The Toddler Years Must Do List

All The Most Fun Activities to Do with Toddlers before they’re Big Kids!

(Well, OK- plenty of these activites are fun for big kids too, but you can start playing with your toddler today…)
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My youngest child turned two this week!  In celebration of her birthday, and because I really want to make the best of this time, I created this list of fun activities for 1, 2 and 3 year olds.

I present the Toddler Years Must Do List!

All the most fun things to do with toddlers before they turn into big kids!

Having a toddler around is SO busy; I don’t want to spend the toddler years in a blur and miss the best parts of this cute and funny stage – I need this list!

Many of these ideas for toddler activities come from when I asked about your favorite fun activities for 2 year olds this summer. You gave me so many wonderful things to do with toddlers. I had no idea how HAPPY reading the responses would make me!

The Toddler Year Must Do List

Don’t let this list overwhelm you!   Just use it to get get re-inspired when you’re feeling exhausted by things like night wakings of your 1 year old, potty training your 2 year old, or the constant mess your 3 year old leaves in her wake.  The ideas on the list are the some of the most fun activities to do with toddlers.  Many are simple toddler activities you can do at home and you don’t have to do them all – though I think you’ll treasure any you do :).

This post includes a few Amazon links which support CWK when you purchase through them, yet don’t cost you anything extra.

Play Together:

My daughter particularly likes it went I pretend her nose makes different noises like beeping etc. Its so bonding and so fun” ~Mel, mom to a 2 year old

Hide & seek in the house (which is really silly because it’s just basic hiding beside the bed post or behind the couch). ~Katherine, mom to an 18 month old

  • Pretend to be tigers and chase each other
  • Pretend you can’t find their hands when you’re helping them get dressed

Exploring Nature:

Stomping in muddy puddles; making the most of the weather whatever it is! ~ Lucy, mom to 3 year old

  • Feeding the ducks, or chasing them…
  • Feed a baby goat
  • Fly a kite
  • Walking in the rain…
  • Puddle splashing!
  • Play outside in fresh snow.

The look on my little one’s face every time he was in a toboggan was priceless! ~Rhonda

Bucket List for the Toddler Years

  • Hop over waves at the beach.
  • Look for crabs in the rocks, starfish in the rock pools.
  • Plant a spring flower to watch it grow.
  • Pick fruit off of trees
  • Watch a caterpillar become a butterfly
  • Explore the forest, touching everything.
  • Play ‘look high/look low’ and see what types of creatures or plants they see.
  • Run in the fields.
  • Toss leaves
  • Collect rocks.

A daily afternoon pram walk, so we can talk about the gardens we see, trees, the clouds, we count the buses. We just connect, get some fresh air and if I’m lucky they have a nap 😉 ~Caroline, mom to toddler

Go Visit:

  • Petting zoos
  • A botanical garden
  • An open gym day where your child can free play in the foam pit, the trampolines and the mats.
  • A Children’s Museum
  • Public library toddler reading time, or toddler activity hour
  • Cousins, Grandparents, and Friends!

Sensory  Play Activities

  • Playdoh
  • Waterbeads
  • Sand castles
  • Playing with rice, beans or cornmeal
  • Playing with those arts and crafts poms poms
  • Anything messy.
  • Mud pies, mud holes, mud body paint

Toddler years bucket list - water play

  • WATER! In the sink with containers, in the sprinkler, in a sand and water table.
  • Pour and measure – add a drop of food color for fun.
  • Squeeze wet sponges.
  • Walk the neighborhood with a watering can and “water” the flowers you see.
  • Long baths – not just for getting clean

(Find more of our favorite sensory activities for toddlers here.)

Songs, Rhymes and Stories

Toddler years bucket list

  • Read books together
  • Touch and feel board books
  • Sing and dance
  • Songs with lots of movement, like “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider”, “The Wheels on the Bus”, and “Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes.
  • Have spur of the moment dance parties

My kiddo and her young friends (18 months and 2 year olds) like to wiggle to music while wearing tutu’s…~Katherine


Cooking - toddler years

  • Pretend or real cooking
  • Make goop, gak or slime
  • Baking cookies or mixing pancakes together
  • Bake banana muffins
  • Have a Tea Party
  • Decorating cookies with lots of sprinkles that go everywhere!

When my daughter was a 3 year old she had 2 of her friends over and we made Valentine’s cookies–the floor was solid pink with sugar and sprinkles afterward! ~The Twisting Kaleidoscope

Arts and Crafts

  • Finger painting
  • Pudding Paint!
  • Water coloring paint
  • Do A Dot Art Markers
  • Stickers
  • Sidewalk chalk scribbles
  • Stamping
  • Make handprint art – tracing, impressions in salt dough and paint handprints

More Play!

Toddler years activities list

  • Blowing and catching bubbles
  • Balloons and balls -Balloon baseball!
  • Bikes, Trikes and Ride-on toys
  • Knobbed Puzzles
  • Do “chores” with Mama and Papa
  • Push baby strollers or shopping carts
  • Rough and tumble play
  • Build “forts” out of boxes or couch cushions!
  • Make blanket tents and tunnels

And of course: Tickle, snuggle, kiss, and have lots of playful physical interaction. So many of the most important things to do with toddlers are simple actvitities that take place in the home as part of day to day life.

 I adopted my boys as 21 and 23 month old boys… they are now 5.5 I would say ANY of the suggestions here, because kids just LOVE to play and experiment, but more important was the fact that I was down on the floor with them, making eye contact, laughing, sharing, and connecting with them. ~Margaret

This is YOUR list.  Thank You.  Thank you for all of your beautiful ideas, your adorable examples; and thank you for inspiring me and so many other parents to enjoy activities, love and snuggles with our toddlers!

For more fun toddler activities, take a look at my collaborative Zero to Two eBook!

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  1. Lisa says

    This is a wonderful list that truly values the rich normality of everyday life for very young children. They are soaking up so much from just these kinds of at home activities!

  2. Kacie says

    Thanks for this! My daughter will be 4 soon and I had a proud mom moment reading this because we’ve accomplished almost everything, and some things MANY times over. Great choices!!

  3. says

    Really enjoyed this list! Been looking for more ways to connect with my 2 year old since his baby sister was born 3 weeks ago, will definitely be doing some of these :) So much fun!

  4. Sarah Sibley says

    No lie, As I was reading this I realized the song playing in the background of my computer is “You’re gonna miss this” by Trace Adkins

  5. Erin says

    My daughter is almost 17 months and she loves to lay in the grass and look at the clouds. I point to some that resemble other shapes and she yells out “oh wow!” and points too. These little moments almost always end in some snuggle time before a nap, a tickle fest or lead to an investigation of what little critter crawled over her arm out of the grass.

  6. amber says

    I loved this and I’m so glad to see I’ve done almost everything mentioned on this list as my twins almost turn 4. While the toddler years can be certainly difficult, it sure has been full of laughter and fun too.

  7. Pam says

    I used to mail little things to my much younger sister. My step-mother would get the mail and just hand her the envelope and let her rip into it. I’d also have bigger stuff delivered by UPS. She came to associate the postman and UPS delivery guys with stuff coming from the magic mail place. It was lots of fun for both of us.

  8. says

    Thanks Jennifer. That was something that crossed my mind at the time of writing it, but the term “bucket list” has become such a colloquialism that I felt it would be seen for what I meant. I’m am rethinking this morning.

  9. Gramma Cece says

    All of my grandkids loved to make “forts”. I took blankets, quilts, sheets and draped them over tables, chairs, counters and most furniture I could put together to create a multi-room cavern. We would leave it up most of the day… eat lunch (picnic), take naps, and play games in these creations. Like little rabbits in a warren…. They still talk about it and they are in their 20’s now. Funny how certain things stick with them..!!

  10. Jessica D says

    I agree… I thought you were making sure your kid did all these awesome things before… Yeah. :-/

  11. Lisha says

    Hi Alissa, this is SUCH a comprehensive and wonderful reminder – of the importance we parents have to actually PLAY and enjoy our little ones. I am sharing this on, as we’re running Toddler Times and I would definitely want my fans to check out your tips!! :-)

    Thank you once again and keep up the good work – I LOVE your suggestions, always!!

  12. Lori says

    Take a candle lit bath! At Halloween we light our jack-o’-lanterns in the bathroom and bathe in its glow. Literally!

  13. Jennifer Sapio says

    While exploring the forest, you may not want to touch everything. Keep an eye out for poison ivy people, you don’t want your toddler to touch it!

  14. Tara says

    This list is a great reminder! Another idea: engaging in a “getting-ready” routine together (makeup, hair brushing, shaving with soap bubbles, etc.). My toddler is a girl, and she loves my makeup routine. When I put on mascara, she repeatedly says, “Eyes?!” I must then close the mascara and tap near her closed eyes to “put on” the mascara. Her favorite is the facial toner–I use the real product on myself with a cotton pad and get another one wet with water for her to rub all over her face. Her excitement and pride are totally worth the “wasted” cotton pads. She also LOVES to wear my mother-in-law’s hair curlers! It’s a bonding routine every time we visit with them.

  15. Shannon T. says

    For some reason my son always wanted me to climb up into his ‘treehouse’ which is really the top of his wooden swing set. I finally did it one day and he absolutely loved it. It’s our special time together and he gets such a kick out of showing me all that he finds up there. I encourage moms (and dads!) to do enjoy swing sets/playgrounds once in a while. It’s therapeutic for adults also!

  16. Rachel says

    First of all – great list! All simple, beautiful things to share with kids. I had forgotten about kites… going to buy one tomorrow and hope to see my two-year-old’s face light up when he sees it flying in the sky! One idea to contribute… it is so simple, and my son thinks this game is hilarious. I draw eyes on our palms with washable markers… then hold our hands palm outwards (eye out) up to your own eyes. Its a little creepy looking, but it makes him laugh hysterically.

  17. Jen says

    Great ideas, thanks for sharing!! I would also add buying unused paint brushes and “painting” the fence, outdoor toys, side of the house with a small bucket of plain water. Very fun!

  18. says

    Aw, this was such a cute list. And the pictures were adorable. I’m not sure about touching *everything* in the forest. Leaves of three, let it be!

  19. Karen Tower says

    I love the toddler list. I get to enjoy spending a day a week with each of my granddaughters, Addie is 2 and Ellie is 2 1/2 years old. They are delightful, I’m always looking for ways to make our time together memorable. Addie just turned 2 and when she realizes where she is going starts saying “Bubble, bubble!” We blow lots of bubbles, play the piano, dance and read books multiple times each visit. Ellie is my baking assistant. She does things, “By myself Gamma.” She is an amazing egg ‘cacker’. No shells in the bowl ever. Life is sweet! Thanks for the fabulous ideas.

  20. says

    Great list! One activity I’ve adopted with grandchildren is “beachball catch on the stairs.” Grandma and little one sit at the bottom. Grandma throws beach ball so that it bounces back down. Little one catches it. I am constantly amazed at what a good catcher a toddler can be! Vary the size of the ball and as the child gets bigger, more balls in a faster series. A four year old can sit at the top of the stairs and try to catch the balls. Use caution! No tumbling down stairs! Bopping in the head is just funny, but a hard smack in the snoot is not!

  21. says

    These are totally some awesome ideas to do with little kids. They only grow up once, and doing some of these things while they are little is the best thing we can do as a parent. Thank you sharing such wonderful ideas.

  22. Brittany Hatfield says

    All good ideas expect for chasing ducks. Ducks are not accustom to running, you might possible injure or break a ducks leg by doing this.

  23. Antonya says

    I would add taking videos of your kids, playing them back to them. Have them be as silly as possible. It is something you will treasure for years… and they will too.

  24. Patti says

    I’m a Nana with two little ones and one on the way. Your list is great. I’d love a printable version of the ideas. Thank you.

    • says

      Great idea to do a printable version of the toddler years bucket list- thanks. I can’t promise it’ll happen soon, but it’s on my to do list.

  25. Mary Jo Allen says

    This list makes me smile as I remember doing so many of them with my 33 and 31 year old daughters and it makes me smile even bigger as I get to do them AGAIN with two year old (tomorrow) Asher !!!!! LIFE IS GOOD….ENJOY THOSE BABIES !!!!!!

  26. Linda Joris says

    I’m now pregnant of my first baby :)
    I can’t wait to do most of these with my little one.
    It reminds me of my teaching kindergarten days.
    Thank you so much

  27. Dawna says

    Ditto others who have suggested a printable version of this list! I’d love to have this on my fridge (and other of your blog posts) when I’m looking for fun things to do with my wee girl. :)

  28. Rebecca Bodnar says

    My 2 yr old thinks it’s hysterical when I hold onto to his shirttail while he walks away. He’ll come up to and pull his shirt out for me to grab. :)

  29. Terry Ellyatt Klein says

    Jenny Zhenichka Speyer. Here is a cute idea list for you and Miles!

  30. Donna says

    @Brittany Hatfield so true, and depending on the duck, it maky attack the child

  31. Focus Family Freedom says

    What a magical time… I remember when my now 4 year old played in snow the first time, complete joy (for him and his mum & dad)!

  32. MrsMartin says

    My granddaughter is coming over tomorrow and I plan to keep her busy ALL DAY! Thank you so much for the great ideas

  33. says

    Its funny some of the fun adventures are random places in our local areas where we decided to explore (more fill in time). From beautiful rock pools and fairy finding in the bushes. So many great sensory experiences and fun to see them see discover things for the first time.

  34. Sarah Bates says

    Thanks Jo U0001f603 always refreshing reading ideas. I’ve watched a bit of playschool this week and have got some cool craft ideas we’ll have to try!

  35. felicity says

    Lots of good ideas but regarding chasing ducks! I think children should be taught to respect nature and not make life hard for them plenty of fun can be had without causing animals distress. I am forever telling kids off for doing this and frown on parents who let there children do this

    • R, Moll says

      OMG chill out. Your probably holding a battery hen raise drumstick touch typing with your other hand… It annoys the birds, stress… pfft. Great list but the way Alissa!

  36. Mary says

    Some of my baby boy’s greatest adventures are in our living room. It.s amazing how simple things that we find boring he’s discovering to be so interesting and playful (although i did have to get our glass table out of the living room for safety reasons:) ) but my favorite time with him is at evening, when i read to him Sleep well my baby, he gets this big bright eyes at first listening to me and than he slowly falls into sweet dreams, he’s just the cutest :)

  37. Deb says

    What a great list. And I felt so happy that even though I work full time outside the home I have done so many of these?

  38. Kellie says

    Did most if not all with my daughter and now watch her do them with my granddaughter, as I do too. Loved that your suggestions, all revolved around time spent together, not money.

  39. says

    Love these ideas! My daughter Lydia is 2! I’m so looking forward to the things we will do this summer. I plan to take her to our town splash pad (free) and get season passes to Darien Lake in order to try Hooks Lagoon. It will be fun to watch her enjoy these things and I can feel like a kid too! Thanks for sharing the great ideas. They are good reminders that we can make even chores fun, because for our little ones it might be something new. It’s all about the attitude we use when we pursue these activities :)

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