When I think about activities to do with toddlers, I think about:
-Something that offers a rich sensory experience
-Something that activates the core muscles
-Something that stimulates the proprioceptive system (sense of body position) through "heavy work"
-Something that stimulates the vestibular system (movement and perception of body in three dimensional space) through change of head position in space
-Something that promotes fine motor and gross motor skills
-Something they can explore freely
-Something that is fun
-Something that is simple to set up and clean up, and uses materials that are likely lying around the house
When I implement activities with toddlers, I remember:
-Not to impose an intentional plan
-To allow toddlers to explore what I give them
-To make sure all objects used are safe and can go in the mouth
-To let them play independently and create their own experience and solutions
To start you off, I created a skills list for 2 and 3 year olds to give you an idea of what toddlers are learning to do, with a corresponding list of my recommended activities to support the developing skills at each age. These lists are not milestone checklists, and not indicators of what your child needs to be able to do. Instead, they are general guides you can modify to fit your child's abilities and interests. Every child develops differently, and at their own rate, so choose the skills and activities within your child's range of ease and play accordingly!
Grab our skills and activities lists for toddlers!
I also went on a hunt for some good toddler activities out there amongst the bloggers. Here is a list of some great movement activities I found to support your toddler's sensory-motor development:
1. Box Road by Busy Toddler: gross motor play, heavy work
2. Rainbow Pouring Station by Busy Toddler: sensory play, heavy work, fine motor, hand eye coordination
3. Mini Treasure Hunt by Mama Papa Bubba: tactile sensory play, fine motor
4. Animal Line Up by Busy Toddler: gross motor, fine motor, pre-writing skills
5. Laundry Hamper Fishing by Play Teach Repeat: body awareness, motor skills, hand eye coordination
6. Homemade bath paints by Parenting Chaos: sensory play, fine motor
7. Pom Pom Color Push by Play Teach Repeat: fine motor
8. Tape Peel by Hands On As We Grow: fine motor skills, hand eye coordination
9. Funnels and Rice Sensory Bin by Busy Toddler: sensory play, heavy work, motor skills
10. Card Slot Drop by Busy Toddler: motor skills, shoulder stability
11. Sticky Wall by Busy Toddler: core, shoulder stability, fine motor, gross motor, vestibular input
12. Push and Pull Box by Laughing Kids Learn: fine motor, hand eye coordination
13. Cheerios Fine Motor Snack by Living Life and Learning: shoulder stability, fine motor, hand-eye coord.
14. DIY Ball Ramp by Busy Toddler: gross motor, heavy work
15. Giant Building Blocks by Busy Toddler: gross motor, heavy work, core
16. Lavender Playdough by The Imagination Tree: tactile/olfactory sensory play, fine motor
17. DIY Mini Road Set by The Imagination Tree: fine motor, hand eye coordination, gross motor
18. Tong Transfer Game by Mama Papa Bubba: fine motor, hand eye coordination, shoulder stability, core
19. Sticker Line Up by Busy Toddler: gross motor, shoulder stability, fine motor
20. Bucket of Spaghetti Worms by Learning 4 Kids: sensory play, fine motor
I am big on making movement activities mindful (if you didn't catch on to that yet!). So, here are some ways to amplify these activities:
-Play around with the speed in which your child completes the activities. Engage with them, and do things fast, then slow, then medium speed. You can call the speeds "tiger speed," "turtle speed" and "dog speed"
-Talk about how things feel, their texture, their temperature, their weight
-Talk about the colors you see
-Talk about the sounds you hear
-Have them use one hand, then switch to the other hand and practice using both sides of the body
meet the blogger
Austen is a pediatric occupational therapist with experience in schools, early intervention, and private clinic settings. She now runs her own private practice in Portland, OR specializing in movement based learning techniques. This blog's mission is to educate and empower parents and children by sharing insights into the complexities of learning and development.