This List of 51 Toddler Activities Will Keep Your Little Ones Entertained For Hours
Toddlers are an interesting bunch. They're more mobile (read: active) and begin coming into their own. Sometimes, they're keen to snuggle and contact nap with you, and it's fun to soak in the cuddles for as long as possible.
But when toddlers are awake, it can feel like you're attempting to contain the human version of the Tasmanian Devil. That's natural. Toddlers are naturally curious as they discover the world around them. They're also much more mobile than the tiny (let's be honest, slightly blobby) newborn you brought home from the hospital a year or two ago. The attempt to keep toddlers entertained can feel overwhelming and like you've turned into the recreation director of your family.
It doesn't need to be like that, though. While active and a bit mischievous, toddlers are often content with the simplest of activities, such as dance parties, taking time to stop and smell the roses, and learning how to get dressed. Plus, these activities serve as reminders to us as parents to also stop and smell the aforementioned roses.
So, we rounded up 51 toddler activities that can keep your little one occupied and entertained. We gathered indoor toddler activities and outdoor ones; activities centered around engaging toys and ones you can try without buying anything new. This list is good for hours of fun.
Indoor Toddler Activities
- Reading. Whether you're turning the pages of a sweet bedtime story like "Goodnight Moon" or prepping them for a new sibling with "Peter's Chair," getting lost in a good book together fosters a love of reading and learning.
- Dance party. Sometimes, it can seem like your toddler has boundless energy. Help them get it out by jamming out to anything from Elmo to true classics like '90s boy bands and Britney. Listening to music may improve the parent-child relationship.
- Play some music. Melissa & Doug's Band in a Box ($26) can help you and your little one make music of your own.
- Cleaning. Your little one may be too young to request an allowance. But letting a toddler help out with small things, like wiping down a table with a sponge cut to accommodate tiny hands, empowers them. And it can be fun — as long as you're not expecting a spotless finish.
- Indoor climbing toy. Bring outdoor playgrounds in with climbing toys like a pickler triangle with a slide and climbing wall, like the Lily & River Little Climber Pikler Triangle With Rockwall/Slide ($485).
- Play-Doh. Yup, the classic activity from your own childhood is still a favorite. Help kids mold shapes, combine colors, and resist the urge to put it in their mouth. This Play-Doh Modeling Compound 10-Pack Case ($8) is a good place to start.
- Puppet shows. Little ones will be wildly entertained by all the voices and skits you come up with. Older toddlers may come up with their own. You can use socks or construction-paper puppets, or go with a store-bought option. Melissa & Doug's Safari Buddies Hand Puppets ($38) are plushy and inviting.
- Library programs. Your area may have cool open-play spots that cost a pretty penny for an hour. But local libraries often offer free programs like circle and story time. Bonus: these events are a great place to meet other nearby caregivers.
- Build a couch fort. You can make a real one (from actual sofa cushions) like you did as a kid. Or, opt for the parent group-favorite Nugget ($249), which is a cinch to clean and much more versatile.
- Cook together. Even toddlers can help in the kitchen with simple activities, such as measuring scoops of ingredients. These steps refine motor skills and serve as early math lessons. Montessori learning towers — like the Piccalio Mini Chef Convertible / Helper Tower ($199) — are all the rage, but toddlers who are steady on their feet can use a normal step stool.
Outdoor Toddler Activities
- Nature walk. Activities don't have to be complicated. Find a local trail or even just walk around the block, pointing out types of trees, animals, and flowers as you go (make sure to smell those flowers).
- Plant a garden. Whether you're growing food you'll eat during the summer or pretty flowers, planting a garden is a great way to get your hands dirty together. It also creates a bonus activity: checking on the garden's progress throughout the growing season.
- Water play. Splish, splash. You don't have to have a pool to engage in water play. A water table, like the Step2 Rain Showers Splash Pond Water Table ($90), is a warm-weather staple for many families.
- Play ball. Soccer is a popular first sport for tiny tots and is about to take center stage during the World Cup. Keep it fun as you give your toddler something they can kick in the backyard. This Little Tikes Easy Score Soccer Set Game ($40) comes with a small ball, net, and pump.
- Fly a kite. It's a quintessential spring/summer pastime.
- Head out for a run. Work out while your child is contained and enjoying the outdoors (or napping). Jogging strollers ensure parents get physical activity aside from chasing around their little ones.
- Bubbles. In not-so-breaking news, little kids love bubbles. Consider getting a bubble machine (or dolphin) like the Kidzlane Bubble Maker Machine ($25).
- Balance bike. An alternative to pedal bikes, balance bikes require a child to move the bike with their feet and teach body awareness. (USA Cycling says they're a valid way to start a kid on a bike).
- UPick. Picking season isn't just for apples and pumpkins these days. Tulips are big in the spring, and sunflowers, berries, and peaches come in season in the winter. Check to see what your area offers.
- Holiday home tours. You don't have to live in a big city with local attractions or head to a local museum to find fun things to do. Sometimes, the coolest sights come courtesy of your neighbors. From winter holiday lights to patriotic 4th of July setups, make a habit of celebratory adventures throughout your 'hood (even when it means bundling up).
Toddler Learning Activities
- Head to a local farm. Local farms allow toddlers and families to see and learn about animals and pick out local produce for future meals.
- Shape sorting. Shape sorters — like the Fisher-Price Stacking Toy ($10) — teach spatial awareness and work on motor skills.
- Sort household items. You don't even really need a shape sorter to teach your kids about things that are the same and different. So many household items work, from coins to different types of produce.
- Coin box. Real coins are not required — wooden ones like the Adena Montessori Coin Box ($19) are a staple in Montessori homes. Like shape sorting, they refine motor skills.
- Nature arts and crafts. Consider combining a nature walk with creative fun. Pick up leaves, acorns, twigs, or pine cones, and create art together.
- Aquarium. A trip to a local aquarium is more than just a way to keep a toddler entertained. They can start to learn about marine life and the world under the sea.
- Feed a pet. Young toddlers can start to get involved in helping with the family pet. Having them scoop and pour in kibble or bring you the water when it's empty teaches them about caring for someone else (and math if you count scoops together).
- Emotional awareness. Learning how to identify emotions sets the table for relationships and can help minimize toddler meltdowns. Slumberkins' books tackle an array of issues that bring up big feelings, from divorce to conflict resolution.
- Mix colors with food coloring. Breathe new life into the food coloring you bought to make Easter eggs. Fill a few cups with water and drop different colors into it, showing your child how, for instance, blue and yellow combine to make green.
- Set the table. Older toddlers can put their own plates and silverware out. You can even teach them to safely carry yours (or put napkins out for the family if you're uncomfortable with that).
Solo Toddler Activities
- Posting. Montessori emphasizes child-led, independent play, and posting — in other words, the practice of placing one object inside another via a small opening — is a hallmark activity. Lovevery includes them in their Babbler Play Kit ($120 per kit to subscribers), or you can find a solo posting toy, such as the Montessori Toy Carrot Harvest Game ($17).
- Stacking rings. Younger toddlers may be better at taking the rings off than putting them back on. However, rainbow stacking rings like Melissa & Doug Rainbow Stacking Rings ($11) — with their bright colors and opportunities to hone motor skills — make a great, noise-free solo toddler activity.
- Peg puzzles. Peg puzzles are easier for a toddler to manipulate, so they're less likely to ask for help.
- Bring the farm to you. Can't get to a farm? A play one in your home will allow your toddler to play independently. As they get older, they may begin to mimic the sounds the animals make — a sign of language development. The Fisher Price Little People Set ($43) is a beloved pick.
- Duplo. Larger, colorful blocks make building easier for toddlers and aren't choking hazards. You can find sets anywhere, but the My First Number Train Toy ($20) can grow with your toddler, offering chances for building now and number lessons later.
- Look at picture books. Little kids may be unable to read, but they can immerse themselves in picture books.
- Play dress up. Toddlers can entertain themselves by trying on hats, sunglasses, boas, and slip-on shoes in front of a mirror. Bonus: this activity lays the foundation for practical care later on.
- Busy boards. Have a toddler who loves to open and close things, untie your shoelaces, and play with locks and keys? A busy board will keep them engaged. The DeMoca Busy Board ($40) is one highly rated pick.
- Listen to music. Though listening to music together can build your bond, little ones can also tune in on their own. Put some on your computer or Alexa and let your child jam out or wind down.
- Threading. Another Montessori classic, stringing large beads build motor skills and can introduce kids to shapes, colors, and patterns. You can use yarn and household objects to create your own activity, or use a toy like Melissa & Doug Primary Lacing Beads ($10).
Travel Toddler Activities
- Take a nap. Enough said.
- Count things. Give your child a specific thing to look out for, such as airplanes, birds, and trucks.
- Look for things by color. How many green things can you see? Even in the dead of winter, you may spot evergreens, green cars, and garbage trucks.
- Carpool Karaoke. James Corden may be leaving The Late Late Show, but you and your family can engage in your own version of carpool Karaoke.
- Deep breathing. If your child is impatient, work with them on taking big, deep breaths. It's a great, on-the-go way to focus on emotional regulation.
- Give them a busy book. Don't feel like lugging a busy book to your final destination? Quiet book versions like the DeMoca Quiet Book ($50) nix "are-we-there-yets."
- Let them play with window clings. Bring stickies-on-the-go. Kids can take them on and off the windows in the car (as long as it's not too distracting to the driver) or on a plane, and again in a hotel room.
- Bring sticker books. Sticker books with big stickers, especially ones with beloved characters like Elmo or items like cars, make for a screen-free activity while traveling.
- Dry-erase books. Unlike coloring books, you can wipe these books clean and reuse them.
- Pack a fidget toy or popper. These toys are especially helpful for kids who get anxious in the car.
- Window markers. Let your little one be a rebel with something they can't do at home: draw on car windows with erasable markers, like these Chalkola Liquid Chalk Markers ($26).