The Active Toddler: Activities to Play at Home

Parents are children’s first and most important teachers. This article promotes their role in developing and reinforcing daily exercise through play. It gives parents and toddlers ideas for play that can be further developed through imaginative and creative thinking. It is very important to find for our toddlers, activities appropriate to their stages of development. This means that they enjoy them, and at the same time learn different skills involving thinking, moving, communicating, socializing and imitating. The first seven years of life are essential in establishing good exercise habits and setting the foundation for learning throughout life.                                                 

The Benefits of  Home Play 

  • It encourages communication through talking and listening
  • It encourages good loving touch in your family and strengthens parent/child relationships
  • It encourages you to establish daily health-related routines with your toddler
  • It encourages you as a parent to become your children’s first teacher
  • It encourages your toddler’s enjoyment of physical activity which leads to a healthier lifestyle
  • It develops body awareness and promotes good patterns of movement
  • It teaches your toddler about the value of finding playmates so that they learn about interactions and empathy
  • By doing daily exercises you become a role model for your toddler and establish healthy routines

The Relationship Between Play and Development in Children

Your child never stops developing. The stages of development are the same for all children, but the rate of development varies from child to child. For example, a toddler needs to learn to walk before running, but the age at which toddlers learn to walk or to run varies considerably.

The Benefits of Playing:

  • it has educational value, and it is part of the basic needs of all toddlers, with an essential impact in their stages of development
  • it keeps them occupied and prevents boredom which quickly leads to frustration and bad temper
  • it helps toddlers discover, practice and develop new skills and reinforces the old skills
  • it helps toddlers concentrate, experiment and use their imagination
  • it gives them emotional satisfaction and  a sense of achievement
  • it is the basis of their learning process

The Best Play Materials

The most expensive toys are not always the best toys, and simply because they’re expensive it doesn’t mean that your toddler will prefer them.

You can successfully use common materials in nearly all your  home activities. Some items can play multiple roles, so you won’t have to go out and buy a lot of things.

Household items to save

  • empty plastic bottles that did not contain harmful substances
  • large bottle caps, egg boxes
  • cardboard boxes of all sizes
  • foil
  • old magazines, newspapers and junk mail
  • kitchen towel tubes
  • string and wool
  • paper, corks
  • material scraps, cotton reels

Environmental items to collect

  • shells
  • dried leaves
  • acorns
  • pine cones

Using all the materials you have and your ideas, make up your own games, invent your own toys!

Activities Examples  for Different Stages of Development

Play Activities for Babies 12-18 months

  • sand play
  • music fun
  • follow the ball
  • follow me (tie a piece of wool through a cotton reel, for your toddler to pull)
  • falling object (provide a variety of objects that will fall in different ways such as a ball, stick, sock, hat, bottle, soft toy, balloon, ribbon  etc.)
  • drawing
  • let’s build (use homemade blocks: wood, cardboard)
  • empty and fill (fill an old shopping bag with all sorts of objects from your cupboards such as a wooden spoon, plastic cups, lids, an old toothbrush and then, let the baby unpack)
  • let’s climb(use your washing basket to climb in and out)
  • autumn leaves
  • water fun (give him things that float and some that sink, containers to pour with, and kitchen utensils to experiment with)

Play Activities for 18-24 months

  • cuddle fun
  • go for a ride (find a cardboard box for your toddler to push around the floor, put some toys in the box and encourage him to take them for a ride)
  • follow the leader(set up a daily exercise  routine for yourself and encourage your toddler to watch and join)
  • little helper (encourage your toddler to be your little helper, ask him to go to his room and get items for you like a nappy, his boots etc.)
  • sand castles
  • bubble fun
  • kick the ball
  • climbing the stairs
  • visit farm animals


Play Activities for 24-36 months

  • wash hands
  • cooking fun
  • singing
  • airplanes (running around outside with their arms stretched out like wings
  • making airplanes sounds)
  • jumping beans(hold hands and jump together)
  • obstacle course
  • gardening
  • swimming fun
  • tidy up
  • toilet training
  • little teacher, little doctor fun
  • frog hop

Remember that all toddlers are different and have their own timetable of development. Some will enjoy activities beyond the stated age group, others will not be ready to do some things at the standard times. Customize your toddler experience taking into considerations his/her likes and needs. Toddlers need your love and approval in order to be adventurous and try out new activities in their own environment.