Activities for toddlers are the number one hardest thing for me to come up with to do.
They’re a hard age because they often want to put stuff in their mouths, as well as not understanding direction or having the attention span for most activities.
We have done quite a few though (both Henry and George) and I’ve found a few more to add to the list of ones we’d like to try. Simple is often best for the toddler age range.
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I consider a toddler to be roughly of the age of 1 to 3. When they start moving (walking) until they’re able to learn and apply what they’ve learned to other situations.
Tips I have for doing activities with toddlers are just a few:
- Allow your toddler to explore whatever it is that you give them.
- Don’t do an activity with an intentional plan, it never works out with this age range.
- Expect a toddler to be interested, leave it out for them to come back to later, or even the next day.
- Plan for them to put it in their mouth if you have a mouther.
I also highly recommend the The Toddler’s Busy Book (affiliate link), by Trish Kuffner. It always has something in there that sparks an activity for us.
Toddler Sensory Activities
Let your toddler explore a material with their fingers, nose, mouth… How does it feel? What does it taste like? These are wonderful ways to learn and very hands on.
- Soapy jars, fun to shake up and watch settle!
- This is a blast! And a way to get the kids to clean, with dish soap foam.
- Cook up some spaghetti (or even better, use leftovers), add some color to it to make spaghetti potion.
- A slimy gel bag is a squishy sensory delight for toddlers!
- Just flour. Let your toddler explore flour freely.
- Add water to the flour and put in a baggy for some flour & water piping.
- Explore ice cubes!
- Jello! A sensory activity from Learning 4 Kids.
- Playing with and exploring pasta, from Teach Preschool.
- Oooo. Add water to paper, idea from Tinkerlab.
- Bubbles! Simple sensory activity at MamaSmiles.
This is the area I struggle with the most. Getting creative with toddlers. But it can be done if you’re a little creative too! Find some toddler proven strategies to arts and crafts with these activities!
- Make a simple egg carton train with pipe cleaners.
- Use a baggy and paint and add a dowel or toy of some sort and do some roller painting.
- Contact paper window decor. The best toddler art activity there is, I think!
- Using a toilet paper tube, stamp a heart!
- Use yogurt to paint.
- Make your own edible finger paint and create tape resist art. (Or use store-bought washable fingerpaints, affiliate link!)
- Foam shapes art on the window, a wonderful idea from Putti Prapancha.
- Sticker art is a perfect toddler art activity from The Artful Parent.
- Spray paint art using water and watercolors with squirt bottles, toddler will love this idea from Kiwi Crate Blog!
- Shaken ball art (from Toddler Approved) is fun for your toddler to get moving and create art in the process.
Free Play Material Exploration for Toddlers
The simplest of all the activities for toddlers. A material by itself. Let them play and explore with it. What will they come up to do with the object?
- Explore ribbons, add a bottle to the mix for some fine motor practice.
- Pom poms are perfect for toddlers and they love putting them in other objects!
- Pipe cleaners are not only fun to touch, but you can stick them through small holes (such as a colander), too!
- Let your toddler play with a cardboard box. Easy enough.
- Corn kernels, just keep an eye that they don’t put them in their mouths, and they’ll haul them around or pour them into containers!
- Tissue paper can be thrown, scrunched up, or torn into small pieces!
- Give toddlers your fabric scraps to play with!
- Use your leftover baby food jars as busy toddler play! Screw and unscrew them, stick little objects inside for prizes!
- The good old pots and pans never get old to a toddler!
- Water never gets old for kids! Add color to it for added fun. Let them play with cups and spoons for hours!
- A flashlight as a light table, idea from Growing a Jeweled Rose.
- Ripping magazines! From A Mom with a Lesson Plan.
- Stacking cups could be a great busy play activity for toddlers! Idea from The Imagination Tree.
- Stabbing foam plates (idea from Creative with Kids) could be lots and lots of fun with recyclables!
Other Activities for Toddlers
Stuff for toddlers to do. More than exploring, and not arts or crafts but an activity with an intended purpose. But one that a toddler can definitely do and do well.
- Chop up some pipe cleaners for sprinkles for fine motor practice or pretend play!
- Get the balloon out and play balloon badminton with your hands or with paddles.
- Leftover shipping packaging makes for a great bubble pop road.
- Hammer golf tees into Styrofoam for some great hand-eye coordination.
- Bust out your ABC Mat and make roads to drive along. (Don’t have an ABC Mat? (Affiliate link) Get one! They can be used for all sort of activities and learning!)
- Go on a heart hunt, or any kind of hunt. Hide some like items around the house like you would Easter eggs!
- Pop a spaghetti noodle into some Play Dough and thread other noodles onto the spaghetti for some fine motor practice.
- Throw newspapers in the house.
- Roll down hills.
- Make a balance beam from boards inside or outside and practice walking along them.
- Stack up blocks with your toddler and let him try, or let him knock them down. (Have a builder? Make sure you have these top ten block toys!)
- Make doodles in the carpet with cookie cutters and other kitchen utensils.
- Set out random ingredients from your pantry and let your toddler stir and mix them up in their own concoctions.
- Make some golf ball chutes (at Sense of Wonder)!
- A homemade lacing activity, from What do We Do All Day?, is an excellent toddler fine motor activity! You can also buy lacing cards too!
I gotta ask, what’s a material that your toddler loves to explore?
More fun toddler activities to dive into:
- Quick toddler activities that don’t require any setup
- 30 creative toddler crafts & art projects
- 14 simple learning activities for toddlers
- Toddler sensory activities
- 40 winter activities for toddlers
5 weekly plans of activities for each one year olds, two year olds, and preschoolers (plus a learning one too!)
The DISCOVER + PLAY eBooks have a combined 10 weekly plans of activities that are perfect for the toddler age. Fun ways to get one and two year olds moving, work on fine motor, do arts and craft projects and have fun as a family! Each weekly plan includes a handy supply list and activities broken down to know exactly what to do in a simple sentence or two.