Got an energetic toddler at home? Try some of these free toddler activities to keep him busy and happy!
Holy moly, y’all! People try to tell you that chasing a toddler is a lot of work. But seriously. It can be a LOT of work! My son is fast, and he’s busy. The days of setting him down with a toy while I load the dishwasher or fix myself a cup of coffee seem long gone.
Instead of giving up all hopes of a clean kitchen and hot coffee, I decided to find some activities for my 14-month-old toddler besides terrorizing our cat or pulling all of my clothes out of the dresser one t-shirt at a time. These are some of the free toddler activities that I’ve been using to keep him busy long enough to reclaim some order in my life without boring him.
15 Free Toddler Activities
1. Sensory Activity Box – Your kid has probably seen you pull wipes out of a box at least five times a day since he was born, and he will love the chance to mimic this grown-up activity!
2. Water Bottle Sensory Toys – These toys can be quiet or noisy, depending on how you make them. We have one of each, so I can have a little bit of peace if I need it.
3. Water Play – You don’t need a fancy water table to let your child splash and pour. Grab large metal bowls or an empty Rubbermaid tub, and fill ‘er up. On cold or rainy days, I’ve even stripped my kid down and stuck him in the tub with a small water container to play. Caveat: do NOT leave your kid unattended during water play. Fix that coffee ahead of time, then sit back, sip, and watch your toddler have a blast!
4. Felt Playset – Bust your stash of recycled felt and make a playset to keep your toddler entertained at home or on the road. For free!
5. Edible Play Dough – Younger toddlers tend to eat all of the things they play with. These edible homemade play doughs are the perfect free activity, because they’re made from kitchen ingredients that you probably already have on hand. With young toddlers, just make sure you keep a close eye, so they don’t shove a chokable sized handful of this stuff into their mouths.
6. Plastic Egg Matching Game – Got some plastic eggs left over from Easter? Try variations on these fun learning games. You might do shapes and colors instead of letters for younger kids.
7. Cardboard Box – We recently got a box of kid clothes from a friend, and maybe it took us way too long to sort through it. My son loved playing with the flaps on top of the box and pulling pieces of clothing out. It made a big mess, but it also kept him busy long enough for me to get a load of laundry going. I call that a successful toddler activity!
8. Obstacle Course – If your toddler still crawls, create an indoor obstacle course with pillows and sofa cushions. I do this for my son on rainy days, and he basically spends the next 30 minutes doing laps around the living room while I sip some coffee and watched. As you can tell, I am very motivated by an activity that allows me to drink a cup of coffee.
9. Musical Spool Table – Check out construction sites in your area for these big wooden spools that hold cable, and check out how to make an awesome musical play station for your toddler.
10. Empty Plastic Jugs – Last time I finished off a jug of white vinegar I rinsed it out, put the lid into the recycle bin, and gave it to my child. I think he likes that it looks heavier than it is, because it’s huge but empty. Whatever it is, he throws that sucker all over the room. He also likes the sound it makes when I blow into the top of it, but he won’t try that himself yet.
11. Garden Tic Tac Toe – Got chalk? Got rocks that are too big to choke on? You’ve got a toddler game!
12. Homemade Puzzles – Turn an old cereal box into a puzzle! You can leave it as-is or draw your own design on the unfinished side. I will tell you up front that younger toddlers are just going to chew on the cardboard at first. You can try to show them how the puzzle works or just let them have at it.
13. Empty Pot Stacking Game – My girlfriend Mandy discovered this game by accident while working in the garden with her toddler. After planting her seedlings, her baby started sorting and stacking the empty plastic pots. Last time we had a play date, they were his favorite outside toy!
14. Cardboard Play Kitchen – Build a play kitchen from an old cardboard box or two and stock it with unbreakable pots, pans, and bowls from your own pantry.
15. Paper Tube Ball Drop – Empty paper towel or toilet paper tubes make a vertical ball drop – just make sure that your ball is small enough to fit and that your baby is past the putting-everything-into-his-mouth phase. That’s a technical term.
I’d love to hear from you other crafty mamas! What free toddler activities does your little one enjoy? I’m always looking to expand my repertoire.
photos by Becky Striepe