7 Ideas For Setting Up Toddlers To Play Independently

7 Ideas For Setting Up Toddlers To Play Independently

In addition to a play area that encourages toddlers to help themselves to the toys on their shelf, it is helpful to have an arsenal of activities you can set up and rotate through during the week.

We are sharing seven ideas here, with the notion that you could revisit each activity on a weekly basis, with some modifications to make the project interesting again. 

Toddler washing his toy cars

Tiny Car Wash
Set up your largest stock pot with soapy water (in the yard if the weather allows). Cut a sponge in half, add trucks or other toy collections and let the fun begin. Next time, select another category of figurines to wash, or let your child wash the bigger vehicles you may have at home, such as a wagon or ride-on toy.

Filling a Bucket
It may sound simple, but sending your child into the backyard with a small bucket to fill is great for some gross motor work and releasing some excess energy. Toddlers often like to fill buckets with rocks, and carry them around, which gives them the opportunity to exert maximum effort. After rocks, make it a scavenger hunt when you ask your toddler to collect sticks or leaves. 


Letters to Friends
Is your child feeling cooped up and missing their friends? You can help keep things social and bring back the art of letter writing, by having them draw pictures for their friends! This is an activity they can come back to throughout the day. Once you get the pictures ready to mail, you can take a walk to the mailbox together. Your child may even want to watch out the window for the mail truck.

Hidden Objects
Collect small objects your child is familiar with from around your home, for example, a small spoon, wooden brush, and a rubber duckie, then hide the objects in a bin of rice. Your child can play digging the items out of the rice as they use their haptic sense to guess what they are. (You can wash the rice and still eat it later!)

Hide and Seek with “Stuffies”
Hide your little one’s stuffed animals (5-10 depending on their age) around your home and then invite your little one to find each one! Then, if you have time, they can hide them for you!

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Transfer activities
Collect two bins, pots, buckets, containers. Fill one halfway with rice, dry beans, or water. Invite your little one to use measuring cups, trucks, spoons or other items to transfer from one container to another!

If you have a learning tower or step stool your little one is confident using, you can pull it up to the kitchen sink. Turn on the water a tiny trickle, offer a sponge and mild soap, and a few durable dishes and let your little one wash away. When finished they can put them in the open dishwasher top rack for “sanitizing”.

This Kitchen Helper stool is from Sprouts. Use promo code MONTIKH to save 10%.

When your toddler shows independence

Your toddler is building confidence when they work independently. It's a nice time for you to notice their ability to take care of their own needs, whether that's finding materials they want to use or fixing a tower that has fallen over. 

Support your little one's efforts by acknowledging what they're doing. 

Here are some phrases you might use: 

  • You're really focused on that. Tell me about it!
  • You made that happen all by yourself!
  • You're using your (fingers/muscles/eyes) to help you (activity)
  • I noticed you added dirt to your bucket. How did you do that?
  • I can tell how busy you are because I hear the sounds of (the blocks stacking, the instruments sounding, the water pouring).
  • We're both working! I'm writing a message to Grandma about our visit and you're using the shovel to dig a path for cars.

Showing them that you're excited about what they can do lets them know you're on their team, even when you can't join them in play.

Read Next: Designing Your House for Toddler Independence

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