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10 affordable and simple activities to keep toddlers entertained

Toddlers are typically full of energy and sometimes hard to keep up with! However, they can be simple to please if you have the right tools at your disposal. Use our list of a few affordable, easy things that can keep your toddler busy to pick an activity that will work for you and your child. Most of these tasks and items can be done or used anywhere for ultimate fun on the go!

Sensory bins

Sensory bins can be made in the comfort of your own home, often from items you already have available. They can provide hours of entertainment while stimulating the senses and promoting healthy development. Usually, sensory bins consist of a few differently textured items neatly stored in a sealable container. Sometimes they follow a theme. For example, an ice-cream- themed sensory box could have plastic spoons and bowls, cotton balls to serve as ice cream, and sequins and yarn for toppings. Another example is a galaxy-themed sensory box, with appropriately colored rice, plastic glow-in-the-dark stars, and paper space object cutouts.

Toilet paper fun

Who knew a roll of toilet paper could be so enjoyable to play with. Using just one roll of paper, you can turn your toddler into a mummy, or allow them to rip the paper to their heart’s content. Or you can wrap the toilet paper around furniture or trees to make an obstacle course. Your child could also help do the wrapping, or they could transform you into a mummy! The options are endless when it comes to the activities you can do with a roll of toilet paper.

Make stamps

potato stamp
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For a particularly involved craft, help your toddler make their own stamps. Disposable stamps can be made from harder vegetables like potatoes, while reusable stamps can be carved from wine corks. Of course, you will need to do the carving for your child, but afterward they can stamp as much as they wish. Maybe kids can use certain stamps, like a heart or Christmas tree, to help you finish your seasonal greetings. They might not be old enough to write on cards, but they can surely stamp a shape on them!

At-home grocery store

Instead of recycling old food boxes and containers, save them by neatly taping them up to look new. Make shelves by putting together a few shoe boxes, then let your toddler shop through your homemade grocery store and pick out items they want to buy. This activity can be very interactive between you and your child if you choose to take on the role of grocery clerk! You can even save grocery bags so that purchased items can be neatly packed away after being “purchased.”

Circle weaving

This simple activity can be quickly set up and put away. It requires the use of a circular piece of thick paper or cardboard with an odd number of notches around its outside. To start your weaving, tape a piece of yarn onto the back of the paper loom. Then weave it through every notch, making a weblike structure and taping the yarn on the back once more. To fill in the spaces, tie another piece of yarn to the center of the web with a double knot and carefully weave it in and out of the web. To add more yarn, just knot another piece onto the most recently used piece.

mother and sons playing
Taiyou Nomachi/Getty Images

Doodle mats

The seemingly magical nature of doodle mats can be enthralling to young minds. If you’re not familiar, these affordable items (we had a hard time finding any over $30) involve writing on a nylon mat with special “pens” that react with water. When the water dries out, the drawing disappears, so doodle mats can be used again and again. They often include stamps and stencils for structured art activities. Doodle mats can be folded and stored in small spaces or transported easily.

Scavenger hunts

Whether you make a checklist for your toddler to check off the items they have tracked down, or you simply rattle off a number of things they should locate, helping your child find things around a house or yard can be a fun way for them to explore their surroundings. You can hide small toys in a certain room for a scavenger hunt that requires careful observation, or you can request that they look for for items outside so that they form a bond with the natural world.

Cardboard box crafts

Cardboard box crafts
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Myriad possibilities exist when it comes to the ways a cardboard box can be transformed. Depending on how involved you’d like to be in your toddler’s playtime, these transformations can range from “cars” that are just plain boxes colored to your child’s desire to intricate rocket ships that must be assembled by you. Non-cardboard box items, like empty paper towel tubes or water bottles, can be attached to boxes to make robots or animals. Boxes can be colored with paint, pencils, markers, or crayons and further decorated with colorful tape or stickers.

Create slime

While it’s very possible that it’s one of the messier items on this list, many toddlers love to play with goopy things, so why not make some slime in the comfort of your own home? Countless slime recipes exist, so you are sure to find one that calls for ingredients you already have. Most slimes, however, are school-glue based. Some slimes are only made of glue and starch, while others have more ingredients like borax and foaming shaving cream. You (or your toddler) might also wish to add glitter or small plastic playthings in the slime.

Container bowling

Set up an arrangement of empty bottles or used toilet paper tubes to look like bowling pins, then provide your toddler with a ball and set them free. Who knows how many times they’ll feel like putting the containers back upright after knocking them over, but even if they just play with the containers, this activity should be considered a success. Maybe they can practice stacking the objects or throwing the ball when they’re done bowling but still interested in the materials.

Do you feel like your child has endless spirit and vigor? The terrible twos might serve as a source of frustration in your life, but entertaining your toddler doesn’t have to be hard, especially not with our guide to some simple kid-friendly activities. Use these activities directly or be inspired by them to do other things with your child!

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