Babies who are quickly growing into toddlers are a busy group who like to play all day! When he was about 12-18 months old, I was searching for creative ideas that I could pull together or easily make for my son to play with. Ideally, I wanted to worth with materials that we could re-use from around the house. I wanted more options than the toys we had available, and I wanted some activities that would make him think.
Luckily, I found some ideas that were just right! We have enjoyed hours of independent play time with the following list of activities, and I can heartily recommend that your child will likely love them too. (Note that little ones must always be supervised, and though my son plays on his own with these things, I always keep a watchful eye over him!)
1 No-Cook Long-Lasting Play Dough, from Paging Fun Mums!
This was my first time making play dough, and (surprise, surprise) as a mom with a tiny toddler at her feet during the day, I was looking for an easy and quick recipe to try! To my delight, this play dough was indeed simple to make, my son could happily help to measure and dump the ingredients into the bowl, and it has lasted for months of good play time. We stored it in a plastic food storage container, and when it dried out a bit over time, I just added a little bit of water and kneaded it up again, and we played some more!
2 Color Sorting Fine Motor Stick Activity
This was inspired by the Lolly Stick In-Out Toy by the imagination tree and revised to add a color matching element to suit our desires. Using some simple wood craft sticks (like these), an empty yogurt container and color markers, you have yourself a color-learning, fine-motor-skill-sharpening, toddler puzzle. My son enjoyed this when he was small and sitting in his high chair, and he still pulls it out from time to time now, at two years old.
My husband insisted that we label the “pink” as “magenta,” and what I was going to call “light blue,” he assured me should be “turquoise.” When my son was a year old, I thought this was a stretch, but you know what, he was right. Keep expanding those little minds…
3 Pom Poms Pick Up and Drop
This one is as simple as pouring the colorful, fuzzy craft pom poms onto a table or the floor and letting your toddler use a pair of tongs to pick them up. We use these pom poms and these ice tongs. The little tongs are just the right size for little hands to manipulate.
My son’s favorite items to include with this game are empty egg cartons (just so many compartments to put the pom poms into) and empty plastic yogurt jars and coffee cans. At times, he has also had fun dropping the pom poms through cardboard tubes. The possibilities here are vast!
4 Water Beads Touch and Scoop
Now here’s something I never knew about before all the lovely blogging folks told me about them. Water beads have proved to be only a little messy and incredibly interesting for my toddler son and my toddler nephew in their world of play. It’s a unique sensory experience to feel the water beads in your hands, and to drop them, scoop them, see them bounce, see how the colors change in the light and the water. We have been using these water beads.
These are meant for decoration, and you truly must supervise with utmost care during play with water beads, but it’s worth it I promise, and they are pretty fun for adults to play with, too. We get them out only once in a while, and we play with them either in a large plastic storage tote (when we’re inside) or in the water table (when we’re outside). When we are outside, sometimes I add some extra water into the water table as well to change up the play.
It takes a little bit of time to get the water beads ready for play. They are tiny plastic balls when you buy them, then you need to soak them in water for several hours until they expand into their full size and texture. We are still working on this package of water beads. We have only made some and will have more to use in the future.
5 Dry Beans or Wine Corks Construction Site
I have saved for last the most simple activity of all. For all its simplicity, it does not lack in interest or longevity.
Option 1: Buy two bags of dry beans. Don’t cook them. Pour them into a large plastic storage tote with low sides. Provide your son or daughter with one or more construction type toy trucks (dump truck, excavator…you know the ones). Let your little one scoop and dump those beans till his heart is content!
Option 2: Don’t even go to the store for beans. You know that collection of wine corks you have sitting on the shelf? Dump those into the aforementioned large plastic storage tote, and let your toddler move them around with his construction trucks, load up dump trucks, fun fun fun.
The beans and corks are also fun to drop into jars and cans. Beans are great for scooping and dumping with measuring cups, too. This is easy fun, folks!
By the way, I must mention that this little set of construction trucks has been one of my son’s favorite and most versatile toys since he received them as a gift on his first birthday. If you don’t have something like this yet, I highly recommend them for your little one, too!
What creative activities does your young toddler enjoy? Would your son or daughter enjoy these activities, too? Comment on this post and let me know!