Activities for toddlers needn’t cost the earth!
Little ones can be a handful at the best of times, but the best solution is often just to keep them busy with some fun activities that are designed specifically for toddler fun.
Here are 75 (very affordable!) ideas to get you started…
1. Let your tot help with the washing. Explain how to sort the colours from the whites, and then stuff them in the machine together.
2. Turn the living room into a cinema! Put dolls and teddies on a row of chairs. Take money for tickets, then show a DVD. An interval with a chance to buy a snack is popular!
3. If you’ve got a lot of washing up to do. Get out a plastic tea-set, a bowl of soapy water and a tea-towel to put it all on. Then let them wash up on the kitchen floor whilst you do yours.
4. If it’s a cold day, put some sand from the sand-pit in a washing-up bowl and hide mini treasures. A spoon makes a good-sized spade and a sieve’s fun, too.
5. Create with playdough. Give your toddler shaped biscuit cutters and a rolling-pin and explain how to cut out ‘biscuits’. A garlic press is fun for making squiggly bits.
6. Use a packet of coloured sweets such as Smarties to play a sorting game. Sift the different colours into separate bowls.
7. Dig out a basket of old ‘baby’ toys. Your tot will be keen to play with them, as they will not have seen them for a while.
8. Put on some music and have a dance. Book/CD combinations such as The Animal Boogie (from Barefoot Books) are great standbys for beating boredom! Look at the colourful pictures together, then get up and join in the dance.
9. While you’re wrapping presents, let your tot play with some shiny paper – the more crinkly and sparkly, the longer it’ll keep them occupied.
10. Make a photo album together. Find some family shots and a notebook and help your toddler glue the pictures in.
11. Do some magic painting! Draw a simple design on paper with a white candle or crayon. Make up watery paint in a strong colour and let your tot paint the paper to reveal the lovely designs – they’ll be amazed.
12. Play ‘Follow my leader’. Your toddler has to copy everything you do. Jump up and down, pat your tummy, sit down, stand up, walk up stairs, put your slippers on your head. The sillier the better. Once they’ve got the idea, let them lead you.
13. Trace a toddler using an old roll of lining wallpaper. Get your child to lie on it and trace their outline! Then let them colour or paint it (if you’re feeling brave!).
14. Read some stories together – the more you read, the more your child will get interested in books. Doing funny voices will make it even more fun.
15. Put on some tunes and play musical bumps. Tell your toddler they have to sit down as quickly as possible when the music stops.
16. Make a letterbox! Cover an old cereal box in red paint or paper. Cut out a slot for letters and make pretend envelopes. Your child can write on the envelopes, stick on pretend stamps and post them.
17. Dig out your old home videos. They’ll love it if there are people they know – more fun than watching endless Peppa Pig episodes!
18. Go to the park. Take a ball or a ride-along toy. You might even find other mums to chat to.
19. Make up thick poster paint, then paint your toddler’s hands. Get her to make handprints all over some paper. When they’re dry you can make a special birthday card with them.
20. Slice some potatoes in half and cut stars and other shapes into each flat surface. Dip the potatoes into saucers of poster paint and let your toddler use them for printing.
21. Toddlers like sticking things, so why not make a collage? Use sweet wrappers, scraps of material, foil, cotton wool – anything you’ve got lying around!
22. Make cakes. Your toddler will love stirring the mixture and make sure you tell everyone very loudly what a great help they’ve been!
23. Give your toddler dried pasta, a sieve, bowl and plastic jug.
24. Have a dolls’ tea party. Use a picnic rug and real food.
25. Make a mask. Draw an animal’s face on card and cut holes for eyes. Cut out some ears and stick them on the top. Let your tot colour it, then attach a straw so they can hold it in front of themself.
26. Save the packaging. If anyone in your family gets given a large present, keep the box. It’s true that at this age, they are often more fun to play with than the gift inside.
27. When you go to the shops, make a trip to see something around town that they’ll love. Whether it’s a fancy window display or some squirrels in a park, the slight detour is bound to keep them happy and keep them while you do your shopping.
28. Paint a butterfly. Fold a piece of paper in half, then open it out again. Paint one side of the fold, then close it up again. Open it up to reveal your butterfly pattern.
29. Collect things such as twigs, petals, stones and leaves and put them in a bucket.
30. Play traffic lights. You’re the policeman and they’re the car. When you shout ‘red’, they have to stop; ‘green’ means go.
31. Let your toddler help with writing birthday cards, get a rubber stamp with their name on, or just a picture that they can stamp on
32. Have an ice cream ‘factory’. Put a scoop of ice cream in a bowl and let her choose a topping from a variety of things set out.
33. Play buses. Line up chairs in pairs and fill the seats with dolls.
34. Make a tent. Just drape a sheet over a couple of chairs.
35. If it’s been raining, put on your wellies and jump in puddles!
36. Go to the library. An unending supply of books – for free!
37. Make some streamers or decorations. They’re easy to
make – all you need is some glue and coloured paper and string. They’ll
love hanging her finished ones up on the tree too.
38. Settle your tot down with a story tape or CD or pre-record yourself reading their fave books.
39. Make a hat. Cut a circle of card wide enough to fit round your tot’s head, roll into a cone and then get them to decorate it.
40. Make cards for someone in your family – get your tot to draw her own picture on the front and buy some stickers to decorate.
41. Construct a rocket by covering a loo roll in foil. Make a cone shape to attach to one end and add orange streamers to the other.
42. Write a letter to a relative. It’s one thing to
make a phone call, but it’s something else to write something. Although
it won’t happen immediately, when they gets a reply, it will make their
43. Do some dusting! Kids really love to copy Mum (just mind those expensive knick-knacks!).
44. Go swimming. Lots of leisure centres have special children’s sessions when they have extra equipment such as floats, balls
and little watering-cans.
45. Make a playdough sweet shop. Use different colours and shapes to make lollies, chocolate bars, candy bars and fruit drops.
46. Be sleeping lions. Your child must lie still for as long as possible! Or play musical statues. When the music stops, they must freeze!
47. Put 20 household objects on a tray. Show them to your child for 2 minutes, then hide them. See how many they can remember.
48. Ask a friend over. At this age children love to have a companion and are easier to entertain together.
49. Make a paper-bag puppet with buttons for eyes and wool hair.
50. If round at Granny’s, get her to sing songs and play games from when she was young. They may seem outdated to you, but your toddler won’t know the difference.
51. Play hide-and-seek but pretend to be a bit short-sighted when it’s your turn to do the seeking!
52. Play hunt the teddy. Take it in turns to hide it in the house.
53. Make biscuits – Let your toddler roll the pastry, use the shape cutters and help with the icing and decorating.
54. Hide toys that make a noise behind the settee. See if your child can guess which one they’re hearing.
55. Play car games. If travelling to relatives, play games along the way such as spotting the red car, bike, sheep etc.
56. Paint designs onto each other’s hands using watercolours.
57. Thread tubes of pasta on to lengths of string to make some pasta jewellery.
58. Play dolls’ hospitals. Provide loo-paper bandages and a few plasters, then line up dolls and toys as patients.
59. See how many small objects you can fit into a matchbox.
60. After a birthday or Christmas, save the cards and
cut them in half. Give your child one half of each card and spread the
others around the room. See if they can put them back together.
61. Play a board game. Board games are something to get the whole family involved. Something like snakes and ladders will be easy enough for your little one to play as well.
62. Make an alphabet scrapbook. Cut out photos from magazines for each letter of the alphabet.
63. Peg boards or ‘Hamma’ beads keep little fingers occupied for ages at this age – just keep an eye to make sure none of them make their way into any mouths!
64. Make a homemade obstacle course in the living room or garden. Use chairs to crawl under, ropes to jump over, balls to dribble or throw into a bucket – use your imagination.
65. Ask your child to cover a piece of paper with colourful patterns, then help them fold it to make a fan.
66. Cut out a fish shape from a sheet of newspaper, about 30cm (1ft) long. Make a tube out of the rest of the newspaper. Move the fish along by beating the tube behind its tail.
67. Play dressing-up. Old hats, scarves, shoes, beads, shirts and any other cast-offs will do.
68. Take your child to buy a comic from your local newsagent.
69. Make a garden in a seed tray. Fill it with soil and add plant cut-offs and flowers. A small container lined with foil and filled with water makes a pond.
70. Make magic potions! Fill plastic bottles and pots with water, food colouring, bubble bath, glitter, petals and stir. Remind your child that she shouldn’t taste it.
71. Go on a bug hunt. Look under stones and leaves.
72. Do crayon rubbings. Coins work well, as does bark.
73. Put on some lively music and tidy their bedroom together – it makes the process much more fun.
74. Lay the table together – yes, it’s a chore for you but it’ll be more enjoyable if your little one helps you.
75.Play going to the seaside! Help find their swimsuit, sun hat, bucket and spade.