As babies turn into toddlers, they start to sleep less and need a lot more entertaining! But as their attention span slowly increases, and they stop putting everything in their mouths, it’s a great chance to start introducing a few more craft activities to keep them occupied. Luckily, there are so many simple crafts and play ideas that you can set up for your toddler using office supplies or stationery that you already have around the house, or that can be picked up easily and cheaply.
Here are a few of the ideas I’ve enjoyed with my children – either with my toddler N who is currently 17 months old, or with my boys when they were in the toddler stage.
All you need for this activity is sticky back plastic (aka contact paper) and something interesting for toddlers to stick to it! We made this dinosaur version when R was younger, but you don’t even really need a theme. Just gather together some coloured tissue, or cotton wool balls, and you’re good to go! For a fun twist on this, you can stick the sticky back plastic up on a window so that the light shines through – particularly effective with coloured tissue on a sunny day.
We’ve used rocks gathered from the beach, and sometimes used rocks from the garden centre. You can paint them, add glitter, or add stickers. To make them weather proof, put a coat of mod-podge or varnish over the top. You could also try drawing on the rocks with sharpies, which last quite well in all weathers too.
Once finished, the decorated rocks can be fun to play with. We keep ours out in our stone border in the garden so N can pick them up and explore them whenever she likes. Later we will add more designs – maybe ABC and numbers to help her pick these up through play.
Colouring Books and Stickers
This very simple activity is a massive hit with our toddler, N, at the moment. She has a few jumbo sticker books, and chunky toddler crayons, and it keeps her busy for a really long time.
Drawing Around Hands and Feet
All of my children loved this as toddlers, and N is just starting to get into it! I think they enjoy the tickly sensation as their hands or feet are being drawn around. You can draw around hands and feet with whatever pencils or crayons you have around the house, and then decorate the hand or footprint shape afterwards. This is also a fun activity to do outdoors with chalk – even draw around the whole body!
Tie in a Craft to a Book
Most kids of this age love books, so they make a great theme if you’re wanting to try a craft with a recognisable result. There are so many popular books that would work well for this – like this Hungry Caterpillar craft made from egg cartons or make your own colourful Elmer, or scary gruffallo – maybe using a paper plate to decorate as his face?
Bubble Wrap Printing
Bubble wrap comes in handy for all kinds of fun craft projects. Why not use it to print different coloured fruit and veg like these? We’ve also used it to make trees showing the seasons of the year – pink cherry blossom for spring, orange and brown for autumn and so on. Or with younger toddlers, I would just explore the texture of the bubble wrap and the paint.
Painting with Toy Cars or Stamps
Painting is lots of fun for toddlers. I like to do it outdoors as much as possible to contain the mess! You can add other toys or materials to mix it up a bit and help keep their interest for longer. Toy cars to make tracks with the paint is a great one, or make shape stampers from cardboard tubes, or an empty cellotape roll for a nice big circle stamp.
Craft with Nature
Gathering twigs, leaves and flowers can keep your little one busy for a while, and then making a collage with their findings can extend the activity even further! We’ve made these simple collages with leaves and plants from our own garden, using cellotape but using sticky back plastic (contact paper) to make this art and craft activity would make it easier for very young toddlers.
For older children you could try more advanced nature crafts like a beautiful flower crown, or threading and sewing practise using a thick leaf.
Another fun and simple way to make collages is by cutting or ripping up old magazines, then gluing them down to make a picture. This works well with glue sticks, or with PVA glue and a spreader – whichever your little one prefers. You could substitute the magazines with coloured tissue paper or wrapping paper if you prefer, or even fabric scraps! The great thing about this type of activity is that it can be as versatile as you like.
You could also stick bigger pictures onto thick cardboard to make your own flashcards. Why not try this with photos you’ve taken yourself?
This is an activity that’s great from birth! But with toddlers, they could get more involved in the making process. Use empty bottles, and fill them with any type of interesting materials such as dry rice (you could colour it first), lentils, water and glitter, cut up straws, water beads, sequins, pom poms and so on.
Make sure the top is tightly screwed on or even glued down, and then these are great fun for little ones to explore independently and observe the sounds and sights as they shake each one. I always use Voss plastic water bottles, as I like the way these bottles look but you can use anything you have in the house.
We made this set when N was very little, but she still plays with them now at nearly 1 and a half.
Posting is another activity that’s been a hit since N was quite a bit younger. Pom poms into cardboard tubes is a really easy one for babies or younger toddlers, post pipe cleaners through a colander, or make your own post box from a cardboard box. Here N is working on posting straws through a cereal box. Lollipop sticks or craft sticks are another ideal material for posting
Filling and Pouring
Similar to posting, this is something that can keep little ones occupied for some times. Filling and pouring is great with water, sand or even gravel and stones. Adding some dumper trucks can make this more entertaining.
For messy play that’s not tooooo messy – shredded paper is ideal, and a fun way to make use of your shredded documents before they go in the bin! You can hide things inside the pile of paper for a treasure hunt type game, or just enjoy exploring the feel of the paper, depending on the age of the child. If you have a tuff tray (cement tray) that may be the simplest way to contain this activity or alternatively try using any plastic storage box?
Bubbles and Balloons
I haven’t met many toddlers who don’t love both of these, and they’re still a hit with my older kids too. These are best when you have a large open space, even better if it’s outdoors. I find that either of these tend to boost N’s mood if she is starting to feel tired or grumpy.
What are your go to craft or play ideas with younger toddlers? Follow us on Pinterest for even more suggestions!