Ages & Stages

Out of Play Ideas? 12 Creative Toddler Playtime Prompts for Tired Parents

written by ALAINA KAZ & BRETT NICOLE HAYDEN

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toddler play prompts for parents"
toddler play prompts for parents
Source: Karolina Grabowska / Pexels
Source: Karolina Grabowska / Pexels

Each phase of our child’s life comes with new challenges and a whole lot of new rewards. Toddlerhood is a time of budding independence for them—which can present some challenges—but it’s also a time of parent-child bonding. Plus, it’s rewarding to start to see their unique personality shine through as they grow and grow. 

As we all know, raising a child is no simple task. Taking care of a little human and helping them to grow takes time, a whole lot of effort, and oftentimes energy that we don’t have. It is a job that can be as tiring as it is fulfilling. As parents who are trying their best at all times, we often have to get creative with the best ways to ensure our little ones are happy, healthy, and growing as they should be. 

One aspect of growth that is incredibly important is playtime. Play is important, especially for toddlers, not only because it improves motor skills, but also because it contributes to a child’s emotional, social, and cognitive well-being. When it comes to ensuring our little ones get all of the benefits of playtime, getting creative may be the best thing we can do. The good news? You’re not alone in this. We want playtime with our little ones to be a bonding experience, so we’ve rounded up some of our favorite creative toddler playtime prompts for even the most tired of parents to turn to. 

 

 

DIY Activities for Playtime

 

1. Scavenger Hunt

Easter egg hunts are popular for a reason–they’re fun! But you can do this year-round by hiding like items in a single room for your toddler. I kept my little one entertained for so long by hiding mini pumpkins around the room in the fall. During other seasons, I’d just find things we had like items of–so sometimes it would be his Paw Patrol cars or stuffed animals.

 

toddler playing with pumpkins

Source: @alainakaz

 

2. Dance Party

There are great songs specifically geared toward toddlers and little kids–like the Party Freeze Dance Song, The Floor is Lava, and the Hokey Pokey. Turn on some tunes and have a dance party with your kids—this happens to be a great way to energize yourself, too! Fair warning, kids this age often like to hear some songs on repeat.

 

3. Build a Fort or Indoor Camping

While it may seem like everything is different from when we were growing up, we promise some of the classics still apply today. Making forts was one of my favorite activities when I was little because it felt like I was making my own imaginary world. Create a fun space and fill it with some of your little one’s favorite things and they’ll be entertained for a long time!

 

4. Artist Box

Don’t get rid of that massive Amazon box just yet! Playtime is a great opportunity for little ones to get creative. Use that cardboard box as an ‘artist box’ for them to color in with crayons or markers. Not only does this allow them to draw and create freely, but it also keeps the mess contained! 

 

5. Movie Night

When in doubt and life gets really tiring, make movie night a family thing. Put on cozy clothes, have some movie snacks, and cuddle up together. Make it an occasion.

 

6. Water Play

Curiosity is at an all-time high in the toddler stage, so some of the simplest things will be wildly entertaining to them (which is great for parents!). We brought a learning tower up to the sink and my toddler would play for so long in the kitchen sink, scooping and pouring water from one bowl to the other, stirring it, adding soap, etc. 

 

toddler playing in sink

Source: @alainakaz

 

Activities You Can Buy for Playtime

 

7. Sensory Dough or Clay

What better way to create than with dough or clay they can mold into whatever they want? Keep a drawer full of tools on hand and pull them out whenever your little one is needing some entertainment. Grab some at the store or make play dough at home. Be sure to have something like cookie cutters, tools, or shapes on hand so they can get extra creative. 

 

8. Blocks or Building Materials

Provide your child with different types of blocks like wooden blocks, foam blocks, Mega Bloks, or Duplos, and encourage them to build towers or structures.

mega blocks
Target | MEGA BLOKS
80pcs Big Building Bag
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soft blocks
Melissa & Doug
Match & Build Soft Blocks
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9. Sensory Bin

Another great option that can be bought or made at home is a sensory bin. Use things like rice, beans, or water beads, and cups, scoops, spoons, tongs, or funnels. Kids can explore the textures and play with different toys in the bin and be entertained for hours. 

sensory bin
Amazon
Sensory Bin
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sensory bin
Etsy | Joyful Play Shop
Construction Sensory Bin
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toddler in bath

Source: @alainakaz

 

10. Puzzles

Age-appropriate puzzles can keep kids entertained for hours—Melissa & Doug has the best options for kids ages 18-24 months. My favorite hack is setting a few puzzles out at once but mixing up the pieces all together so they’re doing multiple puzzles at once. Sorting through the different pieces is educational (pairing the farm animals to the farm animal board vs. the cars to the car board). Plus, matching what puzzle each piece goes to adds to the fun and takes a little longer. This is also a great time to teach vocabulary as you talk about each piece and color.

puzzle
Melissa & Doug
Large Farm Puzzle
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vehicles puzzle
Melissa & Doug
Vehicle Jumbo Knob Puzzle
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farm animals puzzle
Melissa & Doug
House Pets Puzzle
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jungle themed puzzle
Melissa & Doug
Jungle Themed Puzzle
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11. Activity Table

Independent play can be just as important as social play. Activity tables are great for promoting independent play and are sure to keep little ones busy for a long while. 

activity table
Melissa & Doug
First Play Jungle Activity Table
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water activity table
Amazon | Little Tikes
Fish 'n Splash Water Table
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12. Story Time/Reading

Books are always a good idea and can be used together or solo by little ones. Provide a variety of age-appropriate books and encourage your child to read on their own, or read books together as a family. Let the kids choose the books and take turns reading aloud. This can be a relaxing way to wind down at the end of the day.

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