Ten Inexpensive Activities for Two Year Olds

two year old activities

I had a request from a reader the other day asking for inexpensive activities she could do with two-year olds in her home daycare.  It got me thinking about the different activities I have done with toddlers over the years and how this age can be, at the same time, wonderful and challenging.

Two-year olds can be easy to please and generally prefer simple activities. They have just entered ‘the world of me’ and therefore enjoy activities that centre around THEIR ideas and THEIR way of exploring materials and concepts. Since they often have their own agenda these activities are great because I’ll get them started with an idea and they will take it to the next stage on their own.

Here are ten thrifty activities that are geared for the two-year old developmental stage.  These have all been winners with numerous two-year olds over the years.

1. Food Prints

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Grab a few old potatoes from the back of your cupboard, some crab apples from the tree at the park or maybe that carrot that is a bit too rubbery and cut them up to make food prints.

Most two-year olds enjoy getting their hands covered with paint but you can always stick a fork in the apple to act as a handle if they prefer it.  I buy a jug of washable paint from the dollar store and put little puddles in trays to avoid wasting paint.  I re-use food containers as trays.

2. Dance with Scarves

Put on some rocking Raffi tunes and give each child a light weight scarf (I went to our local second-hand store when I opened my daycare and bought 5 tacky silk scarves from the 1980s for a few bucks).  The children love to hold the scarves by the end and throw them in the air or twirl around with them.

You could use ribbon or streamers or even paper cut into long strips.  Anything that floats in the air will captivate their attention.

3. Balloon Fun

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Balloons are very inexpensive and you get a whole lot of fun with a simple balloon.  We throw them up, roll them, kick them, rub them on our heads, make them squeak, and try to move them from one end of the room to the other.

I often tie a skipping rope between our two toy shelves and then drape a bed sheet over top of it to make a toddler size waist high volleyball net.   This game lasts a long time

4. Shaving Cream Goop or Soapy Water

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I have a water table that I set up in the backyard with soapy water in nice weather.  We will also use the kitchen sink for water fun but I only allow one or two kids at the sink at a time to contain the mess.

Another old favourite is to put the toddlers into their high chairs and give them a bit of shaving cream on a plastic plate.  They love squishing it through their fingers and the clean up is very, very quick and easy.

5. Stepping Stone Games

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This picture shows the children using flexible circles for a stepping stones game.  We also use paper plates, construction paper, hoola hoops, pillows, skipping ropes arranged in triangle shapes, towels and chalk circles drawn on the sidewalk.

This game has endless variations but the basic idea is that the kids hop from one stone to the next.  They love it when I make up new and interesting pathways and I’ll add in special spots where they can dance a little jig and then continue on.  We practice our colour words, shapes or numbers during these games as well.

6. Collecting Natural Objects

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I collect wicker baskets of all sizes and shapes at garage sales or craft sales to hold different types of toys in our playroom.  Toddlers love to have a little basket to carry home their treasures when we go for our nature walks.  A simple bag would work as well.

They will intently collect pine cones, rocks, sticks, leaves and wild flowers.  We save their treasures and put them to good use in craft projects or use them as pretend objects in our outdoor sandbox area.

7. Making Roads and Ramps

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Most two-year olds enjoy playing with vehicles of some kind and most home daycares have a set of cars or trains.  Whenever I get a big box I like to lay it flat and show the children how to draw roads or train tracks on the box.

The two-year olds will eagerly draw their own roads and decorate the scene with their own lines and circles.  I’ll add a few stop lights, a building or two and a bunch of trees to bring the road scene to life.  This is a good way to reuse a box and extend the length of vehicle play for young children.

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Two year olds also LOVE to watch cars roll down ramps.  This activity is mesmerizing for them!  We make our own ramps with big pieces of cardboard, boards or this section of our green train table top. We propped it up with a toy bin underneath it so it wouldn’t slip on any little toes.  The pieces of paper happen to be a homeschool math activity in skip counting and predicting how far different objects would roll.

 

8. Kleenex Box Sorting

The next time your Kleenex box is empty consider turning it into an inexpensive activity for your two-year old.  You can flip it over and cut out a few shaped holes in the bottom.  Choose some objects you have around the house (for example, cut a toilet paper tube into thick slices to make circles, or use some jar lids) and then make your own shape sorter or size sorter or colour sorter.

I have a homemade sorter that involves matching up the correct colour of pipe cleaner (cut into short lengths) to the correct coloured hole in the box. The holes just have rings of colour around them.  Pipe cleaners could pose a choking hazard to a two-year old so choose the correct type of object for your group.  You can make your sorter complex or very simple.  The bottom line is that two-year olds really like to poke objects into holes (think of noses and peas) so use this to your advantage and make them an amazing Kleenex box sorter.

 

9. Blanket Reading Forts

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The world is a big place and two-year olds are small.  I haven’t met a two-year old yet who didn’t like to crawl into a little blanket fort.  Most of the time, toddlers do not know what to do once they get in the fort so they crawl back out. Crawling in and out and in and out is one great activity.  If you want to extend the fun a bit more you can give them a pile of books to bring into the fort and read (look at the pictures) themselves.

I have noticed that children who will normally only spend a few minutes looking at books on their own will sit and look through a whole book or even several when they are in a fort.  Eventually, my two-year olds choose to stay in their fort for 20 minutes quietly going through a huge stack of board books!

10. Marching Band

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Toddlers love to make music and musical instruments are easy enough to make if you don’t have any.  A simple cup (with a lid) filled with dried beans makes a great shaker and a pot or a yogurt container makes a good drum.  I find that two-year olds like to bang on a drum for a few minutes but then they lose interest after 5 minutes if left on their own.  However, get those little feet marching and they will go and go and go.

My group will make a loop from our playroom into our kitchen, through the front entrance and back into the playroom again.  It is a wonderful circle to keep everyone going in the same direction (a table would work as well).  The children are so happy to march along in line shaking their bean cup or thumping their yogurt drum (you can tie on a ribbon to allow it to hang around their neck).  Obviously, supervise this event closely but I find it is a delight to sit and watch them go around and around with big smiles on their faces.  They always perk up and strut when they pass me so I clap my applause enthusiastically at their beeeauuutifuuul music.

 

May your two-year olds find endless fascination and discovery in these inexpensive activities.  Enjoy!

Comments

  1. Thanks so much for the two-year-old activity share……
    I am a mom with a two and a half year old (I am also a kindergarten teacher on a bit of a teaching break…)
    Where I live Children’s craft supplies are not quite as extensive nor as readily available as I would like. I look on Pinterest for Ideas and though I can easily relate to the children’s activities posted, I would have to overseas import most of the resources to achieve most of those activities.

    These activities on your site are soooooo doable for me … thanks so much………..

    Vicky.

  2. Usually when I read posts like this there are about 2 or 3 usable ideas and the rest are just plain dumb. I love all of your ideas! Thanks for the great post.

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