Toddlers love to stay busy. They are taking in so much about the world around them and constantly learning more. As moms (or other caregivers), we are always trying to support this growth as well as keep the toddler who wants be busy, busy in a productive way. As a teacher and a mother, I decided to share my top 5 favorite activities for toddlers that require little or no set up, don’t create a lot of waste, and actually keep your toddler engaged.
Research has found basic, non-electronic toys are the best to support cognitive growth and learning as they encourage children to use their imagination and problem solve.
Any outdoor space has abundant activities for little ones. One of my daughter’s favorite activities is nature collection. I provide her with a small bag or basket and she freely collects little items she’s interested in. Her favorites are stones, sticks, and fallen leaves.
My favorite activities are activities that can turn into extended projects as research has shown children stay more engaged and learn more from child-lead, project-based learning. Some examples would be sorting the items together after collection, using the items for an art project, or reading a book about Autumn after looking at collected fallen leaves.
Painting is one of my daughter’s favorite activities we do indoors. It gives her a lot of room for creativity and artistic expression. We paint paper on a canvas, used cardboard boxes, nature items (i.e. Stones and leaves), and dishes.
For a mess free activity, use water on dark colored paper or boxes. You can let the paper dry and use it again!
Along with water painting, you can use ANY water activity to keep your toddler entertained. A few ideas: a sprinkler, a small water bin with scoops, washing babies or cars, and
Who needs TV when you can just watch bugs! Although you need to make sure your toddler is ready for this activity and can gently engage with some of the understanding bugs are living as well, this activity requires no setup and is endlessly entertaining and sparks endless curiosity. Bug watching is a great activity for attempting to start project based learning or unschooling as it sparks questions and interest in different topics.
To start, just flip a rock and show your toddler there is lots of life under rocks! This could go a myriad of directions from creating shoe box “habitats” to note taking, to learning the science of different types of bugs.
Cardboard boxes have endless uses. It is probably the best toy to provide a toddler. You can color, cut, move, or make believe with a box. My little loves to decorate them as houses for her babies or play “cave” with her stuffed animals.
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