outdoor kids play

Creative Play: Games for Toddlers (2-3 Year Olds)

Play time for 2-3 years old should generally be focused on learning while having fun. Since children this age are constantly learning, basically anything you play with them will help them learn something new. If you can get your little ones to use their imaginations, identify the basics, and work on their hand-eye coordination, you are off to a great start!

When I was a new mom without experience “playing with kids,” I had to research ways to play with my kids and keep them engaged. It's actually not immediately obvious when sleep deprived and faced with a screaming kid.  I also did not want to spend a ton of money, so I focused on coming up with creative games from items we had on hand or could purchase cheaply. Here are what I consider the best types of creative games to play with a 2-3 year old toddler.

Cool Color Games

There are so many easy games to play that involve teaching colors creatively. You can start with a game as simply as Find the Color. In this game, you show your toddler a color and have your child go through a room and find items that are the same color. It helps if you tell the toddlers to hurry and then praise them when they find a match.

The Button Sorting Game is also a super easy and fun way to teach colors. Buy a bag of mixed buttons and have your toddler sort them in various ways. You may begin by asking your toddler to find all the red buttons, and then move on to other colors. This game is great because you can also sort the buttons according to size.

Sensory Play Games

Dinosaur Dig is great sensory play game. Purchase a small bag of plastic dinosaurs and you can reuse them time and time again. For this game, you will need a big bowl or a storage container. You will also need a material such as sand, rice, pasta, or beans. Pour the material into the container and then bury the dinosaurs. Your child will love excavating the dinosaurs independently. For added fun, let your child search using a small plastic shovel.

Games to Develop Hand-Eye Coordination

If your toddler likes to race or race cars, design your own race track! My toddlers love it when I use painter’s tape to make a race course down the hall. You are in complete control of the course you make – it can be designed for toddlers or for matchbox cars. Either way, designing a road course is a great way to teach them how to move their bodies and burn some energy. In addition, this same concept can be taken outdoors by using sidewalk chalk.

In addition to tape fun, whenever I bring the pipe cleaners out, my children are ecstatic! Such a silly and cheap item, but they are made for creativity. I like to do a Pipe Cleaner Competition. All you need for this game are pipe cleaners and pasta strainers. You simply tell your toddler to push a pipe cleaner through the hole and to do as many as possible within a set amount of time. This is a great activity for hand-eye coordination. The holes in the strainer are small, so they must work to get the pipe cleaner in the hole.

Outdoor Adventure Games

Toddlers love Scavenger Hunts! Since they are amazed by all that they see and are learning every day, a scavenger hunt is a creative game for outdoors. Make a list before heading outdoors of the items you will look for (leaves, bugs, sticks, pinecones, rocks, etc.). Toddlers will only be able to focus on finding a few items, so keep the list small and repeat the items on the list often. Cheer them on as they search the world around them on their outdoor adventure.

Water Fun Games

For children 2-3 years old, water is fascinating. While a Pouring Station – cups, pitchers, funnels – at a water table is fun on its own, you can turn this into a fun creative game for your little ones by adding in sponges and other bath toys. Have a Sponge Squeeze Contest and let them race you (or a little friend) to see who can squeeze their sponge and fill their cup the fastest. At the water table, you can also play Sink or Float. All you need to do is provide a variety of items that can get wet and have your child guess if they will sink or float.

Silly Sound Games

Toddlers are great at having fun and being loud. Why not embrace with a creative game that allows them to act, be silly, make noise, and learn? Play Animal Antics. Just like the traditional Simon Says, the parent simply tells the toddler, “Mommy (or Daddy) says act like a bear” and continues with the next animal. My children love this game and play it frequently.

The Upside: Keeping You Sane

Toddlers tantrums are unavoidable, but just maybe they can be pre-empted if your child is busy and engrossed in a game.  It's amazing how quickly a scream can turn into keen interest in a new activity.  The stimulation can hopefully tire your kid out enough to get you a good night's rest.  Let's be honest, the games are as much for parents as for children!

What are your favorite types of creative games to play with your toddlers? Let us know in the comments.