When looking for ways to keep our then 18-month-old toddler busy and entertained, I often had a wander around Montessori-inspired blogs (my favourite one being Sixtine et Victoire). I like the Montessori principle of ‘following the child’s lead’ - you present them with activities that tap into the interests they show rather than what they ‘should’ be doing at their age. For example, to the Bean at that age blocks were still very much for knocking down when someone else had stacked them, even though you will see a lot of stacking toys targeted at 12 to 18-month-olds. This is isn’t a problem - he was just more interested in other skills, such as scooping and sorting.
So here goes, if you're in need of inspiration:
Eight Cheap and (almost) No-Prep Toddler Activities
Set up a simple sorting activity using a large ice-cube tray and coloured blocks (the ones in the picture are from a Hape toy that remained too difficult for him until he was about two. But rather than put it away I decided to re-think it a bit!).
This sorting activity uses scrabble tiles, which are fiddly and therefore harder to pick up than the blocks in Sorting V1. My toddler also thought it was very funny to hear me sound out all the letters. The box, which is meant to be used for storing nails, was filched from Mr P&P's tool kit.
NOTE: the scrabble tiles are a CHOKING HAZARD. Watch that toddler like a HAWK.
Give toddler a broom = happy toddler
Obsessed toddler, in fact, as mine has insisted on sweeping bits of floor EVERY DAY since he was 12 months. The broom is the real deal and cost about €3 from our local market. Any small hand-held broom or brush will do.
Very keen to practice his scooping skills, this activity using nothing but a spoon and a watering can (which you could of course substitute for a bowl or mug) went down very well with our toddler. As he was outside on the balcony, I didn't need to stop him throwing the water on the floor either...
Much like with the broom obsession, give a toddler a damp cloth and they will happily wipe away for a while. What I personally also like about this activity is that it helps pave the way to independence - spills are much less of a big deal if you know how to wipe them up yourself.
The kitchen has long been a place of endless fascination for the Bean, and at 17 months he was just about old enough to start helping with things like peeling and cutting under very strict supervision. If that gives you the heebiejeebies, you could let them help you wash vegetables and fruit instead.
There’s nothing better on a hot day than a washing-up bowl with water and a plastic cup for scooping. You can easily make it more interesting by putting some stones in the bowl, or by piercing holes in the bottom of the cup so your toddler can make it "rain".
Best done after a bath, so they can learn to put lotion on themselves when they need to! Any mess on the floor takes seconds to wipe up with a damp cloth.
NOTE: don’t let your child try to stand up in any spilled lotion…