12 Toddler Playtime Activities Using Common Household Items

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by: Erin Dower

Looking for some easy imagination playtime activities for your busybody toddler or preschooler? Just check your cabinets, toy box, or recycling bin for some new "toys" and supplies for playtime. All of these activities use basic household items to stimulate and entertain your tot for hours!

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toddler activities, play grocery store
Pretend Grocery Store
You don't need to buy a bunch of plastic play food to enjoy a game of "pretend grocery store" with your preschooler. Just stock your imaginary store with recycled mini cereal boxes and other empty food containers, and give your child a paper shopping bag or a basket with handles to go about her shopping.

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toddler activities, dress up race
Dress-Up Relay
Have some old clothes lying around? Play this dress-up game! All you need are two suitcases or bags filled with dress-up clothes. Teams or even just a parent and a preschooler can face off, racing each other to try on the funniest outfit, including one of each item of clothing (don't forget a silly hat!).

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toddler activities, indoor baseball
Indoor Baseball
Here's a safe way to play America's pastime indoors with kids: Use recycled cardboard tubes from rolls of gift wrap or paper towels as a child-friendly baseball bat, and use a balloon as the super-soft ball. Batter up!

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toddler activities, balloon games
Balloon Magic
If you have even more leftover party balloons sitting around, check out these quick games and activities. In Balloon Magic, children get a sense of gravity and static electricity by playing with balloons. In Flashlight Fun, children can explore shining colorful spots of light on the ceiling and mixing different colored spots to make new colors.

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toddler activities, cardboard playhouse
Room Within a Room
Forts! Teepees! Cardboard cottages! Toddlers and preschoolers love any kind of playhouse. Find a big cardboard box to fashion into a makeshift playhouse, or turn the chore of changing the sheets into a fun opportunity to build a fort out of fabric and pillows.

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toddler activities, stuffed animal games
Stuffed Animal Fun
Most little kids have a menagerie of stuffed animals just sitting around. Bring the furry friends to life in these new versions of two classic games. In Animal Charades, children pull a stuffed animal out of a pillow case and act out that animal. In Musical Animals, children march around a circle of chairs with stuffed animals sitting on them and grab an animal whenever the music stops.

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toddler activities, bottle bowling
Fun with Bottles
Empty bottles in your recycling bin actually make some pretty fun toys! In Toddler Bowling, kids roll a rubber ball toward the plastic bottle "pins" (fill them with dried beans if you need to add some weight). In Bottles and Lids, tots simply explore matching a variety of bottles with their correct cap and screwing/unscrewing the caps. You can also just fill empty plastic bottles with fun combinations of materials for little ones to shake and observe. Be sure to glue on the cap!

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toddler activities, marshmallow art
Marshmallow Sculptures
Here's an artsy activity that's relatively mess-free and helps kids with their dexterity. Set out some squishy marshmallows and some toothpicks for your preschool Picasso to sculpt into a work of art. Wouldn't it be fun to make a marshmallow caterpillar after reading Eric Carle's book The Very Hungry Caterpillar?!

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toddler activities, threading
Threading Practice
Threading is another fun activity that helps your child work on fine motor skills. All you need are some objects with holes through them (such as large tubular pasta, big wooden beads, empty spools, or even empty toilet paper rolls) and some shoelaces (thin yarn or string can be too hard for little fingers to work with). Let your youngster string away!

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toddler activities, pretend mailbox
Mailing Letters
Moms hate junk mail... but guess who might love it? Your kid! Put that pile of unwanted mail to use teaching kids how to drop it into the slot of an imaginary "mailbox" (a recycled tissue box or show box with a slot cut in the top). Use the opportunity to work on early handwriting skills and maybe even write a real letter (we hear it's a lost art!).

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toddler activities, indoor rice sandbox
Indoor Sandbox
If it's too rainy to play in the sandbox — or if your child doesn't have one — try this! Make an indoor sandbox by filling a cardboard box or a baby bathtub with dried beans, rice, oatmeal, cornmeal, or salt. (Beware: The smaller the "sand," the bigger the mess!) Give your child some sand toys or even just cups and wooden spoons to enjoy digging, scooping, pouring, and more.

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toddler activities, homemade playdough
Homemade Play Dough
Globs of homemade play dough and other DIY craft supplies are a hit with creative toddlers and preschoolers. Your child might just have as much fun making the play dough with you in the kitchen as she will playing with it! All you need is salt, flour, water, and (optional) food coloring.

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