The Ultimate List of Toddler Activities
I bet there isn’t a mom out there who hasn’t, at some point – maybe especially in the winter months, when you just can’t get outside as much – asked (through tears?) How do I entertain my toddler at home??!! Let’s face it, coming up with awesome toddler activities seven days per week can be MORE than daunting.
I mean, my brain just doesn’t go as fast as my kiddo does. And half the time, things that I think he should LOVE to do… I end up doing alone. (Yay. I’ve always dreamed of finger painting a giant piece of cardboard in my underwear.) I think I have too high of expectations when it comes to toddler activities.
Sometimes it’s good to remember that their play does not NEED to be structured the way we think it does. Particularly for the more involved things, like painting or gluing –
(THIS POST PROBABLY CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS. OUR FULL DISCLOSURE POLICY IS REALLY BORING, BUT YOU CAN FIND IT HERE.)
What are good activities for toddlers?
Honestly, in my opinion, any activity that’s not dangerous and actually entertains my toddler for more than 10 minutes is a good one!
I also like toddler activities that are free – but, if it costs a couple bucks, most days I don’t mind spending that to entertain kiddo for a while either.
What’s NOT a great activity for a toddler?
The TV. (Or a cell phone, tablet etc.)
One of the very best things you can have for your toddler is something they can climb on – like this.
I just really believe this is an age where their minds need to be engaged and their bodies need to be moving. (They sleep so much better if they move!) Don’t get me wrong, I totally use the TV when I am desperate. (And I get desperate at least once per day. Usually when I’m trying to put the baby down for a nap and I want to make sure her older brother isn’t getting into anything.)
But I really like to have other options for activities for my toddler to do indoors (winter is long here) so that I don’t have to wallow in TV induced mom guilt. I mean you can only read SO much to them – and at this age, it’s hard to get them really invested in books any ways – although I have had some success with these fun books to read to toddlers!
I bet you can totally relate – so try some of these GREAT (mostly indoor) toddler activities this week.
Activities for busy toddlers:
Some toddlers just WILL NOT sit quietly and color. Some toddlers think you’re punishing them if you ask them to string macaroni on ribbon. Some toddlers need to MOVE. (My toddler is one of these kinds of kids.) These are great activities for toddlers that need to expel energy and aren’t content to sit for extended periods of time.
Jump on Pillows
Remember doing this as a kid? Line up all the pillows you own and jump from one to another! (Best to supervise, and stay away from objects with corners!)
Tell them they can’t touch the floor.
Have a dance party
My kiddo will dance to literally any music I put on if it has a decent beat. He thinks it’s even better when we all dance.
You can get in a work out at the same time – use youtube on the TV to pull up some of those old 80’s work out videos… toddlers don’t know the 80’s is over OR that cardio is awesome, but they will LOVE the bright colored spandex and the workouts actually do still WORK.
Play hide and seek
It’s absolutely fine if they hide in the same spot over and over and over again…
Play Balloon Badminton
This is a genius idea for active toddlers – from Hands On As We Grow – get the details here.
Toddler climbing toys
Even if you are trapped indoors for the winter, you can make use of toddler climbing toys.
If you have a carpeted basement, I would seriously consider putting something they can climb on down there. It’s totally natural for toddlers to want to climb, (and they’ll choose things like chairs /stools – which aren’t the safest choice).
My parents bought one of these rocker seesaws at a garage sale when I was a kid – 25 years later, My kids still LOVE to play on it. It’s idea because one kid can rock on it by themselves.
Mini Indoor Trampoline
This is a GREAT way to get some energy out. We got one exactly like this and it is a HIT. It’s small enough to have in the living room, and it can be used WHILE they watch TV… it makes TV a little less of a “brain dead” activity.
My favorite toddler activities are the ones that engage their imaginations.
Have BIG BOX fun
A BIG BOX can be the MOST FUN for a toddler. Go to the furniture store or the hardware store and see if you can get a HUGE box for free, (or else you can just buy a large moving box for a few bucks).
- You can turn a big box into a play house, just by cutting in a few windows.
- You can punch holes in the top and poke fairy lights through – this is SUPER cool!
- You can give them crayons and let them go to town decorating the box.
- Some toddlers like confined spaces, and you can fill it with pillows and blankets and let them nest in the box.
Make a blanket fort
Some things never go out of style, and I’ll bet you loved blanket forts as a kid too.
This fort building kit is on my toddler’s Christmas list this year – I think he will enjoy it for YEARS! You build the “frame” of the fort with it, and throw a blanket over top… “instant” blanket for, WITHOUT dragging chairs around. (Yay!)
Your kids might even sit quietly in a fort and look at books! Here’s a list of my favorite places to get cheap preschool books, so they never run out of options.
Put Contact paper on the wall or window
Sticky side out – and let them go to town “sticking” things. It’s fun to see what will stick and what won’t. This flower garden sticky wall from Crafts on Sea is a GREAT example of what I’m talking about. You can do this indoor or outdoors, and you can stick just about anything up. Cheerios, cotton balls, foam shapes, scrap paper or fabric bits, old puzzle pieces etc.
Toddler learning activities:
Activities that TEACH my toddler something make me feel like a super mom. You know, the kind of mom I always DREAMED I’d be (vs the mom that allows Octonaughts to play on repeat. Yes, I have done this…)
Colored sticker sorting
This is a GREAT way to get your toddler to “match” colors – tape different colored pieces of construction paper to the wall or to the table – and have your toddler stick colored stickers (matching the paper) to them.
I find it works best to hand my toddler the stickers, and say, “this one is green, put it on the green paper!”
Numbered Car Parking
This awesome toddler activity from b-inspiredmama.com is another fun matching game, focusing on numbers. Get the details here.
Teach them letters using a magnetic alphabet set (we ALL had one growing up, and obviously, our kids need one too), and a cookie sheet. Write the alphabet on the cookie sheet using washable markers (or alphabet stickers like these) and have kiddo match the magnetic letters to the letters on the sheet.
Toddler activities that develop gross motor skills:
Make a macaroni necklace
This is a great motor skills craft that most toddlers will find captivating, and slightly older toddlers will be capable of doing it themselves!
All you need is macaroni and yarn – and thread the yarn through the macaroni! (Tie a large button on one end so the pasta doesn’t fall off the end while they are working.)
Make a Twist off Cap board
This twist off cap board from Happy Toddler Playtime is SUCH a great motor skill activity. It’s also extremely frugal since it’s recycled baby food pouch tops. My son absolutely LOVE “lids” and being allowed to “do” his own lids. I think most kids will think this one is a huge winner.
Use tongs / tweezers to collect or move things
I must admit that we discovered this toddler activity by accident because we left a tongs by the BBQ and our toddler picked it up the next day – and became FASCINATED by it.
I showed him how to pick up pinecones with it, and place them in his wagon.
I kid you not, he collected an entire wagon full of pinecones – and his grip and aim improved with each one. You could easily play the same sort of game indoors with anything – pick up blocks with a tongs, for example.
This adorable sorting and counting set comes with a little pincher to move the muffins.
Bingo Dobber Dot Alphabet
This is a fun way for toddlers to practice their aim AND work on their alphabet. You can get a set of bingo dobbers pretty cheap, and this will entertain toddlers for hours! You can print a full set of these dot alphabet templates here. (She also has number dot templates!)
Toddler crafts / Toddler art activities:
I find that toddler crafts or art activities need to be super simple. I’ll admit that toddler crafts and art type things aren’t my favorite and therefore this portion of the list is a work in progress.
It’s one thing to image the fun you think your toddler will have painting – and another thing all together to actually pull it off. More times than not, my kiddo just wants to paint surfaces with the water, and he totally doesn’t get the concept of paint at all.
Whatever toddler crafts you choose to do, plan to be involved, for the most part.
Plain old play-doh!
Play-doh really does give a kid free range to let their imaginations go wild. If you kiddo is 2 or older, play-doh is awesome (under 2, there’s a good chance kiddo will EAT the play-doh, so I would either supervise closely or wait ’till 2.)
It can be hard to find play-doh sets for YOUNG kids… a lot of them have small pieces or are all about making intricate little stuff – so here’s a list of the best play-doh sets for toddlers specifically.
Paint with Cotton Balls
Painting with a paint brush seems almost impossible for my toddler because of the involvement of water, (he ends up just wanting to paint with the water, and he doesn’t understand that you need to rinse the brush out between colors) but this painting with cotton balls idea from Domestic Mommyhood is genius! One color per “brush”!
Related: Toddler Summer Bucket List
What are you favorite indoor toddler activities? I’d love to add to this list.
8 thoughts on “Toddler Activities (to Keep Mommy Sane)”
I LOVE this list. I am constantly worried that my daughter is watching too much TV (and since I don’t have a ton of other ideas for her she whines about it a lot) so this is a fantastic list.
We also love going to trampoline parks (no space for the kiddo trampoline in our townhouse – although she loves them) and try to take a couple of trips to a Children’s Museum or aquarium once a year when we just HAVE to get out of the house. I’m definitely pinning this for later.
Oh i just love that your name is Carly and your blog is the mama’s list – I bought a mommy lists domain once too (but I was insane to think I had time for more than one blog, so I just make lists on this blog now haha). I can totally relate to the need to get out of the house, it’s REAL!!
This is FANTASTIC. I have an eight-week-old and a toddler AND winter in Denver is a long time too! I’ve had the mom guilt lately trying to figure out how to entertain our toddler and not loose my mind caring for two kiddos.
I love your quote: “Sometimes it’s good to remember that their play does not NEED to be structured the way we think it does.” This is SO true. I’ve done some fancy learning color sorting and counting games that took way too much work to put together. Waste of time! Lol.
Right now our toddler is obsessed with a giant whiteboard I put on the floor and expo markers. Those things stain clothes though…
I’m definitely bookmarking this so I can go through it a couple more times. The bingo dots on letters is just brilliant and I love the giant box idea. So simple but I’m so bad at coming up with these things! Thanks, Carly!!!
The mom guilt is definitely a real thing that we ALL experience. I am glad you found the article helpful – it can definitely be hard to come up with things to do to keep them active (especially in the winter!)
Thank you so much for this list! I live in the Southern states of the US, so we usually get to get outside more than not this time of year, but this winter has been so wet with all the rain we have been getting. I’m embarrassed to say we’ve watched more Doc McStuffins than I planned on.
I agree that toddlers need to move! We are fortunate to have a playroom with a few climbing toys she can use, but I’ve been searching for something else to keep her entertained. She is obsessed with caps so that twist off cap board is genius!
Thanks for the idea!
It’s okay – Doc McStuffins is a lifesaver sometimes! I am glad the ideas helped <3
I love that you included so many active activities! I cannot get my son to sit still and do a craft or quiet activity so these suggestions were perfect! It can be so hard to figure out new ways to entertain him during the winter months!
I had the same kind of son lol – which is why this list does have these other “non quiet” ideas! haha