If you don’t give a toddler something to do they’ll find their own source of entertainment—and that can be a terrifying prospect (you know the feeling if you’ve suddenly noticed the house is too quiet only to find that they’ve somehow given themselves bangs). To keep them out of trouble and thoroughly entertained, we’ve rounded up some awesome games for toddlers that are sure to be a hit at any time, whether you’re indoors or outdoors. The best part? Your kiddo won’t know it, but they offer ample opportunities for hands-on learning. Ready for endless fun? On your mark. Get set. Go find your tot’s new fave!
Give your jumping bean something to jump about—letters! We love that this outdoor game from The Imagination Tree combines alphabet awareness with the chance to get those wiggles out. Simply write letters in sidewalk chalk and have your little one hop from one to another as you call them out. And all you need to get started is a set of sidewalk chalk. Read all about it and check out the phonics and math variations over at The Imagination Tree.
Let your toddler be your boss with a few rounds of Simon Says. Toddlers love the chance to be in charge! Then, you can give the commands for a bit. It's silly, active, and engaging—that's why it's an early childhood classic. Plus, it gives little ones a chance to practice following instructions, taking turns, and building listening skills. Simon Says go play!
Float That Boat
We love the Easy Boat Activity from Toddler Approved because it's budget-friendly, and it uses supplies you've already got in the house, like plastic containers, tape, and straws. Kids love it because it offers indoor water fun and the chance to capsize a fleet of tiny ships. Sail down to Toddler Approved to find out how you can set up your own version. Don't miss Kristina's ideas about what to talk about with your little one as you play to turn this game into a toddler-friendly science experiment.
Sing a Song
Whether it's Five Little Monkeys or Ram Sam Sam, toddlers dig a good tune. Plus, rhymes and songs like these are more than just fun. They build toddlers' vocabulary and pre-literacy skills. Find new ones to add to your repertoire at Storyblocks, a site created by Colorado librarians to share rhymes and songs for toddlers and preschoolers.
Super Duper Straw Game
Toddlers go gaga over games that give them a chance to put stuff in a container and then dump it out, so this Oatmeal Container Straw Game from Merriment Designs is bound to be a hit. We love that this game made out of recycled materials packs a big dose of fun on a budget. Round up straws and an empty oats container, then head over to Merriment Designs to find out how to make your own.
We All Scream for Ice Cream
If your toddler is anything like ours, Mama Papa Bubba's DIY Felt Board is bound to be a big hit because it's all about ice cream. Felt ice cream, that is. Little ones can practice fine motor skills and learn about colors as they match each colorful scoop and dot. Plus, when you've had your fill of ice cream, the board makes a perfect background for felt animals or people that can be used for storytelling fun. The possibilities are endless! Find the step-by-step instructions to create your own felt board at Mama Puppa Bubba.
Stretch it out and play a game of animal yoga with your little one. You can pick up a set of soft yoga blocks that toddlers can toss up in the air before diving into a downward-facing dog. Or try out these five animal yoga poses and pretend to be stretching tigers and rolling bears.
Make a Match
eeBoo's Life on Earth has everything we look for in a memory game: sturdy pieces, beautiful eye-catching images, and the chance for game-playing fun. If your kiddo isn't quite ready to play a full game, pull out a smaller set of matching cards for mini-memory fun. Plus, talking about the pictures on the cards is a guaranteed vocabulary builder.
Available at amazon.com, $17.99.
Dress Up Time
Try the dress-up challenge: give your toddler a scenario or career, like summertime, rainy day, forest animal friends, sports star, or construction worker, and send them off to create an outfit that meets that challenge. They can use their own clothes or dig things out of the dress-up bin. Then, put on a tune that goes along with the scenario you've picked and put on a fashion show. We guarantee that you'll get lots of fantastic photos out of this game! It's also great to play after dinner to encourage little ones to put on their PJs. Last challenge: bedtime!
Most board games are still a little tricky for young toddlers—but Where's Bear from Peaceable Kingdom is just right. Little ones get to play hide-and-seek with little bear, stack the sturdy cardboard blocks, and learn new words as they play.
Available at amazon.com, $22.95.
Toddlers love climbing under, over, and on top of all sorts of things. Obstacle courses let you take that natural climbing instinct and make it a game. Build an indoor obstacle course with painters' tape, making lines for your little one to walk on top of and jump over. Or take the fun outside and challenge them to stay off of the grass in the yard or the wood chips at the playground. Ready for a bonus round? Turn the obstacle course game into follow-the-leader and take turns being the leader. Check out this post for even more obstacle course fun.
Even if it's raining cats and dogs, your toddler can play Melissa and Doug's bowling game for hours. The weighted bottoms on the six soft animal pins make them easy to stand up, and the set comes with a carrying case for on-the-go fun and storage. Kiddos will build their gross motor skills and can also practice counting the pins one by one. Strike!
Available at amazon.com, $20.99.
On the Hunt
Kids of all ages love a good scavenger hunt. Send your toddler on a hunt through the house for four red things or two things with wheels. If you have a little more time or an older toddler ready for a challenge, print out a scavenger hunt like these. Good news: they're all free!
Caught waiting in line or at a restaurant without a stocked bag of goodies? Then pull out the animal guessing game, a game we love because it requires no gear. Think of an animal and ask questions until your game playing buddy guesses it. Does it have legs? Does it live in a tree? Older twos and three-year-olds love this game. When you're playing with younger toddlers, change it to the animal sounds game: make a sound (MOOO!) and have the toddler guess what kind of animal makes that noise. Then switch it up and have them make the sound.
Magnetic Rainbow Busy Box
Your toddler will spend lots of time spelling their name and piecing together words with this Magnetic Rainbow Busy Box from Mama.Papa.Bubba. It can be an art project just to create the box and they'll have endless fun learning and spelling once it's finished.