10 Fun & Simple Toddler Activities
Once Lucy became mobile and started walking (running) all over the house it became clear I was going to need a round-up of easy, fast activities in my arsenal to keep her occupied and happy. She’s a super curious little girl and she can definitely go from cheerful to bored and CRANKY in about 3 minutes flat. Sound familiar? If so, these 10 toddler activities will be great for you to try with your active little one! They don’t take much prep time at all and you’ll probably have most of these items around the house already!
1. Water Play
Lucy loves to play with water (as long as she isn’t actually in the bathtub…) and this is an activity I pull out all the time. I put down a bunch of doubled up bath towels on the kitchen floor to soak up and splashed and spilled water. I fill a few of our large Tupperware containers with water and give her smaller containers that she can use to fill and pour. Sometimes, I’ll also give her some utensils like a spoon or whisk to play with.
I’ve had people ask me if she tries to just dump out the Tupperware, but she’s usually pretty good about keeping the water in the containers for the most part. Once she looks like she’s about to go rogue with the water, it’s time to be done.
If you wanted to make this activity more advanced for your little one, pour water from a full small container into a larger container and ask them if it’s all the way full. Pour water from a large cup into a smaller container and ask if all of it will fit. Talk about why.
2. Sorting Activity
The first time I did this activity with I was trying to get something done in the kitchen and NEEDED to find something that would occupy her attention quickly. So I pulled out a few containers and a couple things I had right in the pantry – dried bean and penne pasta. I poured some of both into one of the containers and showed her how to sort the pasta and beans into the other containers. She picked up on it super fast and was occupied with it for almost a full 20 minutes! In addition to sorting the items, she really like swirling them all around in the bin and feeling the different textures.
If your child isn’t quite grasping the sorting yet, they’ll also have fun with a container full of just one thing. When Lucy was about 12 months old, I let her play with a container of just dried beans with a few cups so she could fill and pour them. She loved it!
3. Plastic Cups
Red Solo Cups aren’t for beer pong anymore, my friends!! We have gotten SO MUCH bang for our buck from a sleeve of red plastic cups. Lucy loves to pull them all apart and stack them back together again. We’ve also shown her how to stack them into a pyramid or tower and she’s had lots of fun trying to do that, too.
If you wanted to make an activity with the cups a little more advanced, you could set up a pattern with the cups and ask your child to complete it. For example, one cup upright, one cup upside, one cup upright, etc.
One of Lucy’s most recent favorite things to do is string beads! We received a bead set for Christmas, but you could easily do this with a shoe lace and some LARGE beads with big openings from a craft store.
When we first introduced stringing the beads, I would put a bead on and hold it with my fingers under the bead. I’d then invite her to take the string so she could start to understand that when she took it from me, the bead fell down onto the string.
She spent a couple months experimenting with trying to get the beads on and figuring out exactly how to do it on her own. Now, she’s a pro!
To make this activity a little more advanced, I’ve started asking her to find and string a specific color.
5. Playing with Ice
This activity is another great one for if you need to get something done in the kitchen. I put down some bath towels and fill a container with ice. Then I gave her some tongs and showed her how to move the ice from one container to another. She spent a few minutes trying to figure out the tongs, but I don’t think her motor skills are quite there yet! So, I put some gloves on her and just let her play with the ice. She swirled it around in the container, dumped it from one to the other, rubbed it on her skin, and kept experimenting with the tongs! It bought me easily enough time to do the dishes and get some lunch prepared!
6. Magnets on a Sheet Pan
This is SO EASY. Just grab a sheet pan and find a set of magnets – we have a set of animals magnets she got as a gift and a set of alphabet magnets from a craft store. Lucy loves to put them on and slide them all off again. I’ll also sit with her and ask her to find a specific animal and put it on the board. I’ve also seen parents draw the alphabet onto the sheet pan and they ask their child to match up the magnet letters to the letters drawn on the pan.
7. Coffee Can Activities
Shout out to my Aunt Jane who is an occupation therapist for these ideas! Just take an empty coffee can with a plastic lid. Cut a small circle big enough to fit a clothespin through in the top. Let your child drop the clothespins into the can through the hole.
Another great idea is to punch small holes into the lid and have your child put coffee stirrers into the can. This one really develops those fine motor skills!
8. Moon Sand
I’ll be honest and say this is one I haven’t tried this one yet but it’s on my list! It looks really simple – it’s just a half cup of flour mixed with 2 Tablespoons of canola oil. If you want, you could make multiple batches and add food coloring to the oil before you mix it with the flour. From what I read, just be sure to mix the food coloring in REALLY well to the oil.
I think when we do this I’ll put some fun things in the sand for her to discover. Maybe some marbles or beads.
9. Egg Carton Color Matching
Here’s another super simple idea that only takes a few minutes to put together! You’ll need an empty egg carton, colorful popsicle sticks (you can find these at most craft stores), and some markers. Color the bottom circles of the egg carton to match the colors of your popsicle sticks. Then, cut a slit in each circle so that the popsicle stick will fit inside. Show your child how to take the sticks out and put them back in.
The first time she played with this, she definitely didn’t understand the color matching, but when she came back to it later in the day, she matched up all the colors! I was stunned!
10. White Board Drawing
This is the easiest of easy! Just set your kiddo up with a white board and some dry erase markers and let them go for it! I use this one ALL THE TIME when I’m taking a shower. Again, people have asked me if I’ve had a problem with her putting the markers in her mouth, drawing other places than the board, etc., but we haven’t really. Her personality is such that she likes things just so (just like her daddy!) so once she sees someone do something, she wants to do it that way every time!