My favorite things to do with toddlers (as you can see from the Toddler Years Must Do List) don’t require much prep or fuss. Here are five such activities that are simple to set up.
I like to start with connection activities to “fill the bucket” to meet my child’s need for connection. Then I have a few interesting activity ideas ready to go that my toddler can do with more independence. This gives me a chance to do my own tasks without a toddler clinging to my legs.
I always say this, but please only choose activities you are comfortable supervising. You know your child best and can choose activities that will suit their level of play and ability to keep things out of their mouth.
Mama and Me Handprint Coloring
Trace your hand and your toddler’s hand on a piece of paper. This is a nice activity that can start with some connection as you trace and color together. You may either continue to color the whole picture together, or allow your toddler to take over the decorating.
Baby Doll Bedtime
Most toddlers love to do bedtime pretend play since bedtime features so many important rituals in their own life. You can grab a few blankies or scarves, dolls or stuffed animals, and perhaps a few baskets and set your tot on the task of tucking them all into bed. Finally you can bring out a few stories like Goodnight Moon or Good Night, Kim and Carrots (a big favorite here as it is simply the story of a gentle bedtime routine with a toddler) and see if your toddler wants to “read” them a story.
You can join in the pretend play as much or as little as you want – my daughter, with a set up like this, will head off into her own world and doesn’t need me to interfere
Pipe Cleaners, Beads and a Collander
This is a great fine motor skills activity. Your toddler can push pipe cleaners into the holes, then try stringing beads onto to pipe cleaners.
First we had fun smooshing beans INTO the playdough. Then I asked if she could get the beans OUTof the playdough. This photo was taken nearly a year ago – I bet she’d have more patience now, but even at 18 months this really intrigued her.
Water, of course is an instant exciting play activity. We have a list of easy and toddler water play to do on the patio. Indoors, on a towel on the kitchen floor my toddler mixes up a potion while I start making dinner. I give a couple drops of food coloring sometimes to add interest as the colors mix.
If you’d like more simple toddler play ideas:
- Engaging Toddler Activities from the Recycle Bin
- 5 Quiet Toddler Activities for Independant Play
- Toddler Activities that Require No Setup! From Hands On as We Grow
About the Author
Alissa is a resilience coach, cartoonist, and advocate for ‘connection, not perfection’. She’s dedicated to helping others find a sense of safety and belonging inside themselves so they can heal, connect, and build authentic, joyful lives.