toddler activities - child building an four boxes

Play is more than just having fun for children, it’s actually crucial for their physical, emotional, and cognitive development. For toddlers especially, play helps them learn about the world, practice social interactions, improve motor skills, learn language, and so much more. In this post we’ll go over 12 engaging and educational activities for toddlers to not only entertain your little one, but also help them learn and grow. From sensory play, to using their imagination. these activities will provide so many opportunities for learning and playing while also strengthening your bond.

My Favorite Activities For Toddlers

Sensory Bin Exploration

activities for toddlers - small child playing with bin of cereal

Creating a sensory bin is a fantastic way to stimulate your toddler’s senses and boost their cognitive development. This one is great because you can do it with younger toddlers as well as older ones. You can do this by filling a shallow container with items like rice, pasta, or colored sand. Be sure to supervise and choose something that will be safe for your toddler. When my daughter was little I used to use oats because she sometimes put it in her mouth. You could even use cheerios or any small toddler snack food. Some people use water beads – PLEASE use extreme caution with these. They are an amazing sensory tool, but they can also be very dangerous. Add scoops, cups, and various textured objects for sensory exploration. You can bury small toys in the bin and allow them to explore!

Nature Scavenger Hunt

Anonymous man with toddler on shoulders walking away

A nature scavenger hunt is a great way for toddlers to learn about colors, nature, vocabulary, and obviously allows them to spend time outside! You can go to your local park or playground, take a walk through your neighborhood, or even do this in your own backyard! Create a list of simple items for them to find, such as leaves, rocks, flowers, or pinecones. As they search for each item, discuss their colors, shapes, and textures. This activity is probably best for older toddlers who can understand the concepts, but for younger ones you can adapt it so that you’re just pointing things out along the way instead of having your toddler find them.

DIY Sensory Bottles

Photo courtesy of onelittleproject.com

Sensory bottles are mesmerizing for toddlers and offer a calming sensory experience. Fill clear plastic bottles with water, glitter, small toys, or other items that create visual interest. Seal the bottles tightly and let your toddler shake, roll, and explore the captivating contents. If your kiddo is old enough they can help you with this process. This can be not only entertaining but also very calming for kids.

Building with Blocks

Selective Focus Photo of Young Girl in Red Dress Playing with Building Blocks

Good old building blocks! One of my favorite activities for toddlers, and a great way to enhance a wide range of skills. Encourage your toddler to stack blocks, create structures, and knock them down. Also, be sure to allow them time to create whatever they want without dictating or narrating. This is a great activity for imagination, hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness, and motor skills.

Painting with Edible Finger Paints

Photo courtesy of livingwellmom.com

Edible finger paints are a fun way to safely let your toddler explore creativity, art, textures, and scents. You can make your own using natural and safe ingredients like yogurt, food coloring, and cornstarch. Finger painting promotes fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and sensory development. It’s also a wonderful opportunity for self-expression and building confidence in their artistic abilities.

Pretend Play with Dress-Up Clothes

Cute black girl in chef costume

Sometimes you just gotta keep it simple – play dress up! Create a dress-up corner with costumes, hats, scarves, and accessories. You’d be surprised what old clothes of yours kids want to play with. Whether they become a doctor, chef, or a superhero, pretend play enhances social skills, creativity, storytelling abilities, and emotional intelligence. Join them in their imaginary adventures, and watch as their confidence and self-expression soar.

Musical Instrument Exploration

baby playing multicolored xylophone toy

You can use musical instruments to help your toddler learn about music and sounds. These can be “real” instruments or home made ones! Try to find some that don’t require batteries, but rather utilize the child’s hands, mouth, feet, etc to operate. You can grab a recorder, maraca, harmonica, or even just some pots and pans. Let them experiment with different sounds, noise levels, and sensations. This not only exposes them to the world of music, but helps foster creativity, and can improve hand-eye coordination and motor skills.

Counting and Sorting with Pom Poms

selective focus photo of assorted-color toys

Colorful pom-poms are an amazing and versatile tool for toddlers to use. You can use colorful pom poms to introduce counting and sorting concepts. Create a tray or bowls filled with pom poms of various colors and sizes. Ask your toddler to sort them by color, size, or even use them for counting exercises. This hands-on activity develops fine motor skills, color recognition, and introduces basic math concepts. Make it even more engaging by using tweezers or tongs to pick up the pom poms, further enhancing their fine motor control. For younger kids you can even cut a hole in a lid and encourage them to push the pom poms through into a container. This kept my daughter entertained for so long when she was younger.

Play with Puppets

Children Playing Animal Puppets

Puppets are a great way for toddlers to experiment with different social situations, identities, emotions, and more. Help your toddler create a story or let them create one themselves. If you don’t have puppets you can make your own or use stuffed animals. For younger toddlers, you can try to act out different emotions to familiarize them with feelings like happy, sad, mad, and so on.

Water Play

girl, summer, play

Water play is probably one of my daughter’s all time favorite activities. I love this one because little ones can do it too! This can be as simple as letting them play in the bathtub, or you can even fill the sink with water and provide them with cups, sponges, funnels, and scoops to let them explore and manipulate the water. If it’s nice out you can use a water table, or even fill a bin or bucket with water for them to play with and splash around outside. This is not only a fun activity, but it’s very calming and can be soothing for kiddos who need to calm down.

Playdough

boy holding blue and green painted egg shells

Play dough is one of the more simpler activities for toddlers. You can use store bought playdough or make your own using simple ingredients like flour, salt, water, and food coloring. Provide your toddler with the playdough, along with various tools like rolling pins, cookie cutters, and plastic utensils. Watch as their creativity unfolds while they mold, shape, and explore different textures. Playdough activities enhance fine motor skills, hand strength, and creativity. Encourage open-ended play, allowing your child’s imagination to guide the experience.

Gross Motor Obstacle Course

Happy Toddler Climbing Up a Wooden Ladder

Is your toddler constantly climbing on you or the furniture? Create a safe obstacle course for them! You can use cushions, hula hoops, tunnels, and pillows to create a course for them to safely navigate. For younger toddlers you can keep it pretty simple, but for older ones you can try to make it somewhat of a challenge. Try to find ways to let them safely crawl, jump, climb, slide, and balance. Toddlers are naturally curious and they often have a lot of sensory needs, so providing them an obstacle course can be a safe way to let them explore, get some energy out, and fulfill sensory needs.

Final Thoughts

Engaging in these 12 fun and educational activities for toddlers will not only create joyful memories but also nurture their overall development. Remember, play is the foundation for learning, and through these activities, you’ll be fostering their cognitive, emotional, and physical growth. Embrace the power of play, and watch as your toddler’s curiosity, imagination, and love for learning continue to flourish. So, dive into these activities, unleash their potential, and embark on this exciting journey of discovery and growth together.

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