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Toronto, Canada

312 Adelaide Street West, Suite 301
Toronto, Ontario - M5V 1R2
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5 Cheap and Easy Activities for Toddlers: Tested

Written by Laura DaSilva

Trying to keep my 16-month-old entertained while working from home has been about as easy as licking my own elbow. I tested out some realistic activities you can do with your toddlers if you’re like me–busy, frugal, and not Martha Stewart.

Adjusting the “new normal” of COVID-19 quarantine life has been bittersweet. I’m so grateful to be spending all day, every day with my daughter Sunny. But once I plough through her favourite books and sing “Wheels on the Bus” for the billionth time, I’m left scratching my head. 

The amount of suggested activities online is overwhelming and it’s hard to find ones specifically for “tabies” (in-between baby and toddler). Busy Toddler is a great, practical resource for parents. No art degree or Instagram-worthy craft room required.

I tested out five activities from their list. My results were pleasantly surprising! 

Colander Pipe Cleaners  

How it works: Just stick a bunch of pipe cleaners in the holes of a colander and let your little one put them in, take them out and wiggle them around.

What you need:

  • Colander
  • Pipe cleaners

My results: Sunny loved this one. She had the most fun pulling them out–especially the twitsy ones. She played with this colourful contraption for a good 10 minutes. Then, she made me twist pipe cleaners around her wrists as bracelets and kept saying, “Pretty.” 

Book Drop

How it works: You literally just cut a slot into a box and challenge your little one to put books through it. 

What you need:

  • A cardboard box
  • Books

Results: Dark horse right here! This was by far Sunny’s favourite activity. Future mail carrier perhaps? I stacked her books beside the box and she slid them in one by one. Once she got them all, she clapped for herself and looked to me for my applause. Yay Sunny! She literally did this 10 times in a row. The next day, she woke up and started doing it again. Who woulda thought!?

Pom Pom Tube Ramp

How it works: Tape toilet paper and paper towel tubes onto a wall (with painter’s tape!) to create fun little ramps to slide pom poms (or other tiny objects) down.  

What you need:

  • Toilet paper and paper towel rolls
  • Painter’s tape
  • Pom poms (or tiny objects of your choice)
  • A container to catch them 

Results: Sunny started throwing her pom poms down the chutes. After a few tries, she became more interested in the tape holding up the tubes and started ripping it off. The apparatus was destroyed within five minutes. Next time, I’ll try a more elaborate setup. 

Rainbow Fill it Up Station

How it works: Fill up some containers with coloured water and let your little one pour and mix them to make new colours.

What you need:

  • Food colouring (I suggest the primary colours–red, blue and yellow)
  • Large clear bin 
  • Various clear containers to pour from and fill up 

Results: This was cool, but a little advanced for a 16-month-old. I made red, yellow and blue water and slowly poured them into one another to make secondary colours–orange, green and purple. I was like, “Coooooool,” but Sunny was not impressed. She just wanted to empty the containers. She poured water all over herself and me. It was chilly outside. Total buzzkill. I recommend doing this outside to avoid major hardwood/carpet spillage. We will revisit this when she turns three. 

Rice Scoop and Transfer 

How it works: Fill up a large bowl with rice. Surround the bowl with smaller bowls and containers and various scoops. Let your little one transfer the rice from the big bowl to the smaller ones. 

What you need:

  • Large bowl
  • Uncooked rice
  • Small containers
  • Spoons, cups, scoops 

Results: Rice, rice, baby! Sunny was very into this one. She loved the feeling of the rice in her hands and smiled every time she successfully filled up one of the smaller bowls. Busy Toddler suggests doing this activity in a large rubbermaid bin indoors, but I took things out to the terrace. And I’m glad I did! There was rice EVERYWHERE. Instead of throwing it out, I swept it up and put it into a container labelled “play rice.” We will definitely do this again soon. 

In conclusion, these five activities are actually worth trying and you likely already own everything you need. Go forth and play!

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Parent Life Network or their partners.