Looking for fun, educational things to do with your little one? Check out these learning activities for 2-3 year olds you can do at home!
After living with a toddler or preschooler for a while, you start to go kind of crazy at home, don’t you think? You feel like you do the same basic things every day. She seems as bored as you are—even with a closet full of toys galore, she rarely plays with any of them. It’s the both of you all day.
Perhaps you feel compelled to enrich her days with activities and lessons she can learn but are at a loss for how to do just that. Sure, you’ve seen a handful of activities, but they seem to take a lot of preparation (along with the ensuing mess).
So, what are some fun at-home crafts, games, and activities you can do during play time that also stimulates her mind?
Learning activities for 2-3 year olds
This is the age when kids have shed their infant ways but haven’t matured into full-fledged, “I know not to eat crayons” big kids yet. Learning activities aren’t so much about getting kids to memorize words or add and subtract so much as nurturing their curiosity.
Thankfully, kids are already hard-wired to learn—we don’t need to equip them with complicated activities. We’re also better off following their lead than telling them how to make a craft. I’m not a fan of having them paint snowmen and turkeys when they’d rather make abstract art with their fingers.
And while my home doesn’t look like a preschool, I know the importance of providing the right materials and activities to engage kids. Take a look at some of the favorites my kids enjoyed—I hope you’ll find plenty of simple and fun activities to do with your little one:
Arts and crafts
- Glue bits of paper. Tape the corners of a large piece of paper onto a surface. Then, have your child take cut-up pieces of thick paper (even junk mail!) and glue them onto the larger piece.
- Play dough. The options are endless! Grab a rolling pin and flatten play doh pieces, or take cookie cutters to cut out shapes. Roll them into long strings and balls, or show him how to pinch pieces off with his fingers. Describe the colors, and combine them to make new ones.
- Finger painting. This was a hit at our home! I bought three bottles of the primary colors—red, blue, and yellow—and let my kids mix and paint. Dress him down to diapers or cover him with a smock for easier cleanup.
- Stickers on cards. Practice fine motor skills and have him peel and apply stickers on thick card stock paper that’s folded in half to make a card. You can then use the card for letter writing or gifts (especially if the stickers have a theme).
- Sidewalk chalk. Combine outdoor time with creative activities! Perfect to take to the park, too. If you have to stay indoors, drawing on a chalkboard works as well.
- Boxes of all sizes. Save all those cardboard boxes you get shipped to your home and see what he can turn them into. One might be a house for stuffed animals, another a dance floor to tap his feet on, and another a toy airplane.
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- Magnets. One of the best ways I kept my kids occupied was with magnets of letters and numbers on the kitchen fridge. That kept them occupied while I cooked and prepared food.
- Puzzle pieces. Now that your little one is in the two to three year old range, challenge her with a more difficult puzzle, like a 48-piece set. Encourage problem solving skills and don’t save her from every struggle or difficult puzzle.
- Board games. Play simple board games (I especially like cooperative board games where players work together). Even board games for older kids can be played to her level if you follow her lead.
- Matching games. Use matching card games, or make some of your own! Cut out circles, squares, triangles, and rectangles in various colors. Have her match the pieces by shape, then by color.
- Learn new songs. Create a playlist of children’s music and sing along to them. Dance along, especially to those with physical routines like Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes. And expose her to live music, from musicians at farmers markets to summer or winter concerts.
- Learn the days of the week and months of the year. Talk about the day of the week, and introduce months and seasons (“We’re in December, and it’s winter right now“).
- Trace letters and numbers. Have your child trace a letter or number (perhaps one each week), first with his finger, then with a crayon or pencil. Finally, encourage him to write it on his own.
- Read books. Dedicate shelf space just for his books. Keep books in every room of the house as well. And visit the library regularly to introduce new stories and expose him to a variety of books.
- Attend library events. Many offer regular programs like read-aloud and sing-alongs, as well as special events like summer reading parties and crafts.
- Fill sensory bins with dried beans or rice. Add large spoons that your child can use to scoop the beans into a bowl. He’ll enjoy feeling different textures with his hands.
- Play with sand. The easiest way to play with sand is to go to your local playground’s sandbox and bring sand toys. You can also drive to the beach or, for a simpler option, play with kinetic sand at home. Encourage pretend play and include little toys (like dump trucks) in the sand.
- Place pasta into a muffin tin. Place small- to medium-sized pasta (like penne) in a bowl (pom poms work too). Then, show him how to take one with his fingers and place them into the muffin tins.
- Wash toys with a sponge or washcloth. Fill a tub or bin with water and soap, and let your child wash water-safe toys. She can also squeeze water out of the sponge or washcloth.
- Scoop water with cups and spoons. Fill a tub or bin with water, along with cups, bowls, and spoons. She can spend time pouring water from one cup to a bowl. Have a towel handy to dry off!
- Paint the driveway. Using a large brush and a bucket of water, have her “paint” the driveway or sidewalk with water. This is a fun way to paint without too much mess to clean.
- Help organize and pick up. Turn real life, regular clean-up time into a learning and fun experience! Toss balls into a basket, sort toys by color, and race to see who can clean the fastest.
- Gardening. Take your little one with you to the yard to help. He can pull weeds, rake leaves, water plants, and gather sticks.
- Laundry. Show him how to load laundry, add soap, and later dry and sort the clean clothes.
Fine motor skills
- String beads through a shoestring. Grab a handful of large beads (or even large tube pasta like rigatoni) and a shoestring. Your child can string the bead through the shoestring. Tie a bow on the other end to prevent the beads from sliding off.
- Loop pipe cleaners through a colander. Turn a sturdy colander upside down. Then, show her how to poke one end of a pipe cleaner through one hole, and the other end through another. Do this with several pipe cleaners to see what kind of shape she’ll make!
- Go on nature hunts. Pick a theme for the day and gather or point out those items. Maybe it’s collecting yellow leaves, finding and counting bugs and insects, or looking for five types of flowers.
- Count during walks. Count how many cars, dogs, sprinklers, trees, and more during a walk! If you walk up and down stairs, count each step you take.
Best practices for learning activities
- Designate an area for arts and crafts. A child-size table and chair are perfect for your little one to get in and out of to create art. Stock the table with plenty of crayons, markers, paper, paints, stickers, and glue.
- Rotate toys. Having all his toys at once can overwhelm him into not using any of them. Instead, store most toys out of sight and leave a few he can access. After a week or two, bring out some of the toys you’ve stored and put the ones that were out back in storage. Old toys will feel “new” once more.
- Stick to one activity a day. Don’t feel compelled to spend every minute on a learning activity. Instead, focus on one “big” craft and leave the rest of the day open.
- Include plenty of free play time. Speaking of which, having downtime to tinker can encourage imaginative play and problem-solving skills. Even if you have regular activities, dedicate a time of the day when you’re simply at home and he can play how he chooses.
- Make it fun! He’ll learn what he has to learn, so there’s no need to pressure him to excel all the time. Instead, make learning a fun, natural part of life. Include “lessons” in the conversation, from counting to pointing out shapes to saying, “Let’s find your red shoes.”
Hopefully, you’ve found several learning activities for 2-3 year olds to fill your day and nurture your child’s curiosity. From water play to arts and crafts, you now have fun things to do with your little one—all without going crazy at home.
Get more tips:
- No-Fuss Montessori Fine Motor Activities
- How to Make Learning Stick
- Easy Activities for 3 Year Olds You Can Do Any Day
- Montessori Activities for 1-2 Year Olds
- Best Preschool Outdoor Activities for Summer
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