8 Activities You Must Do With Your Toddlers and Preschoolers This Year

Image courtesy Alison Lee
Image courtesy Alison Lee

With my first son, I planned activities for him every day when he was a toddler—walks, playdates at friends’ houses, visits to indoor gyms, toddler-friendly crafts, spontaneous picnics on the living room floor, and swimming–just to name a few. I was fanatical about filling all his waking hours with something

Is it a second child syndrome? My second child, now 20 months old, has had a few playdates, plenty of food messes on the floor masquerading as “craft” (more a result of baby-led weaning where he fed himself yogurt, fruit, rice, pasta from a young age), and has gone swimming once. He spends most of his day playing cars, trucks ,and trains with his brother, riding the bike, going up and down the slide at the playground, and occasional trips to the toy store, but this is nowhere near the kinds of things we did with his big brother. 

{ MORE: Kid-Tested Toddler Birthday Party Activities }

As a family, we have been to zoos, gone bush walking in Australia, visited a science museum and an aquarium, and run around in plenty of parks, but vacations are not an everyday occasion.

So for 2014, I am putting together a list of things I’d like to do with my toddler (and as a family). If I write them down, from the simple to the more involved goals, I feel like I will reach that goal of making quality time the focus of the new year while also engaging my toddler as he begins to become even more aware and interested in his surroundings. 

Image via Flickr/waldyrious
Image via Flickr/waldyrious

1. Go to the beach.

Play in the ocean in the summer and build sand castles in the cooler months! Enjoying the beach in each season is possible. As long as you bundle up and talk ahead of time as to expectations for the visit. Take them on a seashell hunt one afternoon and host a fun toddler version of relay races or soccer on another visit. Think ahead, keep it simple, but have a plan ready to go to make it fun each time. Leave your books and e-readers at home to ensure you engage with your child. 

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Image via Flickr/celebdu
Image via Flickr/celebdu

2. Take a nature hike during each season.

It can be easy to get consumed by life and not get outdoors and explore with your kids, enjoying what each season brings. Find a favorite trail and note the changes you see happening as the seasons progress. If you happen to live in a place where your seasons do not change much, then make a commitment to get out to a new hiking trail or hidden gem like the one pictured above each week or month.  Make it a little extra fun by creating a toddler/preschool scavenger hunt. Have them hunt for specific shaped leaves, large rocks and small rocks, caterpillars and butterflies – simple things they might already know that can keep them engaged as you hike together. 

Image courtesy Nicole Hempeck
Image courtesy Nicole Hempeck

3.  Fly kites and picnic.

Pack a basket of the children’s favorite food and drinks and have a picnic outside while flying kites. This is a great activity to do with older siblings. Bring pinwheels for your littles if they get bored with the assisted kite-flying that is likely needed. It’s a great alternative for something to blow in the wind that they can control independently. 

{ MORE: 4 Easy Toddler and Preschool Sensory Activities }

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Image courtesy Nicole Hempeck
Image courtesy Nicole Hempeck

4. Have fun in the kitchen!

Starting early cooking and baking with kids is a great way to bond with your kids. Sure, your littles can’t chop and slice just yet, but there’s plenty that they can do!

Get your toddler to help bake cookies and cupcakes – they can pour ingredients, stir and spread icing with small appetizer spreaders.  Allow them to help you roll out pizza down and sprinkle the cheese and toppings on your homemade pizza.

There’s plenty of ways to involve your young one and it’s a lovely way to engage them in the meal making process while spending quality time. 

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Image via Flickr/Mr Moss
Image via Flickr/Mr Moss

5. Play in the rain.

Stop worrying about getting dirty, being too wet ,and having them drip all over your floor. Break out the camera, snap a few photos while watching them enjoy the puddle splashing and feast your eyes on the wonder that comes from dancing in the rain. It is worth it. 

Image via Flickr/kodomut
Image via Flickr/kodomut

6. Explore the library together.

Show your child the magical world of books through the library. Find one that offers a great space for reading, offers an interactive story hour perfect for toddlers, and computers just for them.  Allow your child to put the books up on the counter and hand the librarian your library card so they can feel the pride that comes from checking out a book. Make it an adventure of exploring reading in a variety of different ways, planting the seed that will create a love of books and stories as they grow.

Image courtesy Nicole Hempeck
Image courtesy Nicole Hempeck

7. Let loose and get boogeying with dance parties!

Make the morning breakfast prep routine more fun by throwing on some kid music and dancing in the kitchen. Teach your child to love cleaning up while bopping around to music as you throw toys into their bins. Have a dance party on a really cold day when you can’t get outside, to burn off some energy. The key is doing this together, laughing and being silly. 

Image courtesy Nicole Hempeck
Image courtesy Nicole Hempeck

8. Go to a petting zoo

When you head to a place where children can safely get up close and personal with animals they have the opportunity to learn about animals in a different way than a traditional zoo. You can use these visits as teachable moments about respecting non-domestic animals as well as enjoying a variety of different animals within their habitats. Pack a lunch and make an afternoon of it! Just make sure to bring hand sanitizer for after you’ve fed those goats! Sometimes the farms run out. 

What is on your must-do list of activities with your children this year?

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8 Activities You Must Do With Your Toddlers and Preschoolers This Year

Alison Lee is a former PR and marketing professional turned work-at-home mother. After a 10-year career in various PR agencies, and of the world’s biggest sports brands, she traded in product launches and world travel, for sippy cups, diapers, and breastfeeding. Alison is a former blogger (Writing, Wishing), and her writing has been featured on Mamalode,On Parenting at The Washington Post,The Huffington Post, Everyday Family, Scary Mommy, Club Mid, andDrGreene.com. She is one of 35 essayists ... More

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4 comments

  1. Profile photo of Brittany Brittany says:

    I think it is important to plan trips/activities for your toddler, regardless of whether it is your first child or your fourth. These activities are not only a great bonding experience, but also a learning experience and if you don’t take your child out and explore places or meet new people, they aren’t going to have very many memories to cherish and they are going to wind up sheltered and not know how to interact come time for daycare/school.

    • Profile photo of Brittany Brittany says:

      I was a single mother when my daughter was a toddler. I worked part-time, so money was an issue. But even though I couldn’t take her on extravagant outings, I still took her out every day. Whether it was on a walk, or to the store so she could pick out a healthy snack, or to the park…Then there were times I had saved up money and I took her to the fair, to the Seattle Aquarium, Pikes Place Market. Also, look around for free, fun events; like parades, story time at your library, car shows usually have activities for small kids, such as bouncy houses, face painting, cotton candy, etc.

  2. Profile photo of Rebekah Rebekah says:

    It must be nice to be able to afford to go to the beach more than four times a year. The rest sounds fun though.

  3. Profile photo of ronnysue ronnysue says:

    That all sounds great but when you’re a single mother of 4 3 boys who are 3 5 and 8 and a 1 year old little girl its so hard my kids are so picky and cant agree on anything so every place I have taken them to one always shows ther butts I would love to go out and do things with my children but they really dont listen to nothing I say I wont whip them my family thinks I should but there my babies its just so hard I do it all myself does anyone have any suggestions on something that all of my kids can do without attitude I have even tried cosi that was one train wreck of a day.thank you ronnysue

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