Jaques Cousteau. Lewis and Clark. Your two-year-old. They’re all about discovering new things while charting their own courses. Keep your little explorer happy with these sure bets—as beneficial as they are brilliant—below.
photo: While She Naps
1. Make your own beanbag using this tutorial by While She Naps, and then play catch to improve hand-eye coordination.
2. Hand over a stack of scarves (or cloth dinner napkins if you’re clean out of scarves, or neck ties, assuming Daddy won’t mind), turn up some tunes, and enjoy the show.
3. Cut up pipe cleaners and put them in a clear plastic bottle, and replace the lid. Then give your kiddo a magnet and watch as she explores and manipulates! See how they did it at Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls.
photo: The Imagination Tree
4. Thread colorful cardboard “beads” onto pipe cleaners or string to work on color awareness, patterns, fine motor skills, and imaginative play. We love how The Imagination Tree did it.
5. Blow bubbles and have the littles pop each one before it hits the ground.
6. Pour rice in a bin and hide toys in it. They’ll love playing with the texture of the grains in this sensory activity and finding treasures.
photo: The Teaching Mama
7. Lay contact paper flat on a table and let your tot create pictures on the sticky surface with pom poms, pipe cleaners, buttons, acorns, goggly eyes and more. See how The Teaching Mama does it here.
8. Thread squares of felt onto a ribbon that’s been anchored by a button at one end and create a soft caterpillar to pull. Don’t tell them, but you’ll be improving their fine motor skills and working with colors, too! We like the one that Jackie at Happy Hooligans made with her kids.
9. Using solid color cardstock, reinforcement stickers (the round ones that look like an “o” and are sticky on both sides), and sparkly pom poms, cut out simple bunny shapes and let your littles match the correct bunny tail to each differently colored bunny. See how Twodaloo kicks it up a notch with a magnetic chalkboard and lamination.
photo: Laughing Kids Learn
10. Using nothing but straws, uncooked rigatoni, and play dough as a base, build noodle towers and cityscapes, like Kate did at Laughing Kids Learn.
11. Use duct tape to attach empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls to a wall, then have fun dropping brightly colored pom poms through each route. Place an empty egg carton below the out spouts and see if you can get a pom pom into each divot, like Teach Me Mommy did.
12. Cut out images of family members’ faces without their hair, then let your mini stylist use play dough to give each person in their family a new ‘do. We like this tutorial by No Time for Flash Cards.
photo: Mess for Less
13. Using a colander and pipe cleaners, let your mad hatters create marvelous masterpieces as they improve fine motor skills. Skip on over to Mess for Less for inspiration.
14. Use colorful, solid color duct tape to wrap empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls, then turn your two-year-olds loose to create floor art, tunnels for cars, and music with them. Teach Preschool has great suggestions for this activity.
15. Create matching cards with your toddler’s favorite toys by tracing them on colorful card stock, then letting them figure out which toy belongs to each shape. We love how Toddler Approved does it.
photo: Donnie Ray Jones via Flickr
16. Put on your galoshes and splash in a puddle after the rain, or let them cruise through the puddles on their scooters.
17. Place stickers and a piece of construction paper on the table and let your two-year-old go to town.
18. Cut out images of food from a magazine, and let your little chef glue them onto a paper plate. They’ll love making you dinner (possibly while you make them theirs)!
19. Use plastic tongs to make sorting different colored pom poms more fun.
photo: The Realistic Mama
20. Use paint samples to create simple, two-piece puzzles. Check out The Realistic Mama for tips.
21. Teach little ones colors by creating a color wheel using a painted piece of cardboard, paper plate, or other sturdy circle and matching clothes pins. The manipulation of the clothes pins improves hand strength while they learn to sort and match by color. Check out Craftionary’s tutorial, here.
22. Create a crunchy box with stale crackers, cereal, and unused noodles in a storage box, then let your little bang away using a toy hammer or plastic cup! Find out more over at Busy Toddler.
23. Make your own confetti creations with construction paper, a hole punch, and some glue. See how Picklebums makes it happen in this tutorial.
photo: Hands On As We Grow
24. With a can and colorful rubber bands, you can keep them busy putting bands around the can. Then, when their attention starts to wane, you can show them how to make different sounds by flicking the bands agains the side of the can. Check it out at Hands On As We Grow.
25. Cover a table in paper and let your little artist draw, stamp, and sticker his heart out.
How do you keep your two-year-old happily occupied? Tell us in the comments section, below.