If you have a toddler, your day is likely a rollercoaster of highs and lows and a post outlining some fun things to do with a 2 year old at home everyday is a LIFESAVER. Am I right?
Age 2 is TOUGH, not only on parents but on two-year-olds, too!
There have been times when I’ve wondered what in the world we’re going to do to fill up the day. I’m sure you’ve been there too.
Some days your toddler is more independent than ever. And other days she’s a clingy, whiny, demanding child who makes you count down the minutes until bedtime.
To make everyday a little easier, there are some things that you should be doing with your toddler. These are simple things that you can do every single day with your 2 year old. These activities are easy (no crazy activities with crazy materials here!) and will truly benefit your child in my different ways.
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Things To Do With A 2-Year-Old
1. Give Options
Give your toddler a chance to call the shots as much as possible. From food to clothing to activities, giving your toddler the opportunity to choose between two things will make her much more content. Toddlers simply want to feel like they have some control over their lives. And, really. Can you blame them?
Now, I’m not saying to give your toddler the final word in everything. All you need to do is provide options. Toddlers like to feel like they are in charge. They don’t like to be told what to do. Age 2 is a giant shift from having every single thing done for her to wanting to do it herself. Take advantage of it! For some reason, this doesn’t last. Soon, you’ll be dealing with a very capable 5-year-old who wants you to do everything for her.
- Which of these two outfits would you like to wear today?
- Which cup would you like to use today, the blue one or the green?
- Which book would you like to read before bed?
- Would you like to color this picture with crayons or colored pencils?
- Would you like to have a quesadilla for lunch or a salami and cheese sandwich?
- Would you like your watermelon cut in triangles or in the shape of a ball?
Definitely avoid giving choices that are non-negotiable, such as questions about when to do something (go to bed, eat dinner, etc).
We don’t need our toddler’s to rule the roost, we just want them to THINK that they do.
I also recommend setting up things within your house so that your toddler can complete simple tasks, without your guidance or help.
- put cups, plates and bowls in a low drawer that your toddler can reach.
- putting socks and shoes in a bin near the door
- place your toddler’s coat on a hook low to the ground
- lay out your toddler’s outfits for the week in an accessible place- this way, your toddler can choose his outfit from up to 5 choices and can practice getting dressed independently
- putting toys in plastic bins that can be easily moved by your 2-year-old to aid in cleaning up
- having a safe stool is also essential for hand-washing, brushing teeth and helping in the kitchen. And by providing your child a safe way to do these tasks, she will do them independently and without being asked.
- give your child a plastic cleaning caddy and keep it within reach. You just might be surprised the next time when you’re cleaning and your 2-year-old goes to get his cleaning caddy to help!
2. Interact With Your Toddler
Daily interaction is one of the most important things to do with a 2-year-old. Your toddler is still learning the ins and outs of communication. Talk with her, get on her level and make eye contact.
Talk to her like she’s a big kid, not like she’s a baby! You can even start to ask her questions that require a little bit of thought.
At the end of the day, you can talk about your day. You can ask her what her favorite part of the day was, or simply talk about all the things you did that day.
Conversation starters for your 2-year-old:
- Funny Would You Rather For Kids
- Questions To Promote Confidence In Daughters (it’s NEVER too early to teach your little girl about her self worth)
- Questions To Ask Your Daughter
- Hilarious Jokes For Young Children
Incorporate some mommy and me activities into your everyday routine.
3. Sing And Dance
Children learn so much through music. Music activates many parts of the brain and enables growth of memory, listening abilities, language and spatial reasoning. Music helps toddlers to learn about rhythm, which later leads to better understanding of math and better problem solving (source).
Fun music activities and songs for 2-year-olds:
- Chrome Music Lab- Rhythm is SO much fun. With just a few different taps, your 2-year-old can make different songs and rhythms. I am telling you, this will occupy your toddler for a LONG time.
- Amazing movement songs for toddlers
- Making a rain stick is the perfect simple craft for your toddler, which can be later used to make music.
- We love these youtube videos that get your toddler up and dancing.
The benefits of reading to your child are numerous.
Let’s take a moment to look at brain development from birth to age 3. During this time, talking, singing and reading is CRUCIAL.
You see, there’s this little thing called the “window of opportunity”. During this crucial time, children learn about how language works through communication, music and reading. If children aren’t receiving this input frequently before age 3, it becomes more difficult for them to attain these skills later. This can greatly affect a child’s reading ability later on.
Make reading a part of your daily routine! It’s my favorite part of the day because it allows me to forget about all of my responsibilities and just snuggle up with my daughters.
Some of my 2-year-olds favorite books are:
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar– a book that will teach your child about the transformation of a caterpillar to a butterfly.
- Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?– a super repetitive book that is great for your toddler’s language acquisition.
- The Runaway Bunny– a story about a bunny who wants to run away from his mother, and a mother who will follow her little bunny wherever he goes.
- Goodnight Moon– a classic that should be on every toddler’s bookshelf.
- Bear Snores On– story about a bear in hibernation and other various animals who enter his cave to get out of the cold.
- Dragons Love Tacos– a hilarious book about dragons who love un-spicy tacos. What will happen when they are accidentally given spicy tacos?
- Llama Llama Misses Mama– the perfect story for our 2-year-olds struggling with separation anxiety.
- Where’s The Poop?– perfect for any 2-year-old who is ashamed to poop. This book will teach your child that everybody poops.
- Press Here– a fun, interactive book that prompts your toddler to press, shake and tilt the pages.
5. Let Your 2-Year-Old Play Independently
This will be easier with some toddlers more than others. First of all, they need to be easy activities for 2-year-olds.
The important thing is to seize the opportunity. If you see that your toddler is playing independently in another room, stay hidden. I can guarantee as soon as she sees you, that magical moment will be over.
If she doesn’t seem to want to venture off alone, start out playing with her and then slowly remove yourself.
With practice, your clingy toddler can gain confidence in being away from mommy and enjoying her own company.
Favorite Independent Activities For Toddlers:
- Paper Towel Band Aids– Tear some paper towels into strips and fill a bowl with water. Your 2-year-old will love dipping the paper towels into the water and wrapping them around their toys (dolls, barbies, lego people, little people, etc). When dry, it looks like a real band aid!
- Give your child a big box and some crayons or colored pencils. Their imagination will take care of the rest!
- Give your toddler a magazine and ask him to cut out the pictures that make him happy. This is a great way to work on those cutting skills (just be sure to get some safety scissors)! Then he can paste them onto a piece of paper when done. You can also get a cut and paste workbook. Both of my kids love this one!
- Build a pillow fort together and then watch as your toddler plays in it independently all afternoon!
Want more? I love this list of super practical quiet time activities for toddlers.
6. Get Active
Get your body (and your toddler’s) moving everyday.
Honestly, your toddler probably doesn’t need to be encouraged to run, jump and climb. But sometimes when other things like screen time are tempting your child, getting active might actually need to be encouraged.
And you know what? I think you should be involved, too. Do a workout with your toddler nearby. Go for a walk. Or have a dance party. It will help your state of mind, too.
Our Favorite Active Toddler Activities:
- This post on how to tire out a 2 year old has SO many ideas for ways to easily keep your 2-year-old active. (No, it’s not going to give you elaborate ideas like “build a toddler obstacle course” that’s going to take you an hour to create). One of our favorite activities from this list is a variation of Duck, Duck, Goose. You play it the same way, but instead of saying “duck, duck” you make up random things. This is SO great for your todder’s growing vocabulary. My 2-year-old always comes up with fun words to use, like “chicken nugget” and “wiggly toes”.
- Toddler Activity Challenge– Does your toddler love getting stickers and badges? This activity challenge contains 30 different challenges for your toddler to complete. Once your toddler completes the challenge, he receives a printable badge to paste onto a paper or to pin onto his shirt. My 2-year-old especially loved the Catching Bubbles Challenge, the Kick The Hand Challenge and the Animal Grab Challenge. These are great things to do with 2-year-olds on a rainy day.
- Hands On As We Grow has an amazing, FREE 7-Day Activity Challenge that I did this winter with my kids. You get a new email each day for 7 days explaining a super simple, low-prep and FUN activity, perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. My kids loved every activity.
7. Get Out Of The House
Getting out of the house can do wonders for the mood of both you and your toddler. You can run an errand, go to the park or the library, or simply spend some time in your own backyard.
Favorite Outdoor Activities:
- This collection of SIMPLE outdoor activities for toddlers is so helpful when your 2-year-old doesn’t quite know what to do when he gets outside (sounds crazy, but it happens sometimes!). It contains simple ideas like Follow The Leader and drawing on sliding glass doors with dry-erase markers.
- Watch the planes flying in the sky. We love using the Flightradar24 app. Using the app, you can see where the planes overhead are coming from and where they are going to. Your 2-year-old can start to learn a little bit about the world!
- Go on a nature walk. Seeing nature through a child’s eyes is one of my favorite things. We as adults don’t stop to look at our surroundings nearly enough.
- Water play activities are always a lifesaver for the summertime with a toddler. Or anytime, really!
8. Teach Something
At the age of 2, you are definitely not going to be doing any formal teaching, but you can easily incorporate simple learning activities into your everyday routine. Your 2-year-old’s brain is a SPONGE and they are constantly learning, but there’s no reason you can’t incorporate some of these simple activities as well.
Favorite 2-year-old developmental and learning activities:
- Count the stairs every time that you and your child climb them.
- Sing the ABC’s every time you get into the car.
- Have a color scavenger hunt. Ask your child to go into a different room and find one thing of a certain color to bring to you.
- If your 2-year-old is starting to learn letters, these alphabet activities are the perfect place to start. All of the activities are super simple and adaptable. So you can just start with 2 letters, and add more as your toddler learns more. We love the Swat The Letter activity.
- Playing Simon Says can help your toddler learn just about anything, such as body parts, colors, numbers, right vs left, and more. Just incorporate whatever it is that your 2-year-old is learning or whatever you want him to learn.
Of course play is one of the most important things for your 2-year-old to do! But sometimes at this age, our toddlers need to be shown actually how to play (because their idea of playing just might be dumping toys out of a bin and then moving on to the next thing they can mess up.)
Favorite things to do with a 2-year-old indoors:
- dress up
- ball games (throwing, catching and kicking a ball are great for your 2-year-olds coordination)
- any kind of sensory play is perfect- playing with play doh, slime or kinetic sand are definite favorites
- stacking activities (your toddler can stack blocks, cans, paper cups, boxes, etc). These jumbo cardboard blocks are our favorite, and get major play by kids of all ages.
- hide and seek- and remember, hide and seek doesn’t only have to be done with people (though it does give you a chance to hide from your needy toddler for a bit!). You can play hide and seek with plastic eggs, toys, really anything around the house. I love to incorporate this with learning, too. You can hide things of a certain color if you’re practicing colors or you can hide letter flashcards if your child is starting to learn letters.
10. Cook Together
If your child is a picky eater (is there a 2-year-old in the world who isn’t?!), then getting him into the kitchen with you is CRUCIAL. Your child is going to be WAY more likely to try something if he actually MADE it.
The trick here is making things that are SUPER simple. I’m talking things that don’t take much time to make, that can’t be over-mixed and that don’t need to be cooked over a hot stove.
Here are some ideas:
- If your child doesn’t like eating meat, whip up a quick marinade with him. It takes just minutes and he will love helping you measure, pour and mix.
- If your child doesn’t like vegetables, roast them! Your child can spread the veggies onto the tray, spray on some cooking oil and sprinkle with salt and spices (just monitor this part VERY closely).
- If your child doesn’t like fruit, get creative with it! When my daughter made Dr. Seuss hats at school out of kiwi (which she previously didn’t like), bananas and strawberries, she was obsessed. We made them at home and ate them for a week straight. Check out these fun snacks using fruits!
11. Establish A Routine
Routines are important for 2-year-olds. They like to know what to expect. It’s especially important when it comes to sleep because OH MY GOD, 2-year-olds think that going to sleep is the equivalent to getting a limb cut off.
Do you have a sleep fighter? Staller? I feel your pain. I really do.
Having a routine is not going to eliminate bedtime stalling, but without a routine, it’s gonna be SO MUCH WORSE. Unless you just wait until your 2-year-old just passes out because of sheer exhaustion. Which I wouldn’t recommend.
I wrote this post about developing a bedtime routine that works for 3-year-olds, but it would definitely work for 2-year-olds, too!
The most important thing is to have a routine that includes the same things in the same order every night, at the SAME time.
Bedtime Routine Suggestions:
- don’t use bedtime as a punishment (you want bedtime to be welcoming, not something that your child dreads)
- connect with your child (you can use this time to ask your child about his day)
- pick an appropriate bedtime- 2-year-olds need 11-14 hours of sleep. Think about when your child wakes up in the morning, and then base bedtime around that.
- do the same thing before bed each night- Your bedtime routine might include things like a bath, bedtime story, brushing teeth, etc.
And there you have it! In order to have smooth, stress-free days with your 2-year-old, try to incorporate these 11 things into your daily routine.
- Give options
- Interact with your toddler
- Sing and Dance
- Allow for and encourage independent play
- Get Active
- Get out of the house
- Teach something
- Cook together
- Establish a routine
What are your favorite things to do with a 2-year-old?
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