February 19, 2015

20 simple and fun ideas for your toddler

Not gonna lie. This one’s for me. I currently have about 50 tabs open on fun activities to do with babies/toddlers between 14-16 months, and wanted to summarize them for myself and my husband. So I thought to myself, Hm. Where should I make this list? Microsoft Word? OneNote? Email? …I wish I could just put it on my blog so either Ben or I could find it really quickly on our phones whenever we needed. Oh heyyy… there’s an idea. I do actually search stuff on my own blog (especially recipes) pretty frequently, so I decided to compile my list here for me and for you :).

Anyone with a young child (or expecting to have one in the future) can benefit from this list! Experienced parents, pleasepleasePLEASEpleaseplease add ideas to the comments below! You of all people know how wonderful it is to come across a tried-and-true activity to change up the long afternoons with our little ones!

I sorted the activities into easy, medium, and hard. The easy activities are things you can do pretty much anywhere, anytime. They require little to no purchases or material preparation. The medium activities are still fairly simple, but require you to dig up some materials (scarves, clothespins) or purchase others (blocks, bubbles). Once you have the materials, though, you can consider it one of your “easy” activities. The hard activities are more involved– for the parent. They require more preparation (finger paints), cost (sand and water table) and/or clean-up. They are the kind of activities I would choose on my more ambitious days.


  1. Let baby shred junk mail. They like shredding stuff, and it’s cheap!
  2. Turn out the lights and play with a flashlight.
  3. Dance to music. We usually listen to the Gymboree station on Pandora for music and dance time!
  4. Sort things (16 mos). Big socks in one pile, small socks in another (laundry helper!). Boxes in one group, cans in another. Sort things by color, etc.
  5. Active songs with motions.
    The Itsy Bitsy Spider (lyrics)
    Gymbo Dance (lyrics, second one down)
    This Little Piggy (words)
    The Noble Duke of York (14+mos, lyrics). Stretch out your legs and put baby in your lap. Bend them up and down along with the lyrics in the song.
    Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed (14+mos, lyrics).
    Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes (16 mos, lyrics)
    The Wheels on the Bus (17 mos, lyrics).
    If You’re Happy and You Know It (lyrics)
    The Hokey Pokey (lyrics)
    Shake Your Sillies Out (youtube) I heard this on the Gymboree station once and had lots of fun with it. I think my daughter just kept banging away at her little triangle but… I think she got a kick out of watching me? =). I think this’ll be a great way to get some of that energy out when she’s older.
  6. Hide and Seek. You don’t have to try that hard to hide– baby will delight in finding you even if you are in plain sight. I turn my back to her so she thinks I can’t tell she’s approaching, and say, “YOU FOUND ME!!” When she touches me. She gets a kick out of it every time. Sometimes I pretend I’m looking everywhere for her (even though she’s sitting in the middle of the room giggling) and she squeals when I “find” her and scoop her up. I can’t wait til she actually figures out how to hide someday.


  1. Clothespin fun. It can be as simple as letting your tot transfer clothes pins from the outside bin to the inside one.
  2. Take her outside to enjoy bubbles. Or eat on the grass, without having to worry so much about the mess on the ground afterward.
  3. Sewing with Ribbons (16 mos). Cut a small hole in the center of a paper plate. Show your child how to thread a ribbon through it and pull it all the way through. Let him try. Use different color ribbons, different lengths, etc. (Note: keep an eye on your baby since ribbons pose a strangulation hazard).
  4. Dance with scarves. Use lightweight scarves. Turn on the music and use scarves to dance in time to the music. Drape it over her head and let her pull it off. (Note: keep an eye on your baby since scarves pose a strangulation hazard).
  5. Bin of beans. Fill a large bin with beans and put in a plastic cup and some plastic spoons. Let her play. (Note: keep an eye on your baby since beans pose a choking hazard)
  6. Play with puppets (16 mos). Need to get me a puppet. Or make one.
  7. Bag of Tricks (14+mos). Aka a second purse with fake, child-safe stuff. Fill an old purse with fake credit cards (used up Starbucks gift cards?), empty makeup containers, a small pad of paper, an empty wallet, etc. The next time you’re out and about, bring the bag along and let baby explore purse. Be sure to keep your normal-use purse out of reach, because its contents may be dangerous to young children.
  8. Magnets. We recently picked up some Melissa & Doug animal magnets and our little one loves to move them around and stick em on things. Great way to pass time. In the future, we’ll be able to practice sorting and to teach animal names and sounds.
  9. Blocks. Stack up and push down blocks.


  1. Finger paint (16 mos). Cuz we love to clean up that mess. Babycenter says you can make finger paint/paste with 2 tbsp flour + a little water + food coloring drops. Have the baby paint on waxed paper taped to a table in the kitchen or outside. To save the creation, press a piece of regular paper over the waxed paper and peel gently away; hang to dry.
  2. Paint with pudding or shaving cream. Plop pudding or shaving cream on a smooth surface and let them have at it, sliding it all around. I will probably wait til she’s old enough to not stick everything in her mouth, and go with shaving cream instead of pudding.
  3. Sand and water table. My uncle actually helped me build an awesome one for our little girl, and I can’t wait to bust it out this summer! I have high hopes that it will be very entertaining. We currently use it for her beans (see #5 above) and she loves it!
  4. Sidewalk chalk and scrub. Let her scribble on cement with sidewalk chalk. Then hose it down and let her use a scrubber to wash it off.
  5. Playdough.

I hope you find these activities pin-worthy :D. When writing this, I imagined parents could refer to this list on a slow afternoon when they’re feeling like they need a new “easy” or “medium” activity. So I didn’t include too many pictures to make it easier for you to scroll and scan ideas on your smart devices. It’s not as pretty, but it’s more practical, right? 🙂

By the by, I came across this website during my research: www.productiveparenting.com, and played around with it a bit. Looks like a great resource to find educational, enjoyable, and age-appropriate activities for your child! Also, many of the ideas I shared here were from babycenter articles.

Hope it’s helpful! Please feel free to add more in the comments below! =D

5 responses to “Activities to Do with a Toddler”

  1. Sarah says:

    My current go to in the kitchen is giving 18 month old Jim a whisk and a bowl of water with a tiny drop of something in it – food colouring gel, detergent, oil, – and letting him whisk away. We like to call it “whisking it all” – sometimes that is what it feels like, but it is great for hand eye coordination plus he feels included while I am cooking at the stove and can’t have him on my hip (his favourite kitchen spot!).
    Thanks for the great list!

  2. Dakota says:

    That’s an awesome list! These days, Elf mostly shadows Munchkin and wants to do what he does… it makes for interesting play sometimes, but I sometimes do need ideas for those days when Munchkin is at school… 🙂

  3. Heather says:

    THANK YOU! These are great ideas. My daughter is 14 months and we’ve been doing a lot of these. I love the scarf idea. . .she is already an avid dancer so we might try that. She helps me with the laundry. I put a basket of wet clothes on the laundry room floor and she puts them into the dryer. . .along with whatever stuffed animal is attached to her hip 🙂 This age is so fun. For her birthday I gave her an old makeup bag that has tons of compartments and hid little treasures in there. . .stuff from our kitchen, magnets, etc. Didn’t spend a dime. She still tries to pack the makeup bag with little things. I’m bookmarking all your ideas!

    • joellen says:

      Hooray! I am glad you find them useful! Yes, I am enjoying this age a lot, too! I love the creative birthday present– sounds similar to the purse idea, but even more fun :). Thanks for sharing!

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