21 Easy Ways to Keep a Toddler Entertained: Mess-Free, Affordable Activities

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If you have a toddler, you know that keeping them entertained can be a challenge. It seems like they are constantly in motion and are always looking for something to do. This can be exhausting and frustrating, especially if you struggle to develop toddler activities or don’t want even more messes to clean up.

But don’t worry, we have some easy ways to keep your toddler entertained that are mess-free, affordable, and easy to set up! You can keep them simple or get creative and build them out to be as extravagant as you and your toddler want!

Easy Ways to Keep a Toddler Entertained: 21 Sanity-Saving Ideas

Here are 21 easy toddler activities and entertainment ideas that will keep them happy long enough for you to enjoy a cup of coffee!


1) Give Them A Chance To Explore

Toddlers are curious about nature and love to explore their surroundings. So, one of the best things you can do is give them some time and space to do just that. Set up a safe area for them to explore, such as a playpen or a small room, and let them have at it! You can even create an obstacle course for them to crawl through or set up a simple scavenger hunt. Just be sure to supervise them so they don’t get into anything they shouldn’t. Depending on your space and weather, this can be done inside or outside. If you’re stuck indoors, try to gather some things from nature ahead of time and make a scavenger hunt!

2) Play With Water

Another idea is to let them play with water. Water is always a hit with toddlers and as long as they like water, it’s a great way to help them calm down on a rough day! And it doesn’t have to be a big to-do, either. You can simply fill up a small kiddie pool, the bathtub, or a bin with water and let them play to their heart’s content. Give them some simple toys to play with, such as plastic animals or balls, a second bin, and a scoop to transfer the toys with. This lets them practice their motor skills, too, so it’s a win-win. Or, let them use their imagination and turn it into a pretend ocean! It goes without saying, but just be sure to supervise them closely as they can drown in just a few inches of water.

3) Involve Them In Simple Chores

Toddlers love to feel like they are helping out. So, give them some simple chores to do, such as putting away their toys or helping to set the table. Not only will this keep them busy, but it will also help them learn some basic life skills. And, as an added bonus, it might even give you a much-needed break! You can even make it a game to see who picks up the fastest or something like a scavenger hunt.

4) Play Some Music And Have A Dance Party

Music is always a great way to entertain toddlers. Put on their favorite tunes and let them dance around the living room. Or, better yet, make it a time to connect with them and get dancing, too! Not only will they love it, but you’ll get a workout in, too and you’ll both have those happy hormones running through your body from moving! You can even turn it into a game by teaching them some simple dance moves or singing along with the lyrics. You can also use music to help them calm down. If they are getting restless or cranky, put on some soft, soothing music and see if it helps them relax.

5) Give Them Some Simple, Mess-Free Activities

Toddlers love to create, and art supplies provide the perfect opportunity for that. Set up a little arts and crafts area for your toddler with some simple supplies like crayons, paper,  pieces of tape, and stickers. Popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners are also great for encouraging clean yet fun and creative artwork. Another idea is these water reveal and marker reveal coloring books and flashcards, which are completely mess-free and still fun!

6) Play Games Together

Board games, card games, and even simple matching games are great for keeping toddlers entertained. Not only will they have fun, but they’ll also start to develop important cognitive skills. There are so many DIY toddler game ideas on the internet or you can buy toddler games online, including mindfulness cards for kids which encourage positive self-esteem and social skills while still being fun to play.

7) Put On A Puppet Show

Toddlers love puppets! You can either buy toddler puppets, from finger puppets to very large ones or make your own out of socks or paper bags. Put on a little show for your toddler, using the puppets to tell a story or sing songs. You can also encourage your toddler to make a puppet or story of their own and create some cute props or backgrounds, too. Give them names, a backstory, and anything else that your toddler can be creative and learn with!

8) Read Stories Together

Reading is not only educational, but it’s also a great way to bond with your toddler. Snuggle up together and read some of their favorite stories or discover some new ones together. You can even make up your own stories based on their interests or encourage them to help you come up with a story with open-ended questions. If your toddler isn’t in the mood to sit still, you can still read and act out the story while encouraging them to do the same so they can still listen to the story but get their energy out. You can either read from a book or use an app on your phone or tablet, too.

9) Go On A Nature Walk

Getting some fresh air is always a good idea, and toddlers love being outdoors. Go for a short walk around the block or to a nearby park and let your toddler explore the sights and sounds of nature. They’ll love looking at the trees, flowers, birds, and bugs. And, you might even learn something new about your area or find yourself feeling more relaxed and present, which is always worth the time! You can also do a simple scavenger hunt or collect what you find like leaves and pinecones.

10) Have A Picnic

Picnics are always fun, and they’re a great way to get your toddler involved in mealtime. Let them help you make the sandwiches or choose what fruit to bring. Then, find a nice spot outside to enjoy your picnic together. If it’s too cold or hot to picnic outside, you can always have a picnic indoors instead. You might just be surprised at how much they enjoy mealtime and how fun it can be for both of you! There are even really cute picnic sets for toddlers that you can use to make your toddler feel extra special and loved!

11) Take A Trip To The Zoo Or Aquarium

If you’re looking for something more adventurous, take your toddler to visit some animals. Zoos and aquariums are perfect for toddlers because they can see the animals up close and learn about them too. This is also a great opportunity to teach them about conservation and taking care of our planet. There are often discounted or free passes for certain holidays or ages of kids, so do some research before your trip! Additionally, some zoos and aquariums have virtual events and viewing opportunities which can be just as educational and fun.

12) Make A Simple Homemade Obstacle Course (Indoors Or Out)

Toddlers love to run and jump, so set up a simple obstacle course for them to try out. You can use everyday objects like chairs, boxes, or a blanket as obstacles. Or, you can make your own using supplies from the craft store. Let your child’s creativity shine by including them in the process, from planning the obstacle course to creating it. Kids love being included and to be given the chance to use their own voices and opinions! If you’d rather buy one that you put together, here are some really cool indoor and outdoor toddler obstacle equipment and courses to check out!

13) Do Some Simple Science Experiments

Science is always a hit with toddlers! There are so many simple and safe science experiments that you can do at home with your toddler that don’t make a big mess or cost money. You can even turn it into a game by seeing who can predict what will happen next. Check out some easy science experiments online or in books that are geared towards toddler. There are also amazing science experiment ideas and learning activities in The Activity Room from Hands On As We Grow that are really simple to put together using everyday items.

14) Bake Or Cook Together

Toddlers love to help in the kitchen, and baking or cooking is a great way to let them do that. Even just making a smoothie or prepping meals counts. Plus, it’s a fun activity that you can enjoy together while also teaching them simple life skills and other skills like math. Choose a simple recipe that your toddler can help with and make something delicious! Toddler-safe kitchen tools make it easier, less stressful, and most importantly — safe. This is also a great way to encourage them to eat, so if you have a picky toddler definitely give this one a try!

15) Make Homemade Play-Doh, Craft Supplies, And More

Another activity that toddlers love is playing with Play-Doh or other types of modeling clay. You can buy it at the store, but it’s also easy and cheap to make your own at home and let your child get creative. It’s also cost-effective, too and can be as messy or mess-free as you want it to be.

16) Play With Cars Or Trains

Toddlers are fascinated by moving objects, so playing with cars or trains is always a hit. You can buy a small set or make your own tracks and roads using masking tape or even some fabric or chalk. Gather their other toys for inspiration, and make scenes like cities, farms, or anything else you and your toddler can think of. If you have multiple toddlers, they can race each other or play together in a cooperative way.

17) Make Songs  Together

Toddlers love making noise, so why not encourage them to make up their own songs?! You can use anything around the house like pots and pans, empty boxes, or bottles for homemade instruments or something affordable like these music kits for toddlers. If they need some inspiration, you can write some fun rhymes on index cards, mix them up, and there’s your lyrics! Just get creative and have fun!

18) Play Grocery Store Or Restaurant

Pretend play is essential for toddlers because it helps them understand the world around them and develop social skills. You can set up a pretend grocery store or restaurant using items from around the house. Get some old boxes, bags, or towels to use as props, and let your child’s imagination run wild! Another fun idea is to let them name their store or restaurant and even make a poster to hang for their building entrance or wall! Of course, there are also some really amazing grocery store and restaurant setups that you can buy online, too.

19) Have A Treasure or Scavenger Hunt

Treasure hunts are always a blast, and you can make them as easy or difficult as you want. You can hide anything from small toys to pieces of candy around the house or yard (just be sure to keep an eye on younger toddlers so they don’t put anything in their mouths). If you want to make it more challenging, you can write clues for your toddler to follow. Likewise, you can take it inside or outside and collect things from nature like pinecones and leaves. Or take a beach day and go on a scavenger hunt for seashells! 

20) Do A Simple Art Project

Art is another great activity for toddlers because it’s open-ended and allows them to express themselves. There are endless possibilities when it comes to art projects, so choose something that interests your child and go with it! They don’t have to be messy, and you can even guide your toddler with some mess-free ideas to choose from (try to give 2-3 choices so they’re not overwhelmed) or adapt other ideas to be mess-free. It’s also worth asking your toddler if they have ideas of their own, so they’re involved in the process from the start, or even give you some new ideas!

21) Do A Puzzle

Puzzles are great for toddlers because they help with problem-solving skills, fine motor skills, and hand-eye coordination. Toddler puzzles have bigger pieces that are easy to move and are both fun and encourage things like focus. If you don’t have any on hand, you can always make your own using some construction paper or cardstock. Just cut out some simple shapes, like squares, triangles, or circles, and let your toddler put them back together again. These toddler puzzles are great options if you need some ideas!

22) Have A Pretend Camping Trip

Pretend play is essential for toddlers because it helps them understand the world around them and develop social skills. You can have a pretend camping trip inside or outside (depending on the weather). Set up a tent, make some s’mores in the microwave, tell stories, and sing songs around the campfire. It’s a great way to spend some quality time with your toddler and give them a chance to use their imagination. You can even get indoor camping playsets with a pretend campfire!

Toddler Entertainment Ideas: The Gist

Doing any of these activities with your toddler is sure to keep them entertained, engaged, and happy! And, they’re all mess-free, easy to set up, and affordable too. At the end of the day, the activity isn’t really what matters. As long you and your child are bonding, are having fun, and being safe the rest isn’t as important! When in doubt and when appropriate, follow your toddler’s lead. You might end up surprised at how much you learn about them and their interests, which just makes coming up with easy toddler activities and ways to keep a toddler entertained much easier — and less stressful!

What are your go-to easy toddler activities when you need to keep your little one entertained? Share in the comments below!

Looking for more ideas on things to do with toddlers? Check out these articles:

– [X number] Easy Indoor Activities for Toddlers

– [X number] Easy Outdoor Activities for Toddlers

– [X number] Fun Toddler Activities That Stimulate Development

– [X number] Easy Arts and Crafts for Toddlers

– [X number] Easy Science Experiments for Toddlers

– And more! Just search “toddler activities” on our site to find all of our articles on the topic. Happy exploring!

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