Your toddler is learning a million new things everyday. They’re picking up language, learning new knowledge, practicing motor skills, developing relationships, and understanding so much more about the world around them.
It’s amazing to watch their little brains and hands at work everyday, learning through play and exploration. Although at times they test your limits, they mean well and just need an outlet to get all their energy out.
Toddlers can be highly demanding little people. They crave our attention, yet want their independence. They love getting our approval, but dislike being told what to do.
They’re the most curious little beings and are fascinated with their newfound capabilities. Some of them may want to be left alone to figure out how to take apart that block tower while some may want you by their side to read them a book. At times they may want to run in circles and at other times they want to pretend to be a quiet, beautiful princess.
There are always those days when you feel like you have nothing left to give them. You’re exhausted and counting down the seconds until nap or bed time.
I’ve compiled a list of simple, no-prep activities that you can use when your toddler is getting on your last nerve and you need to find a way to entertain or keep them busy. You don’t have to be a crafty, Pinterest mom for these either!
Gross Motor / Physical Activities
- Roll a ball back and forth. Make it more interesting by having them say a letter, word, animal noise, etc. each time they roll the ball.
- Play catch. Make it more interesting by having them say a letter, word, animal noise, etc. each time they throw or catch the ball.
- Build towers with wooden blocks or Megablocks
- Play tag or chase each other
- Build a fort with couch cushions, blankets, and pillows
- Give them piggy back rides, horsey rides on your back, and airplane rides while holding them in the air
- Play soccer with a small ball and the “net” can be between 2 chair legs
- Toss bean bags into baskets or buckets
- Have them do animal walks: bear walk, crab walk, frog jumps, etc.
- Use Painter’s Tape on the floor in straight lines, zig zags, or curves and have them walk along it like a balance beam, jump over small pieces, and see what activities you can come up with.
- A cardboard box can have a million uses. Give them some boxes to play in and watch their imagination run wild.
- Blow up some balloons and have them hit and swat them all around the house.
- Do Yoga
- Make a blanket slide – sit them on a banket and pull it across the room
- Play tug-of-war with a blanket or sheet
Educational & Tabletop Activities
- Put together puzzles. If they have graduated from early toddler inset puzzles, they may be ready for interlocking puzzles for an added challenge.
- Sort household items or toys by color, size, or shape.
- Read a book. Ask them questions about what they read to develop early reading comprehension.
- Color. Print out some sheets of their favorite characters or objects for them to color or try these Free printable apple sheets with a variety of uses.
- Play with household items. There are a huge array of options for simple play with regular household items- find a whole list here.
- Use Stickers. Put them on a sheet of paper, themselves, in a book, etc.
- Give them a snack. All toddlers love to eat!
- Create a toddler necklace with string, straws, and pasta noodles!
- Play with letter or animal magnets on the refrigerator or dishwasher
- I Spy – Pick a color or item around the room and have your child find it.
- Simon Says
- Imitation game – Have your child imitate your actions, facial expressions, noises, gestures, etc. Then have them do it and you imitate them!
- Hide & Seek
- Make an obstacle course out of simple household items like cushions, billows, chairs, tables, storage containers, etc.
- Scavenger hunt – Hide things around the house and have them try to fin them. Limit it to specific rooms or floors if you don’t want a huge mess.
- Take a warm bubble bath. Throw in a bunch of bath toys, bubbles, and bath coloring. My littles ones could stay in the bath forever!
- Give them a body massage with lotion
- Have them push furniture around (chairs, coffee tables, end tables)
- Roll them up tight in a blanket, or use a pillow, or large bean bag to squish their body if they like that feeling
- Have them run their hands in water beads or a sensory bin
- Use shaving cream, hair gel, whipped cream, yogurt, etc. on a baking sheet and let them swirl their hands in it for a fun sensory experience. Use food coloring or add small items like beads and glitter for even more fun.
- Play doh or putty
- Have a tea party
- Make fake food in a play kitchen and have them serve you dinner
- Play dress up – try on mom or dad’s clothes and shoes, jewelry, or any costumes and dress up clothes that they have
- Make fake phone calls
- Pretend a laundry basket is a sailboat or airplane
- Have a dance party with some favorite tunes
- Sing songs with gestures like Its Bitsy Spider, Mr Sun, Wheels on the Bus, Where is Thumpkin, Peanut Butter & Jelly
- Do the Hokey Pokey
- Make their own music with tamborines, maracas, drums, etc. You can even use household items to make shakers with rice/beans in a water bottle or use a storage bin flipped over as a drum.
- Clean up their playroom or room
- Do chores with you – empty the dishwasher, sweep the floor, wipe down the table, take out the garbage – They may not be able to do these things but you can pretend to let them.. toddlers love to help!
- Make phone calls and Facetime family or friends
- Go to the playground
- Chase butterflies/bugs/animals
- Go for a walk or nature hike and point out things outside – house, trees, cars, leaves, flowers, street, etc.
- Get the mail
- Blow bubbles
- Throw and catch balls
- Have a picnic
- Use Sidewalk Chalk
- Pick flowers, leaves, acorns
- Look for animals – deer, squirrel, birds
- Go to the store and let them run through the clothing racks, put items in their cart, and ring their own items in self-checkout.
Technology or screen time should be limited for toddlers to 1 hour a day, but there are many times when it is needed and that’s perfectly ok! Don’t feel like a bad parent if you let your child sit in front of the tv for an hour.
My daughter will sit quietly for a long time when she is watching tv. As long as you can find something educational, technology is ok. However, I always use this as a last resort.
Also, be sure to use technology as you would any other playtime activity or game that you are doing with your child. Sit down with them while they are watching tv and point out the characters, objects or lessons learned.
Ask them what they see, what is happening, or what they are learning. This will ensure that it is not becoming a completely passive activity and they are still using some brain power for it.
- Ipad educational games like ABC Mouse or Starfall
- Educational television shows like Super Why, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Octonauts, Bubble Guppies, Doc McStuffins, Timmy Time, etc
- Have them look at the pictures you have taken on your smart phone
- Leapfrog Laptop
I hope you now have a ton of activities to do with your toddler when you need them. Have fun finding new ways to entertain them!