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Toddler Activities for Learning at Home


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A child looking through a sun in a cardboard box.I got this awesome list from my dear friend, Hannah, who is a teacher. I got her blessing to publish this list of activities she sent out to friends who were looking for ideas of what to do with their kids during the COVID-19 school and daycare closures. Check out what great ideas she has.

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I've compiled a list of easy activities and links which might help keep your young learners (0-3) entertained and stimulated during school closures.

I've categorized these ideas into different areas of learning. Most activities use materials youre likely to have at home and require just a little parental input or supervision (you'll note the lack of messy art activities!). 

Sensory

Toddler Activities for Learning at Home
 

Here's my favourite playdough recipe. Playdough is by far my favorite activity for kids this age, and the possibilities really are endless. This particular recipe has been tried and tested, and if stored in an airtight container, can last months!

Try to avoid the usual sensory bin fillers of dry pasta, split peas, dry beans or dyed rice when there is a shortage of these products on supermarket shelves. Try filling a tub, tray or bucket with any of these items instead, add cups, tongs, scoops and toys, and watch your child delight in exploration of temperature, texture, volume while gaining fine motor control! 

  • Soap and water
  • Water and food coloring
  • Shaving cream 
  • Ice and water
  • Oobleck (a delightful non-Newtonian fluid made from corn starch and water)
  • Shredded paper
  • Regular or kinetic sand
  • Pom-poms

If your child is over the mouthing stage of toy exploration, consider setting up a 'tinker tray' for open-ended exploration.  These are a staple in the Reggio Emilia education model and can be quite simple, using household materials. Put beads, buttons, ribbons, tubes, tongs, elastics, sticks and rocks on a tray and let your child explore. You will find endless possibilities for play. Tinker trays also pair beautifully with playdough.

Fine Motor

Toddler Activities for Learning at Home
 
  • Rescue the animals! Wrap animal figurines in elastic bands and ask your kids to free them. printable versions if you'd prefer.
  • Junk mail collages. Cut out pictures from junk mail, old boxes and newspapers. To take it to the next level, ask your kid to categorise the pictures (For example, 'Let's find pictures of houses/fruit/shoes'). 
  • Tearing scrap paper or newspaper. 
  • Grass bottle drying rack, straws, cups and toilet paper tubes for open-ended play
  • Scarves in tissue box
  • Pipe cleaner or ribbons and colander
    Painting with cotton buds/q-tips 
  • Painting with cars (and then they can wash them in the 'car wash', detailed below!)
  • Nuts and bolts (no need for the wooden toy versions! Check your shed or hardware store for different sizes to match)

Cardboard Boxes

A child looking through a sun in a cardboard box.
 

You're likely to have a few of these lying around, or will be receiving more soon with increased online shopping while maintaining social distance. Cardboard boxes can be used as houses, boats, cars and busses in imaginative play; large boxes make a great playpen for infants (and a nice way to let them loose with crayons and markers while ensuring they only draw on the cardboard and not the walls!).  

  • 'Post box'. Cut a few different size holes in a large box and get your kids to 'post' toys through in a large version of the classic shape sorting activity. Old business and credit cards are a great addition to be posted through a small horizontal or vertical slot. Gather the posted toys when complete, and do it again!
  • Car ramps. Cut a large panel or attach a few long rectangular sides together to make a car ramp. Prop it up on different pieces of furniture to test the most effective in a great practical lesson in gravity and momentum!
  • Robots/Astronauts. Cut head and arm holes out of a box for your child to wear. Draw buttons or place stickers, and ask your child to nominate which action each button prompts (my favourites are 'shake your bottom' and 'tidy up'). This same idea can be adapted using a large newspaper sheet.
  • DIY object permanence box
  • Weaving with a cardboard loom and fabric, ribbons or paper strips.

Toilet Paper Rolls

Save those empty rolls! 

Visual/Spatial/Early Literacy

  • Shape matching printable
  • Letter matching in the bathtub (You could write on tiles with dry erase markers, or do as I did and tape paper with large written letters on the far side of a glass door, facing in). If you have alphabet magnets, you could do the same in the kitchen on the fridge or a baking pan.
  • 'Tattoo parlor'. If you're working from home - and only your top half will be seen by colleagues during conference calls - get your legs out and let your kids tattoo them with washable markers!
  • Drawing faces on photographs . Kids this age are learning, or can identify and begin to draw, particular facial features. Show them a catalogue and newspaper and ask them to identify and draw the eyes, nose, mouth and hair on photographs they find.

Physical Health and Wellness

Kids can get a little wild when cooped up indoors. Here are some tried and tested energetic activities to help (and to stay healthy).

Dance/Actions

  • Animal actions cards. Draw them from a hat and watch your kids act out that animal action.
  • Cosmic Kids Yoga
  • Just Dance Kids on YouTube (A Pirate You Shall Be, Five Little Monkeys, How Far I'll Go, I Like to Move It  are our favorites)
  • Go Noodle action games.

Hygiene

  • Car/toy wash. Put plastic, non-porous toys or washable soft toys in soapy water for your kids to scrub. For extra fine-motor practice, get your kids to hang them up to dry using clothing pegs.
  • Plastic box bath. For when you need a shower but your kid doesn't want to leave your side! If your shower is large enough, put your largest plastic tub on the shower floor with any cups, scoops or funnels you have handy for your child to use while you get your hair-washing in.
  • Corona hand washing dance.This viral video from Vietnam really helped my toddler embrace all the handwashing we enforce. He loves to shake his booty when getting his hands soapy! I hope it helps your little ones too.
  • Dustpan and brush practice - Pour some buttons on the floor and give your child a clean dustpan and hand broom and have them practice sweeping up the buttons.

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Parenting Toddler and Preschooler ActivitiesMarch 25, 2020
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