Want ideas for weekday evening activities for toddlers? These fun ideas offer quality time with your child during after work hours. Includes a free printable!
For many parents, our time in the evenings can be pretty limited, especially during the week.
Working parents might only have an hour or so to play before we need to cook dinner or pack for the next day. Lengthy bedtime routines or early bedtimes could cut our time shorter than usual. And even our go-to activities can get stale and repetitive, and we end up stuck in a rut.
Here’s the thing: For the most part, doing the same activities every night is okay. Your toddler learns how to cope with boredom and benefits from extended periods of downtime. My kids loved playing with the same set of cars or drawing at their art table every night.
But sometimes, you find yourself wanting to spend more quality time with your toddler in the evenings.
You hardly see him all day and don’t exactly have tons of hours to spend on an outing. You—and your toddler—might be coming home from a long day, competing with chores and tasks that can take priority. And sometimes you just want to have ideas on hand for the times you’re looking to mix your nightly routine.
Let’s just say those evening hours can be extra tricky.
20 evening activities for toddlers
That said, your evenings aren’t doomed, either. You can still do plenty with your toddler, whether you’ve been home all day or barely squeezing in through the door in time for dinner.
They’re geared for this young age range, are simple enough for the weekday after work hours, and easily done with just one parent.
I know all too well how limited your time and energy can be by this time of the day, so I made sure that these ideas are both feasible yet fun.
Free printables: Hopefully you’ll get several ideas to try. To make it even more convenient, grab a free printable with all these ideas (plus a blank template to fill in with your own ideas). Join my newsletter and download your copy below:
1. Put together a puzzle
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Are your puzzles stored in the cabinet like ours often are? They’re so easy to forget, but fun for the kids to do once you bring them out.
Puzzles lend themselves well for after work evening hours because they have a definite end time.
Toddlers especially love chunky wooden puzzles, as well as 24-piece puzzles (especially the jumbo ones!). Here are a few we’ve played with and loved:
2. Visit your local park
One of my go-to activities is visiting the local park, especially after dinner.
You might walk to a nearby park, making it a quick enough visit to squeeze in either before or after dinner, depending on how quickly the evenings get dark. Or make a list of local city parks, visiting each one on different evenings to explore new playgrounds you might have missed.
Park activities are also a great way to burn off excess energy your toddler has accumulated by the evening.
3. Play with kinetic sand
I learned about kinetic sand a few years ago when my sister-in-law gave it to my eldest for the holidays. It’s not as messy as playing with real sand, making it more manageable for that brief after work time frame.
Keep your play area tidy by designating a large plastic storage bin for sand play, and even laying out a splash mat or trash bag for easy clean up.
4. Ride the train at the mall
Going to the mall to run an errand in the evening? Bring your toddler and stop by the kiddie train ride, which many malls offer. The rides are usually quick and, for a few bucks, gives him something new and fun to do outside the home.
If not the train ride, stop by the children’s play area, usually at the food court, especially if you were planning on ordering in food for the night.
5. Play with building blocks
Our box of Lego blocks are hardly ever stored in the closet—they’re a constant activity that the kids are always playing with.
Jumbo Lego blocks are perfect for toddlers, allowing them to play safely and makes it easier to build and construct pieces together. You can follow the guidelines and create a recognizable piece, or let him create whatever his imagination leads him to.
Besides putting pieces together, you can also use building blocks to talk about colors, shapes, and counting. >Building blocks help develop hand dexterity and encourages focus and concentration.
6. Play with trains
Bring out the train sets! These are fantastic toys to play with your toddler, or even to set one up near the kitchen should you need to get started on dinner. Either way, he’ll likely spend a long time building tracks and riding the tiny trains on them.
Here are a few we played with:
7. Pretend cooking
One of the best presents my husband and I gave our toddler twins is a pretend kitchen. We placed this in our real kitchen, so they’d pretend to prepare meals while we were.
For the after work evening hours, this activity can be a fun way to keep your toddler occupied while getting his real dinner ready. Open-ended, pretend play also nurtures problem-solving skills and imagination.
Then we filled it with pretend cooking utensils (these in particular are also eco-friendly):
8. Play in the backyard or patio
When my kids were toddlers, our patio allowed them to enjoy outdoor time while still keeping them home. Even without a yard, they spent plenty of time kicking the ball around or tending to our potted plants in the evenings.
Even now that they’re older and we’ve since moved, our backyard is a constant go-to place for them after we get home for the day.
Encourage outdoor time at home by introducing toys suitable for the patio or backyard. You might hand your toddler a few balls, simple gardening tools, or sidewalk chalk to use. Or you could lay out a blanket and enjoy a picnic dinner outdoors.
9. Bake a simple banana bread
Banana bread is, hands down, one of the easiest baked goods to make. Many recipes don’t even call for a mixer, just a wooden spoon to stir the batter.
Your toddler will also enjoy smashing bananas and helping you make the yummy treat. Best of all, you now have an after dinner treat on hand.
This one from Simply Recipes is my go-to banana bread recipe (I also like to include walnuts).
10. Do chores together
Take advantage while your toddler is young and willing by encouraging him to “help” with chores! After work hours lend themselves well to having him spray and wipe, sweep, sort laundry, or put toys away. Even something as simple as helping you hold the vacuum can be new and intriguing.
He learns valuable life skills that promote self-sufficiency, competence, and responsibility. You’re also spending time together, and yes, even getting things done.
11. Water plants
Also a chore, watering plants is a fun activity for your toddler to do. So simple, but so intriguing nonetheless, and can turn into a regular chore he can do.
Stick to low, floor plants, or move the plants within their reach. We have this small watering can perfect for toddler hands:
One of the easiest evening activities you can do with your toddler is to walk around the block. Encourage him to pick leaves, flowers and pine cones (even a few to bring home and observe). He might push sprinklers down, find stairs to climb, or fountains to watch.
You can also turn the evening stroll into a workout for yourself. Strap him into the stroller and push him around the neighborhood for a quick workout.
13. Read books
I go to the library every week, so the afternoons when I bring books home turn into reading sessions. I’ll lay out the books we borrowed and let the kids flip through and read them.
You can even make an evening out of books by borrowing those from the same author. For instance, you might have a Dr. Seuss night, or a Sandra Boynton night.
14. Go to the library
Many libraries host early evening activities like read aloud bedtime stories. Even without these events, going to the library after work, daycare or preschool can be a fun activity instead of heading straight home.
For instance, read books and let your toddler play with the library toys. Select a few to borrow and read later that night. The library can be a welcome change to your evening routine.
And don’t forget to scout various local libraries besides your usual one. Many offer a variety of activities and on different evenings.
15. Coloring books
Pick up a few coloring books suitable for your toddler, then let him go to town with the pages! If you’re like me, you also like to color alongside him, making it a fun activity for both of you to do in the evenings.
This activity also helps him develop his fine motor skills, identify colors, and learn shapes, letters and numbers.
16. Kick a ball
Does your toddler love to kick a ball? Whether outside at the park or even indoors, let him kick a ball around, sticking to a soft ball if you’re indoors. Kick the ball to each other, or encourage him to “dribble” it with his feet from one end of the area to the other.
So simple but so fun, plus a great way to burn all that extra energy before bed.
17. Do a craft
I’m a fan of supplying kids with art supplies and letting their imaginations run wild. In fact, the best crafting I’ve found are the ones where we let them determine how their art will turn out.
Stock up on art supplies, from paper to crayons and paint, and show your toddler a few basic techniques. For instance, show her how to dip the brush into the paint and onto the paper. But otherwise, allow her to design and create her own art and enjoy the process.
18. Ride scooters, trikes and cars
Grab a scooter and ride along the sidewalk or to the park. Three-wheel scooters and tricycles let your toddler practice basic motions while staying on balance.
You can also push him in a toy car, allowing him to enjoy an evening out in the neighborhood from a different view than his usual stroller.
These are the scooters and cars we got for our kids:
19. Play a board game
We love board games at home! They’re versatile, even for the younger kids and toddlers. After all, you can always disregard the rules and let them make up their own. A few we’ve played with include Zingo, Connect Four, Sorry and Hungry Hippo.
20. Your hobbies
One mistake we parents make is assume our lives should always revolve around the kids. Not true at all! You can still include your hobbies into evening activities with your toddler. Think about activities you enjoy—which ones can you do with him after work?
If you like gardening, invite him to help and play outdoors in the backyard. Like exercising? Do yoga or fitness moves together. Miss knitting? Cut a few strands of yarn for him to play with while you start on a knitted hat.
Weekday evenings—especially after work—can feel stressful for any mom. You hardly get to spend quality time with your toddler, or you’re left with chores to deal with.
Thankfully, now you have several ideas to make those evenings enjoyable for the both of you. You can head to the library, park, or mall for a quick outing before bedtime. Or stay home to do crafts, play puzzles, or read books together.
Even with limited hours and competing priorities, your evenings with your toddler can be enjoyable once again.
Get more tips:
- 7 Useful Ways to Teach the Alphabet, Montessori-Style
- How to Encourage Open Ended Play (And Why It’s Important)
- 31 Activities for 1 Year Olds
- How to Be Awesome at Playing with Your Kids (Even if You Don’t Like It)
- 4 Easy Ideas to Nurture Your Child’s Creativity
I hope you’ve found several ideas to fill your month with play ideas after work. To make it even easier, I created this free printable for you.
The first page are the activities I listed above—check off the boxes of those you’ve tried. The second page is blank, allowing you to customize your sheet with ideas of your own. Join my newsletter and download your copy below: