Sanity-Saving DIY Activities for Toddlers

As with most toddlers, my 18 month old has a very short attention span, so I’m constantly looking for new ideas to entertain her for a few minutes. Since my mom was an early childhood educator for over 3o years, she is constantly adding ideas and supplies to my repertoire.

Because us moms need to stick together, I thought I would share some of our tried and true sources of entertainment with you all! I would love for you to share some of your favorite activities in the comments, as well!

*These photos were taken with me standing right beside her while playing. Please do not leave your child unassisted on the table.

I quickly learned that pom-poms are an all-time favorite in this house! She would be happy carrying around a couple in her tiny little hand all day! I ordered some colorful silicone cupcake molds and we use a muffin tin to sort various size pom-poms by color! 

She loves to put things “in” and, more importantly, take things “out,” so a toilet paper roll makes the perfect tube for pom-poms! 

As you can imagine, a bin full of pom-poms is like heaven to this little girl! Sometimes we hide toys in the pom-poms and do a hide-and-seek sensory bin! 

This activity is still a little advanced for her, but it’s a great skill to practice! I cut IKEA straws into 1.5-2 inch pieces and encourage her to string them on a shoelace. She is all about jewelry these days, so the end product can double as a necklace (which she loves)! 

Who would have thought that a popsicle mold and pipe cleaners would make such a fun toy? She focuses so hard on getting the pipe cleaner in the tiny hole–it is so fun to watch her concentration! 

You may remember felt boards from your Sunday school class (you know, decades ago)–well this is a great way to reuse those old felt boards! I gave her some velcro rollers and she had so much fun sticking them to the felt!  We also have a few felt activity books that we scored in the Target Dollar Spot that we can use with this felt board, as well! 

Try taping popsicle sticks down using painters tape and showing your little one how to peel up the tape to pick up the stick! This is another great fine motor/concentration activity! 

This is a semi-messy, but fun, activity for little ones! We dyed the rice using alcohol and food coloring (though, plain white rice would be just as fun) and she enjoyed running her hands through it. As she gets a little bigger, I plan to upgrade to a larger bin and give her funnels, scoops, and containers to play with the rice. 

This one is so simple I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner! I handed her a piece of wax paper and she had so much fun crunching it in her hands and then trying to smooth it back out. Plus, it was noisy which is always a hit with kids! 


This sensory bin has taken some getting used to–the first few times we tried it she was not a fan of the texture of the crinkle paper, but now she loves it! I like to hide safari animals in the crinkle paper and make her dig for them, and she likes to throw the paper all over the floor! 

Don’t throw out your old bracelets that you don’t wear anymore–they make a great toy! Lily loves wearing my bracelets, then she will stack them on a paper towel holder. 

We have a toy piggy bank that counts the coins (read: loud and obnoxious), but this is a great makeshift “piggy bank” using large buttons and an old sour cream container. I actually made this activity with the intent of taking it with us on vacation!

For a more advanced “piggy bank,” you can cut a narrow hole in a yogurt container and have your kids put playing cards through the slot! She is still a bit too young for this activity since the cards bend and she gets frustrated, but we will work our way up to it! 

As you can tell, I love finding activities I can create with items lying around the house! You can repurpose almost anything into a great toy for your kids!

What activities have you made for your kids? I’m always looking for new ideas! 

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2 Responses to Sanity-Saving DIY Activities for Toddlers

  1. Laura Mulcahy November 22, 2017 at 12:08 pm #

    Great ideas! I like to give my daughter who is about the same a big bin of pasta noodles. I give her bottles to put them in, separate into muffin tin, or even the piggy bank idea! She can string on a straw too!

    • Alana Livingston
      Alana Livingston November 22, 2017 at 12:40 pm #

      Oh that’s a wonderful idea, Laura! I will be doing that with my daughter soon—-she will be excited for the new activity! Thank you!

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