Playtime Activities with your Toddler

Make sure your child’s time spent playing is filled with opportunities to learn.

Are you looking for fun home-learning activities to do with your toddler? Our team of early childhood curriculum experts thoughtfully curated these home-education activities from our proprietary Life Essentials® curriculum to help your family Learn On® when away from the Academy. Whether it’s during mealtime, playtime, clean up time, bath time, or bedtime – our at-home curriculum is built so you can easily integrate school-from-home learning opportunities in seamless, easy, and fun ways.

Let’s Write!

Level of instruction: Easy

When: Playtime, Mealtime, Outdoor

Time recommendation: 5-10 minutes

Participants: One-on-one

Learning Domain: Language and Literacy

Learning Standards: Uses materials to create purposeful marks and scribbles, Fine Motor Development, Hand-Eye Coordination

Materials: Variety of writing utensils such as large crayons, washable markers, washable paint markers, pencils, sidewalk chalk and paper


Provide your child with an opportunity to practice beginning writing skills and grasping. Gather writing tools and paper and encourage your child to bang, make marks, and draw on the paper. Banging is developmentally appropriate and should be allowed as your child learns how to make marks on the paper.

Continue challenging your child as his or her skill set grows, by using different writing tools and various types of paper, and progressively encouraging your child to be more independent.

Observe your child making marks to imitate adult writing. Does your child initiate writing with different materials? Does he or she begin to scribble?

Spaghetti Sensations

Level of instruction: Detailed

When: Outdoor, Playtime, Mealtime

Time recommendation: 30 minutes

Participants: One-on-one, Siblings, Family

Learning Domain: Creative Arts

Learning Standards: Use senses to explore objects of varying colors, shapes, textures and sizes

Materials: Spaghetti, food coloring, sandwich bag, plastic bin, tongs, child-safe scissors, fork, and spoon


Cook the spaghetti and then place the cooled cooked spaghetti into a large sandwich bag. Invite your child to add a few drops of food coloring and shake the bag until the spaghetti is coated with color. Place the colored spaghetti in a plastic bin and invite your child to explore. Provide your child with child-safe scissors and encourage him or her to cut the spaghetti. Invite him or her to use the fork, spoon, and tongs to try to scoop the noodles. Discuss and ask open-ended questions about the texture, the color, and if it was easy or difficult to pick up the spaghetti with the tools.

Observe your child’s interest in using the objects to explore the spaghetti. Does your child attempt to use the tools to pick up the spaghetti?

Texture Talk

Level of instruction: Easy

When: Playtime, Outdoor, Mealtime

Time recommendation: 5 minutes

Participants: One on one

Learning Domain: Language and Literacy

Learning Standards: Shows understanding of familiar words, Receptive language, Uses new vocabulary

Materials: Materials with a variety of textures


Provide a variety of different textures for your child to touch and explore. Touch the different materials, and say, Ahh, that feels so soft/rough/smooth, etc. Would you like to touch these things? Gently guide your child’s hand to feel the different items. Encourage him or her to describe how the item feels.

Does your child repeat words that you use to describe the textures? Does your child describe the textures with one or two-word sentences, with or without prompting?

Drop Dance

Level of instruction: Easy

When: Getting ready for the day, Playtime, Outdoor

Time recommendation: 10 minutes

Participants: One-on-one, Siblings

Learning Domain: Physical Development

Learning Standards: Demonstrates balance, Moves body to music, Demonstrates a basic understanding of instructions

Materials: Music, music player


Demonstrate for your child how to bend and squat. Tell your child that when you turn on the music, he or she will do the “drop dance.” Turn on the music and bend and squat slowly for the child to see. See how I was dropping my knees. That is what you will do. Your turn to “drop dance” too! Turn the music on and encourage your child to practice bending and squatting. Pause the music occasionally encouraging your child to freeze. Continue for as long as your child is interested.

Observe to see if your child can balance while squatting and bending. Did your child respond to the music?

Icy Interactions

Level of instruction: Moderate

When: Outdoor, Playtime, Mealtime

Time recommendation: 10 minutes

Participants: One-on-one

Learning Domain: Creative Arts

Learning Standards: Explores solids and liquids, Examines and manipulates objects, Cause and effect

Materials: Ice cubes (add food coloring if desired), plastic bin, water, spoons, scoops, cups


Invite your child to explore the ice and the water. Encourage him or her to feel the ice. Discuss with your child how the ice feels. Invite him or her to describe the texture of the ice. Encourage him or her to practice scooping and pouring the water. Invite your child to observe the ice cubes melting. If food coloring was used, invite your child to identify the colors they see in the water. Discuss with your child how the ice changes throughout the activity.

Observe your child’s interest in the ice cubes melting in the water. Does your child explore the ice cubes and water with the provided materials?

Look for Living Things

Level of instruction: Easy

When: Playtime, Outdoor

Time recommendation: 15 minutes

Participants: One on one, Siblings, Entire Family

Learning Domain: Cognitive Development

Learning Standards: Recognizes living and non-living things


Take your child outside for a walk. Tell your child that he or she will be looking for things that are living. Discuss what it means when something is living. For example, say, This table is not living. It was built. You and I are living. We can move and breathe. Is the blanket living? Now, we will go outside to look for living things, like animals. As you and your child walk outside, point out all the living creatures that you see, such as birds, insects, squirrels, butterflies, or other living things near you. Ask your child, Do you see that squirrel running in the tree? Is the squirrel living? Encourage your child to share what he or she has seen with other members of your family. Can you tell your sister about the living things you saw? Do you remember the flying bird?

Does your child look for living creatures? Does your child recognize different living creatures in the environment?

Find more activities for you and your toddler

  • Getting Ready for the Day: Turn routine activities at the beginning of your child’s day into learning moments.
  • Outdoor time: The great outdoors can be the best classroom of all.
  • Mealtime: Learning can happen at any time – even while eating.

Or return to the Life Essentials® At Home page to explore activities for other age groups.

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