Activities that truly engage toddlers will keep them “busy” as we often say, but there’s more to it than that.
Yes, parents love when toddlers get busy because they cease demanding snacks, attention, ALL THE THINGS. But rest assured, toddler parents, when they simmer down and focus on one thing, they are building truly important 21st-century skills!
What you’ll notice
Whether your little one becomes fascinated by books, lining up blocks, or opening the same container over and over again, repetition is a signal that they’re getting some satisfaction from the activity.
Perhaps they are observing cause and effect. Or maybe they’re practicing their balance as they climb over a couch cushion time and time again.
Toddlers have an inherent desire to refine their skills, so the activities that most deeply engage them are ones that enable them to do that.
How you can help
Offer your toddler an activity that aligns with a new skill and they will focus on it as they practice and repeat.
You can call it but really you're supporting their learning, concentration, and perseverance, abilities that will serve them through adulthood!
What Montessori Activities Will Keep My Toddler Busy?
It’s hard to predict what will keep your toddler busy, so we’ve rounded up three different categories to inspire you: Practical Life Activities (basically chores!), Montessori Toys designed to help toddlers practice key skills, and DIY activities that you can set up with just a couple of items.
Practical Life Activities That Keep Toddlers Busy
Many practical life activities will include you, because you’ll be modeling the steps for your little one. However, the benefits of your child learning to care for themselves and the house are both immediate and long-term.
Working side by side with you, your child will gain confidence and self-esteem as they are included in your work. Eventually, they will do some of the tasks themselves, becoming a self-sufficient and valuable contributor to the family.
Some practical life activities are precursors to actually doing chores. For example, practicing pouring will enable your child to begin cooking with you.
Try these activities with your toddler. If they don’t get into it right away, that’s ok. You can try again another time.
- Sweeping with a dustpan and handbroom
- Loading the washer or dryer with clothing, one item at a time
- Cleaning a window or wall with a spray bottle of water and a dry rag
- Using a lint roller to clean pet hair from the couch
- Moving the silverware from rack into drawers, sorting forks, spoons, and knives
Try these Montessori activities as “work” that you prepare for your child, model, and then invite them to practice independently.
- Pouring water from a small pitcher into a glass and back again. Include a sponge or small rag in your set-up so that your child’s concentration is not broken when they spill. Wiping up spills is part of the activity. Make sure to spill a few drops and wipe it up when you show them what to do.
- Dry pouring with rice or beans and a few containers. Start with a drinking glass filled with something dry that will pour and offer two other clear drinking glasses for them to pour into.
- Transferring items between two bowls with a pair of tongs. You can use cotton balls or torn-up pieces of bread – anything they can grasp with tongs!
- Scooping with a spoon and a bowl filled with dry beans (lentils work, too!) and an empty bowl.
- Sorting two different items into different containers. This set-up uses three bowls. One of the bowls includes two dry ingredients co-mingled. You can use food items or craft supplies such as two different colors of pom-poms. Your child will sort them into two different bowls.
Other examples of Montessori practical life activities for toddlers
Food preparation is a big part of Montessori learning. You can show your child how to
- peel an orange
- spread jam on bread
- rinse fruits or vegetables in a strainer
- make cold cereal from pre-measured out ingredients
- wash a dish under the faucet before putting it in the dishwasher
Use a stool or a learning tower to bring your child up to the level of the counter so that you can work on these tasks together.
Montessori Toys That Support Toddlers’ Skills
We’ve given a lot of thought to the skills toddlers are working on, from gross motor skills like walking and balance to fine motor skills like using their fingers instead of their entire palm to pick up a block. Based on the skills they need, these Montessori toys will engage them and satisfy their urge to master new skills!
Skills toddlers need are supported by playing with Montessori toys
- Building wrist strength, manual dexterity, and perseverance: The Bolt Board
- Developing spatial reasoning and practicing self-correcting: The Shapes on Pegs
- Building vocabulary: The Language Set
- Problem-solving and building arm strength:
The Motor Planning Box
- Increasing ability to place items precisely: The Bead Stringing Set
- Noticing similarities and differences and ability to classify objects accordingly: The Sorting Set
An open-ended toy that presents an opportunity for the exploration of patterns, numbers, and spatial relationships.
This fun cause-and-effect activity builds wrist strength that is vital for writing and other important tasks.
This style of puzzle provides concrete experience with fractions, laying the foundation for mathematical understanding.
A kit that invites a child to explore art while also practicing the executive function skills required to apply glue and place the shapes with intention.
The bag with items inside exercises a child’s working memory as your child identifies objects by touch rather than by sight, strengthening the tactile sense.
The Monti Kids® Program
DIY Montessori Activities
Any activity you can come up with that engages your little one at their level is worth doing. Here’s some inspiration, but feel free to make adjustments and substitutions!
ACTIVITIES THAT REQUIRE NO MATERIALS
- Take a child-led walk. Head out the door and follow your little one at their pace. If they stop to investigate something, encourage it!
- Inside-the-house “errands”. Ask your toddler to go accomplish things independently: Bring your shoes to the front door, look out the window to see if it’s windy, see if the dog’s bowl is empty yet.
- Walking the line. Some people put painter’s tape on the floor to make a line, but you probably have a line somewhere in your home, whether it’s a wood floor plank or a temporary shadow being made on the floor. When you notice a natural line, invite your little one to try to walk along it. This challenges their balance. Level up and walk backward if they are up for it!
ACTIVITIES WITH SIMPLE SET-UPS
- Apply a few strips of painter’s tape (that stuff is versatile!) on a table or window and encourage your little one to peel it off, challenging their fine motor skills.
- Save an empty tissue box to use as a container. Show your child how to put socks into it and then take them out again. Give them a pile of socks to experiment with.
- Layout a grid of washcloths and offer your child a basket of blocks. Invite them to place one block on each washcloth. If they understand the concept of “two”, ask them place two blocks on each washcloth.
The options are endless! Follow @montikids on Instagram to get new activity ideas every week.
Montessori activities aren’t limited to your play area! They can occur outdoors and on the go. When you offer your toddler a challenge at just the right level for them, they’ll want to stay busy with it over and over again!