As adults — especially sleep deprived and time poor adults — we often forget the simple skills and activities we mastered long ago.
I'm talking about the very same skills and activities our little ones adore exploring!
Perfect example: it wasn’t until a babysitter arrived, armed with playdough that it reminded me of what a fun, tactile activity playdough is for kids of all ages.
I assumed my daughter (who was 18 months of age at the time), would be too young for it.
I just didn’t think about it!
So, here’s a list of seriously fun activities for toddlers — and remember — some of these activities your toddler may play with for hours, and at other times, they may initially seem disinterested in it. But they will often come back for more later or at another time.
There's no point trying to structure activities all day for your toddler, because it’s not how they play and learn best – they're explorers and discoverers! It's best to let them lead. This one of the biggest secrets to happy toddlers. It may even teach you a thing or two about slowing down and taking more of life in.
Here are 17 activities your toddler will love:
Activities For Toddlers #1: Bubbles!
Kids of all ages LOVE bubbles. Even for my first born daughter’s 12th birthday, I found some mega bubble wands on special in the local supermarket, so bought a heap for the girls to play with outside (okay, yes – I had an ulterior motive!). But they had a ball, and our toddler wanted to be one of the big girls too. We always have a bubble wand around the house, because its a guaranteed activity to capture our daughter’s attention.
Even when I had to leave my toddler with the babysitter, after a few upsets all it took was getting the bubble wand out and I didn’t even get a wave goodbye!
Activities For Toddlers #2: Small Bucket of Water & Paintbrush
With a small, toddler-sized bucket of water and a paintbrush, your toddler will think they are Picasso, painting all the bricks, walls, fences and pavers they can find! Its so much fun painting, just without all the mess!
Activities For Toddlers #3: Playdough
As previously mentioned, no toddler can go past playdough! In fact, the first time my daughter played with it, she didn’t want to play with anything else… and was still going when the kids got home! Not only that, the three older kids joined in, so all four of them ended up squishing and squashing the brightly coloured playdough for hours! You can find a great recipe here.
Activities For Toddlers #4: Water Play
Toddlers love water, and there are many ways you can take advantage of it. All you need is a tub or bucket of water and a toddler will love splishing and splashing away. Add some containers or bits and bobs from the kitchen and you have a full scale activity centre for your little one! You can purchase water play tables and toys or get creative at home. My favourite water play activity of all though is jumping in the bath with my toddler and having lots of cuddles and fun! If my daughter had her way, I think she’d become an amphibian.
Activities For Toddlers #5: Sand Play
Playing with sand can be very soothing and calming for children of all ages, from toddlers to boisterous boys! Its a great way to get sensory and tactile, which is very grounding. You could make your own sandpit or purchase a sand table or toys.
Activities For Toddlers #6: Walks In Nature
This is one of the most under-rated and under-utilised activities of all, which is so good for the body, mind and soul! Toddlers LOVE to explore – they are learning all about the world… ‘Oooooh a rock! How does it feel? How does it taste? [crunch crunch]’
What happened to us as adults that we see puddles of water along our path, thinking that they are inconvenient, problematic situations, yet a toddler can gloriously jump in them with such a huge smile on their face?! Yes, I let my toddler jump in puddles! If her shoes get wet, so what! Thats the joy of being alive – and you see it in their face.
Its priceless to have no time restraints on your toddler and look at that same flower for the tenth time. To truly stop and smell the roses… to collect rocks… to observe birds and other animals… Toddlers have a huge gift for us in today’s society – a gift that reminds us to slow down. When you’re present with nature, your stress levels drop, you’re happier… and so is your toddler. When did you last jump in puddles?
Activities For Toddlers #7: Box & Crayons
After moving house recently, we had an abundance of boxes, and any parent will know, babies and toddlers will have the box over the toy any day! So I took advantage of the situation… I lifted my daughter into the ginormous box she was trying to climb into and gave her a heap of crayons, where she went to town for ages… and in the days after that she’d pop back to make some finishing touches.
Activities For Toddlers #8: Stacking
Toddlers love stacking… just ask my toddler who brought the lunch plate collection over to me while I was sweating up a storm. She loved bringing them over one by one, stacking them neatly, then putting them back one by one. I’m not advocating the use of plates, but there are plenty of cool stacking toys that your toddler will love.
Activities For Toddlers #9: Drawing/Painting
As you have probably discovered, your toddler finds pens and textas really fascinating, especially once they work out it comes out nice on their skin….
Having an art or activities desk with butcher paper and crayons or textas designed for younger children (non-toxic and non-permanent), your toddler will start to develop new skills and design more detailed pictures as they grow. Setting aside some joint, freestyle colouring/drawing time is lots of fun. Don’t forget to trace your hand, as well as your toddler’s if he or she will hold still!
Activities For Toddlers #10: Flour Power
Toddlers love all things tactile and flour is one thing that they can really get their hands into. Buy some cheap flour and set it out on a tray or table, and they will love swishing their hands around, putting it into containers – all sorts of fun! Maybe better as an outdoors activity, but your toddler will love flour. Simple, but satisfying in those tiny toddler hands!
Activities For Toddlers #11: A Whole Pasta Fun
If you visit your local supermarket, you can get an array of pasta shapes – wheels, penne, bows, spirals and more. Uncooked they can be lots of fun. Your toddler may enjoy just feeling all the shapes, but you may also be able to teach your toddler how to thread pasta to make necklaces and other trinkets. Even if you hold the thread, they can pass you the bit of pasta to go on next. Afterwards you might like to paint it.
Activities For Toddlers #12: Chalk On The Pavement
You can buy bigger pieces of chalk for toddler hands, which are awesome on chalkboards, but also on the pavement. The big kids will love getting involved too – sit down together and draw your hearts out – and simply wash away with the hose if you don’t want to keep it.
Activities For Toddlers #13: Sensory Box
Sensory boxes are so much fun! Decorate a plain box or even a tissue box, and make it so that your toddler has to put their hand inside to discover different sensory items that they can’t see until they take out. You can include a feather, some sponge squares, dried or fresh leaves, strips of fabric (check out your craft store for lots of ideas and variety!) – anything you can think of that feels different.
Activities For Toddlers #14: Ice Ice Baby
Toddlers enjoy experimenting with temperature as well – my toddler loves a tray of ice cubes, and will put them in different cups, stir them around, and shake them up. It can get a little cold on their hands so have a tea towel handy, but your little one will love playing with cool ice. You could make some especially with natural colours for something different (artificial colours may stain).
Activities For Toddlers #15: Musical Instruments
Its easy to make fun musical instruments at home! Rice in a water bottle for a shaker, rubber bands around a tissue box for a guitar, pots or containers for drums – you’re only limited by your imagination! Make some magical music with your toddler – they love being able to make noise and feel very clever doing so!
Activities For Toddlers #16: Cold Spaghetti, Cold Spaghetti
Cook up a batch of cold spaghetti for some slippery, sensory fun! If wont matter if your little one ends up eating it if its somewhere clean, just buy organic, wholemeal spaghetti so its a little healthier. A big bowl of spaghetti can be great fun between your toddler’s fingers!
Activities For Toddlers #17: Sticker Me Up!
My toddler LOVES stickers. At first she’d stick them on the pages of the books they came from, but then she had a realisation that stickers could not only be put in books. They ended up all over her, and she’s always so proud of them. She’ll show anyone who will look that she has a dozen or so stickers on her belly. And her hand. And her feet. And… you get the picture! But the focus she puts into decorating herself is not only so very cute but loads of fun for her too. You can really see her eyes sparkle!
Like many of the other ideas above, stickers are a new concept for a toddler, filled with amazement and fun. Don’t underestimate the small stuff mum and dad!
For many of these activities you might like to have a nice big splat mat or activity mat to save any stress from messy cleanups. But mess, is all part of the fun – and a great way to help teach your toddler about cleaning up afterwards,
Have fun parents – your toddlers will!