Being stuck at home during this challenging time can be difficult and repetitive. We struggled not being able to have playdates, visit the zoo or attend out gym lessons. Our days seemed empty and I didn’t know how to entertain my toddler without external input.
But after about a week the creativity started to flow. I think slower days and more time allowed us to connect and play with more purpose. Suddenly all these ideas popped up in my head.
Here are some of our favourite activities. All of which you can make from simple household items. My son, Benji- who is 2.5 years old, has loved all the learning, and I hope your toddler will too!
Make a ball run
We had lots of empty boxes from our hello fresh deliveries. I kept them, as I wanted to do something with them. When my husband told me he was going to throw them out, I made sure we used some of them before they were put out with the recycling.
For this ball run I cut the sides off two boxes. I taped the boxes together and used the sides to create little ramps. We added some toilet paper rolls and taped the heck out of it. My son absolutely loved this activity!
Design a life-sized version of yourself
We had a large box at home from a new bike we bought. I opened it up, cut off the sides and asked my son to lie down on it. I traced him and we then decorated him with mandala pieces. I was originally planning to create a pattern; he had no interest in doing that. So, we just freestyled! This was a great activity to develop those fine motor skills.
P.S. You don’t need mandala pieces for this. You can use any small items; pom-pom balls, Lego, cars. You name it!
Create a cardboard town.
Benji loves anything that includes vehicles and trains. We flipped over the box from the previous activity and drew some roads on there. We added some cardboard bridges and decorated the town with some animals and vehicles. I was originally planning to paint it, but didn’t end up doing it, and it wasn’t less loved because of it. These towns really encourage imaginative play! By changing the décor, you can go from a busy town to the zoo. And the next day it could be turned into a theme park or fairy land.
Make an egg carton sorting box
This seriously took about a minute to set up! I cut the pointy bits off the egg carton. Flipped it over and quickly used some texters to add a colour to each hole. I gave him a stack of loose parts and off he went! Colour sorting and posting activities are very loved in this home, it’s a great activity for the younger child.
Craft some penguins
I don’t like throwing stuff out, so I decided to use those left-over parts of the egg carton and paint them. My son’s favourite animal at the zoo is the penguin. He always skips to the penguin page when reading “moon”. So, penguins it was!
I just let Benji paint them white, and I added a black back and glued on some tiny beaks. And done! We used another egg carton to create an ocean. I gave Benji some tweezers and asked him to save the penguins from the wild dark ocean. Again – great to practise the pencil grip and fine motor skills!
Create a matching game and colouring page at once
For this activity I traced around Benji’s favourite animals. I then gave him a basket with said animals and made him match them up. This is a little trickier than most puzzles, as there are two sides instead of a back and front. Once he was done playing the matching game, I gave him some dot markers to decorate his animals. It looks so festive once he was done! We kept the paper and are using it to wrap up the presents for friends.
Play hide and seek with your memory game
For this activity we hid half the cards in our home-made sensory rice and left the other half out. We started with 5 cards, but ended up with using all of the cards in the game. You can play this game with numbers, flashcards, Uno cards, etc. Anything that you can match!
Whip up some sand foam
This wonderful sensory experience is made of two ingredients. Shaving cream and sand. You simply mix the two together and it becomes a beautiful mousse like consistency. Perfect to play with those diggers. Or what we did, free the animals. Pay outside though! It can get messy!
Keep the eggshells for jelly eggs
Never throw out eggshells! We wash them out and keep them in a container in the kitchen until we have a decent amount to play with. An egg smash by itself is already lots of fun! (just place the shells in a tray and give your child a hammer). But it becomes even more fun when you fill the eggs with jelly and glitter! It is harder to smash them, but the result is worth it!
Weave your favourite animal
Weaving is a great fine motor activity, but the traditional weaving activities are often too difficult for toddlers. We made a very simple version by cutting out a spiky echidna (Australian hedgehog) from a piece of cardboard. I wrapped some string around it, and started adding some prickly plants to create the spikes. You can obviously use any animal, but one with spikes makes it easier to keep the string in place!
Well, here are our 10 most successful activities which can be set up by using household items! We’d love to see your creations! Make sure to tag us when you try!
Lisa is a special education teacher from The Netherlands. She moved to Australia where she lives with her Korean husband and their 2-year-old son Benji Moon.
Lisa has a passion for open ended play and loves setting up invitation to learn and play for her son.
You can follow their play-based journey @life.with.moon.and.co