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Have you ever wondered when do toddlers run out of energy?
I can answer you that question right quick: Never. Like ever. A dead-tired 2-year-old will still kick and scream to play at 830 at night when you have been trying to put him down to bed for over an hour.
So moms are always on the look-out for engaging activities for toddlers.
Toddlers literally open their eyes and that’s it, they are 100% awake and ready to roll. I heard a quote that little kids wake up like that because they are still excited about life. I wholeheartedly agree.
I actually marvel at that every single day. Their enthusiasm to explore and their dedication to keep trying a hundred times over are unparalleled.
How Should You Use These Activities For Toddlers?
This post isn’t about how to make them calm down so we can have a life. (Though I understand the need for short breaks, treating my toddler as a nuisance isn’t the attitude I strive for)
What this post is about is how to have fun with your toddler when you want to spend one-on-one quality time with them.
I realize that they are too young to have long attention spans and honestly, super complicated, Pinterest perfect crafts and activities don’t have a place in my wanna-be minimalist life.
With two older kids at home (and a teenage stepdaughter and a husband), it would be very easy to forget about the toddler and just try to satisfy immediate needs in order to get some quiet.
I do fall into that a little more than I want to, so I set out on a mission to find low-key toddler activities that I and my little guy can enjoy together.
I want to give him all of myself, just like I did with the other ones when I was much less overwhelmed. My plan is to spend some focused time with him in the morning when it’s just us awake.
He is only 18months old, so I am expecting to use these for many months as he matures.
15 NO PREP ACTIVITIES FOR TODDLERS
While I could have included at least a 100 different activities, I like to keep things simple. I’d rather do a few activities consistently than have 100 pins and never even look at them.
I want you to see this list and feel inspired instead of overwhelmed.
Have fun with your little one!
1. Balloon Hockey
Image credit and idea: Lean Green Bean
2. Car Wash
Image credit and idea: Teaching Mama
Check out this cute idea for an indoor carwash. Which 2-year-old wouldn’t love soapy water and something to drop in it? We play this a ton.
Ever since I have noticed my son having a wild interest in putting all the things in water, I thought that providing a purposeful opportunity to do that may cut down on dinner table messes. Lo and behold, he stopped playing with his water cup at the table and making random water puddles everywhere.
He is happy playing with a tub of soapy water, a sponge and his favorite toys. If you are frustrated with your toddler’s constant experimenting, consider a way you can let her experiment within the boundaries you set.
If it’s water, like it was for my son, this toddler activity is perfect.
3. Painting With Water
Image credit and idea: LouLou Girls
Another one of those great water-based ideas that are easy to clean up and need no prep. Since being strapped into the high chair is included, I think I will save this one for when we homeschool or rainy day emergencies.
Alternatively, we absolutely adore these Melissa and Doug Water Wow Sets. They are reusable and dry quickly. I never have to worry about the mess and this activity is easy enough to do independently.
4. Sensory Bins
Image credit and idea: Mostly Under Control
Sensory boxes have been all the rage on Pinterest for good reason. They are cheap, easy to make and keep little hands busy for quite some time.
If your child has never played with sensory bins before, give him time to figure out how to play with them. There are no wrong ways to play within the boundaries you set for your child, that’s the beauty of open-ended toys.
If you want to be involved, you can say things like:
“How does that feel?”
“What do you think about…?”
“Is this soft or hard/heavy or light/ smooth or rough ?”
5. Water Beads
Water Beads make a wonderful sensory play option and they are pretty fascinating to watch as they “grow”. We have a Step2 table on the back porch, so I just set the beads out in water per the box’s instructions and let my kids go to town.
They use funnels, cups, small toy animals and all kinds of spoons and scoops to mess with the beads. The clean up is pretty easy because I usually just hose the back patio off and the beads either burst or shrivel back up over time.
For an indoor activity, I would recommend putting the beads in a smaller container and place that inside a bigger one or put the beads container on a large towel or mat for easy cleanup.
6. Hammering Golf Tees
Image credit and idea: Teaching Mama
This amazing blogger recommends letting your toddler hammer golf tees into a styrofoam block. Who would have thought?
We own several wooden mallets and my kids are obsessed with hammering the wrong things (and each other). Now there’s finally something that’s ok to beat!
7. Car Ramp
Image credit and idea: The Lean Green Bean
A lot of different things could work for a car ramp, but this mom decided cardboard it is. Finally to use those pesky cardboard boxes for something good.
I know I need to cut back on my habit if I want to be true to minimalism, but for right now when in need, I call my friend Amazon Prime. So I have cardboard galore.
You could also roll down small balls or toy animals, or whatever the very opinionated, wanna-be-independent toddler wants.
8. Muffin Pan Fun
Image credit and idea: My Three Good Things
Putting balls into a muffin tin is great fun for a younger toddler. Don’t assume just because it looks simple, it’s dumb. Toddlers learn everything by experimenting and exploring. They also learn step by step.
When I was a first-time mom, I did not realize how serious of a skill jumping is, for example. It took lots of practice for my little one to learn to hop and then to jump with two feet.
Sorting, putting a ball in a hole, grasping it and balancing it are all skills toddlers learn through an activity like this. Don’t underestimate the power of simple.
If I didn’t already have more than enough small balls, I would definitely buy this 16 piece basic set or this sensory one. But in all honesty, you can really use whatever toy or material you have on hand and sort them into the muffin tins.
While these magnets are a more expensive toy, my kids play so much with them that I’m glad I bought several sets. I added on to our collection over time and now we have enough for all the kids to play.
Magnets are hands down the best to build a tower with and crash it. They have also been used for car garage, doll house, and telescope making.
Of course, a toddler may not play in such a complex way with them, but they will realize the pieces “stick” together, they are stackable and they can even learn colors while playing.
10. Poke-a-dot Book
Reading books helps with literacy skills later on, but even if that seems a long way off, books are a surefire way to boost your toddlers’ speech development.
11. Scotch Taped Toys
Image credit and idea: Baby Related Inspirations
I don’t know what it is, but tape of any kind is a favorite of all toddlers. This idea that combines little figurines and Scotch tape into one activity. Could something be more fun for grabby little hands?
My toddler also loves when I give him pieces of masking tape and he just sticks the pieces on paper.
12. Counting Bears
Image credit and idea: Fun A Day
These printable pattern strips are perfect to use with my kids’ favorite counting bears. The bears come with colored cups, so you can always just play sorting with them.
If you made sensory bins, throw some in because toddler love to hide and find the little bears.
These Animal Zoo stickers are perfect for small hands and you can also teach your child about animals.
Melissa and Doug Sticker Collections come in a variety of themes, my kids love them all. I love using this activity in the car when there’s nothing to do (I usually don’t let them watch movies) and I don’t want to take a ton of things with me.
I hand my toddler a colorful construction paper and let him stick stickers on it. They may need help taking the stickers off, but the more the better.The Dollar Store is also a great place to get lots of stickers for a cheap price.
14. Pompom Drop
Image credit and idea: Hassle Free House Wife
I have seen pompoms used in many different ways, but this is by far my favorite. This Froggie Pompom Drop game is not only cute, but it is also easier for younger toddlers to do than many other pompom activities.
15. Ladle Lift
Image credit and idea: Busy Toddler
The Ladle Lift is a versatile and fun (also educational) activity for toddlers. I mentioned earlier toddlers’ love of water, so this is another way to feed that curiosity.
You can use a small strainer to scoop up the toys to make it even more interesting for your little explorer.
I hope you enjoyed these 15 no prep activities for toddlers. Go and make some memories!
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