Listen, I am a fan of iPads and TVs. BIG FAN. For myself, and yes, for my kids. As a work-from-home mom, sometimes I need them out of my hair and relatively quiet so I can, you know, make money and feed them. We definitely try to limit screen time here, although some days are more successful than others. My oldest is 8, and great at self-regulating. My youngest is 4 1/2, and still needs some boundaries. So when I feel like she’s getting screened-out, I like to reach into my bag of mom tricks and redirect her with an activity. I’m always looking for new screen-free toddler activities, and the ones on this list do not disappoint!
Screen-free toddler activities WILL require a bit more of your time to set up and/or make, I won’t lie. But once the prep work is done, they can play independently.
How fun would an indoor scavenger hunt be?
This one is super simple. Hide 10 or so items around the living room or wherever you’re sitting, then put together a list of toddler-appropriate clues. You can hide things that are a certain color, or toys they love. From the comfort of your couch, you can give your toddler the clues, and then cheer when they find each item.
A DIY felt board with felt shapes is a great activity.
You can easily make your own felt board by gluing a large piece of felt to some foam board. Then cut out shapes from different colored pieces of felt, and let your toddler construct and deconstruct as many scenes as they want!
Or you could use masking tape to make a track all over the room and furniture.
This one takes a few minutes to set up, but it can provide hours of entertainment for your truck or train-loving kiddo. All you need is a roll of masking tape and your imagination to create a map of roadways and tracks. Use the floor, tables, and couches for some obstacle courses, then give them a tub of cars and trains and let them drive all over.
Some screen-free toddler activities involve being outside, like building fairy houses.
This one is so great for encouraging kids to be creative! Walk them around the yard to collect their house supplies, then set them up and let them build. You’ll have to supervise and probably glue, but let your toddler take the lead.
You can also keep some sensory bins outside for play time.
I love the idea of turning a summer toy, like a water table, into a sensory table for toddlers during cooler months. You can use rice, beans, sand – anything that’s too messy to do indoors, basically. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, fill a couple of bins with stuff like cooked spaghetti or Orbeez, and let them get their hands slimy.
Make a few games out of household items to bust out when the toddler needs some play time and screens are off the table.
You can make your own version of the game Operation with some cheap rubber toys, twine, and kid-friendly chopsticks. Or use up those paper towel rolls and make a ring toss game. Just glue a paper towel roll to a paper plate, cut out the center of a few more plates, and let your toddler try to toss them on the stand.
Make a “Find It” game to keep them guessing.
This one is so simple! Fill a kid-safe jar or container with rice or perler beads, and drop in a handful of small items like buttons, coins, or little figurines. Your toddler will have so much fun trying to find all the items inside.
Or you can make a “busy bag” with color matching games and supplies.
So simple! Stick some colored dot stickers on a popsicle stick, and get a bunch of coordinating pom poms. They can spend a good chunk of time matching the poms to the dots.
Sensory bags make great screen-free toddler activities without the mess!
All you need is a few supplies: a Ziploc bag, cheap hair gel, tape, and some items to put inside the bag (be mindful of sharp edges that could rip the bag). Fill up the bag with the gel and items, reinforce the zip top with some duct tape, and then tape it to the wall or fridge door!
Create your own letter match game. Fun AND educational!
You can use letter magnets, or find some letter beads at a local craft store. Then just make a few different sheets with various letters written on them, and have your toddler match the bead to the letter.