Activity ideas for toddlers

At home with young children? Action for Children’s parenting coach Joanna Miskin has lots of ideas to keep them occupied. They’re great for building motor skills and encouraging creativity, too.

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 even your fingers to make pictures.
  • Playing with playdough is a fun way to develop motor skills. You can make your own with flour, water, vegetable oil and salt. To make different coloured doughs, just add food colouring.
  • 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. You could try ‘dinosaurs’, ‘under the sea’ or ‘people who help us.’
  • Make cards for friends and family to celebrate coming events like summer or a birthday. It helps children have something to look forward to.
  • Make 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.
  • Try face painting. Perhaps something that fits with your theme of the week?

Fun and games

  • Board games are a fun way 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 ‘snowballs’ 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.
  • ‘Pin the Tail on the Donkey’ is a nice game for slightly older children. If they don’t like wearing a blindfold, ask them to close their eyes instead.

Shake it up

  • Singing and dancing are great exercise if you’re stuck indoors. 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 if you have a garden. 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 up different sized containers. You can do this with flour too, but grab your apron first.
  • If the weather is bad, make an indoor picnic and take turns to serve or be the chef.
  • Baking together is a creative way to introduce maths skills, 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: Dad’s old hat will do just fine.
  • Pretend you’re heading off on a camping adventure and make a den with duvets, pillows and cushions.
  • Collect up all your 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. You’ll have the fun of watching them grow through the summer.
  • 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: they’re great for problem solving.
Go back

Talk to us

Free and confidential live chat with parenting staff. Chat online or request a call back when it’s convenient for you.

Chat icon on mobile phone