Thrifty Toddler Activities
Will Save Your Cash
And Your Sanity

Anyone with a toddler knows they need a variety of thrifty toddler activities to keep their toddler busy.

Toddlers are curious about everything and they have a very short attention span.

Fortunately toddlers do not care how much the activity costs, so thrifty toddler activities work just as well as expensive ones.

The Toddler Kitchen Drawer -
Ahh the dinner hour - when the children need attention, the family is hungry and Mom is being pulled in every direction. Toddlers can be a particular challenge at this time of day. But with a little preplanning, you can buy yourself enough time to get dinner made.

Set up a toddler activity drawer. Make it a bottom drawer that your toddler can reach easily, even while sitting on the floor. In the drawer put plastic bowls and lids, cookie cutters, lids, wooden spoons, a small rolling pin, measuring spoons, etc.

It would also help to have a bag in a closet with different items such as buliding blocks, some toddler books, a couple of toddler toys and some stackable items such as empty cereal boxes or other empty containers.

When the drawer is no longer keeping your toddler occupied, switch the items in the bag for the items in the drawer. You will be able to switch the bags more than once and keep your toddler busy for many months to come.

Activity Trunk -
A toddler can get bored any time so it is a good idea to have a box of items on hand to keep them occupied. This box should be kept up and out of reach for those times when nothing else is distracting the toddler of the house.

Some ideas for the thrifty toddler activity trunk are dress up clothes. These need to be things a toddler can put on themselves, so the items will change according to the age of the toddler. For the very young - hats, shawls, slippers, purses and similar items are good. For a toddler that is just a bit older, old clothing such as t-shirts, belts, sashes, skirts, gloves and costume jewelry would be good. Garage sales are a good source for things to supply the activity box.

Activity Bag -
Sometimes you need to keep your toddler busy when you aren't at home. For example when you are in the car, in a waiting room, or in a restaurant. These are the times you need an activity bag to take along.

Use a tote bag or a drawstring bag and fill it with thrifty toddler activities. Fill it with items such as:

  • A child's favorite toy or blanket
  • A couple of small cars
  • A container of special snacks (dry cereal, raisins, etc)
  • A doll with extra clothes and blanket
  • Stickers and paper
  • A small photo album with photos of your family
  • A child mirror and brush

Include any toys or items that your toddler is particularly interested in. Generally the element of surprise will keep them interested for a while.

Toddler Crafts -
For young toddlers, craft projects are best if supervised. But toddlers love to do crafts even if they need help.

Shapes - One inexpensive craft project is to draw shapes on one piece of paper and cut the same shapes out of construction paper. Give the child a glue stick and help them match up the shapes and glue them on. For the preschooler (3 to 5 year old), you can help them cut out the shapes too.

Paper Bag Puppets For a fun and easy craft project, make a paper bag into a hand puppet. Have your child make a face on the paper bag using colors or washable markers. You can help them glue on yarn or strips of paper for hair too.

Paper Plate Faces Give your toddler a paper plate and crayons. Have them draw a face on the plate. You can also glue a popscicle stick to the bottom for a handle.

Lifesize Drawing If you have a large sheet of paper, have your toddler lay down on the paper, draw an outline of your child and let them color/decorate the lifesize drawing of themself. This one can be done easily outside with chaulk.

Toddler Games -
Toddlers don't have a lot of patience for games, and they certainly don't understand rules - so toddler games have to be fun, energetic and simple.

These thrifty toddler activities will help get you through those impatient toddler moments:

Bowling - Using empty soda bottles and a ball, set up three or more bottles and let the toddler try to knock them over with a ball.

Ready, Aim, Toss - Use any round item you have for a target - a hula hoop, a laundry basket, or for older children - a paper plate with the center cut out, give the child a ping pong ball, or even a wadded up piece of paper and have them stand back from the target and try to toss the ball through.

Dance and Freeze - Turn on some music and start dancing, turn off the music and have everyone freeze until the music comes back on.

Balloon Balance - Make a paddle out of a paper towel roll or a stick and a paper plate. Then blow up a balloon and have the toddler see if they can carry the balloon on the paddle.

Kick the Balloon - Suspend a balloon from the ceiling on a string. Bring it to within a foot or two of the floor. Have your toddler lay on their back and kick the balloon with their feet.

Ramp Fun - Set a board or piece of cardboard from the couch to the floor to make a ramp. Roll cars or balls down the ramp.

Blanket Riding - On a smooth floor, put your toddler on a throw rug or an old blanket and drag them on the floor. Do not go too fast - you are trying to entertain the toddler, not scare them.

Treasure Hunt - Outdoor version - Hide some toys in the sandbox, give the child an old colander and show them how to sift for the treasure. Indoor version - Hide your childs stuffed animals around the house, turn off all the lights and go searching with a flashlight.

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