Learning activities and games for toddlers 2 – 3 years old

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Match colored buttons to cars. Free download.

Here’s a free download of car shapes without wheels of 4 colors. You can print a few of these copies to make the game longer, and optionally car shapes can be also cut out. Of course, your child has to be over the stage of putting things in the mouth. My daughter loves to play with buttons, I still watch her closely but she seems to be over that stage now. I used buttons from this set, it includes a variety of fun shapes and colors.

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Guess an animal by the tail

This activity was inspired by the book Whose Tail on the Trail , where you have to guess an animal by its tail. I wanted to try a version with our animal figures and it was a hit. Scarlett was sticking animals into the box herself after a while. I made it by taking an old gift box, making cuts radiating from the center in the form of the sun rays in order to fit different size of animals. The other end of the box is open. I stick an animal there, she guesses, and I turn the box the other way for her to check.

 

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Caterpillar color and numbers game

We love board games and here’s a simple game we play with our 25 month old Scarlett. Each person gets a board with a caterpillar of certain color. Then we take turns rolling dice, and depending on which color is on the dice, we take a circle of that color and put it on the caterpillar. Then we count how many circles that caterpillar already got. Here’s a free printable of this game.

 

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Make story stones

Story stones can be a great addition to your story time. I made story stones for Room on the Broom book. We play by matching rocks  to the pictures on each page of the book.  Another way to play is to recreate a story without a book. And when Scarlett gets a little older I’m thinking to make more story stones for other books, and then all stones can be mixed up in a bag, and we can take rocks in a random order and create our own stories. I made these with stones I got at Michael’s, I painted them with white acrylic first, and then painted art with acrylic paint using miniature brushes, and finished the details with brush pen.

 

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Match animals to the map

Scarlett loves this activity because it involves matching and animals. I got her a small world map that has illustrations of animals around the world. Then we take one of our animal figures and see if we can find it on the map so we can place it there. This map is not big, so it easily fits on the table, but because of its size it’s easier to fit smaller animal figures on it. We use cute little animal erasers like this, they do come apart though so use with extra caution. We also have a large collection of Schleich animal figures that we decided to invest in because of their beautiful quality  – but since this map is not too big, only a few of them can fit on the same continent. I’ll probably get a bigger map like this for this activity since we both like it so much.

 

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Blow pompoms into paper towels

Here’s a super easy activity idea. Blowing activities are great for development of facial muscles and for speech development so we pay special attention to blowing activities. This activity explains itself – just set pompoms on the paper towel and blow to get them into the tube.

 

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Color wheel color sorting

Draw or glue printed color wheel to a box, make openings of the size that fit crafts sticks, and encourage your toddler to insert each craft stick to the matching color section on the wheel. Since Scarlett loves cats, I converted craft sticks into cats to keep her more interested, but this is really optional. Here’s a free download of a color wheel.

 

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Drop mice into a cat mouth

I made this activity for Scarlett’s two year birthday but we still play it once in a while. We had a cat theme party, so I got these mice (sold as cat toys), and made a cat from a box by taping a cat face cut out from construction paper. We then took turns dropping mice into cat’s mouth from various distances.

 

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Lids and stickers matching game

I finally got to use the lids I’ve been collecting for a while! Here’s a fun and  simple matching game – you will need stickers with either 2 identical or similar images for each animal, paper/poster board, and lids of different sizes. I used poster board which I cut into book size rectangles. Then I placed stickers of different sizes onto the board, leaving enough space around to place lids. Then I placed the matching stickers onto lids. I used some stickers that are identical (like a bunny, pig, owl on the picture) and some stickers that are similar ( like flamingo and frog on the picture). The game can be played in different ways – either place all lids in a bag and have your toddler get them out one by one and place on the matching picture, or play it like a bingo game – each person gets a board and whoever fills their board with lids first is a winner. We used these animal stickers but any stickers that have a pair for each picture would work.

 

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Memory cup game

Here’s a fun memory game to play. Arrange small toys under different cups without mixing them up. Various cups can be used. The child needs to remember the order in which cups are arranged. Then you can ask her or him to find a certain toy, so she or he will have to look under each cup, thus remembering which toy is under which cup. Increase the number of cups as the child gets better at remembering the order.

 

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Play with Peekaboo Bunny game

I really want to recommend this game for toddlers. It got a few awards for helping to develop child’s logical thinking and early mathematical skills. It comes with cards, a bunny and 3 wooden blocks. Cards show how the bunny needs to be arranged on the blocks, and the child needs to manipulate the wooden block to match the card. The cards are split into levels. At 25 months we play with the easiest level, and it’s nice to see how Scarlett is trying to get it right. I still help her even with the easiest cards, but I see how she’s trying to think and figure it out on her own.

 

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Flying rockets

Here’s a fun flying rocket activity – place a paper rocket on a straw, have your toddler blow in the straw and the rocket launches into the sky! I made 2 simple rockets, pictured on left and right, by cutting out rocket shape from construction paper and taping it together. The key here is to make sure to tape or glue it well so no air gets into the rocket from any openings besides the bottom. Then you place a rocket on a straw, blow in the straw, and it blasts off. Scarlett’s dad engineered this fancy rocket (pictured in the middle), it has a tighter tube that fits into the straw, and it does fly better than the ones I did. So be creative, challenge dads to engineer rockets, and have fun with your toddlers!

 

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Play dough and buttons activity

As I mentioned in the first activity described here, we love playing with buttons. This button set includes a variety of different shapes and colors, and it’s a lot of fun to use them in combination with play dough. Here we made a little house, we added windows from square buttons, and decorated the roof with other shapes. You can build cars with playdough, and add button wheels, you can make a face from playdough and add button eyes, nose, mouth. The possibilities are endless, just use caution.

 

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Paint on a bathroom wall

We try to make a bath time as fun as possible. One of the activities we do while taking a bath is painting on bathroom walls with finger paint. If you haven’t tried it already, it’s a lot of fun and super easy to wash. I usually squirt a little bit of paint on the side of the tub so Scarlett can dip her brush into the paint.

 

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Arrange flat marbles in line

For this activity you need flat marbles and a paper with lines of different shape. Show your toddler how to arrange marbles on the line. Scarlett is really into marbles, so after doing this activity, she was busy transferring marbles into different containers for almost half an hour.

 

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Draw shapes in a sensory box

We made this sandbox out of cream of wheat – it’s easier to clean up and to get a hold of. I drew some shapes on index cards and showed Scarlett how to recreate the shape in the sand. In our index cards we had a circle, a triangle, a square, a zigzag line, a straight line and a dotted line. Scarlett seemed to be most interested in shapes.

 

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Beach sensory play

After drawing shapes on the sand, we converted the sensory bin into beach scene. Some animals came over to relax on the beach, but Scarlett was most interested in scooping the sand (cream of wheat) into a little cup with a spoon, and then transferring it into another cup. We also poured sand into a see-through plastic cup by using a funnel.

 

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DIY Patches puzzle

You can make this patches puzzle by printing these files, cutting out squares and showing your toddler how to match the squares to the picture to complete it. There are 3 picture puzzles in the downloadable file.

 

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Animal action cards

These animal action cards are hit with Scarlett. She started to do some of these action when she was about 18 months old, and now at 25 months old she is able to do almost all of them besides puffing her cheeks like a chipmunk. She asks me to play with these cards over and over again. I showed her how to do the actions the first time we played with these and now she does them on her own. It’s fun for the whole family, we clap when she does it right, and she gets to let her energy out in a fun way. The digital version of these cards is available on etsy here and a printed version is here.

 

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Letters in rice

During these activity we look for foam letters in rice, and then match the letter we found to the letter card. I used flash cards that we had since they have letters on the back of the cards, but you can just draw the letters you put in the rice bin on a piece of paper for matching. Colored or regular rice can be used.

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