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10 Simple Invitations to Play for Toddlers

As a mom of two little ones, I am constantly trying to find new and fun ways to excite and engage my girls.  It’s not always easy, but here are some simple ways I’ve found that have really worked well.

Evolving Canvas for Toddlers - Invitation to Play

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1.  LET THEM PAINT!  My daughter has spent hours painting.  I don’t mean at one time.  She’s only two.  But she definitely gets her paint on.  We recently hung a large canvas on the wall in the playhouse and it’s been a fantastic visual invitation for her to paint, paint, paint.  I got a few of these canvases marked down 90% at Aaron Brothers.  If you ever see them on sale, don’t hesitate.  I wish I had gotten more.  You can put them on the grass or a tarp for a play date, hand out brushes and rollers and the kids will love it.  The big size is really appealing to little ones.

Salt Dough Sculptures for Toddlers

2.  Making Salt Dough is super easy.  It’s one cup water, one cup salt, two cups flour.  You can read a post I did about it here.

water beads for toddlers

3.  Oh, how I love water beads.  These things are so freaking cool.  I may like playing with them slightly more than Gigi but I am confident when D gets old enough she will love them even more.  They are so bouncy and colorful.  They are really hard to resist.  Plus you can reuse them, which is pretty amazing.  Read more about what we did with water beads here.

plant a garden with your toddler4.  Planting a garden is super fun for kids.  We made a whole day of it and Gigi loved it.  Truth be told, our garden is…kinda…welll…dead at the moment.  But we really enjoyed planting it and if I had a greener thumb I’m sure it would be awesome.

Invitation to play for toddlers - poking and balancing5.  We are going through a major poking phase at the moment.  I’m constantly looking for things that will poke into other things.  It’s great for fine motor and I find that the more things we find, the more Gigi gets excited by it.  I think there are a lot of ways to expand on this activity, but so far a great introduction to balance and motion.

washi tape carpet games

6.  I keep my washi tape collection in our family room so it’s always handy.  We use it for everything.  I think tape was one of Gigi’s first words.  There are so many old school games you can tape out on the floor or carpet.  We’ve tried hop scotch, color jumping, marble runs and race tracks.  The marble run was our favorite so far.

washi tape and watercolors from The Artful Parent - great process art for toddlers

7.  This fantastic and super simple painting idea came from The Artful Parent, a book I highly recommend!  You can tape out names, letters, numbers, designs, etc. and use all different kinds of paints.  It’s a really fun project.  Read more about it here.

waterplay for toddlers

8.  Water play with food coloring has become a staple in our house.  We use it for play groups, play dates and just hanging around the house solo.  Kids love water no matter what, but they love it even more when it’s rainbow.  I love the idea of exposing Gigi to basic science at an early age.  I loved my science kit when I was younger.  There is something so exciting about test tubes and the possibility of an explosion.  I can’t wait to take our science play to the next level.  Fun at Home with Kids has some fantastic ideas for playing with baking soda and vinegar that we are definitely going to try this summer.

rubber band play for toddlers

9.   Rubber Band Play  It doesn’t get more simple than this.  Get some rubber bands, wrap them around some toys, put some in a pile and go get some work done while your child snaps, pulls and plays.

Invitation to play - paint your friends

10.  This was super fun.  I found some old acrylic easel frames at a local thrift store for 95 cents.  I helped Gigi pick out some photos of friends that she liked and printed them out in black and white.  I cut them to fit in the frames and let Gigi paint them.  She was cracking up as she painted her friends orange, green and yellow.  She went on to paint her parents next.  It was super fun.  You just wash the paint off with water and are ready to go for round two.  There’s something about painting on the acrylic rather than the paper that makes this so engaging.  This is something we will definitely do again.

Please let me know if you try any of these ideas.  I would love to hear from you. Have fun!

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