Days 1-5: Weekly Roundup
Welcome to 25 Days of Toddler Play!
25 Days of Toddler Play--activities you can do, mostly with things you already have at home, with little to no setup/cleanup--was born out of necessity. When the pandemic struck, I had a 20 month old son at home and was 7 months pregnant with my daughter.
Like many of you, our lives came crashing down around us in March 2020. All play groups, classes and activities canceled indefinitely. No toilet paper. No child care. And, because of my pregnancy and how little we knew at the time about the virus, I was on strict lockdown.
We had to pass the time somehow, so 25 Days of Toddler Play was born. And then, my daughter was born. So we repeated it, over and over again.
25 Days of Toddler Play is divided into 5 weeks, with 5 activities per week. You can do any of them at any time, this is just how I chose to introduce the program. Because I'm a former teacher, I introduce the supply list before the week begins so you can make sure you already have everything you need. The program also includes one or two toys per week that I think are high-value for the cost and are shoppable on my Amazon storefront.
Here's the supply list for week 1. You can get many of these items by walking around your house, and also on my Amazon Storefront.
Without further ado, let's get to the activities!
Day 1: Ice Rescue ❄️
This is such an easy activity to set up! Just submerge & freeze small (non-choking-hazard) waterproof objects in a muffin tin, give them to your child, and watch how they explore.
I used small animals and alphabet refrigerator magnets to spell my kids' names!
My 1yo put the ice straight in her mouth (teething!). My 3yo went for a hammer
and smashed his to pieces. Great times were had by all!
Some extension ideas:
🧊 Put them in a water table, or the bath!
🧊 Sprinkle salt on them to see if that makes them melt faster or slower (only do this with an older child who won't eat the salt)
🧊Place them in a bowl of warm water to see if that makes them melt faster
🧊Discuss the concept of "sink" and "float" - what other objects can you find around the house that sink and float?
Day 2: Water Play, Ali's Way 💦
Not sure if you figured this out about me yet, but I don't do well with messes. For now, suffice it to say that it took me a while to get comfortable with my kids making a mess on purpose - and this activity is filled with all the tips I've learned along the way to maximize the fun and development for them while minimizing the stress for me.
💦 No matter how your child likes to play, they will find a way to have fun with water. My son, who is typically a gross motor only kid and rough on most toys, gets great fine motor practice with pouring. My daughter loves to role play cooking and serving me meals.
💦 To keep it mess free, have multiple water containment systems. I set up a plastic tablecloth, and have the kids play on baking sheets, and keep towels nearby. If you have a plastic pool or other giant plastic apparatus, I'd plop them right in that for the water play.
💦 Water play is a great way to practice enforcing limits about what is and isn't appropriate behavior in your home. No, it's not okay to squirt water at mama. Yes, it is okay to squirt it into this container. Etc.
💦 Plus, if chaos ensues and water gets everywhere... it's just water!
Grab the adorable tea set pictured here from Lovevery- it's easily our #1 most used water play toy and our favorite Lovevery product! I love it so much I ordered a second set when my daughter was born.
I hope you all have a blast playing with water today! One last tip - if it's warm out today, bring this activity OUTSIDE! ☀️
Day 3: Mailbox Box 📫
This one might be the one activity in this series that cashes in on the most play time for the least amount of prep. Read on!
💌 It's super simple, folks. Literally cut a slot in a box. Now it's a mailbox. Done.
💌 A younger toddler might enjoy simply putting things in the slot and finding them again! Doesn't have to be mail - whatever fits! My 1.5yo also loved folding (slash crumpling) a paper and putting it in an envelope.
💌 Any age could have fun decorating the box with crayons or stickers (watch my reel for a tip on stickers with younger toddlers!) Do you have a return address stamp like we do? That bought us like 30 minutes. Per kid.
💌 Preschool age children (3+) are absolutely INFATUATED with the concept of mail. And you can spend SO MUCH TIME on this. Actually write a letter to someone-teach them how to do that. Address the envelope. Put the stamp on. Show them how you lick the envelope (this is my 3yo's favorite thing ever). You can have them practice putting the paper in the envelope and into the mailbox, and then when they get bored with that, put the letter in a real mailbox!
💌 We have had our "mailboxes" in our house for about 3 weeks and there is no sign that the kids are done with them yet.
I hope your kids love this as much as mine do!
Day 4: Play Dough, Ali's Way
During the peak of the 2020 shutdown, I tried EVERYTHING to entertain my then-two-year-old. One of the things that just never caught his attention was play dough. Then, a friend gave us a sensory kit and it opened up this entire new world.
If play dough by itself gets boring quickly for your child, adding objects to the play dough will make it a completely different activity. You can use popsicle sticks, figurines, trucks, whatever you have lying around. If you got the flower toy (linked in my bio under week 1 supplies) for tomorrow's activity, that also works perfectly.
My issue with most sensory kits is that they aren't YOUNG toddler friendly. They often contain small choke-able parts, like rocks, so most sensory kits are labeled as only being for ages 3 and up. But, if you have a child under 3, YOU NEED ACTIVITIES MORE THAN ANYONE. So, adding popsicle sticks to play dough gets you that sensory kit effect without the risk of most sensory kits.
My 3yo did this activity and used popsicle sticks to make a smiley face. My 1yo put popsicle sticks in like candles on a cake and then sang happy birthday.
That's it!! I hope this activity brings you some peace today! ✨
Day 5: Flower Garden! 🌷🌺 🌼
🌱 I honestly can't say enough good things about this handy little flower kit. Kids know what to do with it right away, and there are a million extension activities you can do with this kit (scroll down for ideas)! The bright colors and flower motif brighten my mood, and what brightens my mood more is that my kids will play with this independently while I sip my coffee (or, you know, scroll Tiktok.) It comes with enough pieces that they can easily divide the kit into two halves and play by themselves, or they can work as a team to build something together. Because there are multiple of all the pieces, there's nothing to fight over.
Honestly, you won't find a lot of plastic toys in our playroom. But this one is totally worth it.
This Toy Is For Boys. And For Girls.
Well, all toys are. But, if you're thinking, "Well, I have sons who are 'total boys,' i.e. only into trucks or dinosaurs and playing rough, so they won't like flowers" - I'd still try it. My son (who fits that description) adores this kit and I love it for his fine motor development, which is not his strong suit so I'm always trying to find new ways to develop this in him. We play with it every day in our house, until it gets rotated out (I rotate our our toys every 3 months or so) - and when it comes back, both kids are always thrilled to see it. The pieces all easily fit into the storage container (which is transparent, so kids can see what's inside, which I love).
What Ages is This Toy For?
It says 3 and up on the Amazon page, but I give it to my 1yo daughter and she does great with it. You know your child best, so of course use your best judgement when deciding what types of toys you buy for them based on their age and needs. For a younger toddler, I would remove all of the smaller pieces that could be choking hazards and only give them the stems, flowers and the bases.
So Many Ways to Play! Here Are Some Ideas:
See how high of a flower tower you can build (this is my 3yo's favorite way to play)
Try to make a pattern with the different flowers: teach your child about patterns and how to recognize them. For example, if you alternate between yellow and purple, and place a yellow one, you can ask them to choose which comes next.
Take them in the bath - both the stems and the flowers can act like mini funnels.
"Plant" them in Play Doh (this is my 1yo's favorite way to play)
Another Play Doh way to play: use the flowers to make impressions in the play dough. For an older child, play a game where you make an impression with each flower, and then your child guesses which flower made which impression.
Bring them outside and let your kids "plant" them in the dirt! Playing in dirt is SO GOOD for your child's natural immune system development. They clean off with soap and water.