what to do. This creates a wonderful independent learning environment for children. Your child will learn different ways to use their puzzles and they will probably surprise you with how they use them in the process! This approach is so much fun for both parents and children. \nFor example, after my son did the activities, he decided to grab his train tracks and trains. He then filled his train cars with the dry beans and began transferring over to the letter puzzles. Play-based learning at its finest! \nThese activities can be introduced once your child has started using the pincer grasp and will play without putting small pieces in their mouth. Use your best judgement and always supervise your child since these small pieces can be a choking hazard. We started doing these activities when my son was about 16 months old. \nToddler Sensory Activity #1 : Pair your puzzle with dry beans! \n\n \nGiving your child a bowl of dry beans to fill their letters with is a wonderful sensory activity. It allows them to explore different textures, it teaches them fine motor skills, and it encourages them to use 3 of the 5 senses- touch, sight, and sound.\n\nSimply place their name puzzle in front of them with the letter pieces removed.\nThen place a bowl of dry beans right next to the puzzle. Allow them to explore the texture of the puzzle and the beans and experiment with the items. If they don’t start transferring the beans right away, that’s okay.\nCreate an environment for them gives them room to explore and create with their materials. They will likely start transferring the beans into the letters and have fun with the textures and movements.\nAnother option is to also have a small set of tongs that they can use to transfer the beans, but that is optional.\n\nToddler Sensory Activity #2 : Letter tracing with dry noodles!\n\nWe also love filling the letters with dry noodles. Straight, short noodles like penne work best because they can make straight lines that match the shapes of the letters.\n\nPlace the name puzzle without the letters in front of them with a bowl of dry noodles.\nAllow them to explore the texture of the noodles in whatever way they’d like. Some children will smell them and feel the textures first and some children will get right into the activity. Let your child take the lead.\nThis is also a great way to start teaching letter recognition. Just simply say the letter and the sound it makes with your child, as they are placing the noodles into each letter spot. \n\nToddler Sensory Activity #3 : Letter Matching \n\nThis is a great Montessori activity that you can do that is a little more complex.\n\nPlace the puzzle and the puzzle letter pieces in front of your child.\nThen place different sizes letter pieces that are not the actual puzzle pieces in a bowl. These can be number blocks, small wood letters, scrabble letters, flash cards, letter magnets, etc. Anything that allows your child to pick up and move individual letters will work.\nEven if you think your child may not be ready for this yet, just give it a try! You’ll be surprised how much learning will take place with this activity. Your child can then sort through the letters and start matching them! Again, allow them to be independent and explore this how they choose.\nSome children may place all the small letters together on the table. They may place all the letter pieces on the actual puzzle. They may sort them by color, size, or even texture. It is up to them! This will allow your child to learn their letters, teach them letter recognition, the letters in their name, fine motor skills, and sensory skills. \n\nThere you go! I just went through 3 fun and easy toddler sensory activities that you can try with your little one and your Spell Well Name Puzzle.\nThanks for coming along for the ride with us today! My kids always have so much fun with these activities, and I hope yours do too!\nWhen you try these activities, be sure to snap some photos and tag me (@jessicajeanwalters) and Smiling Tree Toys (@smilingtreetoys) on Instagram so we can see! \nIf your kids don’t have wooden name puzzles yet, be sure to grab them! They make wonderful birthday and holiday gifts. Your kids will get so much use out of them and will absolutely love them. Get your custom name puzzle HERE.\nJessica is a mom of two, a writer, and a wife. She lives in Fort Worth, Texas and loves spending time with her family, hiking and being outside, connecting with others, going on adventures with her family, and dance parties. You can find Jessica @jessicajeanwalters on Instagram.