Updated on August 4, 2020 by Lyric Fergusson
Many mothers and fathers around the world have their little ones at home all day — and simultaneously are expected to keep up their full-time jobs from home computers, laptops, and phones. (WHAT?!) We know it’s super intense, because Asher and I are two of those parents.
What do we all need? Activities that our toddlers can do that are relatively mess-free, not crazy expensive, that they are able to do without us intervening (much) while we are sitting outside working from home on our laptop.
Activities To Keep Your Toddler Engaged!
1. Sand Box Play with Sand and Toys
This is a no brainer. You don’t need a big backyard, it can even fit on a small terrace or patio, and will allow you to get some focused work time in. Want an even cheaper option? Grab some organic dirt and use kitchen utensils. My kids can spend several hours a day playing in this way. This sand pit is good for apartments and small spaces.
If you have a backyard, or a garden, give your little one some focused activity time by allowing them to “help” garden. Block off a small section of your yard that is their area, allow them to get messy, help dig up weeds, and maybe even try planting real seeds. My son has been at a lovely Montessori school, and I am always shocked how focused my three year old can be when given “work” to do.
Starting at about 18 months this is a great way to fine tune your babe’s motor skills as well as work on balance and confidence. The Croco Balance bike is the most affordable and sturdy in this category and can be adjusted to fit a five year old, which means it can be shared with siblings. My almost two year old zooms around the driveway in it. Don’t forget a good adjustable helmet.
This is a great way to allow your little to have plenty of time for imaginative self-directed play. I feel this particular playhouse is an AMAZING deal. It’s even got a play grill, and a water and sand area. Plus, it is covered so you don’t have to worry about them being out in the midday sun and getting overheated-crabby or sunburned.
Everyone bouncing off the walls? Climbing on furniture — or on you!— while you’re trying to work? We get it! If you have space for it, this climbing gym is a not-crazy-expensive way to safely let your kiddos climb and get their energy out. Because parks and playgrounds are a no-go right now, we are doing our best to give our two and three year old solid ways to exercise as we have noticed it helps keep the whole family more balanced.
This Stride Right Made 2 Play are awesome because they double as water shoes, very comfortable, and are super easy to clean. If you are looking for a slightly more conventional sneaker that still are cool and comfy for summer weather I always go for these very breathable ones by See Kai Run.
My three year old is used to focused activity at school accompanied with running after his friends all day, and now we find ourselves struggling to find ways to get his energy out. If you have an active little guy or gal, you might want to try this mini trampoline!
If you have access to a patio, cement, or pavement, sidewalk chalk is a cheap fun way to let the littles play with very few restrictions. I like this brand because it’s Non-Toxic, thick and won’t break between eager little fingers.
This might seem a little silly but both my son and daughter love unicorns and when you combine it with water spraying out of it’s horn, can you really go wrong? It’s another inexpensive way to allow your toddler to run around, laugh and have fun. All you need is a garden hose and you are all set.
Even when the weather isn’t amazing, it’s hard to keep everyone cooped up inside. And yet, we are all super aware of the importance of staying dry and warm to avoid illness. I swear by these rain suits. They are awesome and do a great job of keeping your little one warm while still giving them much needed outdoor time.
During spring and summer temps soar and I’ve found water is the best way to soothe my little ones’ spirit. This pool is pretty awesome. It’s good for smaller tots and preschoolers will also have a blast. If you are looking for something smaller that’s also a little cheaper, but your tot can still immerse herself in a decent amount of water try this one from Zen Laboratory.
This is a great option if you don’t feel comfortable with your babe climbing too high without you right there to hold them, but still want to give them the experience of conquering objects, exploring, and hiding while using their ever expanding imagination. Tunnels are great because they can be pirate ships, castles, volcanos, etc. It won’t replace the park — but it can help.
This particular table can be played with inside and outside, so it won’t be a wasted purchase during cooler months. During the summer it’s a fun way to play in water if you don’t want your babe to get fully drenched, or if you only have a small patio or terrace.
This is another exciting option to help recreate a park-like situation in your backyard. For what it is, it’s not crazy expensive and it has seating for up to five children. So, if you have multiple kiddos there will be no fighting over whose turn it is. If you are wanting a smaller budget friendly option, I suggest this puppy.
This is a very simple way to allow your toddler to feel empowered and independent while still remaining safe. It’s strong, durable and can also be used indoors during colder months. I like this brand because it is relatively easy to install, budget friendly, and comes with a rope.
We just bought this splash pad for our toddler for our backyard. She had a BLAST and played with it for almost two hours! The splash pad is an alternative for a baby pool. With this outdoor activity, they combined the best parts of a pool and an entertaining sprinkler system to provide hours of enjoyment. It holds just enough water that is ideal for toddlers and not too deep, so they can play safely.
17. Ring Toss
Ideal for ages three and up, the carnival combo set includes beanbags, rings, and a variety of colored cones. Each cone is nine inches tall and made of kid-safe plastic. The carnival ring toss is perfect for enjoyable games outside when the family is cooking out on a sunny summer day.
18. Camping Set
The Meland kid’s camping set is a must-have for those toddlers who enjoy camping adventures. The pop-up tent can fit two toddlers who enjoy their space to play. The camping set is an ideal outdoor activity if you’re setting up a play date for your toddler. There will be much to explore and many adventures ahead!
The bowling set is the ultimate outdoor activity if you’re hosting your toddler’s birthday party. The collection is vital in developing gross motor skills, awareness of space, hand-eye coordination, and balance. Ideal for both indoor and outdoor play, your toddler will get plenty of interactive amusement.
I’m pleased to add the roller coaster to the list because we’re purchasing this for our toddler for her birthday. The step 2 up-and-down roller coaster ride features a ten-foot-long roller coaster track for outdoor or inside the home. Highlighted are two non-slip steps that lock securely to the coaster to prevent your toddler from falling. Our daughter used a neighbor’s track the other day, and we had a hard time pulling her from it. The roller coaster is a must-have!
We received the baby delight chair last year as a birthday gift for our toddler. You can use this chair for outdoor cookouts at home or even for trips to the beach. Available in seven different colors, the chair is ideal for eating or even small activities. Your little one will be safely secure, while shaded from the sun with the featured canopy.
7 Free Outdoor Activities for Toddlers
1. Water Balloons
Fill up a bucket of water with water balloons in your backyard on that hot summer day. Your toddler needs to stay cool on hot days, so water activities are always my outdoor go-to in the summer. Depending on your toddler’s level, water balloon activities are the ultimate water activity.
2. Obstacle Course
You can create an obstacle course out front or in your backyard, depending on hard surfaces. For toddlers who are literate, write out a sequence of movements they could perform similar to hopscotch. Your toddler can do bunny hops, walk on their hands and feet, or jump on one foot.
3. Scavenger Hunt
Usually, the only time we’ve done scavenger hunts are for Easter with Easter eggs, but really it’s a fun activity any time of year. You can create scavenger hunts in your back yard with things you’ve found outside, such as wood chips, flowers, leaves, or rocks. Have your toddler tape the item to a piece of paper as they collect.
4. Kitchen-Made Bubble Wand
You can make your bubble wands using kitchen utensils such as spoons, fly swatters, spatulas, or anything else with holes. Create your bubble solution and head outside to see who can produce the best bubbles.
5. Sidewalk Art
Sidewalk art is a creative activity that your toddler can partake in independently. Give him/her a bucket of sidewalk chalk and let them use their minds to create their little world. You can provide them with ideas such as photos or even stencils to help get their imagination going.
6. Outdoor Activity Jar
Activity jars are my activity of choice when spending the day outside with my toddler. The jug helps kids who have a hard time thinking of activities to do or making decisions. You can write different activities on popsicle sticks and let them choose an action from the jar.
7. Bug and Leaf Bingo
When I was a child, I always used to play bingo with my grandmother. Your toddler may not know how to play bingo yet, but you can teach them by using different bugs and leaves. Find ten various bugs or leaves to identify and cross them off as they become found. They’re never too young to teach them about nature.
We know first-hand how hard these times are with two little ones at home while we try to work. We hope that we as parents can continue to provide a compassionate and loving environment for our toddlers as we try to navigate so much uncertainty. And even just one or two items on this list can make the world of difference with keeping your toddler engaged even at home.