Resources for the Preschool Years - 1001 Ideas for Toddlers and Twos
updated January 18, 2018
But what does that LOOK LIKE? What do you do with your child each day?
This is not an exhaustive list and it is not a curriculum (the word curriculum literally comes
from a Latin word which meant "racetrack"). Replace that idea of a "race to the finish line" with the thought that you
are instilling a love of life, and a love of learning. This list is
neither meant to be restrictive nor prescriptive; rather, it is meant to be descriptive. We all
enjoy seeing and hearing about new ideas. So I hope these help to inspire you and
I welcome your suggestions! Just email me.
NOTE: This project was started on Mother's Day 2016. My son was just turning one year old.
596. Go to a local craft show so your big sisters can do their Christmas shopping. We went to the Christmas Extravaganza at Irons in the Fire.
Say hello to all of the vendors. Eat a delicious cupcake. Look all
around at the displays. Watch donuts being made and eat a hot fresh donut rolled in powdered sugar.
597. Help decorate the Christmas tree! For Zac this year we did a table-top tree made of wrought iron. I store my ornaments in tissue-paper lined
Christmas cookie tins (why store the tins empty?) and we gave him an assortment to choose from. He decorated the tree all by himself! We also
set up my handmade needle-felted Nativity scene.
598. Play "Red Light, Green Light." When we say Green Light, Zac can run all around the living room pushing his wooden buggy. When we say Red Light,
he freezes. When we say Green Light, he can go again.
599. Watch the nighttime Lights Fantastic Parade.
600. Learn how to open doorknobs!
601. Watch the dog get his haircut at the groomers.
602. Joyfully bounce brand-new tennis balls.
603. Set out your shoes with carrots for St. Nicholas's horses.
604. Wake up to find chocolates in your shoes!
605. Run outside to stand under the first snowflakes of the Winter.
606. "Let's read it! Mama, what's that?" Zac is fascinated by guide books, such as A
Field Guide to the Wildlife of North America by Bryan Richard. We like this simple book because there's an animal (full color picture plus a brief paragraph of facts) on each page and the book
includes mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and a few common invertebrates.
607. Representational drawing. Zac has started to name his drawings (I'm drawing a barn. This is a big big oval.) and loves his new easel! I like
this easel too because it has a strong clip instead of a roll of paper, so we can clip up all kinds of paper for him to experiment on.
608. Sing traditional Christmas carols like "Frosty the Snowman," "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," "Go Tell It on the Mountain," and "Deck
the Halls with Boughs of Holly."
609. Watch a handbell choir perform.
610. Slide quickly down the stairs on your bottom. Climb up the steps and do it again.
611. Watch a paperwhite narcissus grow and bloom.
612. Read chapters from the four-books-in-one Frog and Toad Storybook Treasury.
613. Open Christmas cards. Listen to Bing Crosby's White Christmas.
614. Zac declares, "I want to ride in that!" to every piece of equipment we see. Tractors, airplanes, trains, etc. There is a series of books by Steve Light which we love for making vehicle sounds as we read along:
I am also a big fan of Whose Truck? and Whose Tools? and DK Braille's On the Move.
615. Drink different kinds of water from all around the world, both still and sparkling. We tried water from Fiji, France, Italy, and Norway.
616. I labeled Zac's paper cup at the water tasting with his very own symbol: a duck. This is a quick and easy animal to draw, and his most common request
at the easel. "Mommy, draw a duck. I do the eye." All of my girls had a symbol so that they could recognize their things before they were old enough
to read. Natalie had a heart, Leah had a fish, and Becca had a butterfly.
This is a practice used in Reggio Emilia schools. The classroom teacher chooses the child's
symbol after the initial home visit before the school year starts, and then has a custom rubber stamp made for the child. The rubber stamp is ready
when the child arrives at school on the very first day! This is so all children can label their paintings and other schoolwork
independently. The child's symbol is also used to label cubbies and all personal items.
617. Draw with your finger in the steam on the shower doors.
618. Turn a somersault!
619. Holiday visits with family and friends. Experience the joy of Christmas cookies!!
620. Wake up in the morning and watch the snowflakes coming down. After breakfast, walk in the newfallen snow. Make footprints on fallen logs. Brush the snow off. Shake the tree branches and watch the snow come down from the leaves.
Refill the bird feeders and bird bath. Watch the birds and the squirrels enjoy their birdseed and nuts.
621. Hang up wet mittens, hats, and socks on the drying rack in the laundry room. We love Smartwool's socks for kids.
622. Use the envelopes which the Christmas cards came in for cutting work. Learning to use scissors takes lots of practice!
623. Run down the hallway for no reason.
624. Zac's big St. Nicholas Day present was the wonderful David's Double Shelf Playstands with Canopies
from Elves & Angels. These are the people who made the play kitchen my girls had when they were little (they are now teenagers and we gave it away some years
ago to a friend, before I knew I would have another baby) and it was so beautiful and sturdy. Truly heirloom quality. Now Zac and I have
the joy of arranging his wooden animals and other toys on the playstand shelves. It fills me with happiness to have it sitting in my living room. I always wanted playstands
for my girls, but never have had any until now!
625. Mix up a batch of cinnamon sugar (1/2 cup sugar, 2 T cinnamon) in an old glass peanut butter jar. Put the lid on and shake vigorously to combine.
some softened butter on a whole wheat tortilla, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, microwave for 30 seconds, roll up into a cigar shape, and eat! Wonderful for breakfast
alongside some sliced fresh strawberries and a glass of soymilk.
627. Present a lot of different tastes to your toddler in each food group. For example, Zac has had cow milk, soymilk, almond milk, coconut milk, and goat milk.
628. A lot more imaginative play! Zac held up a cylinder block to me and told me it was my chapstick. Then he held up a rectangular block and told me it was his "restaurant dinner."
629. Drum circle! Sit your toddler in the middle of a variety of things which make different sounds when they are struck. Give him a pair of rhythm sticks.
Then join in! Don't forget that you can tap the rhythm sticks together too. We used
a basket, a cereal box, a wooden salad bowl, an oatmeal container, a drum, a plastic container, a wooden box, and a metal steamer basket. The metal steamer basket
was his favorite.
630. Feel a hairy coconut. Watch it float in a bin of water. Coconuts can float for years before they land and sprout to be a new palm tree. Shake it and hear the coconut water sloshing around inside it.
631. When you're done exploring the outside of the coconut, open it and taste the water and the meat.
632. Learn how to blow your nose.
633. Put a set of coasters in and out of its holder.
634. Peer at each other through toilet paper tubes.
635. Rotate out books and toys. Try to have 50% of them set out and the other half put away at any given time.
636. Ride a hobby horse!
637. We still have the wooden monkey bowling set from
when my girls were little. So cute and Zac loves it just as much as they did!
638. Zac is completely potty trained now (he only wears a Pull-Up at night) and the enamelware chamber pots from Nova Natural have been fantastic! I got
two. Originally we had one in each bathroom, so that he could imitate us when we went to the bathroom. When he became interested, I moved one
to the living room so he could run to it while he was playing. Then I put the other one in his bedroom for naptime. Now we have the one in his bedroom still, which
he uses first thing in the morning or during his naps, and we carry the other one in the car. They are so sturdy and completely adorable.
639. Eat a bunch of blueberries. Check to see if your tongue is turning blue.
640. Make Peppermint Scented Oatmeal for sensory play. This is a bit harder to dye than
some other things, but it's fun for this time of year! We have had
lots of sensory bins so far including flour, rice, cornmeal, kosher salt, sand, dried beans, rainbow chickpeas, and
jello. But never oatmeal! I made eight cups of oats. Because you are doing two colors you will need two 1-cup measuring cups, two quart Ziploc bags, two gallon Ziploc bags, and two
rimmed baking sheets or large casserole dishes.
Take two 1-cup measuring cups and put 1/4 cup of water in each. Dye one a deep red and the other a deep green
using food coloring. Take two gallon Ziploc bags and put four cups of oats in each. Add 1 or 2 drops of peppermint essential oil to each bag
and shake vigorously. Now add 3 T of your red colored water to a quart Ziploc bag and add 2 cups of the scented oats. Shake to distribute the color right away, so
the oats won't get moldy, and spread them in a rimmed baking sheet or large casserole dish to dry. Repeat with the remaining scented oats from the first
dyeing them red. Now repeat this procedure with the scented oats from the other gallon bag, dyeing them green in two batches (3 T colored water : 2 cups scented oats) and using the other quart Ziploc bag.
641. Continue with finger plays, nursery rhymes, and songs. Zac knows all the words to "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" and can sing it all by himeself now.
642. Handkerchief silks. Playsilks in a perfect size for two year olds!
643. Choose your own pants, shirt, and sweater for the day. Zac has a bookcase in his room with all of his clothes arranged neatly on it. He's old enough to keep things on the shelves... for the most part. I learned to put his
dirty laundry basket outside his bedroom door, in the hallway, because he would take all of the clothes out of his dirty laundry basket and take all
of the clothes off his shelves and throw it all on the floor; then we couldn't tell the clean from the dirty. He has four shelves. PJs on the top shelf. Shirts on the next shelf down, sweaters under that, and pants on the bottom.
He has a basket for his underwear. His socks are in a basket in the coat closet by the front door and that is where all of his shoes are organized as well. He also has a bin for warm hats and mittens by the front door.
644. Play "Peter Hammers with One Hammer" from The Wheels on the Bus: And Other Action Rhymes.
645. Lie down and pretend to take a nap. Have your toddler "read" to you from her favorite books.
646. "Mommy, it's snowing!" Read a book with snow in it, like I am a Bunny, play
outside, and then come in and have some REAL hot chocolate!
647. Hold hands and jump down the steps.
648. Now that Zac doesn't need diaper cream (our homemade recipe was 1 cup coconut oil + a few drops tea tree essential oil), I used the leftover coconut oil in the jar in Coconut Oil Cloud Dough. This recipe is 1/3 cup melted coconut oil plus 1 1/2 cups flour.
Because ours was diaper cream, it smells faintly of tea tree oil, which is nice.
649. Teach your child to turn off the faucet when brushing her teeth, to conserve water.
650. Do the Hokey-Pokey.
651. Sticky Sheep using cotton balls and contact paper. The cotton balls can be pulled off and put back in the
bathroom... they aren't ruined by this activity. Draw the sheep on the contact paper backing, then peel the backing away a bit at
each of the four corners. Hold up to the window with the sticky side facing you and put tape at the four corners. Then slowly peel the backing
off and tape the top and bottom to secure. Add a bowl of cotton balls and your toddler is ready for business! Or, you could make a Winter snowman and snow scene.
652. Roll a golf ball and chase it all around the house.
653. Run and get a towel when you make a spill. Wipe it up and put the towel carefully
in front of the washing machine. I keep a blanket chest in the corner of the dining room full of old towels for cleaning up spills.
All of my children, plus the ones in my homeschool co-op, know immediately where to find them.
654. Put a car on the sofa cushion and watch it roll along until it hits the back of the sofa. Blow on it to make it roll faster. Put
a cookie tin on its side and roll it down the slope.
655. Snail's Pace Race. Zac can only
play one round before he gets tired because it involves a lot of concentration (for a two year old) but he loves it! This is his first game where he's
to roll a die. I love the chunky colorful wooden snails.
656. Frog Wobble Game. This simple game can be played cooperatively or solo.
657. Color Scavenger Hunt. So easy to put together... only requires a white paper lunch bag and some colored pencils. Something different to do indoors on a chilly day.
658. Have a tickle fight.
659. Lie in bed and read Mother Goose rhymes together. I love Salley Mavor's whimsical board books.
660. Go into town and choose a pastry from the glass case in the bakery. Enjoy it together.
661. Go to the library and carefully put the books into the return slot, one at a time.
662. Painting on Aluminum Foil. Surprisingly fun... great for a collaborative
663. "Read it again!" Zac loves silly songs and rhymes. Currently, he's all about The
Lady with the Alligator Purse (and I pause at "the lady with the..." and he
fills in "alligator purse" in his cute little toddler voice). Previously, it was Down By the Bay.
Happily, both are available
in sturdy board book format so that you can read them over and over again.
664. Snow Dough. Mix 1 cup baking soda with 1/4 cup water. Add glitter as desired. Freeze for 15 minutes. Play!
665. Eat raw broccoli florets. Notice that they look like little trees.
666. Find a small slug on an old wet leaf.
667. Taste three different kinds of honey: acacia, neem, and orange blossom.
668. MARCH around the house.
669. Take coat hangers off the clothes bar and hang them back up again.
670. "I'm filling this up." Take Pouring Work to a whole new level. Give your child a milk or water plastic gallon jug to play with in her bath.
671. Mix up a batch of yummy Peppermint Cocoa Lip Balm
for your little one during these cold winter months. Zac's big sisters loved helping me with this project!
672. Take the ice out of the bird bath and refill it with fresh water for the birds. (We use a vintage aluminum pot which we
set out on a tree stump. The birds love it!) Put the ice into a bin and play with it. Explore it. Watch it melt. Older preschool
siblings might like to try the Melting Ice Science Experiment with Salt and Liquid Watercolors.
673. Check out a huge pile of Dr. Seuss books from the library. Sit on the dog bed and carefully look at all of them.
674. Play with the last bit of an old bar of soap until it melts away.
675. Look excitedly through boxes and bags of hand-me-downs. Try on new clothes! Walk around
in your new shoes. Put things neatly away on shelves and hang things
in the closet.
676. Give an empty toilet paper tube to the rabbit to chew on.
677. Explore new art materials. A friend recently gave us Twistable Crayons (which
I store in a basket sitting on a pile of blank computer paper)
and Do a Dot Markers
(which I have out on an old cafeteria tray with a large piece of thick watercolor paper). While not my favorite, I do like having them in
the rotation for when we need something fresh and new.
678. Drink sparkling water from a can. This is harder than it looks!
679. Read poetry together. My favorites for this age: Tomie's
Little Book of Poems (available as a board book) and Here's a
Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry.
680. Sift flour, either for a recipe or for fun. (If you're doing this for sensory play I suggest that you make the flour bin pretty big. Zac climbed right into ours. "I want to get in it.") Remember
that flour is explosive so if your toddler is going to fill the air with flour, don't locate your flour sensory bin near anything that will spark.
681. Help make the bed, by fluffing pillows and pulling sheets smooth.
682. Learn how to rotate your fingers the other way and put lids back on bottles.
683. Snug as a Bug in a Rug game. Zac's
first time playing a game which uses a spinner.
684. We've started a new Art Tray routine. In the morning when I need to get
a bunch of last night's dishes done -- more than what he can help with -- I've been bringing Zac an activity on a tray
which he can do at his seat. An old tray, a pile of paper, and a tin of block beeswax crayons... so simple. Older children
can help clean the beeswax crayons if they get marks on them from the other colors. Just use a drop of sweet
orange essential oil on a clean cloth. I have a cloth napkin set aside for this purpose and we've used it for years.
We also have a painting tray all set up and ready to go for Zac, if I need more time and he's
done drawing... plus a pile of library books which is only for
looking at during Art Tray time.
685. Make Tallow Bird Seed Ornaments and hang
them outside for the birds.
686. Read the poem "First Snowflake" by N.M. Bodecker (found in Talking Like the Rain: A Read-to-Me Book of Poems
on page 74)
and do a watercolor painting using a round brush and only one color: blue.
687. Painting on a Block of Ice. Another
great use for that chunk of ice you get out of your birdbath every morning!
688. Draw a big shape on a piece of paper and then draw lots of little colored squiggles on it. "I'm drawing on the ice!"
689. Roll a sheet of paper into a tube.
690. Sit quietly and watch a dog sniff excitedly all around a new room.
691. Eat really really long crunchy sesame breadsticks.
692. Run into your big sister's room and climb up on her bed and say Happy Birthday!
693. Zac is interested in yoga! He's busy looking through all of the bright cheerful cards in our Yoga Pretzels Deck. He loves
Downward Dog and Happy Baby. A good book for teaching yoga to children is Fly Like a Butterfly: Yoga for Children.
694. Carry a nice heavy gallon jug of water around the house.
695. Build a beautiful farmhouse scene and tell a story with the Varialand wooden tiles.
696. Zac loves the Pancake Pile-Up game! I do really like the concept (sequencing skills, motor skills, imaginative play) but
don't like that it's almost all plastic. If you really wanted to, however, it wouldn't be too hard to replace the pancakes with felt ones you made yourself. Cut two circles of pancake-colored
pure wool felt per pancake. Embellish as needed
to match the "customer order" cards (you will need to make two plain, two blueberry, two banana, two strawberry, and two chocolate chip... along with two pats of butter). Put a circle of cardboard inside each pancake before
sewing it up so that it is stiffer and can be picked up by the spatula. (You could also give your child
a real mini spatula). All the pieces are stored inside a box which is decorated inside like
the surface of a griddle. Pretty cute!
Magic Cabin's 100% wool felt
available in 14-piece packets (Earth, Pastel, Harvest, Jewel)
697. Try sushi.
698. Help out in a family bingo game by turning the cage.
699. Threading Station. A bin, pipe cleaners, and an assortment of straws cut to various lengths. You can also add an overturned colander.
700. A bin of water and a turkey baster! And towels...
701. Set up a sensory bin with an old potted mum. I got mine on clearance in the "Save Me" part of the grocery store floral department. Let your
child take the plant apart completely and explore the dirt, the roots, the stems, the leaves, and the flowers. If you have older children,
they can do the "plant dissection" for Science and then you can pop all of the components into a bin for your toddler to enjoy! When this
exploration is over, gather the plant parts to put into the compost but save the potting soil and plant something new in it.
If the idea of the plant dying makes your child sad, read A
Log's Life by Wendy Pfeffer.
702. Fine pine shavings animal bedding plus an assortment of hidden toy frogs and lizards. A new hide-and-seek sensory experience!
This is the bedding we use in our rabbit's litter box but I had never thought of making a sensory bin with it until today. It was so fun!
703. Help dip the tops of warm Cinnamon Apple Muffins in
melted butter and cinnamon sugar.
704. Roll a big snowball down a hill and chase it.
705. Watch an older friend do paper weaving.
706. Play Animal upon Animal... a game with a more advanced die. Stacking fun!
707. Drink a cup of Throat Coat tea when you get a stuffy nose and a scratchy voice.
708. Try gravy.
709. "Look at my snow art!" Painting on a tray of snow.
710. Pengoloo, the perfect penguin board game for this kind of snowy weather!
711. Go to an art museum to watch a harpist perform. Pluck the strings of her harp.
712. Make a "Mr. Greenie." Put a teaspoonful of grass seed in the bottom of a knee-high stocking. Add a cup or so of potting soil. Bounce it up and down
so that the soil
packs down tightly and forms a ball, and then tie a knot above the ball of soil. Flip the ball over and look at the grass seed. Place
the ball -- with grass seed on top -- in a jar and make sure the diameter of the ball is wider than the jar. Fill the jar with water and place
the remaining stocking into the jar so that the water can wick up it. Add googly eyes and a pompom nose if desired. Place in a sunny spot.
Wait to see if Mr. Greenie's grass "hair" will grow!