These activities to do with 2 year olds are developmentally appropriate, mess-free, and will keep your toddler busy for long stretches.
Like many first-time moms, the toddler stage was a new but exciting time for me and the little guy. I was on the search for possible toddler approved activities we could do to fill up the days we had together.
After all, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut, where your child seems bored at home. Where you find yourself once again clueless for fun activities geared toward his age. You might be home with him all day and tired of your usual daily routine.
Maybe he’s spending less time with each activity, either losing interest or having mastered it by now. Or you feel guilty for relying on the television and allowing him to watch videos to stay entertained. You may not have a yard for him to run around, and you’re worried he’s getting bored indoors.
Activities to do with 2 year olds
Sometimes all it takes is having a master list of ideas, including activities to do with 2 year olds. You might “know” these ideas already (who doesn’t know to go to the park?), but racking your brain for ideas can be hard when you’re starting from scratch.
For the mamas looking to get out of a rut, take a look at the following ideas of fun-filled activities with your little one:
1. Arts and crafts
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I’m not a fan of creating a “finished product” when it comes to arts and crafts. Instead, I like introducing my kids to new materials and skills, and giving them the freedom to create what they want.
Instead of trying to paint the perfect caterpillar out of egg cartons and paint, give your 2 year old an egg carton and paint and see what he makes. He’ll need some direction and inspiration, but he’ll expand his imagination and curiosity more by making his own crafts.
Here are a few ways to introduce arts and crafts and nurture his creativity:
- Paint in a box. Place him in a large box along with non-toxic paints or crayons and let him decorate the inside of it. You’ll likely want him in clothes you don’t mind getting dirty (or keep him in diapers). Otherwise, you can rest assured that the mess stays inside the box. (Similarly, have him use “soap paint” in the bathtub during bath time.)
- Play dough. Homemade or store-bought, playdough is a great way to develop fine motor skills, learn about colors, and have fun making new creations. Experiment with different textures using putty or slime as well.
- Watercolors. Grab watercolors for a fun art activity at home. All you’ll need is a bowl of water to wet the paint and clean the paint brushes.
- Finger paint. One of the first activities I introduced my twins to was finger painting. Place your little one in a high chair, either stripped to the diaper or wearing a smock. Then, tape a blank piece of paper on the tray, and give your toddler a bowl with a few squirts of finger paint.
- Glue stick and paper bits. Grab a blank piece of paper or cardboard, a glue stick, and paper (think junk mail or old construction paper). Then, show him how to glue the piece of paper with the glue stick. You can either: 1) glue the blank piece of paper and attach the bits to the surface, or 2) glue the bits themselves and then apply it to the blank paper.
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2. Nature walks and explorations
This is the perfect age to explore the outdoors, even if it’s just in your yard or down the street. Talk about what you hear, see, or feel—these conversations help build your child’s vocabulary and is a great way to get fresh air.
Collect leaves, sticks, and flowers and make a nature collage or bowl, and stomp on puddles (wear rain boots!) after a good rain.
You can also have a picnic after your nature walk. Head to the park and explore, then lay out a picnic blanket for lunch or snack. And of course, gardening in the yard counts for nature exploration. Encourage him to dig and “help” while you weed, water, and plant.
3. Music and musical instruments
I’ve seen my kids bang on a cardboard box with their bare hands—trust me when I say you don’t need much to make music around the house. You can make a rattle out of an empty toilet paper roll, tape, and dried beans.
But if you feel inclined to introduce musical instruments, this collection gives you several options to try:
And of course, you can schedule a fun dance party simply by playing your favorite songs! Switch between songs you love to dance to with preschool songs like Hokey Pokey and Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes. My kids also love Go Noodle if you want guided dance moves to watch.
4. Sensory bins
You really can’t go wrong with sensory play, especially for 2-year-olds.
Prevent messes by using low, wide boxes (like old shipping packages you get in the mail), a sandbox, or a water table. Try to play on flat floors or outdoors, and lay a large tablecloth so you can grab and wash the mess after.
Other than that, the options are limitless. Fill a bin or tub with dried beans, rice, or pasta. Add spoons, cups, and bowls. Encourage your child to scoop, pour, and dump the items from one place to the next. You might even experiment by playing with dry sand first before adding water to the mix.
5. Dumping items
Is your 2 year old interested in emptying and sorting containers? Believe it or not, sometimes the simplest toddler activity is dumping a bunch of stuff into and out of a box or bucket.
For instance, you might have a box of building blocks. Show him how to empty the box onto the ground, and return the blocks back into it. You can also make a game out of it by showing him how to sort the pieces into different containers based on color or shape.
6. Learning tools and toys
- Building toys. Kids this age can’t get enough of building blocks, from foam blocks to wooden structures. Show your 2 year old how to stack pieces on top of each other, or lay them out on the ground as you count them piece by piece.
- Chunky puzzles. Introduce him to chunky puzzle pieces before moving onto more complex puzzles. This door latch puzzle was a big hit with all my kids—they spent a solid 45 minutes straight fiddling with it!
- Magnets on a fridge. Spending so much time in the kitchen can mean extra play time for your 2 year old. Place these magnets on your fridge to encourage him to play with the letters and numbers.
- String and beads. Practice fine motor skills at home by showing him how to string beads! You can use actual beads or, for simplicity’s sake, an old shoelace and dried rigatoni pasta. To prevent pieces from going out the other end, tape it to the table surface and have him add the pasta pieces down the shoelace. Monitor his activity since small items are a choking hazard.
7. Pretend play
Incorporate pretend play into your routine with simple supplies! This is a fantastic way for your 2 year old to develop her imagination and benefit from open-ended play. A few ideas include:
- Pretend kitchen. My kids had this pretend kitchen we set up in the kitchen, along with pretend food. Or you could simply give your child safe kitchen items like wooden spoons and measuring cups to play with while you cook.
- Train set. My kids can spend a long time with trains and train sets. Set it up once on the floor and let your child imagine a world of trains and towns.
- Set up a fort. Place a large blanket over a table and chairs, or turn your couch into forts with “rooms” to play in. Even better: give her a flashlight and little toys to play with while she’s inside the fort.
- Dress up clothes. Store fun clothes and costumes for dress up play.
8. At-home games
It’s not too early to play “games” with your 2 year old, even at home. Here are a few ideas to start:
- Blow bubbles. Any simple bubble bottle will do, like this one you can even refill.
- Fetch. As silly as it may seem, you can play “fetch” with him. It’s the perfect game to burn energy and if you’re not inclined to run around with him (for instance, if you’re pregnant and tired). Throw a ball or item across the room and have him bring it back to you each time.
- Sorting and cleaning. Yes, you can turn a chore into good fun! Give your child a spray bottle or rag and have him help you wipe surfaces. Show him how to sort clothes from a laundry basket or match pairs of socks.
- Bring out old toys. I’m a fan of rotating toys so that old ones kids haven’t seen in a while seem like brand new once again.
9. Social outings
I liked taking my kids out to social outings not only to get out of the house, but to encourage them to socialize. A few favorites include:
- Library story time. Check your local library for toddler story time, perfect for your child’s age. Try to go regularly so he meets the same kids. Many libraries also have special events like concerts and puppet shows.
- Playground. Many moms and nannies gather at local playgrounds so kids get to play physically outdoors and meet other kids. It’s a great opportunity for him to practice social skills as well, like turn-taking and playing side-by-side.
- Play groups. Browse through Meetup for local mommy groups and play dates. Many play groups host gatherings at parks, libraries, zoos, farms, and even in one another’s homes.
- Swim lessons. Many swim schools offer mommy-and-me swim classes to introduce kids to the pool. Your little one can enjoy the water (and take long naps after!). Take a look at these children’s books about swimming.
If you’re tired of visiting the library and the park, don’t forget that you likely have many places to visit with your 2 year old. Many libraries and programs even offer free admission. Try to go right when they open to beat the crowd. Here are a few ideas:
- Kids museum
- Indoor jumping playground
- Gardens (Japanese, botanical, and rose are a few types)
- Taking public transportation (like the bus or train)
Now that you have several activities to do with 2 year olds, take a look at these best practices to make them smooth and enjoyable:
- Keep things simple. Two year olds can only absorb so much before they feel overstimulated. Keep your activities short and simple—crafts can even be just 10 minutes! Instead of a whole day of activities, stick to one per day. Buy craft supplies that can be found around the home or at your dollar bin, and plan one outing a day.
- Create a list. Having a list makes planning your days and shopping for items more organized. Knowing which crafts you plan to do will help you gather all the materials you need beforehand. You can also make a list of “field trips,” or organize your list by themes. For instance, if you want to introduce simple math concepts, set aside a week to play a few games or activities related to math.
- Work with what you have. Don’t discount the materials you already have at home. I’m not a “crafty mom” and don’t have shelves and storage of crafts. Instead, I find whatever items I happen to have and give those to my kids. I’ve learned that it doesn’t take much to engage them, even when I re-purpose existing household items.
- It’s okay to repeat the same activities. Think about preschools: they do the same tasks every day! From watercolor to “practical work” to singing songs, kids enjoy the rhythm and predictability of doing the same activities. Plus, repeating activities gives them an opportunity to master whatever skill they’re trying to learn. It’s not just about watercolor painting once, but learning how to do it better (and enjoying the process all the while). Don’t feel pressured to come up with 100 ideas you do once and never again. Stick to a few favorites, especially if you already have the supplies on hand.
Phew! That was quite a list of ideas, and you’ll likely find even more as the inspiration strikes. Keep this page bookmarked or printed so you’ll always have an activity to do, especially when you’re in a rut.
For instance, go on nature walks, play musical instruments, and explore with sensory bins. Get creative with arts and crafts, dump items into and out of boxes, and introduce your 2 year old to learning tools and toys.
Encourage pretend play, from dressing up to making a fort. Simple games at home like “fetch” and blowing bubbles can take the boredom away. Take him to social outings to get out of the house and meet other friends regularly. And finally, don’t forget local outings, from beaches to zoos, for a fun day.
No more getting stuck in a rut, friend! Now you have several ideas and activities to do with 2 year olds, at home and out and about.
Get more tips:
- 30 Creative Development Activities for 2 Year Olds
- Looking for Games for 2 Year Olds? Here Are Our Top Picks
- 12 Ways You’re Already Practicing Montessori Parenting Without Even Realizing It
- The Best Children’s Books about Gardening
- Toddler Beach Essentials for Stress-Free Family Fun
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