Playing Without Toys

Estimated Reading Time 3 Minutes

Stumped for ways to play with your little ones? Check out these age-appropriate, play-anywhere activities. 

Under age one: Senses are the primary source of learning in their first year.

Peek A Boo: hide behind a pillow or scarf and then surprise your little one
Good for: developing visual discrimination

Massage: smooth grapeseed oil over their little bodies in a gentle way
Good for: developing a strong bond as they respond to your touch

Elevator: lay your baby down in the middle of a baby blanket, and with someone else holding the opposite two corners that you hold, lift your baby up and down
Good for: developing balance skills

It’s Raining: fill an empty plastic bottle with multicolored beads, buttons, or peas, to create a shaker, and tilt from side to side
Good for: visual and auditory stimulation

Flashlight play: hold the light on the ceiling or wall, and watch how your little one follows the light. Fun in a dark room too!
Good for: visual stimulation

My Little Library: read “books” using your own photo albums. Name each person and watch their smiles appear.
Good for: visual recognition and brain development

One- to two-year-olds – Gross and fine motor skills are developing. Click here for a list of fun activities.

Boatride: lay down with your child on your chest and rock from side to side as you sing “Row Row Row Your Boat”
Good for: developing balance and listening skills

Tunnels: place all your chairs together in a row so your child can crawl through as a tunnel
Good for: teaching depth perception

Obstacle Course: put pillows on the floor, and encourage your child to walk or run around them
Good for: building strength

Tube Snakes: save leftover paper towel or toilet paper tubes, and push a scarf into one end for your child to pull through the other end
Good for: developing fine motor skills

Banker: cut a small slit in a yogurt or cottage cheese container and have them practise putting pennies into it
Good for: developing fine motor skills and hand-eye co-ordination

Dance Party: sing and dance with your child. Have them tap the beat with wooden or plastic spoons on a cardboard box “drum”
Good for: developing creativity

Finger Painting: use prepared pudding in the middle a piece of waxed paper, and let their little fingers create a picture (non-toxic and delicious substitute!)
Good for: proving tactile stimulation and developing fine motor skills

Stamping: cut a potato in half and then cut a shape (square or rectangle) into the flat side. Dip in beet or grape juice and use to stamp the design on a piece of paper
Good for: developing fine motor skills

Indoor Sandbox: fill a small old baby bathtub with cornmeal, and let them use cookie cutter shapes to press in the “sand”, or dig with plastic kitchen measuring cups
Good for: developing fine motor skills

Two- to Three-year-olds – Creative Thinkers – they use words or symbols to express their ideas and they are ready for imaginary play.

Animal Parade: encourage your child to pretend to be any animal you suggest such as flying like a bird, crawling like a dog, jumping like a kangaroo
Good for: promoting creativity and imagination

Artists: paint with cotton swabs and water-based paint to make circles and dots
Good for: developing fine motor skills, and promotes creativity

Little Chefs: bake with your child – have them help to add all the ingredients and then have fun rolling out cookie dough and pressing their favorite cookie cutouts into the dough
Good for: promoting creativity

Magic Carpet Ride: sit on a blanket and pretend it flies them anywhere
Good for: language development

Community Helpers: save your used mail envelopes and flyers and put them in a bag for your child to be mailman and deliver letters to each room
Good for: developing imagination

Tumble Towers: use empty cereal boxes to build huge skyscraper towers
Good for: developing imagination and coordination

Grocery Store: empty cans and cheese containers are perfect for pretend grocery shopping — receipts included
Good for: developing imagination


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