21 Fun Indoor and Outdoor Activities for Toddlers
March 9, 2020
Any parent knows that keeping toddlers busy can be a tough job! Their needs may still be pretty basic, but now that they’re no longer a baby, your toddler pretty much has to be constantly engaged and entertained—otherwise they’ll get bored, and that’s when trouble starts to brew! The good news is, you don’t have to splurge on a cartful of new toys to keep your kiddo happy. Together, you can have tons of fun with items you probably already have in your home, or take a quick trip to a kid-friendly destination nearby. Need some ideas? We’ve got plenty on our list of the best activities for toddlers, whether you’re looking to get outdoors, stay at home or head to an indoor place that protects you from the elements but still offers loads of fun.
Just a touch of creativity is all it takes to find fun activities for toddlers all around town. When the weather is less than ideal and you just can’t handle another repeat of Baby Shark, head to any one of these local spots for a one-on-one fun sesh with your toddler.
Most public libraries are a haven for parents looking for free activities for toddlers. Next time you drop by, snag a calendar and you’ll likely see events like animal exhibits, puppet shows, story time and much more. Some even host children’s concerts and magic shows. So the next time you’re stumped for things to do and short on cash, definitely give your local library a visit!
Almost every city has some sort of museum, and not just for adults! Children’s museums are of course a solid bet, but little ones are also likely to be enthralled by museums of science, natural history, art, transportation, astronomy, and so much more. The best choices will offer sensory activities for toddlers and hands-on, interactive exhibits.
A children’s concert
The idea of going to a kid’s concert might elicit a groan from you at first, but once you see your toddler dancing adorably to the music, you’ll be a convert, trust us! The performers have a knack for keeping little ones engaged with funny lyrics and spot-on dance moves that young kids love. Often, you can find gigs like these at your local mall, at an outdoor gathering place downtown or even at coffee shops after the morning rush has dwindled. While some performances do charge a nominal admission fee, many are free and accept donations as a token of your appreciation.
Speaking of the mall, it’s actually a great place to take a toddler for an entertaining morning when you’re dying to get out of the house. We know, shopping with a toddler isn’t anyone’s idea of fun—but oftentimes, malls have public play areas ripe for making new friends, while others have fun extras like carousels, children’s concerts and other special events, especially around major holidays.
Aquarium supply stores
Aquariums are fantastic for spending an afternoon indoors with your toddler, but if you there isn’t a good one near you or you don’t feel like coughing up the entrance fee (which can be pricey), here’s a surprising outing that definitely belongs on your list of indoor activities for toddlers: Seek out a local fish or aquarium supply store and let your kiddo gawk at the beautiful tropical fish and corals. From small, family-owned shops to larger chain pet stores, most carry a decent array of fish that’ll keep your little one enchanted. Just be warned, it won’t be long before they want to bring one home!
An indoor pool
Pools aren’t just for summer—at least not when they’re indoors. If you’re lucky enough to have access to a covered pool, you can be sure that swimming is one of the best indoor activities for toddlers. (Hint: Check out your local YMCA!) Bonus: Many of them offer swim lessons for even the tiniest tots, so your little one will be ready when summer rolls around.
The grocery store
The grocery store is actually ripe with indoor learning activities for toddlers. You can play I Spy games that help boost your child’s vocabulary and color and shape matching skills, or count how many potatoes are in a sack or bananas in a bunch. You might even bring along a toddler-sized shopping cart and let your little one select some groceries of their own! At the checkout line, you can discuss why certain items are great choices and why you don’t need the rest. It might take some negotiation, but giving toddlers choice over what they eat can also help overcome picky eating.
Toddlers should spend some time outside almost every day, if possible, and finding fun outdoor activities for toddlers is key to inspiring a love of the great outdoors. Here are some of our favorites.
Toddlers are endlessly fascinated with bubbles, and that’s even more the case when the bubbles are giant! We love this recipe from A New Dawnn, which uses a special ingredient to make some of the biggest bubbles you’ve ever seen. Think your toddler would get a kick out of being inside a bubble? If so, giant bubbles are a must-add to your list of outdoor activities for toddlers.
When it comes to fun activities for toddlers, simple is often best. So if you’re looking for gross motor activities for toddlers, this is one to try. Here, Jenae from I Can Teach My Child uses balls in several different sizes for a fun game of roundup. Easy, inexpensive and super fun—we’ll call this one a win!
Here’s another wonderfully simple idea that’s great to add to your list of outdoor activities for toddlers, brought to us by the Momooze site. In a large tub or bucket, place several different-sized containers filled with water. Your toddler will have a blast pouring and scooping to their heart’s content. The only caveat? You certainly won’t want to do this one indoors! (Unless, of course, it’s in the bathtub.)
Twirling ribbon sticks
If you’re looking for activities for toddlers that require almost zero forethought, these adorable twirling ribbon sticks from Happy Hooligans are for you. Assuming you’ve got some sticks in your yard, the only thing you’ll have to supply is the ribbon. Tie the string to the ends and let your little one pretend to be anything from a gold-medal gymnast to a circus performer. This is one toddler craft that’s zero percent effort and one hundred percent fun!
Play-Doh nature impressions
The best outdoor activities for toddlers are the ones that foster a love of nature. And that’s just what these Play-Doh nature impressions from Jenae at I Can Teach My Child will do. Aside from being great sensory activities for toddlers, Play-Doh games like this can teach toddlers about different textures, and they’re great fine motor activities for toddlers too. For a fun spin on this, let your kiddo take the lead on finding items to use.
Oats sensory bin
Among the best sensory activities for toddlers are sensory bins. But you’ll have to wait until your little one is closer to preschool age before you can introduce things like beads and small pastas, since they can be choking hazards for the toddler set. For now, stick with things that are okay if they end up in all the wrong places. Our pick? This oatmeal sensory bin from Twin Mom Refreshed. Fill it with trucks for your toddler to zoom, haul and plow with.
Sidewalk chalk road
Toddlers may not quite be ready for things like hopscotch or creating detailed drawings, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have fun with sidewalk chalk. One of the easiest and least expensive outdoor activities for toddlers, chalk has become a childhood staple. We love this idea from A Happy Wanderer, where she creates a town and roadway for her toddlers to play with their cars. They’ll zoom happily for hours. Who knows, you might even get a few minutes to clean your own car!
Fine motor bird feeder
Little ones seem to have a natural affinity for birds, which makes crafting a bird feeder out of a plastic bowl, string and beads a great activity for toddlers. This one can be done inside or outside (although it can get a little messy) and it’s perfect if you’re interested in fine motor activities for toddlers. Take a look at the instructions on the I Can Teach My Child blog.
Sometimes, the best activities for toddlers are low-key crafts that can be done at home. The ones you’ll find on our list are great for rainy days, times when you need to stretch the paycheck a few extra days, or when playing at home together just seems like the best thing to fill your afternoon.
Pom pom drop
Save those empty toilet paper rolls! They’ll come in handy for lots of different indoor activities for toddlers, like this one from Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean. Tape those used toilet paper rolls to a door, lining them up to create a chute, and then have your toddler drop pom poms down the chute for a fun game that teaches concepts like cause and effect.
Your toddler may not be able to read yet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some language activities for toddlers to help get them prepped for the school years to come. We love this fun poster from the ESL amplified blog featuring illustrations of hands as well as descriptors like “sticky” and “rough.” Here, you’ll collect different items and paste or tape them to the hands to give your toddler a real-life intro to textures and the words that go with them.
I Spy tray
Similar to a sensory bin but with a fun twist, this I Spy tray from Susie at Busy Toddler is a great way to teach early language skills while keeping your toddler occupied. Simply collect a bunch of random items (making sure to avoid choking hazards) and drop them into a box or tray, and then call out names of items and ask your little one to find it. Great things to use include spoons, cups, small toys and balls. If you’re in need of easy activities for toddlers at home, this one requires zero prep!
Golf tee hammering
Those wooden cobbler bench toys are a classic for a reason—toddlers love to bang on things! You can make your own at home using just a cardboard box and golf tees, another favorite from Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean. Flip the box over and give your kid some golf tees and a child-friendly mallet and let them go to town. This super-simple golf tee hammering game is one of the cleverest indoor activities for toddlers we’ve seen.
Puzzle piece hunt
Breathe new life into your toddler’s wooden puzzles with this fun puzzle piece hunt from No Time for Flashcards. Pop out all the pieces and hide them around the house. You can make as simple or as difficult as your child can handle. This cute rainy-day activity for toddlers is sure to bring on the smiles.
Giant shape hunt
Numerous studies have shown that kids benefit from playing with basic building blocks. Break out your set for this fun activity, another from the Busy Toddler blog. On a large roll of paper, trace the outline of the various building block shapes, and then have your little one match them up. If you’re on the hunt for fun activities for toddlers that will teach shapes and other lessons, like fine motor and critical thinking skills, this is a great one to add to your list.
Published December 2019
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