A toddler is fun, but finding activities that engage them, are safe, and also enjoyable can prove challenging. Providing safe and age-appropriate activities for toddlers can be difficult for a number of reasons:
- Toddlers want to put things into their mouths.
- It is difficult for a toddler to understand directions.
- Toddlers have a short attention span.
Remember that simple is often best for the toddler age range (ages 1 to 3). Our collection of toddler activity ideas provides fun, educational, and sensory experiences.
Tips for doing toddler activities:
- Encourage your toddler’s curiosity by allowing them to explore whatever you give them.
- Allow spontaneity by not having an intentional plan for play.
- Since a toddler’s attention span is short, allow whatever they are playing with to be left out, so they can come back to it later.
- Remember that toddlers put things into their mouths, noses, and ears, so keep an eye on them.
Table of Contents
- 1 Sensory Activities for Toddlers
- 2 Fun Breathing Exercises for Toddlers
- 3 Toddler Activities That Stimulate Hearing, Seeing, Touching, Smelling, and Tasting
- 4 Toddler Arts and Crafts
- 5 Indoor Toddler Activities
- 6 Toddler Activities in Water
- 7 Outdoor Toddler Activities
- 8 Additional Fun Toddler Activities
Sensory Activities for Toddlers
Sensory activities teach your toddler to be aware of the world around them. They also help energize and stimulate your toddler. Additionally, they improve the sometimes-erratic moods toddlers experience and create sensory balance. Sensory activities can be divided into three different categories.
Proprioceptive Toddler Activities
These sensory activities help toddlers develop self-regulation. They work both to invigorate a toddler who tends to be quiet and calm a hyperactive child.
- Banging or drumming on pots and pans
- Carrying a bag filled with their toys or a pile of books
- Catching a stuffed animal, small ball, or beanbag
- Emptying trash containers and taking out the trash
- Filling or emptying the washer, dryer, or dishwasher
- Having a pillow fight
- Hopping on one or both feet
- Jumping – on the sofa, a small trampoline, or the bed
- Marching with or without music
- Playing leap frog
- Playing tug of war
- Pushing a grocery cart, laundry basket, etc.
- Sweeping or mopping
- Walking like an animal – a bear, crab, etc.
- Wiping the counters or dusting the furniture
Vestibular Toddler Activities
Activities such as swinging and spinning create intense and long-lasting sensory input. These types of activities should be managed and performed in small doses as some children are more sensitive than others are.
- Dragging your toddler on a sheet or blanket
- Hanging upside down
- Rocking in a rocking chair
- Running in circles
Tactile Toddler Activities
Toddlers need to become capable of dealing with tactile input – being wet, loud sounds, unusual tastes. Our list of activities help toddlers get used to such stimulation gradually and have fun while doing so.
- Create a “sandbox” by filling a large bowl, bin, or box with dry beans or Styrofoam peanuts. Let your toddler play with small cars or other objects.
- Have your toddler play with shaving cream.
- Let your toddler take a bath in water with food coloring.
- Provide cookie dough or other food for your toddler to mix with their hands.
- Provide cups, small bowls, and strainers at bath time.
- Cook up some spaghetti or other pasta and let your toddler play with it.
All toddlers are calmed by extra oral-motor activities like the following, but especially some who are hyperactive.
- Crunching small pieces of ice
- Sucking through a straw
Fun Breathing Exercises for Toddlers
If your toddler has low muscle tone, lung exercise, where your toddler breathes deeply, provide a therapeutic effect.
- Blowing feathers off of the hand or end of the finger
- Blowing on whistles
- Blowing out birthday candles on a playdough cake
- Making and blowing pinwheels
- Making bubble mountains in a bowl with soapy water and a straw
Toddler Activities That Stimulate Hearing, Seeing, Touching, Smelling, and Tasting
Create a special spot for your child to explore their senses such as a corner with pillows, soft lighting, music, soft toys or stuffed animals, and containers of finger snacks. Letting your toddler explore with their fingers, eyes, nose, and mouth is a wonderful way to learn. Ask your toddler questions, such as:
- Do you like that sound? (Smell?)
- Have you seen something else that looks like this?
- Do you like the taste? Is it sweet, salty, etc.
- What color is it?
- Is it rough, smooth, fuzzy, etc.?
Toddler Activities That Explore Sounds
Keen hearing is very important because children learn speech from repeating what they hear. The following activities will help your child learn to distinguish sounds.
- Let your toddler play with a radio dial to experiment with different volumes.
- Have your toddler sit and try to guess sounds they hear.
- Let your toddler pop packing bubbles.
Toddler Activities That Explore Sights
The more observant your toddler becomes of the world around them, the more they will learn. These activities develop your toddlers sense of sight.
- Make shadow puppets on the wall.
- Play flashlight tag inside or out on a grassy yard area at night.
- Have your toddler wear sun glasses.
- Play a game of peek-a-boo with your toddler.
- Fill a jar with soap and water, shake it up, and watch the bubbles.
- Make faces in the mirror.
Toddler Activities That Explore the Sense of Touch
Some toddlers do not like to be touched. Use the following exercises to help them get used to personal contact.
- Trace your fingers lightly over your toddler’s skin.
- Rub lotion on your toddler and let them rub some on you.
- Tear pictures out of old magazine.
- Splash in the tub or sink.
- Cuddle and hug your toddler.
- Pet a dog or cat.
Toddler Activities That Explore Smells
Smells affect children different ways. When your child positively reacts to a smell, buy items with that scent, such as candles, soaps, room sprays, or lotions.
- Use a blindfold or have your toddler close their eyes and guess different smells. (Peanut butter, chocolate, pineapple, strawberries, etc.)
- Encourage your toddler to smell foods before they taste them.
- Choose a variety of spices for your toddler to smell.
Toddler Activities That Explore the Sense of Taste
Some children are very sensitive to new flavors. Adding activities that explore taste provides fun and prepare your children for new eating experiences. To do so, try the following:
- Let your toddler help you cook.
- If working with hot food makes you nervous, try the following:
- Have your toddler ice cupcakes or cinnamon rolls.
- Let your toddler mix cereal and dried fruit to make Muesli.
- Toddlers love to put their own toppings on their pizza.
- Make smoothies with fresh fruit.
- Have your toddler make their own peanut butter sandwich.
- Choose a variety of finger foods, blindfold your toddler or have them close their eyes tight, have them take small bites, and guess the food.
Toddler Arts and Crafts
Toddlers love arts and crafts and many clever items can be made with simple household items. Try the following with your toddler.
- Paint with yogurt.
- Finger paint.
- Use sticker to make a picture or decorate an empty toilet paper or paper towel tube.
- Make spray paint art by putting water and paint in squirt bottles.
- Cut a potato in half, cut a design on the cut parts, dip in paint, and stamp on paper.
- Help your toddler trace their body and then let them color the picture.
- Mix paint colors and dab them on paper.
Toddler Free Play Exploration
Sometimes toddler simply need to discover things. The following activities, items, and exercises provide free playing opportunities for new experiences. Additionally, they burn off extra energy.
- Give your toddler ribbon and fabric scrapes to play with.
- Let your toddler stick pipe cleaners through holes in a colander and twist them together.
- Tissue paper is fun to tear, scrunch up, and make into balls.
- Give your toddler empty plastic containers with screw top or snapping lids with items to put in them such as pasta or small toys.
- Encourage your toddler to play “music” on pots and pans with a wooden spoon.
- Provide cups and containers for stacking.
- Pouring water from one container to another teaches coordination and the concept of how much a container will hold.
- Provide scrape paper for cutting and tearing.
- Paint or color pictures.
- Make homemade greeting cards.
Indoor Toddler Activities
Toddlers spend a great deal of time indoors and having a variety of activities to keep them busy is imperative. We have an extensive list of enjoyable and educational activities for your little one.
- Build a fort or create a tent using blankets and pillows.
- Work puzzles – simple mazes, dot-to-dot, or jigsaw.
- Use an inflated balloon or small ball and play catch with your toddler.
- Play hide and go seek.
- Make newspaper balls and throw them into a clean waste basket or box.
- Get dressed in older brother’s or sister’s clothing.
- Dance with your toddler.
- Put a hole in the lid of a container and have your toddler drop beans or small toys through the hole.
- Cut a slot in a container lid and drop dried pasta into it.
- Build with blocks and then knock down the structure.
- Play with a flashlight in a dark room.
- Let your toddler stack cans of food.
- Sing with the radio in the car.
- Go into a dark room and play with a flash light.
- Make a tower out of pantry foods.
- Sing songs.
- Use chairs to pretend your toddler is driving or flying an airplane.
- Help fill or empty the dishwasher.
- Put silverware where it belongs.
Toddler Activities in Water
Toddlers love playing in water and getting wet. The outdoor activities in the following list work well on warm spring and summer days. We also added a few water play ideas for inside any time of the year.
- Wade or swim at the beach, in a stream, or at the lake.
- Fill a tub with water and wash small toys.
- Take a long bath.
- Run through the sprinkler.
- Help wash the car.
- Splash in puddles after a rainstorm.
Outdoor Toddler Activities
Fresh air and sunshine provide healthy experiences for your toddler. Make sure the area where they play contains no hazards and, if possible, is fenced. Then let your toddler explore the outdoors and release pent-up energy with these activities.
- Kick a ball around the yard.
- Turn over rocks to look for bugs.
- Run, hop, and skip.
- Go to the park or playground.
- Collect rocks on a walk or shells on the beach.
- Roll in the grass or down a hill.
- Go for a walk and collect shells, leaves, or rocks.
Additional Fun Toddler Activities
Your ever-active toddler loves going places and seeing new things. Educate your toddler while having fun with the following activities:
- Take a trip to one of the following places:
- The library
- A garden center
- The zoo
- The grocery store
- The post office
- A pet store
Many everyday activities provide interest and fun for your growing toddler. For example, teach good communication skills and how to interact with others by letting your toddler talk on the phone to grandparents and others. Below is a list of other tasks your toddler will enjoy.
- Sort laundry.
- Help houseclean – sweep, dust, and mop.
- Water plants inside and outside.
- Empty trash.
You will probably find a few activities your toddler loves and will do for a long time. Our last list of toddler activities include those all toddlers enjoy and will occupy more than a few moments of their time.
- Blow bubbles and try to catch them.
- Play store with empty food cartons and packages.
- Give your toddler old junk mail and let them play office or mail carrier.
- Have your toddler dress up a doll and take it for a walk around the house.
- Make playdough food and cut out shapes with cookie cutters.
- Look through family photo albums.
- Give your toddler dried beans, rice, or pasta shapes to scoop and pour.
- Play with large magnets on the fridge or metal cookie sheet.
- Build a castle or fort from blocks and use tiny toys and dolls to create adventures.
Toddler days are filled with adventure because of the many new and varied experiences of their young lives. Make the most of this time to teach your toddler about the world around them. Have fun!