The Toddler Years Bucket List – All The Most Fun Activities to Do with Toddlers before they’re Big Kids!
Here’s how to spend quality time with your toddler!
My youngest child turned two the week of writing this! In celebration of her birthday, and because I really want to make the best of this time, I created this list of fun activities for 1, 2 and 3 year olds. Sometimes you know you want to spend quality time with your toddler, but don’t really know how. Well, have no fear!
I present the Toddler Years Bucket List!
Having a toddler around is SO busy; I don’t want to spend the toddler years in a blur and miss the best parts of this cute and funny stage – I need this list! Many of these ideas for toddler activities come from when I asked readers about favorite fun activities for 2 year olds this summer. They gave me so many wonderful things to do with toddlers. I had no idea how HAPPY reading the responses would make me!
Don’t let this list overwhelm you! Just use it to get get re-inspired when you’re feeling exhausted by things like night wakings of your 1 year old, potty training your 2 year old, or the constant mess your 3 year old leaves in her wake. The quality time ideas on the list are the some of the most fun activities to do with toddlers. Many are simple toddler activities you can do at home and you don’t have to do them all – though I think you’ll treasure any you do. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning I may receive compensation for purchases made through them.
The Toddler Year Must Do List – 50+ great ideas for how to spend quality time with your toddler
“My daughter particularly likes it went I pretend her nose makes different noises like beeping etc. Its so bonding and so fun” ~Mel, mom to a 2 year old
- “I spy” in the car or at the park
- Building towers and knocking them down
- Rolling along toy cars
- Movement Games
- Very Beginner Board Games
- Dress up
- Peek-a-boo, patty cake, hide and seek!
“Hide & seek in the house (which is really silly because it’s just basic hiding beside the bed post or behind the couch).” ~Katherine, mom to an 18 month old
- Pretend to be tigers and chase each other
- Pretend you can’t find their hands when you’re helping them get dressed
“Stomping in muddy puddles; making the most of the weather whatever it is!” ~ Lucy, mom to 3 year old
- Feeding the ducks, or chasing them…(no! don’t chase the ducks!)
- Feed a baby goat
- Fly a kite
- Walking in the rain
- Puddle splashing! Get some galoshes so you can play in the rain!
- Play outside in fresh snow. With the right gear, snow play is a blast.
“The look on my little one’s face every time he was in a toboggan was priceless!” ~Rhonda
- Hop over waves at the beach.
- Look for crabs in the rocks, starfish in the rock pools.
- Plant a spring flower to watch it grow.
- Pick fruit off of trees
- Watch a caterpillar become a butterfly
- Explore the forest, touching everything. (With obvious exceptions for oh, cactus or poison ivy naturally.)
- Play ‘look high/look low’ and see what types of creatures or plants they see.
- Run in the fields.
- Toss leaves
- Collect rocks.
“A daily afternoon pram walk, so we can talk about the gardens we see, trees, the clouds, we count the buses. We just connect, get some fresh air and if I’m lucky they have a nap ;-)” ~Caroline, mom to toddler
- Petting zoos
- A botanical garden
- An open gym day where your child can free play in the foam pit, the trampolines and the mats.
- A Children’s Museum
- Public library toddler reading time, or toddler activity hour
- Cousins, Grandparents, and Friends!
Sensory Play Activities
- Sand castles
- Playing with rice, beans or cornmeal
- Playing with those arts and crafts poms poms
- Anything messy.
- Mud pies, mud holes, mud body paint
- Give a hand or back massage with nice smelling lotion
- WATER! In the sink with containers, in the sprinkler, in a sand and water table.
- Pour and measure – add a drop of food color for fun.
- Squeeze wet sponges.
- Walk the neighborhood with a watering can and water the flowers you see.
- Long baths with their favorite bath toys, and not just for getting clean – enjoy creative bathtime play too.
- Simply getting outside to play
Find more of our favorite sensory activities for toddlers here.
Songs, Rhymes and Stories
- Read books together
- Explore Touch and feel board books
- Sing and dance
- Sing Songs with lots of movement, like “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider”, “The Wheels on the Bus”, and “Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes.
- Have spur of the moment dance parties
“My kiddo and her young friends (18 months and 2 year olds) like to wiggle to music while wearing tutu’s.” ~Katherine
- Pretend cooking in a play kitchen
- Real cooking
- Make goop, gak or slime
- Baking cookies or mixing pancakes together
- Bake banana muffins
- Have a Tea Party
- Decorating cookies with lots of sprinkles that go everywhere!
When my daughter was a 3 year old she had 2 of her friends over and we made Valentine’s cookies–the floor was solid pink with sugar and sprinkles afterward! ~The Twisting Kaleidoscope
Arts and Crafts
- Finger painting
- Pudding Paint!
- Painting with brush – these natural paints even smell like fruits for a really fun sensory experience!
- Do A Dot Art Markers
- Sidewalk chalk scribbles
- Stamping – we’ve enjoyed the stamping washable markers from Crayola since they can be used to stamp or draw, and these big letter stamps look neat for beginning letter recognition while enjoying art.
- Make handprint art – tracing, impressions in salt dough and paint handprints
- Blowing and catching bubbles
- Balloons and balls -Balloon baseball!
- Bikes, Trikes and Ride-on toys
- Knobbed Puzzles
- Do “chores” with Mama and Papa
- Push baby strollers, shopping carts or push toys
- Rough and tumble play
- Build “forts” out of boxes or couch cushions!
- Make blanket tents and tunnels
And of course: Hugs, snuggles, kisses, and have lots of playful physical interaction. So many of the most important things to do with toddlers are simple activities that take place in the home as part of day to day life.
“I adopted my boys as 21 and 23 month old boys… they are now 5.5 I would say ANY of the suggestions here, because kids just LOVE to play and experiment, but more important was the fact that I was down on the floor with them, making eye contact, laughing, sharing, and connecting with them.” ~Margaret
This is YOUR list. Thank You. Thank you for all of your beautiful ideas for how to spend quality time with your little one as well as your adorable examples. And thank you for inspiring me and so many other parents to enjoy activities, love and snuggles with our toddlers!
For more EASY and PRE-PLANNED ways to connect check out the Toddler and Preschooler Activity Plans from Hands on As We Grow! These are SOoooo useful. I wish I had them when my kids were littler.
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Lots of good ideas but regarding chasing ducks! I think children should be taught to respect nature and not make life hard for them plenty of fun can be had without causing animals distress. I am forever telling kids off for doing this and frown on parents who let there children do this
OMG chill out. Your probably holding a battery hen raise drumstick touch typing with your other hand… It annoys the birds, stress… pfft. Great list but the way Alissa!
Heather Knoflicek Woods
Thanks Jo U0001f603 always refreshing reading ideas. I’ve watched a bit of playschool this week and have got some cool craft ideas we’ll have to try!
Sarah Bates some ideas …
Its funny some of the fun adventures are random places in our local areas where we decided to explore (more fill in time). From beautiful rock pools and fairy finding in the bushes. So many great sensory experiences and fun to see them see discover things for the first time.
So nice ideas. May I translate and share this on my blog by giving your name.
My granddaughter is coming over tomorrow and I plan to keep her busy ALL DAY! Thank you so much for the great ideas
Just copy and paste into a word document and print. Quite simple really!
Focus Family Freedom
What a magical time… I remember when my now 4 year old played in snow the first time, complete joy (for him and his mum & dad)!
My 2.5 yo did today! We’re in Tahoe for the weekend.
@Brittany Hatfield so true, and depending on the duck, it maky attack the child
Terry Ellyatt Klein
Jenny Zhenichka Speyer. Here is a cute idea list for you and Miles!
We’ve done everything on this list! Woohoo
My 2 yr old thinks it’s hysterical when I hold onto to his shirttail while he walks away. He’ll come up to and pull his shirt out for me to grab. 🙂
Lots and lots of cuddles and giggles !!
Ditto others who have suggested a printable version of this list! I’d love to have this on my fridge (and other of your blog posts) when I’m looking for fun things to do with my wee girl. 🙂
I’m now pregnant of my first baby 🙂
I can’t wait to do most of these with my little one.
It reminds me of my teaching kindergarten days.
Thank you so much
Mary Jo Allen
This list makes me smile as I remember doing so many of them with my 33 and 31 year old daughters and it makes me smile even bigger as I get to do them AGAIN with two year old (tomorrow) Asher !!!!! LIFE IS GOOD….ENJOY THOSE BABIES !!!!!!
I’m a Nana with two little ones and one on the way. Your list is great. I’d love a printable version of the ideas. Thank you.
Great idea to do a printable version of the toddler years bucket list- thanks. I can’t promise it’ll happen soon, but it’s on my to do list.
Phew, proud mamma here…we have done everything on the list!!!
I would add taking videos of your kids, playing them back to them. Have them be as silly as possible. It is something you will treasure for years… and they will too.
All good ideas expect for chasing ducks. Ducks are not accustom to running, you might possible injure or break a ducks leg by doing this.
These are totally some awesome ideas to do with little kids. They only grow up once, and doing some of these things while they are little is the best thing we can do as a parent. Thank you sharing such wonderful ideas.
Great list! One activity I’ve adopted with grandchildren is “beachball catch on the stairs.” Grandma and little one sit at the bottom. Grandma throws beach ball so that it bounces back down. Little one catches it. I am constantly amazed at what a good catcher a toddler can be! Vary the size of the ball and as the child gets bigger, more balls in a faster series. A four year old can sit at the top of the stairs and try to catch the balls. Use caution! No tumbling down stairs! Bopping in the head is just funny, but a hard smack in the snoot is not!
I love the toddler list. I get to enjoy spending a day a week with each of my granddaughters, Addie is 2 and Ellie is 2 1/2 years old. They are delightful, I’m always looking for ways to make our time together memorable. Addie just turned 2 and when she realizes where she is going starts saying “Bubble, bubble!” We blow lots of bubbles, play the piano, dance and read books multiple times each visit. Ellie is my baking assistant. She does things, “By myself Gamma.” She is an amazing egg ‘cacker’. No shells in the bowl ever. Life is sweet! Thanks for the fabulous ideas.
Aw, this was such a cute list. And the pictures were adorable. I’m not sure about touching *everything* in the forest. Leaves of three, let it be!
Yes, very true – touching most things…
Great ideas, thanks for sharing!! I would also add buying unused paint brushes and “painting” the fence, outdoor toys, side of the house with a small bucket of plain water. Very fun!
First of all – great list! All simple, beautiful things to share with kids. I had forgotten about kites… going to buy one tomorrow and hope to see my two-year-old’s face light up when he sees it flying in the sky! One idea to contribute… it is so simple, and my son thinks this game is hilarious. I draw eyes on our palms with washable markers… then hold our hands palm outwards (eye out) up to your own eyes. Its a little creepy looking, but it makes him laugh hysterically.
Ha! That’s a great and simple idea! Thanks.
For some reason my son always wanted me to climb up into his ‘treehouse’ which is really the top of his wooden swing set. I finally did it one day and he absolutely loved it. It’s our special time together and he gets such a kick out of showing me all that he finds up there. I encourage moms (and dads!) to do enjoy swing sets/playgrounds once in a while. It’s therapeutic for adults also!
This list is a great reminder! Another idea: engaging in a “getting-ready” routine together (makeup, hair brushing, shaving with soap bubbles, etc.). My toddler is a girl, and she loves my makeup routine. When I put on mascara, she repeatedly says, “Eyes?!” I must then close the mascara and tap near her closed eyes to “put on” the mascara. Her favorite is the facial toner–I use the real product on myself with a cotton pad and get another one wet with water for her to rub all over her face. Her excitement and pride are totally worth the “wasted” cotton pads. She also LOVES to wear my mother-in-law’s hair curlers! It’s a bonding routine every time we visit with them.
While exploring the forest, you may not want to touch everything. Keep an eye out for poison ivy people, you don’t want your toddler to touch it!
Take a candle lit bath! At Halloween we light our jack-o’-lanterns in the bathroom and bathe in its glow. Literally!
That is genius!!
Hi Alissa, this is SUCH a comprehensive and wonderful reminder – of the importance we parents have to actually PLAY and enjoy our little ones. I am sharing this on http://www.facebook.com/ConsciousParentingApproach, as we’re running Toddler Times and I would definitely want my fans to check out your tips!! 🙂
Thank you once again and keep up the good work – I LOVE your suggestions, always!!
Great lists for inspiration! Thanks!
Judy D Cocke
It’s nice to see a lot of the things we are already doing. But more ideas added. I’m 60yr old great granny raising 2yr old twins.Need all the help I can get
I agree… I thought you were making sure your kid did all these awesome things before… Yeah. :-/
All of my grandkids loved to make “forts”. I took blankets, quilts, sheets and draped them over tables, chairs, counters and most furniture I could put together to create a multi-room cavern. We would leave it up most of the day… eat lunch (picnic), take naps, and play games in these creations. Like little rabbits in a warren…. They still talk about it and they are in their 20’s now. Funny how certain things stick with them..!!
Thanks Jennifer. That was something that crossed my mind at the time of writing it, but the term “bucket list” has become such a colloquialism that I felt it would be seen for what I meant. I’m am rethinking this morning.
I used to mail little things to my much younger sister. My step-mother would get the mail and just hand her the envelope and let her rip into it. I’d also have bigger stuff delivered by UPS. She came to associate the postman and UPS delivery guys with stuff coming from the magic mail place. It was lots of fun for both of us.
I loved this and I’m so glad to see I’ve done almost everything mentioned on this list as my twins almost turn 4. While the toddler years can be certainly difficult, it sure has been full of laughter and fun too.
Great list! Thanks for sharing!
So so sweet, thanks for sharing! Love it!
My daughter is almost 17 months and she loves to lay in the grass and look at the clouds. I point to some that resemble other shapes and she yells out “oh wow!” and points too. These little moments almost always end in some snuggle time before a nap, a tickle fest or lead to an investigation of what little critter crawled over her arm out of the grass.
No lie, As I was reading this I realized the song playing in the background of my computer is “You’re gonna miss this” by Trace Adkins
very nice list….
Really enjoyed this list! Been looking for more ways to connect with my 2 year old since his baby sister was born 3 weeks ago, will definitely be doing some of these 🙂 So much fun!
Thanks for this! My daughter will be 4 soon and I had a proud mom moment reading this because we’ve accomplished almost everything, and some things MANY times over. Great choices!!
This is a wonderful list that truly values the rich normality of everyday life for very young children. They are soaking up so much from just these kinds of at home activities!
Great list! Such a good reminder of the many fun things you can do with toddlers.