The best learning activities for toddlers are simple and encourage learning through exploration.
From figuring out patterns, matching pairs, color sorting and more, play activities are a great hands on way for toddlers & preschoolers to experiment and learn.
The following six activities are fantastic opportunities for children to work on cognitive, motor, social and language skills, all which are vital to development.
Learning activities that are simple to set up are usually the best ones!
Keep in mind that toddlers and preschoolers need time to discover and learn, and shouldn’t be rushed as they play.
The best activities will be simple, and allow your toddler to focuses on sizes, shapes, colors, patterns, or textures.
Introduce the materials, then follow your child’s lead, allowing for plenty of exploration, discovery and questions and also allow time for independent play after you had some time playing together.
1. Texture scavenger hunt and collage: First we went around the house to gather up a few different items with various textures. We found wool, paper, pasta, feathers and pebbles. We talked about things being smooth, coarse, heavy, light, soft, hard and so on… Then we sorted everything into a mini muffin tin, and then using glue made a nice collage while talking again about the textures, similarities, differences etc…
2. Busy Bucket with Corks & Magnets: In a plastic bin, I mixed some corks and colorful plastic numbers.
First we spent time taking things out of the plastic bin, then we sorted all corks to one side, all magnets to the other. Then we sorted the magnets into color groups. My daughter decided to create a cork train. We also made patterns like “cork, cork, magnet. cork, cork, magnet.” and “blue, blue, yellow. blue, blue, yellow” and so on.
3.Coffee Bean Sensory Play: Using a bag of whole coffee beans I filled a small cardboard box and gave my daughter some utensils for scooping, measuring, pouring and dumping.
First we played together and then this kept her busy for over an hour on her own, just exploring, dumping, cleaning up, measuring and so on. A different play time I hid some of her toys in the beans so she could search for them.
On the third day we used some cupcake liners to continue playing. We did a lot of bean counting, sorting into small piles of 1 bean, 2 beans, 3 beans. We talked about some opposites: full cup, empty cup. Small scooper, big scooper. a little bit of beans, a lot of beans.
We talked about smells, good smells like lemon juice, coffee, strawberries etc…There was a lot of experiments with overfilling muffin tins and watching it all fall to the ground. I will say, it got messy in the end but, huge bonus: my older boys (4 & 6 yrs) were very interested in watching the beans disappear into the vacuum so they took care of all the clean up!
4. Tracing & Matching Circles: Using some lids and cups, markers and a large sheet of paper, we traced many circles onto the paper.
We took turns matching and sorting and trying to fit different cups and lids onto the traced patters. We talked about size and fit such as “fit” and “doesn’t fit”, “too big”, “too small”.
Later my daughter started building towers with the cups and lids too.
This activity can also be done by tracing other toys and objects from around the house!
It’s a great activity to learn about size concepts, practice tracing, and hand to eye coordination.
5. Dinosaur Sort & Pinching Game: Using some wooden dinosaur figurines, corks (some substitute ideas, plastic animals, small jar lids) and a pair of children size chopsticks we played a game of pinching and moving dinosaurs from the box into another box. It was challenging not to pinch the cork making it really good for concentrating and dealing with frustrations too!
I made up a silly story that the dinosaurs needed to be rescued which made it even more fun!
This activity is great for your toddler’s focus, concentration, fine motor skills and hand eye coordination.
6. Colorful Cups: Sorting, Stacking & Hide & Seek: Using some colorful plastic cups, we played many games that gave us an opportunity to explore colors, groups, matching, sorting, stacking, memory and social skills like sharing and using manners.
Some of the things we did with the cups were making rows of matching colors, passing certain colors back and forth “may I have 3 pink cups?” “thank you!” and “Could you pass me the green cup that is next to that yellow one?” We also found a toy octopus and took turns hiding it and finding it under the plastic cups. We also built cup towers and made shapes like circles with 6 cups, a big square with 1o or so cups, a small square with 4 cups etc…This was another activity that led to a long time of independent play!
All of these activities are also great for developing some self-regulation skills like patience, dealing with frustration, taking turns, asking for help, using manners, creativity, problem solving and more.
This post was originally written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted by The Positive Parenting Connection and Authentic Parenting. This month our participants are writing about this exploring and learning! Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
Visit The Positive Parenting Connection and Authentic Parenting to find out how you can participate in the next Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
What Was I Thinking? – Does your child ever do something that makes you wonder, “what was he thinking?!” Dionna at Code Name: Mama had a post planned about how her child doesn’t think when he pulls out the art supplies. Then she discovered a mess of her own.
Letting Go – Sutra at One Little Bean writes about letting go of metaphorical reins and reminds us that to child something we’ve seen thousands of times can be a great source of interest and excitement.
Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares 50 Ways To Explore and Connect To Nature With Your Children. If you are looking for some inspiration on getting outside with your children, this is the post for you!
Turning 2 | Learning Gifts for My Favorite Toddler – That Mama Gretchen is preparing for her daughter’s 2nd birthday with a round up of her favorite learning toys and activities.
Play & Discover: 6 Learning Activities For Tots & Preschoolers – Ariadne over at Positive Parenting Connection is sharing 6 activities that are fantastic for toddlers and preschoolers to work on cognitive, motor, social and language skills, while having lots of fun!
An Unschooler’s Take on Lessons – Laura at Authentic Parenting experiences inner conflict about lessons and learning