Finding inspiration to keep your toddler entertained can be tricky if you don’t want to spend hours preparing elaborate baking and making activities.
However I’ve got a long list of things you can do with your child that do not involve paint splattered up your wall, cooked spaghetti trodden into your floor or hours of preparation.
These quick prep activities are brilliant for mamas who need to get chores done around the house without their little shadow following them around, or work-at-home mums who need a little time to focus on a task.
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The idea behind a quick prep activity is that it keeps your child occupied, without you having to supervise (too much) and without having to spend a long time setting up an elaborate array of items. Of course it’s lovely to have hours of fun baking and painting pictures, but sometimes we just need to get stuff done quickly!
I hope these activities will give you lots of ideas for things to do at home with your toddler.
If you want more inspiration, try my post about 40 activities to do with a toddler (these include messier and more involved activities to try at home).
Anyway, on to the quick prep play ideas! Let me know if you try any and what you thought!
1. Toddler treasure hunt
My girls go crazy over this one and it’s so easy to do. Simply get your toddler to choose several toys – it can be anything including LEGO bricks, stuffed toys or action figures.
Next you need to hide them all over the house. This doesn’t need to take you a long time, as toddlers will struggle to find properly hidden items! Simply dot them around the place on shelves, in the bath, underneath a chair or in front of the TV.
Next challenge your toddler to find all of the items. You can give them a small box to help them pick them all up. This can buy you up to 15 minutes of time to work on your to do list!
2. Teddy tea party
Set out a blanket, some plastic beakers or toy tea cups, a toy tea pot and toys as guests, then encourage your toddler to serve tea to their toys.
3. Make a card
It’s a good idea to always have some blank cards in your craft box. This can not only help you if you need a last-minute card for someone (everyone loves a personalised card decorated by your toddler) but it’s also a good activity for your toddler anyway.
Whatever birthday or anniversary is coming up, challenge your toddler to make a beautiful card. If you trust them with child-friendly pens then let them use those, but I find pencils are just as good, especially if you’re worried about them drawing on the walls.
Stickers also will keep them occupied – foam shapes are great for toddlers and easy for them to remove the backing.
The girls like to make the foam hanging decorations. These are good as they can do these with minimal help.
5. Sticker faces
Get some simple round stickers (the type you would use on your own planner, calendar or on a reward chart). Challenge your toddler to make sticker faces. You can go one step further and ask them to make a happy face and then a scary or sad face.
6. Giant bubbles
Toddlers love blowing bubbles, but giant bubbles are the most fun! I simply mix a very generous squirt of dish soap with water. The girls have these great giant bubble wands that mean they just need to wave the wands around to create pretty giant bubbles.
My girls have spent hours playing this game in the sun!
7. Pavement art
Give your toddler some chalks and let them decorate the patio outside your house.
8. Water scooping
Get two large bowls or buckets and fill with water. Pop some bath toys, or other plastic toys, inside one and challenge your toddler to move the toys over to the other bucket using a kitchen ladle or spoon. This is best played outside as it does get messy!
9. Sort and drop LEGO game
Get a cardboard box (just reuse an old Amazon one) and cut four or five holes in the top.
Use pens to colour a border around each hole (do different colours for each – red, blue, yellow, green and brown). Next challenge your toddler to drop their LEGO bricks into the correct colour holes.
10. Pulling tape
This sounds like such a basic activity, but my kids really love it for some reason!
Get some masking tape (Frog tape is best, as the green colour stands out on the floor) and stick several lines across the floor. Now ask your toddler to pick up all of the tape. They love peeling it off of the floor!
11. Pasta threading
Get some penne, or macaroni, pasta and some colourful wool or string. Challenge your toddler to thread the pasta onto the string to create a necklace or decoration.
12. Stacking cups
Get some paper cups (I use ones leftover from the children’s birthday parties). You need at least 10 per child, preferably more.
Challenge your toddler to create two towers of cups, then transfer all of one over to the other. This can keep them engaged for ages!
13. Pom pom sorting
Get some craft pom poms (you can get huge bags from Amazon). Then challenge your toddler to sort them by colour.
Do keep an eye on your child when they are doing this so that they do not try to eat any pom poms.
14. Colander and pipe cleaners
Get your kitchen colander (hopefully you can spare it for a few minutes) and challenge your toddler to thread pipe cleaners through the holes. This is great for challenging their hand-eye co-ordination.
15. Baking pot and measuring cup play
Give your child various implements you use for baking – measuring spoons, measuring jug, cake pan, cookie cutters, whatever you have! Now let them play with them on the floor. It’s amazing how fun they find this!
16. Pack for holiday
Tell your toddler you are going on a holiday or picnic to the back garden. Challenge them to pack every thing that they will need to go away.
Obviously you may need to be careful with your wording on this one, if your child is the type to get upset when you say you’re going out when you really aren’t! An alternative is to ask them to pack a bag of things they would like to take downstairs.
Let them fill a rucksack with whatever they want.
17. Potato stamp painting
This isn’t a no-mess activity, but I found it was less messy than actual painting. Use cookie cutters to push into halved potatoes, then with a knife, cut down to the cookie cutter sides and peel away the potato around the cutter, then remove the cutter.
It took me about five minutes to make the potato stamps.