The most popular post on this blog is 100+ Playful Things to Do with a One-Year-Old, so even though it was a time-intensive post to research and create, I always knew I would follow up with a similar one for two-year-olds! It took my son becoming a two-year-old to motivate me to finally do it.
My work experience as a preschool teacher has been with 2 1/2-5 year olds, and so my son is finally getting into the age group I’m familiar with! It’s very exciting for me, and I have a lot of fun ideas. So many that this list includes over 200 different activities! Of course, ain’t nobody got time for all that, so just scroll through to find the categories you and your little one are interested in.
Many of the activities included in the One-Year-Old post are still relevant at this age, some may take some tweaking, and some may be boring for your two-year-old depending on their development and interest. Same with the activities here! Every child is different, and the range of development can be so different between 2 two-year-olds.
This post is massive! You’ll definitely want to bookmark or pin and come back later!
Also, check out part 2 [coming soon] for activities involving fine motor skills, the outdoors, literacy and much much more!
[This post contains affiliate links.]
FOLLOW THE TWO-YEAR-OLD’S LEAD
First of all, just like with the one-year-old post, the first place to begin is to follow their lead! Do they like cars? Dolls? Singing? Do they tend to be timid or throw themselves right in the middle of things? Remember, when we’re coming up with activities for them, to keep it for them! We’ve all been excited about a toy, game or activity, but the kid is all “meh.” Try not to take that personally, and just move on. They may be interested later, anyways.
- I have a printable songbook on the freebie page; it’s a word doc so you can edit it to add songs you love or take out songs you don’t.
- Make a fun playlist on Spotify, or find one on Pandora. Dance around and sing, or just have it on while you play. (Side note: it doesn’t have to be kid’s music! My two-year-old frequently requests “guitar” music, by which he means Rodrigo y Gabriella, a Mexican flamenco guitar duo.)
- Music is a great way to get your two-year-olds wiggles out when the weather is too rotten to get outside. Teaching 2-and 3-Year-Olds has a great list of songs to get you started.
- Teaching 2-and-3-Year-Olds also has another list of 30 of the best toddler songs.
- This is more in the “noise” category than “music,” but Best Toys 4 Toddlers has this great silent or loud toddler sorting game.
- I love this idea of drawing to music from Artful Parent. I have a colleague that tried it with her classroom and it was a real hit with some of the kids.
- Everyday Reading has some simple and adorable toddler music games.
- Let’s Play Kids Music has a post all about ways to incorporate classical music in with children’s lyrics and movement games. Genius!
ARTS & CRAFTS
This is a huge area for 2-year-olds! The following barely scrapes the surface of ideas out there.
- I would recommend keeping the crafts where you have to do half the work to a minimum. You know the ones I’m talking about; where you have to cut something out for them, dictate what color they should use, then glue it together in such a way. Those can be fun on occasion, but they miss the point of what art is all about for kids! Art for two-year-olds should be more about the process, and less about the product. To learn more about the difference, check out this post. If you want them to have a process experience but need a product out of them (for example, you want to make a grandparents gift) check out this post.
- No Time for Flashcards has rounded up 50 art projects that are good for toddlers.
- We’re going with a Montessori art tray approach for a lot of the art: Here are 4 great ideas from Kavanaugh Report.
- Busy Toddler has some great tips on painting with toddlers without going crazy that you may want to read before you get started.
- What’s Up Fagans has a post on mess-free painting with toddlers as well.
- My favorite tip for painting with toddlers that I learned from an art teacher: mix a little bit of liquid soap (dish or hand) into the paint. It washes up so much easier!
- Two-year-olds are often still sticking things in their mouths. While we want to start discouraging it, it is totally normal and to be expected! So Wings and Roots has this fabulous recipe with yogurt for edible finger paint so you don’t have to worry!
- Speaking of eating finger paint, Six Dollar Family has another safe-to-eat finger paint recipe, but with flour.
- Buggy and Buddy has this simple process painting project perfect for a toddler.
- We’re going to have to try this painting with trucks activity with our truck-obsessed two-year-old, from Learn Play Imagine.
- How cute are these pet rocks from 5 Minutes For Mom? This may be for an older two-year-old, I don’t think my just-turned-two-year-old would be capable of painting something like this.
- If you don’t want to make a pet out of a rock, how about out of an egg carton? Creative Green Living has two different versions: ladybugs and silly creatures.
- Here’s a project that would involve your hands-on help, but is super cute: a Baby Sea Turtle from My Heavenly Recipes.
- I love making art a sensory experience! I Can Teach My Child has this great idea to color with crayons on sandpaper.
- Get your chalk wet before drawing for a different kind of experience, from Housing a Forest.
- The Spring Mount 6 Pack has this cute idea to draw on and make little kites–all the age groups got into this one!
- Have a little budding artist and you want to show it off? Or somehow stick their drawings onto their backpack? Mod Podge Rocks Blog shows you how to make pins out of their drawings!
- Gluing can be a tricky thing for toddlers to learn. Busy Toddler has this project for practicing gluing with a glue stick.
- Potato stamping is a super classic kid’s activity that we’ll be trying soon, Ginger Casa shows you how to do it over in this post.
- I love making things that can become a part of our house, like this time we painted a picture frame (it’s still on our shelf!) I found two different ways to make coasters with your toddler: This tile version from Merriment Design, and this Mod Podge wooden one from Mod Podge Rocks Blog.
- We found some bingo dabbers at the dollar store and it’s one of my toddler’s favorite art supplies! We’ve used them on paper and scrap wood. The Spring Mount 6 Pack uses them too (only they call them dot markers, which is a name that probably would make more sense to my toddler who has never seen a bingo game.)
Art supplies appropriate for a two-year-old:
Also, if this isn’t enough, check out my Pinterest, the “art” board is especially large:
Sensory play does a lot to help develop your two-year-old’s fine motor skills (which is what leads to a strong pencil grip later). Most two-year-olds I’ve known love playing in sensory tables; in fact, in mixed-age classrooms, I typically put together my sensory tables with my 2-year-olds in mind. With this age we can use smaller pieces because they also tend to be better about not sticking everything up their nose and in their mouths (though not always! Watch them closely, especially in the beginning.)
- If you’ve never done a sensory bin or table with your toddler, Busy Toddler has a great post on how to introduce them to it.
- I have a free downloadable recipe book of “sensory sillies.” Things like playdough, gak, etc. Check out the moon sand I made with it here.
- Speaking of moon sand, The Spring Mount Six Pack has a more lengthy post with instructions on how to make it over here.
- I also have a free downloadable of ideas for sensory table or bin fillers and the “formula” I’ve always used in my classroom sensory tables.
- Getting materials for a sensory table can quickly add up if you want a variety. I recommend checking out your local Buy Nothing group; people sometimes offer random things that go great in sensory tables. If you want to know more about Buy Nothing, check out my post I wrote all about it.
- One of my first blog posts was all about Fall sensory table fillers.
- As of this writing, my freshly turned 2-year-old is super into playdough. I have my favorite playdough recipe and 20+ things to do with playdough over on this post.
- In case you’re unsure of making playdough yourself and want to watch it being done, My Heavenly Recipe has a video. (BTW, if you’ve never made playdough before, you’re missing out! It’s super easy and cheap.)
- If you or your kid are gluten-free, Strength and Sunshine has a GF recipe for playdough.
- Here’s yet another edible play-dough recipe, from Look We’re Learning. I’ve never tried one with these kinds of ingredients, looks like a different texture than I usually see so it may be worth a try!
- Do you have any flowers or plants that grow like weeds around you? We had a ton of lavender last year, and so I had my students take the flowers off the stems for making things. It was a fabulous fine motor sensory experience and a wonderful sensory experience from the smell!
- My toddler has some anxiety around getting dirty that I’m trying to gently push against, so I love this idea for a pet sensory bin activity: get the toy pets dirty, then wash them, from Pre-K Pages.
- This sensory bin idea combines a popular toddler book (Chicka Chicka Boom Boom), sensory play, and the ABC’s all in one: from Mama Papa Bubba.
- Sometimes you really don’t need much to keep a two-year-old busy. Like, a whisk, some soap and some water in a tub should do it. (The Empowered Educator was smart to do this one outside!)
- Busy Toddler used bubble bath & food coloring to make this colored foam that we’ve got to try.
- A super simple sensory tub/table that I often return to in the classroom is something like this water scooping and pouring idea from Busy Toddler. So quick and easy to throw together, too.
- We’re gonna have to try this fluffy foam sensory silly from Sugar Spice and Glitter. She points out that sometimes these things call for a million ingredients, but hers is just glue, shaving foam, and contact lens solution. Looks like fun!
- Most of the time when we’re talking about sensory play we’re talking about the sense of touch, so that’s why I love this DIY idea for smelling bottles! From Living Montessori Now.
- This one is very similar to the smelling bottles, but it’s for sounds! I’ve seen two-year-olds really get into the sound matching work in Montessori classrooms, so I’d like to try it with my son. From Stay at Home Educator.
- Take Time for Style has 10 quick and easy sensory bucket ideas if you want to throw something together real quick!
- Here’s an idea for when you just can’t even with the mess of sensory play: a sensory BAG. From Happy Deal, Happy Day.
Sensory table/bin supplies:
CHORES / RESPONSIBILITY
Two-year-olds are better at taking more responsibility for themselves. For example, putting their plate in the sink after dinner, or picking up their toys. Luckily, they’re still young enough to feel happy and full of pride when they do chores.
- Learn some clean-up songs to sing with them at clean-up time and have fun with it!
- Two-Year-Olds are becoming more and more capable of putting their clothes on themselves. Check out this post on the benefits of letting our children dress themselves.
- Check out this cool jacket trick at The Kavanaugh Report! My son’s teachers taught it to him when he was only 20 months old, so he knows how to put on his own jacket (but not zip yet).
- At two they can start learning about being a good Earth-dweller. Have them help sort recycling! The concepts of landfills and recycling is a bit much for them, but two-year-olds usually love sorting things.
- The Green Family Project has tips on how to include your children in doing chores without nagging, headaches and tantrums.
- Love and Renovations has this list of chores her two-year-old does (on his own!) With the cutest photos ever.
- A Mother Far From Home also has a list of responsibilities her two-and-three-year-olds can handle.
- Chores and responsibilities are a piece of the puzzle on trying to not have spoiled children. Living More, Spending Less has this great post on how to “Un-Spoil” your kids that I’ve returned to a couple times for reminders.
- Beyond chores, it’s time for some life skills to come into play! Planes and Balloons has 12 of them.
- Helping prepare foods: You can see more about this practical life skill in the next category (Practical Life) but it deserves a place here too. My freshly turned two-year-old has recently started peeling his own oranges. He decided he was ready and is so proud and pleased every time! The Kavanaugh Report also has a post on preparing a sandwich, so we may try that soon.
- It’s important now to teach good manners and self-care techniques when it comes to being sick. We’ve been using the phrase “Catch your cough/sneeze!” to help remind him to cough/sneeze into his elbow (which The Myth Busters proved is the best way) and The Kavanaugh Report has a post about teaching a toddler how to use a tissue.
- My two-year-old can put his own shoes on most of the time now, which is awesome. But somehow kids, while having a 50% chance of getting shoes on the right feet, only succeed like 5% of the time. I remember when I was little my mom said: “The vecros need to kiss/shake hands first” (When velcro shoes are on the right feet, the velcros go to the middle when open). Nowadays I’ve been seeing kids with these adorable stickers (see link below on right).
I believe “practical life” is a Montessori thing. I worked in Montessori classrooms for 7 or 8 years, although I’m not Montessori trained. Basically, practical life activities are ways for children to play at things that serve (or will serve later) a practical purpose in their lives. These are a few that we’ll be doing around the home.
- The Kavanaugh Report explains practical life for toddlers better than I can in this post. Bottom line: It’s practical. She also explains why it’s important in this post.
- If you want to get started with practical life, The Kavanaugh Report can show you how.
- Living Montessori Now has a great post with practical life activities for toddlers, as well as a big list of all their practical life activities. She also has a list of other great Montessori websites and blogs at the bottom of this post.
- One that I’ve done many times with children and can’t wait to try with my son is banana cutting.
- When I worked in Montessori classrooms, one of the most popular works/activities were the sorting practical life works. You could use colors sorting like The Activity Mom did here, or any other sort of item you have a lot of; sort the smooth stones from the rough stones, sort the giraffes and zebras, etc.
- This page, Eltern dom Mars is in German, but your browser should be able to translate. If not, the photos are great enough to show you what’s going on! Some really great practical life ideas for toddlers.
- Now, we aren’t talking about handing a butcher knife to a two-year-old. The Kavanaugh Report shows the progression on how to get your little one skilled and knowledgeable enough to handle a knife.
BUSY BOXES & BAGS
I wasn’t as on top of creating these last year as I wanted to be, but the ones I did create were a success! I made a few for him for when his little brother was born and they were very helpful.
- We found these matching animal cards at the dollar store. You could also make them yourself by printing them out on cardstock, or printing them on regular paper and gluing to something like wood or heavy paper.
- This sticker busy bag has been the most popular. What I love is that I gave him something to stick the stickers to (index cards) so I haven’t been finding stickers all over the house! (So far…knock on wood!)
- Little House Living has a ton of ideas that cost less than $1!
- Powerful Mothering has a free printable for a dinosaur matching busy bag that I may have to try for my dino-loving boy!
- Shapes and colors are starting to get named in our house, and trucks and cars are always a hit, so we may have to set up a busy bag with this project from The Country Chic Cottage.
- Here are 20 great ideas for toddler busy bags from Unoriginal Mom, as well as tips for setting up a busy bag exchange! I love that idea, get a bunch of moms together, everyone just makes 10-20 of one type, and then exchange them.
- I LOVE this zoo busy box from Play Learn Every Day. Just the kind of thing I would have loved as a kid!
- This super simple one can be fun for building or color matching, from Desert Chica.
My DIY Toys board on Pinterest has been one of the most popular since I started it, so I had to include some of those things here. Some of these DIY toys are things you can make with household items and recycling, some are a little bit more complicated.
- Leave it to Busy Toddler to have a great list of activities you can set up and throw together in a couple minutes!
- Check out this GIANT dry erase mat I Heart Arts n Crafts made for only $1!
- At some point, we had recycling on our play shelf and now my husband and father-in-law are constantly putting recycling with his toys. Here’s a fun STEM-inspired activity to do with your two-year-old. From Busy Toddler.
- Some two-year-olds just love felt boards. Buggy and Buddy has a post on how to make one!
- I had a colleague print these roads out from Picklebums and laminate them. Her students had a blast for weeks with them!
- These dancing ribbons from Laughing Kids Learn are simple to make and a lot of fun. (If the ribbons are long this would have to be a supervised play, otherwise, they could choke.)
- I love this idea to turn a bookshelf into a dollhouse, from Simple As That.
- Wellies and Lemonade compiled this list of 11 DIY toys that are super cute.
- DIY color sorting from an oatmeal container, from Merriment Design.
- Cute little collaged box from Mod Podge Rocks Blog.
- Wizard wand! This one from Spring Mount Six Pack is cute. I’ve also seen it done with sticks from nature and whatever art materials you’d like; string, glitter, etc.
“Loose Parts” is something that (I believe) comes from the Reggio Emilia style of early childhood education. It’s basically where a child plays with miscellaneous “loose parts” like buttons, sticks, empty spools from thread, etc, and it gives them an opportunity to be truly creative. In the town of Reggio Emilia they actually have a little warehouse filled with things that would otherwise end up in a landfill, and their early childhood educators can come and take whatever they want for free!
- Let The Children Play has a post explaining loose parts, some common materials, and how to get started.
- Community Play Things has a similar post, with a bit more of an outdoor and nature focus.
- If you want to really dive into some learning, Collaboroo has a free class on it. It’s directed towards early childhood educators, but still useful.
- Fairy Dust Teaching is my favorite resource for all things Reggio Emilia, and she has a free eBook all about loose parts.
- Check out your local Buy Nothing group for a source for loose parts. I wrote a post about Buy Nothing if you’re curious what I’m talking about. Not sure what to search for, or where to start with loose parts? Someone will eventually post something totally random in that group for you to try out.
PHEW! OK, huge post, this is only the first half! Check out the other half coming soon.
Bookmark or pin this post to return for more inspiration and ideas next time you’re looking for something playful to do with your two-year-old.