University of Illinois Extension

Planning Play Activities

Activities for Toddlers

Toddlers like to put things inside of other things and dump them out.

Cut a hole in the middle of the lid of a clean coffee can or plastic margarine tub. Make sure there are no sharp edges to cut the toddler. Let the toddlers put clothespins, thread spools, and other safe objects through the hole.

Make play dough. Mix 3 cups flour, 1 cup salt, 3 tablespoons oil, and 1 cup water together. Add food coloring for color. Let the toddlers use jar lids, clothes pins, and popsicle sticks to cut and shape the play dough.

Children love to play with water. Fill big buckets or tubs with water. Give the children soap chips, measuring spoons and cups, plastic bottles, butter tubs, and sponges to play with in the water. Put towels or newspaper on the floor so the children will not slip on the wet floor.

Warning: Children need supervision at all times. It only takes a
small amount of water to turn a fun activity into a tragedy. You
must be careful to never let them out of your sight -- not even for
one moment! Remember, you must be responsible and attentive. Do not allow for any distractions (telephone, doorbell, other children,
etc.) -- if you cannot give the child your undivided attention it may
be best not to do any water based activities.

Toddlers like goop. Mix cornstarch and water together. Let toddlers play with it in a bucket or in bowls with cups and spoons. Make the goop thick or thin.

Ask your local appliance shop for a free refrigerator (or other large appliance) cardboard box. Cut doors and windows in the box to make a playhouse. Toddlers can draw on it with crayons or paint it with water and big brushes or sponges.

Toddlers like to draw with short, fat, unwrapped crayons. Give them paper bags (you can tear them open to make large sheets of brown paper) or large pieces of heavy paper to draw on. To help them draw, tape the paper down so it does not move.

Toddlers also like to play house with dolls and housekeeping props such as plastic dishes and spoons.

Most toddlers are just learning how to walk and run. Go for lots of walks but make sure you hold onto the toddlers hand.

Let toddlers tear old wrapping paper. Then have them paste the pieces to make a collage.

Toddlers can use some swings and low slides at the playground. Do not leave them unattended on any piece of playground equipment.

Have toddlers finger paint with shaving cream mixed with food coloring.

Activities for: Infants | Toddlers | Preschoolers | School Age | All Ages