5 Quiet Toddler Activities – Ideas for Independent Play

by Alissa Marquess on January 14, 2013

Would you like to sit by me?  I have an activity for you!

Magic words for my two year old daughter.

“Yesh Mama!  Tibity!”  She’ll say.

Activites to Keep Toddlers Quietly Busy

Five ideas for “Sit By Me” Toddler Activities

These are the kinds of things I’ll get out for my toddler when I’m trying to get something done with my other kids and we’re all sitting at the same table.  They are quiet, quick to grab, not TOO messy and don’t require lots of supervision.

5 Quiet Activities to Entertain Toddlers


Make marks on a piece of paper and show your toddler how to cover them with stickers.


5 Activities for Toddlers to do at the Table

Rip and Tear!

Give pieces of paper and a bucket and show your toddler how to rip off pieces and put them all in the bucket.  I cut mine into strips to make them more tempting to tear up. As I mention in this post about art with toddlers – destruction can be VERY satisfying to kids this age.

5 Quiet Toddler Activities at the Table

Contact Paper!

Now you’ve got a bucket of paper bits, contact paper is in order!  Tape down a piece of contact paper sticky side up.  Show your toddler how  paper pieces stick to the contact paper and let them take it from there.


5 Simple Toddler Activities


After a quick contact paper art piece we grabbed this collection of boxes for a mini treasure hunt.  Use any random assortment of Things That Open.  In the smallest bin or bag put something like cotton balls and a few “treasures.”  Put all of these containers together and let your toddler figure out how they open as they search for the treasure inside.  Once they get at it you can ask them to put it into the different boxes, hide it for you and so on.

It’s simple, but toddlers love to  tote around treasures – toddlerhood is the ‘Load and Tote Phase‘, and whether they are loading up boxes or bags, this game of hiding treasures is a favorite.

Mix it All Up

Once you’ve exhausted your supply of quiet toddler activities what can you do?  Mix it all up!  At the end of this play session (during which I was doing a writing lesson with her big brother) I re-taped the contact paper and asked her if the cotton balls would stick to it too.  Then I handed her a pen to see if she wanted to draw on her masterpiece.  This gave my older son and I long enough to finish up what we were doing before my toddler reclaimed my attention.

More Resources for things to do with toddlers when you’ve got to keep them busy:

Does your toddler have a favorite activity for independent play?  Let us know in the comments, we can all use more ideas!

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Cerys @ Rainy Day Mum January 14, 2013 at 10:35 am

Great selection of activities – We’re big on playdough and stickers here. I buy sticker activity books in bulk (can’t really get stickers cheap otherwise here) and when I need to get anything done they come out.


Suki January 14, 2013 at 11:19 am

Lovely ideas! We often use stickers in our creative activities together but hadn’t thought of the idea of covering marks and putting in specific spots – will definitely try that. I will need these more and more when my new baby arrives in March!


Steph January 14, 2013 at 2:46 pm

My kiddo has recently discovered scissors. So I save old magazines and scrap paper and let her go at it.


Wendy April 24, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Mine too…I never thought about letting her cut up magazines…love that idea!!


Carla January 14, 2013 at 3:14 pm

Great ideas! I can always use more independent play suggestions, thanks!


Chrissy January 15, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Great ideas thank you :) !!! When I need to do something in the kitchen, I fill the bowl with water and washing up liquid to make bubbles and let my toddler drive his cars through/under the bubbles. I usually tip the water away – it’s great fun but things don’t get too wet! It’s now one of his favourite things to play and my 6yr old also gets involved!!


Alissa Marquess January 16, 2013 at 6:14 pm

Yes! Water play on the kitchen floor is a favorite here too :)


Veens January 16, 2013 at 7:26 am

I love the sticker activity idea of marking the paper. Thank you for sharing some great ideas.


Alissa Marquess January 16, 2013 at 6:11 pm

You’re very welcome. She used to like to put stickers on a paper and then rip them off again – another simple activity. The foam ones work well for that :)


Vicky January 16, 2013 at 7:04 pm

Love the idea for contact paper with the torn construction paper. Going to do that right now after I pin this!


Valerie January 20, 2013 at 11:33 am

Awesome ideas with the stickers and ripped paper!! Will be doing with my 16 month old tomorrow while the older kids do their schoolwork! Thanks =)


Lyn Armstrong January 20, 2013 at 6:42 pm

Love your activities!!! If you can place the paper for stickers and the contact paper on a slanted surface the slant will help those little fingers develop a good tripod grip. That’s why desks in 1900 were slanted! Try turning a closed 4″ notebook placing rings at top and making a slanted surface! Continue the great suggestions!


Aarushi February 12, 2013 at 2:29 pm

It’s hard to get quiet time with toddlers around..love the activities..will def try some with my daughter..new to you blog and um in love with it:)


Erin L March 4, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Just found this on Pinterest- great ideas! Thanks!


Alissa Marquess March 5, 2013 at 7:15 pm

Thanks Erin!


Galina March 30, 2013 at 12:12 pm

I am yet to find an activity that will truly get the interest of my 19-month-old son, that is besides trying to destroy everything his almost 5-year-old sister does. Boxing sounds like a very good idea and not tested yet. Who knows we might be successful too:) When I need some quiet time sometimes a box of wipes can be very entertaining:)


Alyssa March 10, 2014 at 2:03 pm

I’m also featuring your sticker idea! http://bit.ly/1g8VKa9


Shweta March 30, 2014 at 3:21 pm

These activities sound like real fun. My daughter is 17 months and she puts anything in her mouth that she can lay her hands on. It will be interesting to see what she does if I put pieces of paper and cotton balls in front of her.



Stephanie March 31, 2014 at 6:42 pm

I’ve discovered that anything that feels like a version of what I’m doing is a huge, huge hit. So, if I’m working with polyclay, he gets the PlayDoh. If I’m painting, he needs to get to do that too. I also keep some activities in reserve to be used only when I need that “quiet” play. Anything that makes him feel like we are doing something special makes him feel like we are working together, and that’s always a hit. :)


Robin April 1, 2014 at 6:32 pm

I have a flat bin (like the kind used for sweaters under the bed) halfway full with rice. I have a few dollar store sets of dinosaurs, animals, etc as well as cups, spoons, sifters, cheap around the house stuff. Lay down a vinyl tablecloth, we use a really old holiday one, set the rice box down and open the lid. I keep the sets in big baggies so I rotate them in and out. I know not all kids can resist throwing the rice, but most of them last for quite a while with the texture and “treasures” before it gets out of hand.


Alissa Marquess April 2, 2014 at 8:24 am

Brilliant! I love those big flat bins for containing sensory play like that. Your idea about the various bagged sensory sets is great, thank you!


Jeanette Burgess April 1, 2014 at 9:11 pm

I remember my youngest sitting at the table with me when he was about 3-4 years and I was trying to study. He’d open one of my textbooks and copy the words out on paper, complete with the printed ‘g’ shape, saying that he was doing his homework. Great memories now he’s all grown up.


Alissa Marquess April 2, 2014 at 8:20 am

Aww, my 3 year old is into pretend writing right now. She talks to herself as she writes little unreadable notes and I recognize her copying my own tendency to mutter a little as I write :)


Stephanie @ Naturally Mindful April 3, 2014 at 8:18 am

What a great post. As a blogger, student, and stay-at-home mom, this is something I struggle with. I need to work and get stuff done, but my child needs my attention. Definitely doing ALL of these! (PS. I’m sharing on Facebook and pinning this post!)


Alissa Marquess April 3, 2014 at 9:14 am

Thanks so much Stephanie, I’m glad you like the ideas!


Joann Sheeler April 24, 2014 at 9:52 am

I provide childcare in my home. One of my moms is expecting and planning to nurse. This would make an awesome “baby” gift for use when she’s feeding the baby. Thanks for all the ideas in one place.


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