The first is super duper easy peasy. I just took an empty peanut butter jar and filled it with one-inch sections of pipe cleaner. Throw in a cheap magnet wand and this thing is a fun fine motor activity, in addition to being a feast for the senses. L and I talked about the different colors, we listened to the interesting sounds the pipe cleaners made as they moved around the jar, and we even shook the jar like a musical instrument. When she gets older, this will be a great introduction to the science of magnets.
The next activity is this fun fill and spill activity. I used a box cutter to cut out the front section of an empty juice bottle. I taped off the jagged edges with some cute duct tape and filled the hole with pom poms of various colors and sizes.
I left the bottle on L's art table that evening for her to discover the next morning. It didn't take her long to figure out the concept of putting the poms through the hole at the top and retrieving them through the opening on the front. This is an excellent way for kids to work on fine motor control, and of course we also discussed the colors and sizes of the pom poms.
Forty minutes later (forty minutes!) L was still going at it, and I promptly gathered the materials to make several more of these little gems for my classroom. Now I'm constantly on the prowl for more containers to see what else we can come up with!