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I’m always thinking of ways to keep my toddler busy. As I was thinking about this upcoming school year, I began to wonder how I’ll keep my 2 year old busy while I’m teaching lessons to my preschooler. There are activities that I’ll include my toddler in, such as sensory bin time. However, when I’m doing an actual lesson, I want to be free from distraction, as much as possible. I know that may be unrealistic, but I also know there are activities that my toddler can do independently. That’s why I came up with a list of 20 ways to keep toddlers busy. It’s going to be a good list for me to keep in mind and I hope it will help you as well!
(Side note: I always make sure my toddler is next to me so I can watch them. If your child puts objects in their mouth, some of these ideas would not be good to play with. Please use discretion.)
1. Color Matching Game
This game using colorful pom poms is perfect for toddlers! You will need to introduce this game to them before just letting them play independently. My toddler plays this game ALL the time. Check out this post for more details.
Playdough is great. I like to put it on a tray or cutting board to contain the mess. I love playdough because kids can be creative and it also builds strength in their hands for fine motor skills. We use homemade playdough, and we especially love our jello playdough. You can find the recipe here.
3. Pipe Cleaners and Colander
Have your toddler stick pipe cleaners in the holes of a colander. This is excellent for practicing fine motor skills!
4. Shape Sorter
I made our own shape sorter using soft shapes from Michaels and an oatmeal container. We get this activity out frequently and keeps my little one occupied for a long time! For more details, see this post.
5. Contact Paper Art
6. Paint in Bags
Place paint in a gallon sized Ziploc bag. Seal the bag, then tape them to a window. Let your toddler move the paint around in the bag using their fingers. (FYI: This activity usually goes pretty quick for my toddler.)
Set up a pack ‘n play and put books and stuffed animals inside. Let them play quietly. This may take some training for them play independently (and quietly!), but if you work with them starting out for just a few minutes playing in there per day, they can work their way up to 20+ minutes.
8. Play with Puzzles
Gather some easy puzzles for your toddler to complete. We use Melissa and Doug Puzzles and they are easy enough for my toddler to do on his own.
9. Pom Poms Through a Tube
I love this activity! Just take a paper towel tube and tape it to the wall. Then have your toddler drop pom pomsthrough it into a bowl. It sounds so simple, but my toddler really loves it! And the best part is how quiet this activity is.
10. Race Cars on Tape
Create a race track using masking tape on the floor. Then let your little one play quietly with cars on the track.
11. Fabric Scrap Box
Cut up pieces of fabric and place them in an empty wipes container. Have your toddler pull the scraps out and then put them back in. This is great for practicing fine motor skills. For more on this, see this post.
12. Magnets on Fridge
Simply have your toddler stick magnets on the fridge. We use alphabet letters and magnetic pom poms. I really like these foam alphabet letters.
13. Cotton Balls
Let your child play with cotton balls. They can sort them in an ice cube tray. This is also a very quiet activity. They can also have fun tearing the cotton balls a part, which can get messy!
14. Corner for Toys
Tape off a section of the floor for them to sit in. Also tape a spot where you place a bucket of toys. Have them stay in the taped off section for play time. This may take some training, so start off trying this for a few minutes at a time.
15. Bubble Wrap
Have your toddler pop bubble wrap. This one can get noisy, but if you need a quick activity for your toddler to do, this would be great! Just please make sure you watch them because this can be a choking hazard.
This is a simple activity, but have them color. Sometimes we get our window markers and I let them color on the windows.
18. Pipe Cleaners in a Tube
This is just like #9, but use pipe cleaners to put through a paper towel tube. My toddler actually came up with this activity. He loves it!
19. Pipe Cleaner Sprinkles
This activity is simply cutting up pipe cleaners (into 2 inch pieces) and have your toddler poke them through the holes in a parmesan container. This is awesome for working on fine motor skills!
20. Sensory Balloon Bugs
We made sensory balloon bugs a while back and they are a huge hit. When I want my toddler to play quietly, I get these out and let him play with them. To learn more about them, see this post. Once again, please use discretion with this activity. If your child puts a lot of objects in their mouth, this may not be a good activity for them.