25 Screen-Free Learning Activities for Toddlers


Being the parent of a toddler is filled with many hurdles, and one that only recent generations have had to face is the dreaded issue of screen time. Tablets and TVs have proven fantastic distractions for worn-out moms and dads, as well as a great way to educate and entertain, but we're well aware that too much screen time can result in unwanted health issues and habits in later life.

The American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines recommends zero screen time (except for family video calls) for children under 18 months. For toddlers aged 18 to 24 months, they suggest only a limited amount of screen time. After all, we want the rugrats exploring the world around them, learning about the world by sight, sound, and touch. Nothing beats some hands-on learning and play, so with this in mind, we've compiled a list of 25 screen-free activities that will keep your toddler happy and curious.

1. Contact Paper Activities

Contact paper is a super useful tool for creating original and interesting activities for kids. The fact that nearly anything can be stuck to it opens the door to many creative projects. Try going out into nature and finding different colored leaves, or walking around the house and using textured paper to create stunning mosaics.

2. Design Something Sensory

Sensory projects allow kids to explore and express themselves through arts and crafts, and there's a tonne of options to explore. Sensory bottles, for example, are often used in therapy, and can help those who struggle with expressing their feelings.

3. Gardening

Gardening is a great activity to get kids away from screens. Being outside and exploring the world keeps children interested and can benefit their health greatly through physical activity and patience.

4. Sidewalk Chalk

You've probably seen the amazing drawings that can be created through the use of sidewalk chalk, and the best part; it can be easily washed away. Engaging kids through art can provide hours of entertainment.

5. Clean The House

At first glance, you may be thinking that cleaning isn't as fun as the other activities on this list, but that's not true. Children can have a lot of fun cleaning if you alleviate the pressure of being perfect. Introduce the ideas of looking after possessions and instilling good hygiene, and why not throw on some music while you do it?

6. Make A College

Making a collage can be done with just about anything you have lying around the house. Children can explore their own homes and create art that resonates with them. Cutting, gluing, positioning; these are all things that improve the cognitive behavior and understanding of kids.

7. Playdough

Playdough is a timeless classic. The tactile approach to art is something that truly strikes a chord with most kids. If you haven't got any lying around the house, then you're in luck. Playdough is easy to make and can add enjoyment to any day.

8. Sports

There are so many types of sports in the world, and children react differently to the ones they love the most. Soccer, basketball, badminton, athletics; try out a bunch and see which one sticks.

9. Outdoor Games

Following on from sports, many games played inside can be moved outside. Tag is a great one, as well as many other classics such as capture the flag, parachute, jacks, and Simon says.

10. Cooking

Through the process of cooking, many essential skills for life can develop. From understanding instructions to cutting, measuring, and exercising patience, kids can gain an understanding of the consequence of their actions, and having something delicious to show for it.

11. Arrange A Playdate

One of the best parts of moving away from a screen, is the social interaction that follows. Arranging a playdate and having another child to connect with, can reduce social anxiety, and develop a skill set of making friends and understanding the importance of communication.

12. Create A Mural

We have spoken a little bit about art, and making a mural is the next step up creatively speaking. Allowing a child to draw on a huge canvas, such as a wall, only opens up more opportunities for entertainment, and can often be an activity that lasts multiple days.

13. Books

Obvious, but still one of the greatest gifts going. A colorful book filled with interesting characters can captivate a toddler; better still, a book read by an enthusiastic adult can install a love of literature and storytelling.

14. Build An Indoor Play Area

A good option for the DIY gifted out there. Building a safe, colorful play area indoors can provide non-stop stimulation for your toddler and give you a weatherproof activity that doesn't need to be tidied away every single day. Installing a huge ball pit is optional.

15. Petting Zoo

Visiting a petting zoo is a great afternoon activity for parents and children. Cute animals are always fascinating to young minds, and it's also a great excuse to teach them about farm life and nature in general.

16. Music

A toddler might not be able to play you a Beatles number quite yet, but introducing them to the world of music is a fabulous way to nurture their creative side. Toy pianos and drums are a good first start.

17. Hide & Seek

If your home or garden is big enough, Hide & Seek is a classic game that works with anything upwards of 2 people. Participants feel mischievous, but it also teaches kids some good stealth and analytical skills.

18. Backyard Camping

If you've got a garden and a tent, then some quick and easy backyard camping will keep toddlers entertained and make them feel like they're on an adventure.

19. Pets

Our faithful and often furry companions can help build a toddler's sense of empathy and responsibility. Showing them how to feed and care for a pet is a great idea when they're younger and is proven to be beneficial in later life.

20. A Picnic

A little food outside when the weather is good is always welcome. Getting a picnic ready is a great opportunity to teach kids about food preparation and be more involved with what they eat.

21 Board Games

They are made for all ages and all interests, are weatherproof, and ideal for teaching youngsters about strategic thinking. We think The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game, and First Orchard are perfect for toddlers.

22. A Little Theatre

Putting on a play gives children a platform to let their imaginations fly free and also a chance to boost their confidence and public speaking. Preparing costumes and props can help you spend some quality time crafting too.

23. Fridge Magnets

Fun for big kids too, some strategically placed fridge magnets can distract little ones while you cook and give them a headstart on their understanding of the alphabet and words - if you opt for the traditional kind, of course.

24. Science Experiment

The net is filled with many safe and easy science experiments for you to try out - if fact, you'd be surprised with what you can do with what's just lying around the house. Balloons, apples, and shaving cream can all be used to great effect.

25. A Trip To The Beach

The beach isn't just a great escape from the house but also an educational day out for inquisitive minds! There's marine life to learn about, waves to paddle in, and sandcastles to build.

About the Author

Sam Walker-Smart

Sam Walker-Smart is a British culture journalist currently based in Bristol. His work has appeared in CLASH, The Huffington Post, Vinyl Me Please, Barcelona Metropolitan, Little White Lies, and other outlets. He enjoys writing about inclusivity in gaming, fun for seniors, educational apps, and entertainment for all. In his spare time, he enjoys weird folklore, sad songs, and good beer.

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