Now that Grant is almost a year and a half, I really enjoy doing intentional activities with him and teaching him things — mainly because I experience how much he comes alive in these moments. While certainly toddlers need unstructured play time, I’ve found it rewarding to have some (very loosely!) guided times for us to engage in together.
However, sometimes I’m stuck wondering what activities would be fun yet intentional for a toddler. Most of the ideas on Pinterest and other blogs require art materials and a lot of hands-on DIY projects (i.e. totally not my thing.) So over the past few weeks, I’ve tried out some different ideas and thought I’d share the highlights in case other parents are wondering the same thing. These activities are in no way revolutionary, but they fit into everything I was desiring:
- Educational (in the loose sense of the word)
Starting this summer, Grant will be going to camp two days a week, so activities like the ones below are low production and easy to add into your week. Let me know if you try any out, and I’d also love to hear any of your ideas!
All About Owls… Pandas… [Insert Favorite Animal Here]
Grant loves owls, so one morning I gathered all of the owl books, owl stuffed animals, and owl objects that we have around our house. (I happened to be in a sorority whose mascot was an owl — shout out to any Chi O sisters reading this! — so we have a lot of owl things — perhaps that’s why he likes them so much?!)
We read through the books, played with the owl stuffed animals, and I pointed out different things that the owls had in common, i.e. what made them an owl with large eyes, wings, etc. We then watched a short kid-friendly YouTube video about owls. I don’t often watch videos or TV with Grant so today was a treat, and he loved it!
Next, I printed out a coloring page of O the Owl from Daniel Tiger. (PBS Kids has great resources for free activities, coloring pages to print etc.)
Finally, we headed to the zoo and our first stop was… the owls! We happen to literally live across the street from a zoo so we are members and weekly attenders. Obviously, you could do just one of the activities listed here around your toddler’s favorite animal and I’m sure it’d still be a hit.
Grant also loves pandas, but we didn’t have any panda books. So for this one, we went to our local library and checked out a book about pandas and about China. We then did the same activities we did with the owls but with pandas instead. A big hit!
Like many of his toddler friends, Grant comes alive when he’s outside. Though we go on walks daily, I wanted to switch up our routine a little bit this week. We headed to a nearby science center that has nature walking trails, but before we left, I introduced Grant to the five senses that we’d be focusing on during our nature hike. He found it very funny to get to point to Mama’s eyes, nose, mouth, and ears. Then I printed off a coloring sheet of a face and identified the body parts with him while he colored. We sang a quick round of “Head Shoulders Knees and Toes” (subbed in with the words eyes, nose, mouth, and ears) before heading to the nature trails.
Although Grant has walked some of this particular trail before, I wanted to go on a longer walk with him so I pulled out our Ergo baby carrier. I carried Grant on my back during our hike, which made it easy and fun for us to listen for birds chirping, spot chipmunks in the leaves, and smell flowers. When we got to the end of the 45-minute hike, Grant said “again again!” so we spent some more time exploring and touching various types of bark on the trees. Grant used his sense of taste too when he ate the dirt 😉
Grant is obsessed with all forms of transportation and particularly bikes. His Gammie (John’s mom) got him this awesome bike book that he loves! John and I enjoy biking too (nothing serious, just going for family rides) so we decided to get a bike seat for Grant. The past few weekends we’ve spent on the bike, making a morning of biking to donuts, to the Beltline (a local trail), stopping at a playground, then biking to lunch and back home for nap (for all three of us!)… It’s been such a great way to see different parts of our neighborhood and enjoy family time together.
This past week was also a first for Grant — jumping in puddles! It rained a lot but we were dying to get outside, so we broke out the new rain boots I’d just ordered (these Crocs ones, which GM loves). He had a blast running through the puddles, splashing, and playing in the mud. He also took a lot of interest in dropping different things in the puddles to watch the ripples, and we experimented with what objects sunk (rocks) and which floated (sticks). Any activity with water, rocks, and sticks is a win!
Watermelon, Wine, and Water Sports
As I mentioned, anything involving water is an automatic win for toddlers, and then add in wine (for the mamas) and watermelon (for kids + mamas) and you’ve got a picture perfect play date. My friend Jill hosted a time of water “sports” for the kids, and they loved playing in the sprinkler and kiddie pool. Grant walked around the whole time holding an extra sprinkler part and nozzle of a hose, saying “tools tools!” This activity maybe didn’t fall into the “educational” category that I listed above, but it was definitely fun, engaging, and social!
As I said at the beginning, none of these activities are revolutionary, but they were a lot of fun and ones we’ll keep incorporating into our weeks. I’d love to hear your ideas for toddler activities …especially since we got scolded at Barnes & Noble story time for not sitting still!