Learning Games and Activities For Toddlers

Research shows that a child’s environment plays a vital role in the structural development of his brain. A toddler’s experience builds synaptic connections in the brain, increasing the long-term efficiency and learning capacity.

Toddlers require daily opportunities to learn and experience new things, in order to build these connections.

Below you will find fun, enjoyable activities and toddler games to play with your child, categorized by age level. Keep these activities relaxed, and be sure that your child is developmentally ready for the activities you are introducing.

These games may seem small and insignificant, but it is clear that over time they make a difference in the future function of your toddler’s brain. Remember to keep it fun!

Toddlers games should be fun and simple.
Toddlers games should be fun and simple.

Toddler Games And Activities by Age

Toddler Games: 12-14 Months

Your toddler is probably able to focus on a person who is talking to him and has an ability to understand short commands. He is able to wave bye-bye, and point to things he wants. He may fluctuate between wanting to do things for himself and wanting your help.

  • Find an old hat and take turns dropping blocks into it. You can name their colors or count them as you play. Benefit: exercises fine motor skills, teaches numbers and colors concepts.
  • Turn a large box on its side. Fill it with lots of stuffed animals and encourage your toddler to crawl in and explore. Next time fill it with something else, like tennis balls or warm sheets just out of the dryer. Benefit: Provides a great tactile experience.
  • Use a full deck of playing cards and show your child how to sort them into piles by color or shapes. Benefit: A lesson in color and shapes.
  • Find a freshly mowed lawn and take off your child’s shoes. Let him run around in it and feel the grass on his toes. Talk about the differences in the feeling of grass and carpet or hard flooring. Benefit: provides a tactile experience.
  • Create a small book of smells for your child. Staple together a few sheets of paper and drip vanilla on one page, glue lavender or Eucalyptus to another, and a mild perfume on the last. Let your toddler enjoy her little smells book! Benefit: Provides a unique tactile experience, and builds pre-literacy skills.

Toddler Games: 15-17 Months

At this age your toddler is likely spending 80% of her time exploring her world. She is beginning to understand feeling and emotions of others and will express her own wide range of emotions. She may play pretend now, for example, having a conversation playing with a toy phone.

  • Count the steps as you go up stairs, building excitement as you reach the top. Benefit: Teaches number concepts and develops gross motor skills.
  • As you prepare to do laundry, roll socks into little balls and let your child throw them in the basket. Count them as they go in. Benefit: Develops fine and gross motor skills.
  • Play hide and seek with your child’s toys. Take a squeaky toy and another of similar size and hide them under a blanket. Ask your toddler to find the squeaky toy. Give her a hint by squeaking the toy. Benefit: Strengthens memory skills and concept of object permanence.
  • If you live in a cold climate, blow bubbles outside and watch them freeze. Pop, them look at them and talk about them. Benefit: A lesson in cause and effect relationships.
  • Get a piggy bank and help your child put quarters into it. When she masters this, try nickels, then pennies and finally dimes. Let her enjoy shaking the piggy bank, and letting all the coins spill out when she is done. Just don’t let your baby do this alone, or put any coins in her mouth, as they are a choking hazard. Be sure to stow this game out of your child’s reach when you are done playing. Benefits: Develops fine motor skills.
  • Cook some sticky rice and show her how to roll her own rice balls. Serve them for dinner. Benefits: Builds fine motor skills and social skills.
  • Place three or more sponges in a bucket of water and show him how sponges soak up the water. Show him how to squeeze the water out and start over again. Benefits: A lesson in cause and effect that exercises hand and arm muscles.

Watching toddlers games may give you some new ideas for interacting with your child.
Watching toddlers games may give you some new ideas for interacting with your child.
Active toddler games are beneficial on many levels!
Active toddler games are beneficial on many levels!

Toddler Games: 18-20 Months

You will probably witness a huge leap in your toddler's ability to use and understand language at this age, as well as a strong independent will to do things on his own.

  • Place a handful of animal crackers on a plate and help your toddler separate them into categories. When he is finished, count them to see which animal you have the most of. Benefit: Builds categorizations and counting skills.
  • Let your toddler help you mix a batch of cornstarch and water; add food coloring, if you like. This mixture makes a solid when rolled and a liquid when still. Benefits: Provides a unique tactile experience and a lesson in cause and effect.
  • Place a few of your toddler’s toys in a hat. Remove one quietly and ask your toddler which one is missing. Benefit: Strengthens memory skills.
  • Make a ramp from a large piece of cardboard and let your child roll small toys down it. Change the angles of the ramp to make the objects go faster and slower. Benefit: Demonstrates cause and effect and the power of gravitational forces.
  • Tie a string to a small stuffed animal and throw it a few feet away from you. Reel it back in like a cowboy. Monitor your child closely with this game and dispose of string carefully when done. Benefits: Develops fine and gross motor skills, and inspires imaginative play.
  • Squirm around on the floor like a snake or a worm; encourage your toddler to join you. Make an obstacle course to squirm throughout of pillows. Benefits: Develops gross motor skills and encourages imaginative play.

Toddlers Games: 21-24 Months

At this age your toddler is adding imagination and creativity to his quickly expanding list af abilities. He may have begun to referring to himself by his name and takes pride in his accomplishments, such as kicking a ball. He is beginning to participate in shared play activities and is hopefully becoming a little less defiant!

  • Go on a treasure hunt in your home, searching for things that come in twos, for example, a pair of lamps, a pair of shoes, or matching candlesticks. Count them as you find them. Benefit: Teaches categorizing and counting skills.
  • While preparing your child for a bath, review out loud all the steps you will be going through like filling the tub, taking off clothes, stepping in the tub etc. Benefit: this comforting ritual will also help build sequencing skills.
  • Take a walk through your home with your toddler and find things that are taller or shorter than him. Use a yardstick to show the difference to him in a concrete way. Benefits: Develops fine motor and pre-math skills.
  • Get a small bucket of water and some tennis balls and head out to the driveway. Soak the tennis balls in water and then roll them around on the pavement to make lines and arcs with the water. Roll them uphill and watch them roll back down. Talk about it! Benefit: Demonstrates cause and effect relationships.
  • Make a batch of bread dough (or buy it ready-made) and use alphabet cookie cutters to spell out your child’s name (be sure to let her help in this process). Bake it and enjoy! Benefits: Builds pre-literacy skills and awareness of sequential events.
  • Play tag with your toddler and be sure to specify a “base.’ Change the base to a new spot every few rounds. Benefits: Builds gross motor skills, social skills and teaches new vocabulary.
  • Hold your toddler’s hands and walk in circles, first slowly, then quickly. Do this to music and vary the pace with the beat. Benefits: Develops balance and exercises gross motor skills.

Toddler Games Prepare Your Child For Advanced Skills

Once you get the hang of playing these toddler games, you will find opportunities to create new and interesting games on your own or with their help. Always keep it fun, and stop a game if it causes frustration in your child. All children develop at a different pace, and some toddlers games may have to wait a few months until your child is ready.

Many of the games listed above can be played throughout the toddler years and in the preschool years, because your child will grow to love them! Expand games whenever you can, to provide additional opportunities for learning.

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Comments 47 comments

stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 8 years ago from Bend, Oregon

Very well-organized and helpful. Congrats on the finals! I wish I had this reference when the twins were younger.

stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 8 years ago from Bend, Oregon

Whoops - pressed send twice. I must like it twice as much! :-)

amy jane profile image

amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut Author

Hey Steph, thanks so much. And congrats to you to on finals :)

neuroimpulse profile image

neuroimpulse 8 years ago from Australia

Congratulations on an excellent site. As a pediatric chiropractor, these are the tools I like to give my parents to read to stimulate neurodevelopment and coordination in our little chiropractic patients. Well done.

amy jane profile image

amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut Author

Thank you so much, neuroimpulse!

seamus profile image

seamus 8 years ago

Thank you for organizing these by age. It really helps me to find the ones appropriate to my little one. =)

MasonsMom profile image

MasonsMom 8 years ago from U.S.A.

These sound like fun!

amy jane profile image

amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut Author

Thanks Seamus and MasonsMom! I am glad you found them useful :)

ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 8 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

Hi Amy, I enjoyed this hub. I could use a lot of thise fun activities for our preschoolers. Thanks for this wonderful ideas. :)

amy jane profile image

amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut Author

You're very welcome, Michelle! I hope the children you work with like them. :)

solarshingles profile image

solarshingles 8 years ago from london

Amy, this is a beautiful hub full of children's fun and love. I bet, it is much easier to write about the topic of learning games for toddlers, if your own 'little artists and designers' are playing around you, young mommy...

amy jane profile image

amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut Author

Thank you, and yes toddler games are easy to write about because I have played them all with my little ones! My youngest is now a toddler and I am discovering these games all over with her. Each child learns and explores differently,so it is always interesting!

Write On! profile image

Write On! 8 years ago from United States

I have always found that the best games for young children are those that are the simplest for them to follow. These are some really great suggestions that you have given here. I have used many of these same activities over the years with great results.

I love having them here together, where they can be bookmarked for future reference. Sometimes, when our children are bored, and we are tired - it is hard to think of the most simple and effective things to do. This is a great list.

What are some of your kids favorites on this list?


Write On!

donnaleemason profile image

donnaleemason 8 years ago from North Dakota, USA

Excellent Amy!

robie2 profile image

robie2 8 years ago from Central New Jersey

great tips for tired mommies, doting grandmas and teenage babysitters--anybody who wants to keep a little one busy and happy--good job.

amy jane profile image

amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut Author

Hi Write-On! My daughter is 17 months now and her favorite games from this list are squirming around on the floor like a worm, playing hide and seek with her toys and rolling things down a little ramp. She is the most active of my children and love to cimb everything, so I really use these often to keep her occupied and happy as well as for learning purposes. Creating a "book of smells" is one of my favorites. It later makes a great keepsake. Thanks for commenting!

amy jane profile image

amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut Author

Thank you Donna and Robie! Keep little ones occupied and learning can be a challenge for anyone who cares for young children. I hope this helps!

CarpetDiem profile image

CarpetDiem 8 years ago from Southern California

Hi Amy Jane, Great hub and great ideas. I think they can all be summarized as SPEND TIME WITH YOUR TODDLER AND DO THINGS WITH THEM! The best thing you can do for your kids is unplug the TV and spend time with them. Have them do things. Anything. We read lots of books about "what to do" to with our first kid, on our second, it was just whatever! They both will be fine. I especially like your idea about walking on a fresh cut lawn barefoot. Not only does it feel neat on their feet, but the smell is awesome, and it is OUTSIDE. Play, play, play! ~ Steve

amy jane profile image

amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut Author

Hi Steve- I agree. Spending time with your toddler and getting them away from the TV is the most important thing we can do. The learning benefits is really just an extra to the fun. The relationship we build is vital! Thanks for reading. :)

paul 8 years ago

Great hub and ideas Jane, Sometime it's difficult to attract toddler to play, i agree to prevent some dangerous play for toddler, and maybe with a new one the toddler little difficult to make game. great advise you have Jane.:-)

ruby 7 years ago

hi i learn a lot on this site,it really helps on my research specially handling and dealing with toddlers.thanks and keep it up.:)

amy jane profile image

amy jane 7 years ago from Connecticut Author

Hi Paul and Ruby - thank you and I'm glad you are finding these learning games useful. Thanks for reading!

Ashley Joy profile image

Ashley Joy 7 years ago

Time is one of the best things we can give our children. Simple activities such as these are great bonding experiences as well as educational.

amy jane profile image

amy jane 7 years ago from Connecticut Author

Thank you Ashley! Learning games for toddlers are a great way to have fun and bond with your child as well!

anyabluesky profile image

anyabluesky 7 years ago from Thailand

Great hub for children. It's very useful to improve children skills.

Now I got an idea with Toddlers Learning Games for my niece.

5 star hub :)

PR: wait... I: wait... L: wait... LD: wait... I: wait...wait... Rank: wait... Traffic: wait... Price: wait... C: wait...

amy jane profile image

amy jane 7 years ago from Connecticut Author

Thanks Anyabluesky! Glad you found these learning games for toddlers helpful. :)

vidhya 7 years ago

hi amy i am from india at pondichery ,i have seen ur tremadous site that will confidentially improve our child no doubt,but my son so stburn, always looking advertisement,i am so scared that behaviour will change seeing tv,reply

Rindy Jones 7 years ago

Thank goodness for you I am watching a friend of mines kiddo's and there are 2 two yr olds a three yr old and a five year old..... THESE GAMES SAVED MY LIFE THIS WEEK!!!! Awesome that you offer this resource!!! LOVED THE TENNIS BALLS!

deck railing 7 years ago

WOW you just saved me a boat load of cash on toys... what great ideas... so creative and just by using simple items most everyone already has... thanks so much

amy jane profile image

amy jane 7 years ago from Connecticut Author

Thank you all for the comments. I'm so glad that this was helpful and that the kids are enjoying these learning games. Vidhya, TV can negatively effect your child ifhe watches excessively, but a little bit of viewing shows designed for kids would probably be fine. Play with your child and have fun!

mystery 7 years ago

anythig to keep them busy while learning sounds good to me

amy jane profile image

amy jane 7 years ago from Connecticut Author

Thanks mystery, these learning games should keep a toddler busy for some time - and they are great fun for parents and caregivers too!

gmpoint 7 years ago

i think this is really important for education purposes

amy jane profile image

amy jane 7 years ago from Connecticut Author

Thanks gmpoint!

motorolafans 7 years ago

hi i learn a lot on this site,it really helps on my research specially handling and dealing with toddlers.thanks and keep it up.:)

xunlei profile image

xunlei 7 years ago

Excellent,it is great ,hit

amy jane profile image

amy jane 7 years ago from Connecticut Author

Thanks Motorolafans and xunlei! Glad you found this helpful.

M. Martin 6 years ago

I've seen other blogs that talks about this but your blog is most informative!

Portable Solar Panels 6 years ago

Nice information, this really useful for me. There is nothing to argue about.

Keep posting stuff like this i really like it. Thx.

Mike Stronghill 6 years ago

I find your information very informative. My problem is that my kids are 12 and 16. You know, now that I have read your article, it makes me wish that I had spent more time playing games, like the ones you suggested, with my kids.

I know, should of, could of, would have. I guess that now that they aren't toddlers, I can still share quality time with them by playing games with them. I think that this can still exercise the mind.

Thanks for your great ideas and thoughts on games for toddlers.

amy jane profile image

amy jane 6 years ago from Connecticut Author

Thanks Mike. We all do the best we can when our kids are little. Maintaining a close relationship is really the most important thing - so if you can keep that going through the teenage years then I think you are doing really well!

Andrew 6 years ago

This was a good practice for children,in which at their young age we can mold them to be physically fit yet they still enjoyed the way we taught them on how they stand..

klaasdevries 6 years ago

thanks for this hub.Nice work!

Dhiren vyas 6 years ago

this is really gonna dam useful to me ...Thanks a lot for this wonderful hub ..

technology update 5 years ago

I have used many of these same activities over the years with great results.

What are some of your kids favorites on this list?


Pooja Jani 5 years ago

Its just amazing..so many games for the toddlers.I am sure this will definitely help for the overall development.Please keep suggesting us this type of games.Thank you very much.

wayseeker profile image

wayseeker 5 years ago from Colorado

What a great collection of ideas! This is exactly the kind of thing I wish all parents took the time to investigate and do with their own children. Generally speaking, imagination is far too lacking in the kids I teach these days.

Nicely done.

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