Activity ideas for toddlers

Activity ideas for toddlers

Below are a series of fun and easy activities that you can do with your toddler.


  • Make some playdough and practise squishing, flattening, stretching, banging and piling it (emphasise these words as you play to help develop your toddler’s vocabulary). Add small plates and cups if your toddler enjoys cooking play (and some toys to feed), or animals or vehicles, according to their interest.
  • Practise cutting with child-safe scissors. Try cutting playdough sausages, which are sure to guarantee success. One fun way to present a cutting activity it to stick playdough sausages on a doll as pretend hair for your toddler to cut.

Finger Paint

  • Make some taste-safe finger paint: Mix 4 tbsps flour with enough water to make a thick paste, add 1 cup boiling water and stir. Heat gently while stirring until it thickens (it should have the consistency of custard). Separate into several containers and add food colouring to make different colours. Cool completely. This finger paint will store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Fun with water 4 ways

  • Pouring water. Set up lots of jugs and containers for pouring. Colour water with food colouring, and offer implements such as measuring spoons and cups, whisks, ice cube trays, sieves and funnels as well as plenty of bowls, containers and dishes. White bowls and margarine containers will make it easiest to observe colour-mixing. Toddlers love to practise pouring!
  • Give toddlers a bucket of water and a wide paintbrush and encourage them to paint the deck, the outside of the house and so on.
  • Washing. Set up bowls of soapy water with brushes, flannels, and towels and give the dolls or other favourite toys a bath. You can even wash the dolls’ clothes. Grab an empty squeezy bottle from the recycling and fill with water and a dash of dishwashing liquid to be shampoo.
  • Use water to stick foam shapes to a window. Or stick some contact paper onto a window or another surface, sticky side up. Then invite your toddler to create a collage by sticking things to it. They might also enjoy pulling them off again!


  • Tape some thin, bendy card to the floor in the shape of a bridge to make little tunnels to roll balls or push cars through. Which balls/vehicles will fit? How many can you get through the tunnel?
  • Set up a tunnel (you can make one out of a cardboard box or two joined together if you don’t have one). Put toys inside to play with or find out what you can roll through the tunnel. Lead a tunnel to a small space or den filled with cushions and books and have a cosy storytime. 


  • Create a large square on a hard floor using masking tape. Scatter some leaves or plastic bricks on the floor and encourage your toddler to sweep them back into the square.

By Dr Vicki Hargraves


Dr Vicki Hargraves

Vicki runs our early childhood webinar series and also is responsible for the creation of many of our early childhood research reviews. Vicki is a teacher, mother, writer, and researcher living in Marlborough. She recently completed her PhD using philosophy to explore creative approaches to understanding early childhood education. She is inspired by the wealth of educational research that is available and is passionate about making this available and useful for teachers.

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