The toddler years are awesome! Those little bundles of energy are eager to learn, explore and discover all of the wonders that surround them. However, while the toddler years are certainly exciting, they are also pretty exhausting, and if I’m honest, they can be pretty frustrating, too. All of that energy and curiosity can lead to mischief.
Instead of getting frustrated, feed your little one’s thirst for knowledge and exploration by offering some simple, engaging activities that your toddler will be sure to approve of.
Here are 14 suggestions that keep my 2-year-old entertained and out of trouble for hours; plus, they also teach him valuable skills and concepts. I call that a win-win!
14 A Pouring Station
Toddlers love to play with water, which is why this activity will be sure to catch their attention.
Fill a large bucket with various bowls, pitchers, cups and any other vessel that will hold water. Place water inside each of the vessels and let your toddler have fun pouring the water from object to object.
This activity improves hand-eye coordination and teaches valuable scientific reasoning skills. If you want to step up the learning factor, add a few drops of food coloring to the water and let your little one marvel as the water changes colors when combined.
13 Paint Baggies
If you love the idea of finger painting, but you don’t want to deal with the mess, this is the perfect activity for you and your toddler.
Place a piece of paper inside a zip-top bag. Add a few squirts of finger paint in different color. Seal the zip-top bag and place it on a flat surface. Make sure the paint is facing up. Use tape to secure the bag to the surface and ensure that they top doesn’t pop open. Then, let your little one use his fingers to spread the paint around the bag. This is a great sensory activity, as the paint feels squishy under the fingers. Plus, your child will be able to see how colors blend to create new colors. When he’s done, open the bag and pull out the piece of paper. You have a beautiful piece of artwork to hang up, without having to worry about cleaning up a mess!
12 Drop It
This super simple activity allows toddlers to investigate gravity.
All you have to do is tape a cardboard tube (from paper towels or wrapping paper) to a wall. Give your little one some objects to drop through the tube, like pom-poms, wadded up tissue paper, or even cars. Position the tube so that it is on an angle, or hang up a few tubes to further the fun.
11 Edible Finger Painting
If you don’t mind the mess, but you are concerned that your toddler will put paint in his mouth, this is a great activity for you.
Substitute the paint for something edible; yogurt or pudding, for example. Put a few dollops out on a surface and let your toddler go to town! Both of my son’s love this activity!
10 Toddler Basketball
You don’t need to have a net to play basketball! Just grab a clean garbage can or a laundry basket and put it down on the floor. Give your toddler some plastic balls, wadded up paper, or even folded socks.
Have your tyke stand a short distance away from the basket or garbage can and try tossing the items in. We always get a big kick out of this activity!
9 Sock Sort
Both of my little guys absolutely love this activity!
Gather a collection of matching, but unfolded socks and place them in a laundry basket; just in a pile on the floor will work, too. Hang a string between two chairs and set out some clothespins. Encourage your toddler to hang up the socks on the clothesline so that the ones that match are next to each other.
This activity promotes fine motor development and it fosters the pre-math skill of identifying patterns.
8 Ice Excavation
This is a perfect activity for a hot day.
The night before you plan on doing the activity, place some items into a freezer-safe bowl; plastic dinosaurs, toy trucks and trains, or anything else you’d like. Fill the bowl with water and set it in the freezer overnight.
Remove the bowl from the freezer about 20 minutes before you want to do the activity to allow the ice to thaw a bit, making it easier to remove it from the bowl. Give your toddler different objects to try to “free” the frozen items; toy hammers and chisels, blocks, and even salt. Your child will have tons of fun trying to free them items from the ice!
7 Color Sort
Sorting is an important pre-math skill, and this activity allows your child to explore with sorting.
Place some colored cereal pieces into a bowl. Color circles on paper that match the colors in the cereal. Encourage your toddler to sort through the cereal and place the right pieces on the corresponding colors.
6 Car Wash/Animal Wash/Doll Wash
Little ones love to imitate their parents, and this activity allows them to do just that!
Fill a bowl with some soapy water. Set out a few toy cars, plastic animals or plastic dolls. Give your toddler a washcloth and some towels and let him wash away! Your child will have a blast, and the toys will get clean!
5 Mud Kitchen
This toddler-approved activity also allows your little one to emulate you, but be forewarned; it will be messy!
Make a pile of mud outside and give your toddler some bowls, measuring cups, muffin tins and anything else you can think of. You may also want to set out some water. Encourage your child to make mud pies and other mud dishes. This one provides hours of fun for my guys!
4 Water Erase
Draw some pictures on your walkway or driveway with chalk; let your toddler help, too.
Once you’re done creating art, give your toddler a water gun or a hose. Encourage him to erase the images with the water. Totally simple, yet totally fun!
3 Bottle Bowling
Encourage hand-eye coordination with bottle bowling!
Set empty soda or water bottles on the floor. Give your toddler a ball or a beanbag and show her how to toss it into the bottles. You can easily add some math into this activity by counting the number of pins that have been knocked down!
2 Balloon Tennis
Another super easy, cheap and fun activity that your toddler will love is balloon tennis.
Blow up some balloons and grab some fly swatters (or you can just use your hands!) Toss the balloons into the air and try to hit them back and forth to one another without letting them hit the floor. This activity will be sure to provide tons of giggles!
1 Obstacle Course
What toddler doesn’t love to climb, jump and run? Well, if yours are anything like mine, they will certainly love a homemade obstacle course.
Use pillows, chairs and any other objects you can think of to create an obstacle course. Get creative and make a course that is challenging for your child’s age and ability. On your mark, your child will be able to climb over, jump across and run through the obstacle course! Set a timer to see how long it takes to add even more fun!