Make Learning Fun for Your Toddler – {List of Free or Inexpensive Activities}

A list of free or inexpensive activities for toddlers to make learning fun!

The following mostly free or inexpensive activities will help develop your child’s physical, thinking and language skills while he plays.

Play time is the perfect time to make learning fun!

  • Body Parts Game: Cut a photo from a magazine that shows a close-up of a child’s face and one that shows a head-to-toe photo of a child. Show the photos to your little one and ask him to “point” to each body part.
  • Sing a Song: Singing along is a great way to help your child learn new words. Sing your favorite children’s songs with your toddler and build fun memories with him.
  • Play-Dough Restaurant: Use homemade play-dough to create play-food and pretend to cook and eat in a “restaurant”.  Lots of fun for your little one and yourself. (Easy no-cook pay-dough recipe here)
  • Read a Story:  Read books to your child and allow him to use the pictures to tell you a story as well. This will help develop his vocabulary and creativity.
  • Finding Hidden Treasure: Fill a small bucket with water, shredded paper or sand and hide a small toy for your child to find, for example a small plastic truck. Let them hide it for you once they find it and take turns looking for it.  (Supervision is important when playing with water, sand and small toys).
  • Paint the trees: This is great activity to do during warm days. Go outside and give your child a small bowl of water and a paintbrush. Let him “paint” the trees, the sidewalk, the fence and anything else he wants to “paint” outside.  (Don’t forget to supervise closely!)
  • Find the Matching Picture: Make a set of pairs of matching pictures, mix them up and lay them face-up on a table. Together with your little one try to find the matching pairs. Take turns finding a new match.
  • Solve a Puzzle: Use a photo to create a homemade puzzle. Cut the photo into 4-5 pieces and allow your child to put the pieces together and solve the puzzle. Take turns and help him when needed.
  • Pour and Fill: Fill a small plastic container with clean water or sand and give your child a few spoons, plastic cups and small bowls.  Show him how he can pour the water/sand into the cups and bowls.  (Supervise closely!).
  • Finger Painting: Spread some corn syrup on a piece of cardboard (cut an old cereal box) and add a few drops of food colouring. Ask your child to spread the colours around and paint the cardboard. You will love the shiny artwork after it dries.

What learning activities do you love to do with your toddler?

Share YOUR favorite free or inexpensive early learning activities for toddlers!

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Angela V

Founder and Writer at One Smiley Monkey blog
Hi, my name is Angela and I am a Canadian mom living in Vancouver with my wonderful husband and two happy little boys. I am the founder and primary contributor behind One Smiley Monkey. Welcome to my blog!
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25 responses to “Make Learning Fun for Your Toddler – {List of Free or Inexpensive Activities}”

  1. EMAC — February 23, 2013 @ 9:30 pm (#)

    Thanks for posting. Great list!

    Reply

  2. Lianne — February 23, 2013 @ 9:51 pm (#)

    These are such cute ideas! I love to save money and I love kids!

    Reply

  3. Stephanie LaPlante — February 24, 2013 @ 9:22 am (#)

    Lots of great ideas! Thank-you for sharing.

    Reply

  4. tennille — February 24, 2013 @ 6:43 pm (#)

    great ideas. My 4 year old and I made a board game out of cardboard, some toys for pawns and dice. He loves it! I made the space be activities like jumping jacks or sign head, shoulders knees and toes.

    Reply

  5. Tania B — February 25, 2013 @ 7:44 am (#)

    These are a great bunch of activities. I will be using this when I’m babysitting. Thanks!

    Reply

  6. Elva Roberts — February 25, 2013 @ 9:50 am (#)

    February 25- Body Parts Game- I found this to be an interesting ‘twist’ to the usual asking them to point to certain Body parts and identify same,. I like your method. These cutouts could be mounted on a cork board for easy access and for toddler to ‘ practise’ when the mood hits him/her.

    Reply

  7. Kaitlin M — February 25, 2013 @ 10:44 am (#)

    Great ideas. Love the puzzle idea.

    Reply

  8. Tonya Simmons — February 26, 2013 @ 1:09 pm (#)

    I like how these activities are fun and they allow toddlers to develop a range of skills.

    Tonya Simmons
    smartandsnazzykids.com

    Reply

  9. Elva Roberts — February 26, 2013 @ 7:21 pm (#)

    February 26-Read a story. My daughter reads to her grandson, H., and he loves to sit on her knee and listen. Sometimes, he will take some books, ‘read aloud’ each page in baby talk and, at the end of each page, he will say ” See.” before he continues on. One of his favourites is : ” Green Eggs and Ham’ , which was a fovourite of his Mother when she was very young.

    Reply

  10. Elva Roberts — February 27, 2013 @ 9:39 am (#)

    February 27-Make learning fun-find the matching picture. This sounds very good but I would not start with lots of matching pictures. Probably start with three sets , turned over, and work your and their way up to more. Sounds really challenging for them!

    Reply

  11. Elva Roberts — February 27, 2013 @ 9:41 am (#)

    February 27-Make learning fun-find the matching picture. This sounds very good but I would not start with lots of matching pictures. Probably start with three sets , turned over, and work your and their way up to more. Sounds really challenging for them!–You will soon find his/her frustration level and adjust accordingly!

    Reply

  12. Wendi — February 28, 2013 @ 6:32 am (#)

    great ideas. Thanks for posting this it will come in handy this summer with my kids and neighbor kids!

    Reply

  13. Elva Roberts — February 28, 2013 @ 12:04 pm (#)

    –February 28-Make Learning Fun–Sing a Song. I think nearly all small children like to sing. Starting off with very simple songs is a good idea. A story board would come in handy as well. They are able to ‘see’ the subject of the song . .

    Reply

  14. Jay M — March 2, 2013 @ 8:47 am (#)

    Thanks for the great ideas! We’re always looking for more fun, free things to do.

    Reply

  15. Elva Roberts — March 5, 2013 @ 10:55 am (#)

    March 5–Make Learning fun-Paint the Trees. – I think almost all toddlers would love this. Any toddler I know really loves water-to drink, splash in and generally make a wonderful mess in! You could allow him to paint other things if you did not have trees-like a table or whatever. Close supervision is advised but wear rain suits anyway!

    Reply

  16. Crystal Wilson — March 14, 2013 @ 9:17 pm (#)

    Lots of really wonderful ideas! I truly enjoy reading your blog. 🙂

    Reply

  17. Michelle Chow — March 23, 2013 @ 1:55 pm (#)

    Hello, OSM. I love all of these ideas. There are many that I have never read before. I especially enjoyed the have your child use the pictures from the books you read to them and have them tell you a story they make up. I really enjoyed this article. Thank you, One Smiley Monkey. Terrific.

    Reply

  18. Amanda MF — April 6, 2013 @ 8:01 pm (#)

    Great ideas!

    Reply

  19. Robin Wilson — April 22, 2013 @ 9:10 am (#)

    I love all of these activities ~ especially the finger painting. That will be a great one to do outside during these warmer days of Spring! Thank you so much, learning is do important, to be able to do it while having fun is great!

    Reply

  20. Rachel N — May 8, 2013 @ 12:25 pm (#)

    Love the paint the trees one! I had never heard of that before but it’s a great idea. Clean, cheap, easy and fun!

    Reply

  21. Erika B — May 25, 2013 @ 7:29 am (#)

    Great activities!! Always looking for inexpensive activities since I am a stay at home mom so on a one income family it’s always nice to save money and have fun at the same time!

    Reply

  22. Erika Birrell — June 14, 2013 @ 2:34 pm (#)

    Great list of activities, Seen at least 10 of them that we will be trying out this summer, as soon as the rainy season has gone by. Great reasons to get outside and play and learn at the same time. Thanks!!!

    Reply

  23. Jeannie — October 4, 2013 @ 7:32 am (#)

    That is a great list of activities! I am always trying to think of ways to incorporate fun and learning together without it actually feeling like learning. Thank you!

    Reply

  24. amy lovell — October 17, 2013 @ 6:46 am (#)

    great tips! We have a huge learning drawer, and my mum made tons of fun learning activities, for my daughter to do. For example a lacing card of a princess, or counting princess and than she needs to find the number to put in the box, tthat matches how many princesses are there.

    Reply

  25. Laurie P — February 12, 2014 @ 6:22 am (#)

    great ideas here! especially on days like today when it is super cold outside. We’ve been restless not being able to head outside, so these are some great suggestions for a change in our usual everyday activities.

    Reply

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