I'm always looking for ways to invite L to engage in activities that are open-ended and without a lot of structure. I like to watch what she does with certain materials, the way her little brow furrows as the cogs in her brain start to turn. In this case, I took a small plastic bin (about the size of a shoe box) and filled it with cotton balls, buttons, pom poms, and bells. Then I threw in a cardboard tube for extra fun, set it out where she'd be sure to find it, and let her take it from there.
The first thing she did was pull out each type of material for exploration. It didn't take her long to discover that it would be really fun to start dropping those materials down the cardboard tube. It was such fun to watch her giggle when each item came out on the other end. I loved the fact that there was so much to discuss: the sound of the bells, the smoothness of the buttons, the soft and fluffy texture of the cotton balls and poms. She stayed engaged with this activity for quite some time and even when she did move onto the next thing, she watched me like a hawk to keep track of where I put the bin.
This was a super simple activity that hit on fine motor practice, new vocabulary (smooth, fluffy, jingly) and offered lots of opportunities for L to practice her emerging language skills. All in all, a roaring success!