Keeping toddlers engaged for long periods of time is a challenge for most parents. Before you hand out the iPad, here are some easy low prep indoor activities for toddlers.
I work from home and our 3-year-old doesn’t go to playschool. So, if you are wondering how I keep him busy, read on.
We have our own little system of work and play that suits his interests. I believe in child-led learning and exploration. Most times I am only providing him with the tools and he uses and learns with them in a child led way. There is no forcefulness, no pressure to learn concepts or to complete an activity if he doesn’t like it, and no strict rules on how to play.
All play in our home is explorative and imaginative.
For a 2-3-year-old my focus is on sensory activities, imaginative play, development of fine motor skills, art and craft and introduction of educational concepts through some educational activities.
As I mentioned earlier, I create a safe space for my son to play his games in, introduce these activities and tools, give minimal instructions where needed and then just let him use his hands and imagination to play.
All play is learning. This method has benefitted our son immensely. He enjoys his play environment and has learned key life skills through play.
In a previous post on screen-free activities, I already covered some of these activities and how I keep screentime to a minimum in our home. The following list includes activities from the old list and some new activities that a 2-3-year-old can easily do at this learning stage.
All of these indoor activities for toddlers are low prep and don’t require you to posses DIY skills or be a Pinterest mom.
Let’s get started.
LOW PREP INDOOR ACTIVITIES FOR TODDLERS
Sensory Play For Toddlers
- Sensory Bins
Our son loves sensory bins. I usually use materials from our pantry, some cups, spoons in different sizes and voila a 20-minute coffee break for mama is set up.
Do not leave the toddler alone with such sensory bins. Vigilance is needed. So if you are a work from home mom, you can make a small set up close to your laptop and monitor the play.
Sensory bins provide much-needed exposure to different textures and sensory feedback. Add in a few cups and create a pouring activity on the side that helps with hand-eye coordination and motor skills.
Read here to learn more about the benefits of sensory play in child development.
Here are some of our favorite sensory bin activities:
- Water play
What kid doesn’t like playing with water. This is a simple activity that requires a jug of water and a few cups. The toddler can practice pouring water in different cups.
Sometimes we change it up and build a Car wash station. All you need is baby friendly soap, a big box, and some water. Create a soapy foam. Then give the child a scrubber and his cars to wash. I also add cups and spoons so that he can practice pouring after the car washing activity.
Toddlers love these water games and each of these sensory activities can keep them busy for a good 20-30 mins.
- Play with dough
Can’t say enough about play-doh. Play-doh gives children the opportunity to use their hands, improves fine motor skills and encourages creativity.
We use the classic play-doh, but you can also make homemade play-doh.
Fine-motor Skills Activity For Toddlers
We make use of fine motor skill-based toys and activities to help develop this key skill. Fine motor skills are the first step towards developing writing skills.
Here is a list of toys for fine-motor skill development.
Activities for fine-motor skills
5. Making Pasta Necklace
Use some raw pasta and some thread to build pasta necklaces.
7. Cutting activity with scissors
Draw lines on a piece of paper for the child to practice cutting. Once the child is good at cutting, you can draw zig-zag lines or different shapes for them to further develop fine motor skills. Here is a great scissor skills practice book for kids.
8. Sorting Pom Poms
We love this Learning resources set for fine motor activities. The toddler-friendly tweezers can be used to sort pom poms into different color groups. Simple activities like these not only develop fine motor skills but also teach the toddler color recognition.
Art and Craft For Toddlers
10. Leaf painting
Collect different types of leaves on your next nature walk and bring them back home for some leaf painting activity.
This activity provides an opportunity to talk about the different types of trees, their leaves, the life cycle of a plant.
11. Vegetable painting
You can make use of vegetables like potatoes and okra for some painting activities too. Let the child use his creativity and come up with different designs using these simple natural materials.
12. Art and craft based on a favorite book
I draw out scenes from his current favorite storybook and ask him to color it. Safe, non-toxic finger paints or toddler friendly chunky crayons are the best. They not only provide a rich sensory experience but also help with fine motor skills development.
Get a 10% discount on all Dabble Play Art non-toxic, eco friendly art supplies. Use code DM09 at checkout. My personal favorites are their finger paints.
Sometimes we look for free printable activities for toddlers based on his favorite books.
Here is an activity we did recently based on one of his favorite books – Polar Bear, Polar Bear
13. Sand tracing
A sand tray allows the child to trace the alphabet and numbers providing a sensorial experience along with fine motor skill development. Here is a video to understand how to set up this learning activity.
Imaginative And Pretend Play For Toddlers
Pretend play is huge in our home. Toddlers love mimicking adults and adult activities. Some pretend play and open-ended toys are a must-buy for this stage of toddler development. You can select toys that match the child’s interest.
14. Play Kitchen
Here is a review and our experience using the Hape Play Kitchen
15. Teepee Tent
Here is a review and our experience using the Cuddly Coo Teepee Tent.
17. Costumes of the child’s favorite characters
18. Child’s interest-based pretend play toys like Doctor set, Teacher set, doll house, or car park
Educational Activities For Toddlers
Ages two and up is a great time to get started on educational concept learning. At this stage only focus on exposure not how much is being learned. Learning happens in time with consistent exposure to concepts, correlation, and conversation.
Here are some educational activities for toddlers
20. Sing songs & Dance: Sing Nursery rhymes, different cultural songs, the ABC’s song. Simple song and dance teach little children a lot about language, life around them, rhythm, and movement.
21. Read books on a variety of subjects: Incorporate books on a variety of subjects and in different formats for the toddler. Read here to know more about the benefits of reading daily to your kids. Here are a few age-appropriate book lists for toddlers
A conversation about the child’s topics of interest, pointing out to objects of interest build the child’s knowledge base on different topics. Answer the child’s question in an in-depth manner. When you don’t know about something, research the subject, find books and figure out ways to explain it to the child in a simple way.
23. Subscription boxes
When I am running out of creativity and looking for learning activities I rely on children’s subscription boxes. Some of our favorite ones are:
- Firstcry Intellikit
- Hobby Ideas
24. Cooking with kids
Cooking teaches children so many concepts. They learn about different fruits, vegetables, measurements, counting, and practice motor skills too.
Here is an article on the importance of cooking with toddlers. It includes tips on how to get started and a few easy recipes to make with your toddler at home.
Everyday Routine Tasks For Toddlers
25. Home chores
When looking for activities for toddlers at home, chores are the first place to get started. Toddlers want to be more independent and in many ways, we rob them of opportunities to be truly independent around the house because of our fear of messes.
Allowing them to be more involved in the day to day activities around the house is not only a great way to keep them engaged but is also teaching them key life skills and making them more self-reliant.
Baby proof the house and make sure that the area is safe for your toddler to navigate.
Then give them simple instructions on each activity, guide them through the steps and let them have a go at it.
Here is a post on simple toddler chores to get started with when planning activities for toddlers at home.
Helping out around the house is the simplest way to build confidence in kids and make them feel like a part of the family unit.
That’s how we keep our son engaged at home. If you try any of these indoor activities for toddlers, do write to me and tell me how it went.
How do you keep your toddler busy when you work? Maybe your tips can help fellow moms. Comment and let us know.