6 Easy, Low-Cost Developmental Activities To Play With Your Toddler

If you’re looking to find developmental toys and activities for your toddler, you can often find them totalling up to a pretty penny.

Child developmental toys aren’t always cheap. But, as parents, we want to do what we can to help our children to learn. We’re joined by guest expert Rebecca Elsom (Early Years Development Officer from The Early Years Alliance) to tell us more about some low-cost developmental activities for toddlers. A lot of them are items you can find lying around your house.

The Early Years Alliance is the largest and most representative early years membership organisation in England, supporting 14,000 members to deliver care and learning to over 800,000 families every year.

Family Corner is the family arm of the Early Years Alliance, offering expert articles, activity ideas and online learning sessions on key areas of child development such as learning through play, communication, behaviour, health, nutrition and wellbeing.

Read on to find out what they have to say.

Easy Low-Cost Developmental Activities With Your Toddler

As a parent or carer, you may often feel a lot of pressure to provide your children with the very best toys and the newest games. There are, however, so many easy and low-cost games, activities and resources that your child will love and have the same, if not better, opportunities for early learning – and lots of them you can find around your house!

Here are a few of our ideas to get you started:

Homemade Posting Games 

Image shows a toddler holding a card that says 'mummy'

These can be made using an old cereal box or a sweet tub. Simply cut out a slot, give your toddler some clean jar lids, bracelets, old greetings cards – anything that will fit in the gap really – and let the fun begin! 

Why? This developmental activity supports your toddler with hand-eye coordination, concentration and ‘fine motor skills’ – those small muscles in their hands and fingers as they grasp, turn and twist the objects they are trying to post. 

*Disclaimer: Please ensure the slot that has been cut out doesn’t have a sharp edge. You can make this safer by applying some masking tape over the edge to stop little hands being hurt!

Treasure Baskets 

Developmental Activities With Your Toddler - image shows a toddler collecting 'treasure'

You can make this with a collection of everyday items from around your home that have different textures and vary in size and shape. It doesn’t even have to be kept in a ‘basket’ – you could use an old shoe box or anything that has fairly low sides so your child can see and reach inside. 

Some ideas for contents: sponge, nailbrush, wooden curtain rings, silicone spatula, metal spoons, a whole lemon…this list of possibilities is endless!

Why? This activity gives young children the chance to make simple choices and investigate using all of their senses. For babies, it is an activity that develops physical skills such as reaching and grasping. You can extend this activity for toddlers and older children by providing a collection of everyday items that they can use freely and creatively – for example, pegs to clip on the edge of a box, or bangles or bracelets to hook on a mug tree. 

*Disclaimer: Although this activity is child led, it should always be supervised by an adult.  Please check all contents are clean/new and safe for your child to explore with their hands, and their mouths.

Kitchen Band 

Developmental Activities With Your Toddler - image shows a toddler playing in the kitchen

This is an activity for a time when you’re happy for a bit of noise! Give your child some upturned pots and pans, and let them go wild with a wooden spoon to experiment with making sounds. Does a saucepan sound different to a colander when you tap it? Can they tap quietly and then clang loudly? You can make your own shaker bottles with your old plastic bottles that were ready for the recycling by putting some rice or pasta in the bottom.

Why? These activities support with children’s listening skills, discovering rhythm, and physically their co-ordination, especially if using a tool in each hand at the same time to make sounds. These homemade instruments offer the same chance to discover how to make your own music as shop bought ones. And even better, you can have fun making them together!

*Disclaimer: Please ensure if making shaker bottles that you secure the top of the bottle with tape to reduce the risk of choking hazards.

Target Practice – Developmental Activities With Your Toddler

Developmental Activities With Your Toddler - Image shows a mother and her toddler playing with laundry

This is a great activity for all young children. But particularly for those who have taken an interest in beginning to throw things. Give your child some socks rolled into a ball and a target of some sort – perhaps a laundry basket or a box to aim for. Make it into a game where you set a goal of how many you can get into a target. 

Why? This activity supports with developing a child’s large physical movements, their co-ordination, turn taking with others that they are playing with, and their resilience to try and try again. For young children who have the impulse to throw, it provides them with a safe and satisfying way to do this, an activity you can offer them when they are wanting to throw unsafe items around the house. 


Developmental Activities With Your Toddler - bubble blowing

Probably the simplest, but most enjoyable activity for young children! You can buy bubble solution fairly cheaply. But if you have run out, you could try making your own with washing up liquid (1 part) and water (6 parts). You can blow the bubbles for your child to chase and pop. Or as they get older, it’s really fun for them to try blowing them!

Why? When young children are attempting to blow their own bubbles, it is great for building muscles around the mouth that are vital for speech development. Dipping the bubble wand into the solution is great for supporting fine motor skills and hand-eye co-ordination, while chasing and popping bubbles is good for supporting physical skills such as reaching, jumping and clapping. 

A Cardboard Box – Developmental Activities With Your Toddler

Developmental Activities With Your Toddler - Image shows a toddler sat inside a box

The possibilities for a cardboard box are endless; we all know children often enjoy playing with the box as much, if not more than what’s inside it! If you have had a delivery recently, rather than throwing the cardboard box into the recycling, use it for an activity with your child first. 

You might want to use paint or crayons to decorate it. Or you could use it as a puppet theatre with your child’s teddies and make up a story together. You might use other recycling together with the box and do some junk modelling together. What could it become? A den, a car or even a rocket if it’s big enough!

Why? A box can be whatever you want it to be; it opens up a child’s imagination and creativity! While being creative, you and your child will be using lots of language, playing together, coming up with stories and developing physical skills if gluing and sticking things together. There is so much fun and learning you and your child can get from a cardboard box!

These are just a few activities and ideas of ways you can support your child’s play and aid with toddler development and learning at home, with some everyday and low-cost materials, perhaps even without having to leave your home to buy them! 

For more FREE information, advice and tips on supporting your child’s early learning and development, visit the Early Years Alliance’s Family corner website

Want to get out and about, have fun with your baby or toddler, and meet other parents?

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