10 Simple Play Ideas For Toddlers (That Don’t Involve Toys)

10 Simple Play Ideas For Toddlers

I think most toddlers are attracted to ordinary household items and “real” objects. But in the case of our number five child, since rotating the toys on his shelves, I have noticed that he has little interest in them at the moment. He is much happier playing with everyday items around the house. So I thought I would share with you ten simple play ideas for toddlers that don’t involve toys, that have been road tested by my toddler!

1. Tissue Box

At this age they love posting things into slots and an empty tissue box provides the perfect vessel to do this. Of course once you put something in, then you must shake it out. I simply found some lids to containers and let him go!

2. Utensil Draw

Thankfully the toddler is over the stage of continually jamming his fingers in the drawers! We have a large utensil draw which contains things like wooden spoons, whisks, spatulas, slotted spoons etc. Often if I am cooking in the kitchen, I will just open the drawer and that is enough of an invitation for the toddler to start picking up utensils, turfing some on the floor, banging and playing with them.

3. Old Phone and Keyboard

These no longer working hardware items are fantastic for role play for the older kids, the toddler however is a complete button pressing addict, so these let him get his fix.

4. Pegs

Usually these are played with by the toddler outside, so he can amuse himself while I hang out the washing. We had some rainy days last week and just for a change I brought the peg basket inside. He had great fun putting them in and out of the basket, and then of course spreading them the entire way across the room.

5. Saucepans and Lids

I don’t think there is a toddler that can resist banging some saucepan lids together! A great play idea to keep the toddler amused while I cook. He had fun not only banging lids together, but looking at his reflection in the lids and trying to work out which lid goes on which saucepan.

6. Cup Stacking

Most families will recognise these signature cups from that large Swedish establishment! Their kids cups are perfect for stacking on top of each other, in each other and for making sounds into.

7. Lining Up

Imitation of adults behaviour at this stage of a toddler’s life is amazing. One morning, I selected a pair of socks from the toddlers clothes rack and placed them on the window ledge, while I went to attend the needs of another child. The toddler then copied this and has repeated this activity of his own accord a number of times, lining socks up on the window ledge. Of course he has the most fun when he then knocks them all off!

8. Pillow Obstacle Course

Have you ever noticed that toddlers are unable to walk around things? They like to take the direct route, so by stacking a whole lot of pillows in his path, I can easily create a mini obstacle course for him. He then works out this is great fun and will belly flop on to them as well.

9. Dustpan and Brush

Again very much a form of adult imitation, the toddler loves to have a go at using the dustpan and brush. Even if (on the very odd occasion) there is actually nothing to sweep up.

10. Cubby

An eternal favourite of all kids of all ages – an indoor cubby. Fill it with soft padded items and the toddler crawls in out, over and rolls around, playing for ages.


  1. says

    These are all big hits here too. In fact the little one has gone one better with the keyboard – she found herself a flat cardboard box and set them up on a little stool, so she can sit on the floor with her own laptop computer!
    .-= Deb´s last blog ..An Interview With Dr Rachie =-.

  2. says

    I just love this post, as you know, it’s a matter close to my heart. The great thing is, your little one was just learning so much while playing with these everyday things. I bet you got lots done while he was keeping himself so busy too ..
    .-= Belinda Butler´s last blog ..Zingo! Winner =-.

  3. says

    My toddler gravitates towards just about all of your suggestions, so I spend a lot of time cleaning up utensils, pegs, and stacking cups. I’ll have to remember to keep the next tissue box she empties out :-)

  4. says

    Mine loves the Tupperware cupboard – I keep all the plastic containers and whatnot in it and she has a whale of a tidy emptying it, playing, and then randomly restacking it. She also adores playing with a washing basket full of dry clean clothes – dressing up, getting into & out of the basket, stacking, folding etc.

    Oh, and she’s a peggy fiend too!

  5. says

    Lovely to read all the comments hearing what your toddlers are up to. It is amazing that we end up having so many toys, when we already have so many everyday items that they can play with, explore and amuse themselves!

  6. says

    My boys love exploring drawers and I have made a “kid safe drawer” for them to rummage through. They also love banging saucepan lids like your little one – I took an almost identical photo just this morning! I love the tissue box too (of course). The only thing is that my boys are never interested in old phones, only working ones. They just know working ones are more fun somehow :)
    .-= Melissa´s last blog ..kleenexmums: I love that my 3yo just bought me (read: made me buy) gumboots that match his so that we can stomp in puddles together :) =-.

  7. says

    Another one which gives me a few moments peace whilst I make dinner is a large plastic bowl with a little water and a squeeze of dishwashing liquid which my toddler loves to stir with a whisk to make bubbles. I just use a little water so it is not too messy and put it all down on a tea towel.
    .-= Christie – Childhood 101´s last blog ..Nature Kids: Our Backyard Nature Play =-.

  8. Vanessa says

    I love the post. My youngest is in this stage. Where everything BUT toys are of interest…including climbing. I’ve got a fearless climber. I do relate 100% on how toddlers have a direct route, like they are super man and that toy in the middle of the floor will disappear and not trip them. Little do they know…haha. I think toddlers, when something catches their interest, they become oblivious to their surroundings and haven’t quite caught on to being cautious of where they walk because this item is so exciting they must get to it and quick. Because of climbing and direct routes, my youngest sometimes looks like she’s been through a war zone lol.

  9. says

    I love this post and would LOVE to re-post or link back this week or next.
    Super ideas!

    Annnnd I love that we’re both using kids’ cups from ‘that Swedish establishmentt’. Can’t beat those prices, right?

    .-= amy @teachmama´s last blog ..money poems, money songs =-.


  1. […] I am sending out this “interim” post because I came across a couple of articles that I thought were interesting and didn’t want to wait to fit them into my posting schedule sometime later on.  The first is an article I came across on Twitter (you can follow me there if you are a “tweeter” at @homeschool911) – the article is a post at www.planningwithkids.com that gives 10 ideas for keeping your toddlers occupied without toys.  I have four kids, none of whom are toddlers anymore, but I remember how hard it was to get anything done (much less home-schooling) when you have toddlers in the house.  These are really great ideas that will occupy your child for quite some time and one of the things that I particularly liked was that they are activities your child can do right by your side while you are getting your own chores done.  To see the article titled: “10 Simple Play Ideas for Your Toddlers that Don’t Involve Toys” go here. […]