For Parents

For Parents


What could be simpler than grabbing some cups when you need a quick and easy toy for your tot? Styrofoam, Dixie, plastic, paper: all will work!

You can use the example words and sentences in italics to add rich and diverse language to your play.  Remember to balance imitating your child’s ideas with modeling your own new ones.

Please see the introductory page here to learn more about the different play levels and which one may be most appropriate for your child.


  • Stack the cups up high and let your toddler enjoy knocking them over. (Cups. They came down.)


  • Stack the cups into a tower and then crash it down. Then build it again! (Tower. We’re building. It fell down.)
  • Put toy pieces, cotton balls, or any other little objects into the cups. You can then dump them out and start over. You can also pour the items from one cup to another. (Ball. It’s in. The pieces came out. The cup is empty. We’re pouring the beans.)
  • Add cups to a sensory bin of dried beans and/or rice and use them to scoop, pour, etc. You can also add utensils to the bin and mix the beans. (I’m scooping the beans. You poured the rice. We’re mixing it.)
  • Tape the open ends of two paper cups together and fill it with beans or rice. Then you can have fun shaking it. (The cup is full. You pulled the tape. I ripped it off. The tape is sticky! We’re shaking the cup. It’s loud!)
  • Punch holes in the bottom of a Styrofoam or paper cup and thread things through it such as straws, pipe cleaners, ribbon, popsicle sticks, etc. (It’s a hole. We’re pulling the string. The ribbon is soft.)

Pre- Symbolic:

  • Cut garage doors out of paper, stick them to the cue opening, and pretend they are garages for miniature cars. (The door is open. The car is in the garage. It’s parked.)
  • Lay the cups on their sides and use them as homes for toy people or animals. (It’s a house. It’s full. The horse is inside. He’s sleeping.)
  • Pretend to drink from the cups, or give stuffed animals/puppets pretend drinks. (The cup is full. The water is cold. You poured the milk. We’re drinking.)


  • Have a tea party! Set out cups for everyone (stuffed animals included) and pour them all their favorite tea. You can also set out plates, utensils, and serve up some play food.  Pinkies up!
  • Make a pretend lemonade stand with a pitcher and cups on a small table. You can even color a sign to hang on the table.  You can take turns with your child ordering a drink or filling the cups.


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