This activity is really quick to set up and lots of fun for toddlers (I saw a version of it on the Imagination Tree). I set ours up in an egg box, knowing that any time the Monkey sets eyes on one he wants to know what’s inside. He was really surprised this time! Start by rolling balls of play dough (you can find a recipe for the blueberry scented one I used here) and drop one into each socket of the egg box. Push the matchsticks into the dough so that about half sticks out above it. You can get matchsticks without the heads, but I just used normal ones and snapped the heads off before I used them. Then, cut the straws up into short lengths, it doesn’t need to be accurate.
My little one was really excited when I suggested he looked inside the box. I was surprised to find that he didn’t need any direction at all to start slotting the bits of straw onto the matchsticks immediately. As you can see I added different numbers of matchsticks to each socket from 1 to six, but he ignored it completely and rearranged them all anyway. He spent a good long time on variations of the same game and was quite happy taking out and putting back the sticks and straws. When he was done with the matching game he started pushing straws into the dough and pretending they were little birthday cakes!