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Engaging Toddler Learning Activities

By: Brooke Hamilton


As your little one grows, several truths of toddlerhood are quick to unveil themselves. One: toddlers are bundles of energy that put fireworks to shame. Two: their curiosity—and the ways they explore it—knows no bounds. Three: they’re human sponges, and they’ll happily soak up anything around them.

It’s a once-in-a-lifetime combination of traits that makes your little one’s toddler years the perfect time to start teaching them about the world they live in. After all, a child is never too young to start learning through fun and engaging educational play.

If you want to stimulate your little peanut’s imagination, engage their senses, and help them learn life skills (all while having fun) read on. In this guide, we’re discussing everything from sensory play activities to language activities and more.

Sensory Play Activities

Sensory activity is a great way to help your precious little one engage with their surroundings. It combines balance, movement, and all five senses with activities that captivate the imagination and keep their little bodies moving. This is especially important during the first three years of life when they experience the most growth.

Sensory play does more than just help your child connect with their senses, though. It sets them up for success in future life stages by:

  • Creating brain connections that allow for complex tasks and thoughts

  • Encouraging language development

  • Fostering cognitive growth and observational skills

  • Helping with the development of fine and gross motor skills

  • Teaching social interaction and peer engagement

The best news? There are easy, fun ways to get your child engaged in sensory play without breaking the bank. Below are some sensory activities to explore with your tot.

Playing With Food

Messy? Yes. Worth it? Definitely. Let your toddler mash their food around on a plate or a covered table. Let them pop, squeeze, knead, and roll to their heart’s content—and they even get a tasty treat when they’re done!

Interestingly, a small 2017 study showed a correlation between kids being allowed to play with their food and having a varied palette as they grew older. So, letting your toddler have a little fun with snacks can help them grow into a mature and adventurous eater.

Just be sure to differentiate play time from meal time—you don’t want sensory play to overtake learning table manners.

DIY Instruments and Sound-Makers

The world is bursting with sound, and honing your child’s ear is easy with the right tools and teaching methods.

Sound-makers are simple to create at home, and they make for fun DIY projects that you and your toddler can work on together. The best part is this is a simple activity for both you and your little one to enjoy! Try filling plastic eggs with lentils to make maracas, or create a rain stick with a sealed empty paper towel tube and dry rice.

For something with a little more musical flair, try crafting your own guitar. Use an empty tissue box as the base, then stretch rubber bands over the hole and get strummin’!

Sandbox Fun

A sandbox provides a wonderful sensory experience for your tot in more ways than one. They can bask in the sun, feel the wind, and play with sand to their heart’s content. And there’s no need for fancy sand molds or expensive toys: cups, shovels, and a watering can are often more than enough to spark your toddler’s imagination.

Cognitive Development Games

world around them as soon as they’re born. So, by the time your baby becomes a toddler, they already have basic cognitive skills. At this point, it’s all about building up newer and more complex skills.

Of course, toddlers aren’t well-known for having the best attention spans. So, when choosing toddler learning activities at home, you’ll need to strike a balance between engaging their cognitive abilities and keeping them entertained. Fortunately, we have a few ideas.

Memory Games

Flashcards are a great activity for older kids to engage in memory games, but your younger child will likely need something a little less rote. Instead, you might try:

  • Hide-and-seek – Taking an object, hiding it, and having your child find it is a great way to establish object permanence and recollection. You can change the complexity depending on their age, from cup shuffling games to full-blown scavenger hunts.

  • Singalongs and stories – Nursery rhymes and simple children’s songs help your tot memorize sound patterns and learn new words. Recite them together, take turns reading, and let them read or recite what they remember to you. You could even incorporate hand motions to help them learn the words!

  • Matching games – You can buy decks of cards specifically designed for memory games, or you can create your own game out of objects in your home. For instance, scatter a bunch of household items on a table, ensuring you have two of each. Then, have your toddler hunt for the matching sets.


Sorting and Categorizing

The ability to group similar concepts and items together is an important life skill. By making your own DIY toddler learning activities, you can connect with your child and teach them all about grouping. Even better? There are countless ways to do this.

If your little one is food motivated, for instance, a fun way to teach them how to sort colors is with colored candies. Dump a bag of Skittles or M&Ms onto a plate, then ask your toddler to group the candies by color.

To teach your toddler about grouping by size, have them organize different household items into large, medium, and small piles. You can teach them about grouping by weight in the same way.

No matter how you do it, these games combine tactile learning and memory to create an immersive and fun educational experience.

Unstructured Play

Unstructured play is crucial to child development because it lets kids enjoy freedom and expand their own creative thinking skills. Imaginative play, or pretend play, allows your toddler to explore the limits of their creative mind.

Pretend play ideas may vary but can include playing with:

  • Lego bricks

  • Play dough

  • Dolls

  • Cars

  • Figurines

  • Tea sets or a play kitchen

Basically, anything that can get your kid thinking outside of the box while stimulating their imagination is a go-to choice. Through unstructured play, your little one can figure out how to engage in critical thinking, problem-solving, and socialization. Most importantly, it teaches them how to create and sustain their own entertainment—an invaluable skill today.

Language and Literacy Activities

You might be surprised to learn that your little one starts picking up language skills as soon as they’re born. In fact, babies first learn how to communicate through facial expressions, sounds, and gestures.

By toddlerhood, your little one is talking, joking, and growing their vocabulary by leaps and bounds. By engaging in language and literacy activities, you can further encourage their language, literacy, and communication skills.

Storytelling Sessions

Storytelling is a fun activity that can stretch your child’s creative muscles and build literacy all at once! Read from a favorite book together or try something new from the library. You can also keep your little one engaged by reading in funny voices. Try books that have text incorporated into the pictures or books with sound words like “crash!”, “bang!” or “pop!”.

Reading your child’s favorite book for what feels like the hundredth time? While you are reading, stop in the middle of the line or toward the end of the sentence and see if your child can complete the phrase or sentence!

Just keep in mind that you want this activity to be light and fun. If your child feels wrangled into reading, they might develop negative emotional ties that could lead to an aversion. Let them pick their books, choose their reading time, and even move about or multitask while they listen to a story. After all, some kids learn best when in motion.

Alphabet Games

While your young one may not have the attention span for flashcards, you can still engage them with these alphabet games:

  • Scavenger hunt – Ask your child to find items around the house that start with each letter of the alphabet, running from A to Z. You can impose a time limit for older children to make it a little harder.

  • Alphabet soup – You only need toy letters and a large bucket or kitchen pot for this one. Dump the letters inside and have your child fish some out with a spoon. They have to name every letter before going in for another scoop.

  • Shaving cream spelling – Spread a thick layer of shaving cream on a clean table or baking sheet, and let your kid write, copy, or trace each letter or word in the thick foam. 

With entertainment like this, your child will have fun learning their ABCs!

Dressing Skills: Learning to Choose and Wear Clothes

Games may first come to mind when considering new toddler learning activities at home, but life skills are just as important as literacy and memorization. Start simple: letting your toddler figure out their own wardrobe can give them a sense of achievement and help build confidence and independence.

Plus, as their little fingers button and zip pieces of clothing, they hone their fine motor and gross motor skills. Figuring out the right way to put on a shirt can also help with cognitive skills. And discussing what article of clothing goes on which body part can strengthen language and memory. You can even start teaching them a little bit about cause and effect through how weather affects clothing choices.

If you’re fumbling with how to add dressing skill activities to your routine, try these tips.

  • Start with toddler clothes that are easier to get into, like pants with elastic waistbands

  • Allow a realistic amount of time for your child to get dressed without help

  • Store clothing in a drawer that your child can easily reach

In no time, you’ll be able to watch your child’s personal sense of style develop and see their confidence and independence grow. 

Making the Bed: A Step-by-Step Activity for Toddlers

According to psychotherapist Amy Morin, chores teach quite a few social and emotional lessons. In fact, the simple act of making a bed can:

  • Get your toddler used to participating in household chores

  • Promote the idea that positive actions have positive impacts

  • Instill a sense of independence and accomplishment

You can teach your little one how to make their bed by breaking down the process into bite-sized steps. Start with the fitted sheet. Move on to the top sheet, then the comforter, and then the pillows. They may even want to line up their favorite stuffed toys alongside the pillows. Be sure to explain every step with short, clear instructions and show them what a made bed should look like.

At the same time, don’t worry if their final result is a little messy—it’s unlikely your tot will nail making the bed perfectly on the first try. Instead, focus on repetition and independence. You can even turn it into a game by seeing who can make their bed the fastest.

Keep Your Tot Active and Stylish With Posh Peanut

As a parent, you strive to give your toddler everything they need to grow and thrive, from cognitive skills to comfy and stylish clothes. And Posh Peanut is here to help.

At Posh Peanut, we’re committed to creating soft, cozy, and elevated toddler clothes for every personality and every occasion. Not only are our designs stylish, but they’re also made from Päpook® fabric—meaning “soft” in Armenian. This lightweight and breathable viscose from bamboo fabric wicks away moisture and sweat, helping to regulate your tot’s temperature and keep them comfortable all day long.

Explore our collection today and get ready to dress your toddler for success!


1. Healthline. Sensory Play: 20 Great Activities for Your Toddler or Preschooler.

2. National Library of Medicine. Play with your food! Sensory play is associated with tasting of fruits and vegetables in preschool children.

3. Mom Junction. 23+ Activities To Promote Cognitive Development In Toddlers.

4. Help Me Grow. Why Unstructured Play Is Important to Child Development.

5. Zero to Three. Supporting Language and Literacy Skills from 12-24 Months.

6. Teaching your child how to get dressed.

7. VeryWell Family. How to Teach Your Child to Make Their Bed.