If you have an energetic two-year-old at home and need some quick ideas for low-mess energy-busting indoor activities, this article is for you! As a mother of four, currently going through the two-year-old phase with my youngest, I’ll share my favourite no-fuss indoor activities that will help get those wiggles out and give you a couple minutes to catch your breath.
Why are two-year-olds so energetic?
As most parents with a two-year-old will tell you, toddlers have an endless supply of energy. If we could harness it, I’m sure we’d be well on our way to the moon! Two-year-olds are constantly on the move, enthusiastically exploring their environment and exerting their independence. Movement is key to how toddler learn and develop.
The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines recommend that two-year-olds should spend at least 180 minutes being active throughout each day (more is even better!) and they shouldn’t be forced to sit for more than one hour at a time. Pair this important need for movement with the fact that two-year-olds are just starting to develop the self-control, language skills, and attention span needed to focus for longer periods of time, and that’s why toddlers this age can be such whirlwinds.
Indoor activities for two-year-olds
When your two-year-old needs to move around and getting outside isn’t an option, try one of these energy-busting indoor activities for fun active play. These activities use easy-to-find items from around your home and only take a few minutes to set up and clean up. There’s no sense spending a lot of time or money on an activity when the average attention span of a two-year-old is about two minutes long [PDF]!
Pillows and blankets and a mattress—oh my!
Pillows, blankets, and a toddler mattress are great items from encouraging active play in your home. Together or separately they can be used for the following activities:
- Stepping stones
Gather pillows of various sizes and textures and make a pathway of pillows on the ground for your toddler to walk along. This activity helps your two-year-old develop their gross motor skills, balance, and sensory system.
- Tunnel crawl
Drape a blanket over a couple of study chairs to create a tunnel to crawl through. Add a ball for some extra fun. This activity helps to develop gross motor skills and coordination.
- Mattress slide
Use a low couch or several cushions to prop up one end of a toddler mattress to make a mattress slide. This works particularly well with a toddler mattress that has no sheet and waterproof vinyl exterior.
- Pillow jump
Set up a pile of pillows in the middle of a room, away from obstacles, and encourage your two-year-old to jump in the pillow pile. Another option is to place a toddler mattress on the floor to jump on. Learning how to jump with both feet off the ground is a key developmental milestone for two-year-olds so this is a great activity for working on this physical literacy skill.
- Obstacle course
Combine stepping stones, tunnel, and mattress slide for the perfect toddler obstacle course! This activity gets your two-year-olds practicing a range of movement skills and is great for burning energy. And when you want to get outside, here are some more ideas for creating your own outdoor obstacle course.
- Fantastic fort
Lean a toddler mattress onto a couch or dining table, drap some blankets on top and place some pillows on the floor to create a fantastic fort for your two-year-old. This activity is great for encouraging creative play.
Toss it, bounce it, and roll it
Two-year-olds are mastering the ability to toss a ball with their hands and kick a ball with their feet. Playing indoor games with balls, balloons, and bean bags are a great way to practice these skills and burn some energy along the way.
- Keep it up!
Teach your toddler to use the palm of their hand to bounce a balloon up into the air and try to keep it up. This activity helps to develop hand-eye coordination.
- Bottle bowling
Place some plastic bottles (reusable water bottles work great) on the floor and get your toddler to knock them down with a ball. This is such a fun activity for developing hand-eye coordination and it’s so simple to set up.
This is a two-year-old version of the popular sport! Set up a box, laundry basket or bin (or several) and toss bean bags or balls into the bins. This activity usually morphs into your toddler moving balls from one bin to another, sorting balls, or tossing the balls all over the house. All the same, you can’t go wrong with giving two-year-old bins and balls.
- “Frisbee” toss
Use the lids from yogurt, sour cream, or cottage cheese containers as homemade Frisbees that are easier for your two-year-old to hold and toss around the house.
Most two-year-olds love playing with water. It’s such a captivating substance because it can be manipulated in a variety of ways. Here are some perfect indoor water activities for your two-year-old.
- Bathtub swimming lessons
Teach your two-year-old how to splash, blow bubbles, or learn to “back float” (lay back) in shallow water. The YMCA has a great resource on bathtub swim lessons [PDF] for toddlers that explains how to teach these skills to your toddler safely at home.
- Give the toys a bath
Bring water-friendly toys into the bath for a whole new water play experience. Things like plastic stacking cups, sand toys, or plastic figurines can make for a fun bath time adventure for your toddler. Alternatively, give the toys a bath in the kitchen sink or bins of water on the floor.
- Bathtub wall art
If your toddler enjoys painting but you don’t want to bother with cleaning up a big mess, bring art to the bath. Let your two-year-old paint the bathtub of shower walls with toddler-friendly finger paint or pureed baby food and when the fun is over, have a bath to clean it all away.
Dance and stretch
- Dance party
Put on some tunes for an impromptu toddler dance party. Two-year-olds love to mimic adults, so now is the time to bust out those dance moves and watch your toddler give them a try. Moving to music helps toddlers develop rhythm, coordination, balance, and motor skills. And it’s so much fun!
- Toddler yoga
Show your two-year-old some toddler friendly mood-boosting yoga stretches. These simple movements help your toddler develop body awareness which will help with self-control as they continue to grow.
- Ribbon or scarf dancing
Give your toddler a light scarf or a piece of ribbon to wave and wiggle and wave to the music. This simple activity helps develop movement and coordination.
Two-year-olds enjoy imitating those around them. Not only is it fun, but it’s how they learn and practice new skills. Take advantage of this important developmental phase by turning simple household chores into fun opportunities for learning and movement.
- Laundry time
By two years old, toddlers can help with laundry chores. Invite your two-year-old to help sort dirty laundry (dark, lights, and towels), place laundry into the washing machine, and press the start button. This activity works well with a front-loading washing machine, but if you have a top-loading washer, set up a stool or sturdy chair for your toddler to stand on. Another fun activity for a two-year-old is matching items from the clean laundry bin like socks or towels.
- Sweeping up
Toddlers love to use a broom and pan to sweep up messes. A small hand broom and pan or child-sized broom work perfectly for this age. While your two-year-old might have a difficult time sweeping up small crumbs, try putting bigger objects on the floor for your toddler to practice sweeping up and placing into a bin (a container) such as blocks, balls, or smaller toys. This is a great activity for building coordination and movement skills.
- Dish-washing station
Lay a couple towels on the floor with a small bin of warm bubbly water, some dish cloths, and plastic toddler dishes to make a simple dish-washing station for your two-year-old. This is a fun activity for developing your toddler’s sensory system, motor skills, and real life skills!
- Little sous-chef
There are many safe ways your two-year-old can help in the kitchen such as dumping or pouring ingredients into a bowl, mixing ingredients together with a wooden spoon, mashing soft ingredients (bananas or avocados), washing fruits and veggies in the sink, or putting away the silverware (minus any sharp knives). While a sturdy chair will help your toddler reach the kitchen countertop, there are many specialized stools (also called kitchen helpers or tower stools) that are designed to allow toddlers to access kitchen counters safely. All these activities are great for developing fine and gross motor skills.
Search and find
Little babies love to play peekaboo and, around nine months, they start to imitate the game. This learning milestone is called object permanence. Two-year-olds still enjoy instigating peekaboo but at this age they also enjoy more complicated search-and-find activities.
Ask your two-year-old to cover their eyes and hide a stuffie or toy for them to find. Make the hiding spot obvious at first and then more difficult as your toddler gets better at the game. Turn the game around and ask your toddler to hide the object for you to find. Alternatively play hide-and-seek with your toddler in a safe place in your home such as the living room or a bedroom.
- Indoor scavenger hunt
With a small basket in hand, ask your two-year-old to find simple items from around your home such as a shoe, diaper, stuffie, or sock and place them in the basket. This activity will have your toddler moving around your home and practicing their language skills along the way.
- Build a colour rainbow
Around age two, toddlers start to recognize colours. Turn this newfound skill into fun activities like building a colour rainbow. To play, build a colour rainbow and help your two-year-old to find several items of the same colours around your home and then set them up in a rainbow shape. Don’t be concerned if your two-year-old can’t name colours just yet—this skill develops more around the age of three.
Mix it up
- Loose parts play
Giving your two-year-old a variety of loose parts—open-ended items—to play with is wonderful for developing their creativity and problem-solving skills. Place a variety of items such as a pile of clean rags, toilet paper tubes, and plastic containers in a basket for your toddler to manipulate and use in a variety of ways. Learn more about loose parts play for toddlers.
- Painter’s tape games
Create games for your two-year-old on the floor with colourful painter’s tape. Use tape to make roadways, hopscotch, balance beam, and shapes to get your toddler moving around and having fun. Another option is to let your toddler tape things to the ground like toys for some silly sensory play.
Dress-up play starts around age two but no need to buy fancy dress up clothes for your toddler. Instead, place a pile of different clothes articles for your toddler to play with and explore such as a scarf, mitts, socks, coat, shoes, etc. This is a great activity for building motor skills and coordination.
What’s your two-year-old’s favourite energy-busting indoor activity?
I hope this list of energy-busting no-fuss indoor activities helps your two-year-old get some wiggles out and gives you a moment to reset and continue on with your day! If you have a favourite energy-busting activity for your toddler that isn’t in this list, please feel free to share it in the comments section below.
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