Looking for fun activities for kids at home with your toddler and preschooler? I’ve been there. I, too, use a quick list of kids’ creative activities at home to keep in my back pocket. Years ago, I felt the need to get my children playing more and wasn’t exactly sure how to get there.
I felt overwhelmed by the task of minimizing stimulation and encouraging my kids to be more creative at home. I needed to find solutions. And I did. These 50+ kid activities at home are just a sampling of all the ways we invite play into our every day, and it has been life-changing.
What Kid Activities Do Children Enjoy?
Kids enjoy activities that encourage open-ended play when the object doesn’t have one specific purpose. For example, a puzzle has an end goal. The child starts it knowing how it is supposed to finish. Although close-ended toys have their place, open-ended ones are great for one-year-olds because they provide endless imagination, creativity, and problem-solving opportunities.
I researched, dug into my teacher’s brain, and looked for the best toys for kids that encourage open-ended play. We use these toys in our kids- creative activities at home to keep our days afloat.
RELATED: Curious about the best toy storage solutions for kids- creative activities at home? You can find all of your storage solutions here.
Why is Playing at Home Important?
As parents, we know that play is important, and we want kids- creative activities at home. We have also learned that play is the foundation of all learning. Yet, here’s the thing about kids at home…
Sometimes, toddlers and preschoolers need a small seed planted to get them going, which will not be produced from a worksheet. The sources I am talking about are play ideas that encourage children to touch, move, and manipulate objects to create.
The more we encourage kids- creative activities at home, the more children will become exceptional at self-guided play, problem-solving, and forming conclusions on how things work.
RELATED: Want free kids’ creative activities at home? You’ll love this list!
Different Ages for Play
Before we dive into the best kids- creative activities at home, allow me to set the stage and will enable you to understand the importance of play better:
- In the infant/toddler stage – the child needs physical experiences using senses, experiencing substances, and discovering how things fit together.
- Preschool age – the child will begin to add social play into the learning they have had the chance to dive into. Now they are making connections with their peers.
- Middle years – the child is more analytical with textbook concepts because they had a chance to touch, move and explore what they are now reading about. The middle schooler is now ready to take learning to the next level, more easily pulling it together.
- Teenage years – the child can show how things come together. The child has touched, worked with peers, read more about fundamental concepts, and is now ready to become the producer.
The following at-home ideas will allow your preschooler to hit the ground running. These kids- creative activities at home are as good as that savory cheese dip. They are tried and true, toddler and preschooler approved!
RELATED: Have a toddler? Be sure to check out 40+ Top Play Ideas for Toddlers.
When we first began sensory kids- creative activities at home, I quickly realized it wasn’t working. Beans were sprouting from our deck cracks, and rice had been under the fridge for months. And we certainly don’t want that for you!
Instead, I am happy to be your guinea pig and guide you to success. I put together this Introduction to Sensory Play page to help you get set up like a boss. I want you to list what to put inside a toddler sensory bin.
Inside this post, you will learn how to set up your buffer zone, prompt your toddler back to the sensory bin when they walk off with oats in hand, and better understand when it is time to put the sensory bin away. – This is a sure way to begin fun at-home kid activities.
Okay! Now that the training is over, let’s keep the momentum going with our preschoolers at home. Ready to try sensory play in your house? You’ll adore these easy-to-put-together sensory kids- creative activities at home ideas.
- Cloud Dough – whip up some cloud dough and construction toys for a fun play scene.
- Color Mix – A play on ketchup and mustard, just with paint!
- Color Squirt – the fun way to repurpose shredded bills.
- Cut the Play Dough – Have a child that enjoys play dough? Grab the blunt-edge scissors for some cutting practice.
- Dry Noodle Sensory Play – a simple way to color noodles.
- Fill the Lines – this one kind of looks like sweets! See if your child can scoop pom poms into plastic bottles up to the different measuring lines.
- Glue the Noodles – An effortless way to practice gluing skills through sensory play.
- Kinetic Sand – grab some kinetic sand and put it in a sensory bin for hours of fun.
- Ice Rescue Game – add ice to anything to win Christmas kid activities at home. Freeze plastic toys in ice and watch your child experiment with water to release them.
- Ice Skating Bears – a wintery way to bring sensory play inside.
- Nature Sensory Hunt – Use contact paper to collect and chat about nature. A fun way to spend some time outside with minimal prep.
- Sand Sensory Play – pop sand in a sensory bin and add scoops, jugs, and anything else lying around.
- Scissor Sensory Cut – chuck some cooked spaghetti in a sensory bin and watch them cut away.
- Water Beads – see our favorite brand of water beads here.
Water kid activities are one of my very first WHOA. I just got 40 minutes of parenting from the sideline realizations. I ensured the water level was low and watched them closely as they poured and scooped. Water games are a genius way to catch a break at home. But before you dive in, I want you to know my best tip.
My boys are allowed ONE refill. They know this from practice. Need more water? Sure. One time. Once it is gone, it is gone. These quick tips will avoid numerous trips to the sink, and your child will better understand how to assess play so it doesn’t all go to waste.
Now you are ready! Dive into water kids- creative activities at home that can be played indoors or in the backyard for endless fun.
RELATED: Head outside with these outdoor toys for kids.
Having a one-year-old can be tricky! I get it. They are too old to sleep all day yet too young to emerge in self-guided play for extended amounts of time. We may notice our one-year-old exploring a color-matching game and then quickly becoming distracted by wanting a snack again.
With all this said, I firmly believe that babies, toddlers, and preschoolers should explore the environment and different textures. You do not have to buy out Amazon for 12 months. So how can we use our environment to encourage baby play as we catch our breath?
I searched the internet, so you don’t have to.
RELATED: Here is a list of the best toys for one-year-olds.
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Let’s give it up for the independent play school ideas that allow us to drink our morning coffee. As we get our preschoolers thinking about important concepts, they will explore them throughout their lifetime. Since we all understand that playing is learning, let’s plant seeds and watch our children dive in.
I call these play school kids- creative activities at home Breakfast Invitations.
Simply put, these play invitations:
- Are a quick and easy setup – think under 5 minutes.
- Engage play to create a powerful morning routine – so you can have a relaxing morning.
- Use supplies – items like markers, painter’s tape, etc. Find everything in our supply list here.
- Align with lifelong learning skills – giving your little one the best start in life.
Eek! I see you looking at this image and shrieking in fear, so I am here to give you a quick messy play tip. Right now, go fill up your washing machine with water and detergent. Get it ready to toss the clothes in once your preschooler is done exploring.
I assure you, it’s as simple as that. – Get messy, strip them down, and toss the messy play clothes in the wash.
Why is Messy Play Important at Home?
Messy play kids- creative activities at home encourage children to explore substances. These are the same substances that will be what they will revisit in grade school. If you encourage children to touch and feel now, they will make dynamic discoveries as they connect the dots later. You will help spark connections such as:
‘I know this! I remember when I poured the liquid into the tall, narrow squirt bottle that it overflowed faster than the large pitcher.
Try these messy play kids- creative activities at home:
- Color Mixing; A Play on Ketchup & Mustard – add red and yellow paint to squeeze paint bottles and let them go wild!
- Color Mixing Shredded Paper Bin – adding paint to shredded paper couldn’t make an easier messy activity. Plus, it’s a great way to reuse your recycling!
- Decorate the Cake – Use shaving cream or an alternative taste-safe whip cream to make your own cake using a box.
- Eyeball Shaving Cream Play – kids love shaving cream. Add some spooky eyeballs so they can play away.
- Eyeball Soup – popping some fake eyeballs in water and seeing if your tiny terrors can scoop them out make great Halloween activities for kids at home.
- Hidden Hearts Cloud Dough – sometimes cloud dough gets outside the bin. Play with cloud dough in a space that can quickly sweep away the mess.
- Muddy Water Messy Play – grab a few items from the kitchen for water play with nature.
- Neon Squirt – they’ve done normal paints, but what about neon?! Try them out; it’s amazing.
- Shaving Cream Car Tracks – cars and shaving cream is great for exploring textures and patterns.
- Shaving Cream Duplos – what happens when you mix Duplos with shaving cream? Messy play comes to life, and the kids need a hose down. -pure joy.
- Shaving Cream Foam Block Sensory Play – Are kids tired of using blocks? Add some shaving cream and see what they come up with!
- Squirt the Ice – paint on ice shards makes a fun and colorful science experiment.
- Sweet and Tasty Edible Bin – kids need to taste and touch, so add something to your sensory bin to get them started.
RELATED: Read what healthykids.org shares about how play helps kids thrive.
As adults, we know when we need a restart, it is helpful to walk outside, breathe in the fresh air and get some sunshine. Being outdoors stimulates the senses and wakes up the brain. These outdoor ideas make great summer activities for kids at home.
Check out these ways to play with kids- creative activities at home – outside edition!
- Backyard Hunt and Sort – hide a collection of items in the yard and see if your kids can seek and sort them.
- DIY Movement Dice – grab an empty tissue box, cover it in paper and draw colored dots on each side with an activity. For example, red means jump!
- Fall Leaf Painting – keep the drops of paint outside with this large mural of fall.
- How Balance Can Improve Reading – check out why balancing helps your little ones literacy skills, then pull out some balancing activities.
- How to Paint with Kids Outside – painting with kids can be…tricky! Learn a fuss-free way to paint with them outside.
- Musical Scavenger Hunt – put that sidewalk chalk to good use with this musical color-sorting game.
- Nature Mural – easy as it looks. Collect nature and add it to a large piece of wood to make a nature mural.
- Outdoor Sensory Supplies – in need of some supplies? Check out my recommended outdoor sensory supplies.
- Paint the Rocks – have a child that loves to collect rocks? Try painting them!
- Practice Prewriting with Movement – draw some dots outside with chalk, then connect them to make spirals, curves, and lines. Ask your toddler to follow the lines to get comfortable with the shapes.
- Pumpkin Balance – nothing beats a relay race. Grab the mini pumpkins and try to get to the other side.
- Stick Painting – Gather some sticks and paint them to combine nature with fine motor skills.
- 51+ Things to Do for Spring – you’ll love this great list of sensory, crafts, and field trip ideas for Spring.
RELATED: Read what the NAEYC says about why outside play is important for the whole child.
Kids – Creative Activities at Home Are a MUST for Little Learners
I hope you find some fantastic activities from these lists to start your kids- creative activities at home!
How are cognitive development and sensory play helping our babies, toddlers, and preschoolers? Be sure to read this from Michigan State University.
Frequently Asked Questions
Play ideas are best when they are grounded in your child’s interest. Sensory play helps children explore the frustrations and emotions of the day through movement. Sensory play outside can include balancing, running, tossing a ball, or riding a bike. Sensory play indoors may consist of playing in the bathtub with a favorite toy, introducing a sensory bin, or play dough.
Messy play activities are activities that children may need to wash off when finished playing. Our favorite messy play activities are playing in the mud and using shaving cream. Set up messy play outside near a hose and wear older clothing.
Use this post for a step-by-step guide on introducing sensory play at home.