Like most toddlers, Arlo’s attention span is about 30 seconds so while I’ve already talked about our go-to Busy Clutch activities for when we’re out and about, I’m also constantly coming up with new ideas on the fly for things to do with him at home! Since this usually happens with no notice or time, they generally involve items already lying around our house (or neighborhood)… AKA they’re free! Thought I’d share five of our favorite free toddler activities today in case you’re also looking for ways to keep your little ones busy!
Take A Nature Walk
Arlo touches every rock, leaf, flower, bug and piece of dirt anytime we are outside. So one day I grabbed a little basket and we declared it an official “nature walk” where he went around the neighborhood picking out the *perfect* rocks and leaves to bring home with us. I always encourage and remind him to only pick up items that have already fallen from the trees and flowers, instead of picking things off the plants as they are still growing! He tossed each in his basket and was THRILLED with his collection.
Once we got home, I get out a piece of computer paper and a glue stick. (if you don’t have glue, just grab any sort of tape you have in the house! Or even stickers!) We use the rocks as paper weights to hold our work down and he excitedly glues the leaves and flower petals to the paper. So simple!
This would be an extra step, but if this activity becomes a hit in your house, you can also get this sun print paper and make sun prints out of the collection instead!
Go On A Color Hunt
I came up with this when we were working on teaching him his colors. We picked a color and he had to go all around the house finding items that were that color! Again, I just gave him a basket but you could use a bowl, reusable grocery bag or even just designate and area in a room to place everything you find on the hunt.
We went room by room and talked about what items were the right color, from his toys, to his closet to items in the pantry. You could totally do this outside too and just talk about the items you spy instead of collecting them!
“Wash” the Dishes
Arlo loves playing and splashing in the sink and he loves his learning stool! So we scoot that up to the sink, give him some of his (not breakable) dishes/lunch containers and let him rinse, fill, wash, scrub and play around with them in the sink. We squirt a few squirts of dish soap in the water so it gets super sudsy and he goes to town. Sometimes we’ll toss in a bath/pool toy too to buy ourselves a few extra minutes.
You may want to put a towel underneath the stool they’re standing on in case of water spills which is pretty inevitable!
Make “Scrap” Art
Since we’ve been doing renovation projects for 2+ years now, our house is filled with paint chip samples, so we’ve been using them to make “scrap art” with Arlo! If you don’t have paint chips, you could do the same thing with magazine clippings, catalogs, cardboard food boxes or any other paper you’d otherwise be tossing in the recycling bin!
We’ll decide on a theme for the picture like an ocean, farm or city and come up with ideas for what shapes or animals we need to make the picture. Then I’ll cut them out of the scraps and he’ll glue them onto a piece of paper to make the art! He’s obsessed!
This is a great way to re-cap and reinforce something they’ve learned about from a recent activity too. After a visit to the aquarium, we made an aquarium picture with all the fish he saw and after he spent some time working with our landscaping team during the install, we made a garden picture with a whole bunch of plants!
Create A Matching Game
Arlo LOVES to do matching games and puzzles. In a pinch one day, I grabbed a sheet of paper and folded + cut it into eighths. (You can do this with as many sheets as you like.) Then we grabbed a couple sheets of stickers (ones that have multiple of each sticker) and Arlo put one sticker on each piece of paper we cut. I helped hand them to him so we ended up with pairs, two of each sticker. Then we mixed them all up and turned it into a matching game and he had to find all the pairs.
Since stickers may not be something you just have lying around, you could also do this just by drawing shapes or colors on the papers and matching it that way! For older kids, you could draw one shape or place one sticker and then write out the corresponding name for them to match.
Any favorite free or cheap activities you do at home with your little ones!? Based on your suggestions on this post, we’re currently working on collecting bottles for a bowling game as our next activity!