Activity ideas for toddlers

At home with young children? These activities are good for building motor skills (building strength and movement), having fun and encouraging creativity.

Toddler with paint all over hands

Arts and crafts

  • Make sock puppets. Glue on old buttons for the eyes or draw on some whiskers. Then make a theatre out of an old cardboard box and host your own puppet show.
  • Get painting. You can use brushes, stencils or your fingers to make pictures. Or try face painting.
  • Playing with playdough is one way to develop motor skills. You can make your own with our recipe.
  • Make a print with some paint and leaves from the garden. Count the leaves together for a quick maths lesson.
  • Pick a theme each week and base your activities around that. Try ‘dinosaurs’, ‘under the sea’ or ‘people who help us’.
  • Make cards for friends and family to celebrate events like summer or a birthday.
  • Create a collage from old newspapers and magazines. Using scissors under supervision helps with their motor skills.
  • Make a ‘touchy-feely’ box with different textured items from around the house. Ask your child to reach their hand in and describe what they can feel.
  • Practise cutting skills by making snowflakes and other shapes out of folded up paper.
  • Become a fashion designer for the day and get them drawing on an old plain t-shirt.

Fun and games

  • Board games can help to teach your pre-schooler how to take turns and share.
  • Have a ‘snowball’ fight. Create snowballs from rolled up bits of newspaper and split into two teams. Use cushions to create a dividing line, set a timer and the team with the fewest balls on their side at the end wins.
  • Play a round of musical chairs. ‘Musical cushions’ works well for much younger children.
  • Come up with a treasure hunt and leave clues around a room for your child to follow. The treasure at the end could be anything: some fruit, costume jewellery or a teddy bear.
  • Play ‘Pin the Tail on the Donkey’ with slightly older children. If they don’t like wearing a blindfold, ask them to close their eyes instead.

Shake it up

  • Get dancing. Put on your favourite tunes and have a disco.
  • Create your own soft play experience from pillows and cushions. It will burn off some energy and help physical development.
  • Play balloon catch with a rule that the balloon can’t touch the floor.
  • Kick a football around. Count the goals and it becomes a maths lesson too.
  • Take it in turns to blow bubbles. When it’s your turn to blow, ask your child to run around and pop them.
  • Play a game of ‘Simon Says’. ‘Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ or the ‘Hokey Cokey’ will get them moving.

Fun with food

  • Make patterns with pasta, rice or lentils. Tip them into a tray or fill different sized containers. You can do this with flour too, but grab your apron or an old t-shirt first.
  • If the weather is bad, make an indoor picnic and take turns to serve or be the chef.
  • Bake together, and everyone can enjoy the end product.
  • Decorate plain biscuits with some icing sugar or sweets.

Around the house

  • Make your own musical instruments. A box and some string can become a guitar, or put some rice in a plastic bottle for homemade maracas. Then put on a show with your new instruments.
  • Fill a bath with toys that your child wouldn’t normally play with at bath time. A funnel and jug from the kitchen or toys that fit your ‘theme of the week’ are good options.

Let’s pretend

  • Dig out the dressing up box. You don’t need expensive, shop-bought costumes – old clothes will work.
  • Pretend you’re heading off on a camping adventure and make a den with duvets, pillows and cushions.
  • Collect toy motor vehicles and create a mini car wash in the sink.
  • Have a tea party for teddies and dolls. Ask your child to share out food (try breadsticks) with them, counting as they do so.

Calming activities

  • Go cloud watching. What shapes can you see in the sky?
  • Plant some seeds or small plants in the garden or in a pot. Watch them grow.
  • Share favourite stories and books. It’s a great way to help your child with their reading skills, speech and language.
  • Teach your child about different emotions by drawing emotion faces on paper plates. Copy those faces in the mirror together and talk about what they might be feeling.
  • Do simple puzzles together. This can help with problem solving.
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