The early years are important to a child’s development. Toddlers learn basic life skills, social skills, and language skills as they play and it’s important for childcare centres to ensure that toddlers are exposed to engaging activities that allow them to learn as they play and explore.
If you’re looking to add to your repertoire of activities for toddlers in childcare, we’ve got some fun ones that little ones love.
Science activities for toddlers in childcare
Toddlers love asking ‘why’ because they are naturally curious about how things work. While they may not yet grasp complicated chemistry and physics concepts, it’s never too early to provide children with the opportunity to investigate and find the answers to their questions.
Here are some fun and easy science activities for toddlers in childcare:
Many children love dinosaurs and this is one neat activity that will fuel their interest. You will need only 5 minutes to set up the dino dig.
- Dinosaur toys/dinosaur fossil skeletons
- Excavation ‘tools’ (You can use toy hammers, paint brushes, tooth brushes, spatula)
- Combine cornstarch and water in a container to create oobleck. Use approximately twice as much cornstarch as water. If the mixture is too thick, add more water; and if it is too liquidy, add more cornstarch.
- Put the dinosaurs into the oobleck. Push them down so that they are buried in the mixture. If you are using a large container, you can put in more than one dinosaur.
- Leave it to dry in the sun for a day or two.
- The ‘excavation site’ is ready when it’s hard and cracked on the surface.
- Have the toddlers ‘dig’ up the dinosaurs!
What’s magnetic and what’s not
This game is perfect for toddlers to learn about magnets. It’s also really easy to set up. Here’s how:
- Magnets (make sure that magnets used are large so that they are not choking hazards. Magnet wands and big horseshoe magnets are excellent for young children)
- Random items (again, make sure that all items are age appropriate and do not pose a choking risk)
All you need to do for this activity is to fill the container with random items from the classroom.
Ensure that some items are magnetic. Set the bin on the floor or table and have the children use a magnet to discover which items are magnetic.
For children who are a little more advanced, you can get them to sort out items into magnetic and non magnetic groups. You can even get them to guess if the item is magnetic or not before they try picking it up with the magnet.
This activity only takes a few minutes to set up and is simple enough for young children to participate in.
- Dish soap
- Liquid food coloring (Gel coloring does not work well for this activity)
- Cotton buds
- Pour a thin layer of milk into the container
- Get the children to add drops of food coloring around the milk
- Dip a cotton bud into some dish soap
- Put the cotton bud into the milk and press it down in ONE spot. Hold the cotton bud on the spot for about 15 to 20 seconds.
- Watch what happens
The food coloring will start to spread around the container and soon you will see the milk ‘become colorful’. The science behind this experiment in simple terms is that milk is made up of proteins, fats and other minerals.
When dish soap is added to the milk, the fat begins to break up. Soap molecules move around to attach themselves to the fat molecules in the milk. The food coloring helps us to see all the movement that is taking place.
Cooking activities for toddlers in childcare
Cooking is not just fun, it is also a fantastic educational activity for toddlers. If you haven’t already included cooking activities at your childcare center, you should definitely consider doing so. Here’s why:
- Children will learn food and cooking related terms such as names of ingredients and cooking processes.
- They will learn about following instructions when following recipes
- Cooking helps to develop fine motor skills
- Cooking is an excellent way to teach mathematical concepts such as measurement, volume, shape and numbers.
- It gives children a chance to develop their problem solving skills.
- Cooking together in a group helps children to practise their social skills. They will learn how to work together, and share tools.
Here are some age appropriate cooking activities for toddlers:
Chocolate Dipped Strawberries
Strawberries are healthy fruits and most children love them. Dip them in chocolate and they become a delicious dessert.
- Chocolate chips
- Pour some chocolate chips into a bowl
- Put the bowl into the microwave and melt the chocolate chips.
- Make sure to stir the bowl every 15 seconds until the chocolate chips are fully melted.
- Once the chocolate is melted, dip the strawberries until they are covered halfway in chocolate.
- Lay the dipped strawberries on a baking sheet to dry
Pic Source: Waxing Kara
Children will love making their own pizzas and eating them! Toddlers will get to practise skills such as rolling and spreading. You can also teach shapes by getting the kids to make pizzas of different shapes.
- Pizza dough (You can prepare the dough before hand)
- Tomato sauce
- Toppings: meats, mushrooms, spinach
- Grated cheese
- Use a rolling pin to roll out the pizza dough
- Have the children form different shapes with the pizza dough
- Spread tomato sauce onto each pizza
- Add the desired toppings.
- Sprinkle grated cheese on top
- Put it in the oven and bake according to the dough instructions
Peanut butter bites
Making peanut butter bites is an opportunity for children to develop their fine motor skills. Children will learn rolling technique as they roll the mixture into small balls. The mixture provides a textural and sensory experience. Additionally, the steps are really simple, making it easy for children to follow.
- 1 cup peanut butter
- 1 egg
- 1 cup brown sugar
- Mix the peanut butter, brown sugar and egg into a bowl
- Roll the mixture into small balls
- Place the balls on a baking sheet
- Press the mixture down with a fork to create a pattern
- Put in the oven and bake at 180⁰C/ 350⁰F for 6-8 minutes
Physical activities for toddlers in childcare
Physical activity is important for toddlers and should be included as a key component in childcare. It helps children to develop motor skills, build strength, endurance and confidence as well as improve social skills, balance, posture and concentration.
Here are some physical activities for toddlers in childcare that will help them hit their developmental milestones:
You can use any stackable object for this activity. Blocks and containers with lids work well. Have the children build a tower each or pair them up to work together. Children can take turns to add blocks to the tower.
You can double up and use this activity to practise counting skills too. Have the children count the number of blocks as they stack them. Once they reach a certain number of blocks, the tower is complete.
Sponge throws are great for a hot day. Prepare some wet sponges and a container. Have the children take the wet sponges and throw them into the container.
You can use sponges of different sizes and different amounts of water so that the kids can compare how far a sponge can travel.
Do prepare for children to have extra clothes on hand as they might get wet during this activity.
Ever had fun playing with feathers? Here’s how you can get children moving indoors. Toss some feathers in the air and have the children try and catch them with their hands before they reach the ground.
If you have containers on hand, you can have the children catch the feathers in the containers.
For children who are slightly older, you can give them each a feather. Have them keep the feather in the air by blowing on it. This fun activity will definitely get toddlers moving around!
Feed Mr. Lion
For this activity, you will need a cardboard box, and some balls/crumpled balls of paper. Paint a lion’s head on the cardboard box and cut a hole for the lion’s mouth on the box.
Have the children take turns tossing the balls into the lion’s mouth. You can set a time limit to make the game more fun. Count the number of balls that Mr. Lion ate at the end of the activity.
Check out our article on 15 Best Physical Development Activities for Toddlers in Childcare for more tips and ideas to get young children moving.
Maths activities for toddlers in childcare
There are many ways to introduce mathematical concepts to toddlers without using worksheets or flash cards. Here are some engaging maths activities for toddlers in childcare.
This is a game that you can play anytime in class. You can say something like ‘I wonder if you can find 5 crayons’ or ‘Please bring me 8 building blocks’.
When the children bring the items, all you have to do is count them. If it is wrong, they will notice their mistake and want to correct it. You can help them count up the items if they do not know how to.
For children who have begun to recognize written numerals, you can give them a written cue for the number of items that you want them to bring.
In addition to learning numbers, this activity allows children to move around the room, keeping the activity interesting.
Sort the animals
Maths skills involve the ability to recognize patterns and relationships. You can introduce this concept to toddlers by getting them to sort items according to different characteristics. All you need for this activity is an assortment of toy animals. Have the children sort the animals into categories such as:
- Land animals
- Sea animals
- Animals with 4 legs
- Animals without legs
- Animals with shells
Language activities for toddlers in childcare
Children acquire language as they grow, learn and interact. Language skills are important as it will help children express themselves and forge relationships. Here are some language activities for toddlers in childcare to help them develop this important skill:
Storytelling is old but gold. Books and stories are one of the best ways to expose children to new words. Age appropriate stories also help children to pay attention to a story line.
Board books and sensory books are great for young toddlers. Encourage toddlers to touch and feel pictures. Books with rhyme are also great for young children.
Let’s dress up!
Dressing up is not just a fun activity for toddlers but also a great way for them to develop their imagination and vocabulary. You can have the children dress up for different occupations for role play or just wear wigs and funny masks for a fun time!
All you need for this activity is a collection of hats, shawls, age appropriate clothing and accessories. Your class will have a blast and you will too!
Mystery bags are an excellent way to get children to describe objects. You will need a cloth bag and some random objects for this activity. Put the objects into the bag so that the children do not know what it is.
Have the children put their hands into the bag and feel the object. Once they have done so, ask them to describe the item to you. Have them guess the object after describing it. For very young children, you can help them along with questions such as:
- Is it hard or soft?
- Does it feel furry?
- Does it feel round?
- Is it smooth?
- Is it rough?
Card games are a simple and easy tool that you can use to encourage children to develop their vocabulary. Simple games such as snap, or matching pairs will have young children all excited. You may, however, need some time to explain the game to the children, depending on their level of understanding.
Cognitive activities for toddlers in childcare
Cognitive development is important for a toddler’s development. It helps toddlers gain understanding as they explore, as well as improve their concentration and attention.
Puzzles give children the chance to problem solve as they figure out how pieces fit together. They encourage young children to think logically to solve the puzzle.
Puzzles also require toddlers to be patient, concentrate and pay attention to the task at hand. If you find the toddlers in your class getting frustrated when solving a puzzle, encourage them to continue searching for the right pieces.
Matching games help children to identify several items, remember them and look for a matching item. This means that they will need to work through a problem to find an accurate solution.
Memory matching games can be as simple as just a few objects. They are versatile and can be tailored to younger toddlers who are not yet familiar with the concept.
Encourage toddlers to find the correct match and praise them when they do so. Finding a match can be incredibly rewarding for a toddler and hence, it is a popular activity among young children.
Pretend play and imagination
Children learn from play and cognitive skills such as imagination and creativity is developed through imaginative play.
You can set up stations for children to use their imagination. Pretend to play kitchens, mini supermarkets, a pretend fire engine or a pretend doctor’s clinic are great for toddlers to learn as they play.
In addition to allowing toddlers to use their imagination, this fun cognitive activity allows them to hone their language and social skills as they play together.
Toddlers are still learning and trying to understand sequences. Sequencing activities help them to understand steps, routine and the basics of time.
There are plenty of sequencing activities you can do with toddlers. In fact, even washing hands before eating can be made into a sequencing activity.
You can teach children the sequence of handwashing by using words such as first, next, then, after and last while they follow instructions to wash their hands. Regular emphasis on sequencing words will enrich their vocabulary and help them to understand steps and sequence.
Children learn about the world through play, developing their cognitive skills as they discover and explore. Educational toys that allow them to use their imagination and have fun while learning will also help cognitive development.
Whether you’re running a childcare or taking care of a toddler at home, these tried and tested engaging activities will help children learn and develop important skills.
If you’re carrying out these activities outdoors, here are some tips on outdoor safety to ensure their well being while having fun. If you’re looking for a childcare centre in Malaysia for toddlers and preschoolers, check out Cherie Hearts International Preschool & Kindergarten.