Sand Sensory Bin - Toddler Activity

Cheap Activities to do with your Toddler


Cheap (or Free) Activities to do with your Toddler this Summer

It’s easy to entertain older kids because they can basically entertain themselves! But, how do you entertain your 18 month old? Sometimes, us moms question ourselves asking, “Am I doing enough for my child? Is he learning anything? What should I be teaching her?” Well, you’ll be surprised at the amount of learning that can be done by simple activities! No need for curriculum booklets or expensive learning toys! I’ve put together a list of activities to do with your toddler that are cheap and easy!

As a stay-at-home mama to a little busy body, I needed to find activities that kept him entertained, and of course if he learns something at the same time that’s always a plus! However, so many activities are for older toddlers or require so many materials! Of course crafts can be fun but there are moments where we don’t have all that time to prep an activity that our child will only be interested in for 5 minutes! Therefore, I wanted to find things my insanely active little man would actually want to do and wouldn’t be so time consuming for mama either! So, after trial and error, these are the toddler activities my son actually enjoys, are not expensive, and relatively easy to prep & clean!

These toddler activities are perfect for the summer but can also be done year round, except maybe the last two, depending on where you live! Also, I know the struggle of not having a lot to work with; my backyard used to be non-existent, so if you have no yard or just a small one, these are some great options to get your Little one busy!

1. Sand Sensory Bin

Sand Sensory Bin Activity

For this activity, I originally wanted to make my own sand so that it would be safe just in case he decided to put it in his mouth, but we had some leftover sand from another project so I just went with what we had! Plus, we make do with what we have right now during these trial times. And my son recently got sand toys from his great grandma so it was perfect timing!

What you’ll need:

  • Sand
  • Bin
  • Sand toys or old kitchen tubberware

What to do:

  1. Clean out bin
  2. Pour sand into bin
  3. Put toys in bin
  4. Put baby in bin! Or they can stand outside bin, depending on how big the bin is and how big the baby is!

We tried putting our Little inside the bin to sit down, but because he is new to sand, he was not having it! But he enjoyed it outside the bin and started playing! Another great thing about this toddler activity, is you can do it outside or inside if it is too hot! When you’re done, keep the lid closed so no creepy crawlies get inside!

Pros of a sand sensory bin

  • Cognitive
    • Depending on the toys, this could help with their cognitive development. For instance, one of the toys my son has is a ‘mining for gold’ toy where you shake it back and forth and the sand falls through the little holes. Because this is probably a new sensation for them, it’s teaching them. And based on what they do with the sand and toys, they will see a reaction. Like, when making a sand castle with a cup, you lift the cup, and the sand stays.
  • Motor skills
    • Using their hands and fingers to maneuver the toys; scooping sand into shovel, or spoon, and pouring it into a cup.
  • Art/sensory
    • This one is pretty self-explanatory; they get to feel a new texture and can make shapes with the sand.

2. Have a Bubble Party

Bubbles, bubbles, bubbles!! What’s not to love about bubbles! (This one you might want to do outside!) It’s super easy, quick, and the kiddos love them!

What you’ll need:

  • A pack of bubbles

What to do:

  1. Go outside
  2. Open bubbles and have fun!

If your Littles are still, well, little, they may not know how to blow a bubble so they’ll need your help. Just sit back, relax, blow bubbles, and listen to the laughter! We bought some from the dollar section at Target that were long and came in a pack of two! So, they made good size bubbles and lasted a long time!

Pros of bubbles

  • Cognitive
    • watching the bubbles form
    • watching the bubbles pop
  • Motor
    • Chasing Bubbles & trying to grab them

3. Imagination Flow {aka Chalk}

Chalk is an easy & fun activity for both the kiddos and the adults! You’ll want to make sure to get jumbo ones because they’re easier for the little hands to hold and control! But, chalk is endless! So many different colors and things to draw! You can draw a hopscotch or illustrations for whatever holiday is coming up! Bunny Ears or Eggs=Easter,  American flag=4th of July, and so on!

There are lots of toddler activities you can create with just chalk! One game we like to do is draw different shapes on the ground and have him jump into whichever shape we say! Or add a number inside the shape to mix it up!

The other day while my son was scribbling all over the cement, my husband and I decided to play a game of hangman, haha! I don’t think I played that since High School! See, even the adults can have some fun!

What you’ll need:

  • Chalk
  • Sidewalk space (any cement will do, we have a little patio area in the backyard that we use).

What to do:

  1. Go outside!
  2. Chalk it up!
  3.  Always keep an eye on your Little; they may try to put the chalk in their mouth, especially if they are teething!
  4. Also, if you are doing this in the front yard, never leave them and be mindful of how fast they can be just in case they try to jet past you! AKA watch out for cars! I get so frustrated because even though I live in a neighborhood community, people still speed down our streets! One reason why we do most the outside play in the backyard or at the park! **Rant Over**

4. Jumbo Crayons

Toddler coloring with Jumbo Crayons - Activity

Who needs high maintenance toddler activities when you’ve got JUMBO CRAYONS!! It is so fun watching those little hands go crazy with a crayon on some paper (hopefully)! They may not be able to draw a comic book yet, but that doesn’t mean that what they color isn’t a masterpiece! -Because everything they draw, they will be proud of, and we will love it! Yes, enough to put on the fridge! (We currently have about 4 different Paw Patrol coloring pages on our fridge!)

What you’ll need:

  • Yup! You guessed it, Jumbo Crayons!
  • Paper, coloring book, anything to color on.

What to do:

  1. Sit toddler down
  2. Give paper and crayon
  3. Watch the crazy happen!

Oh, and maybe put something down under the paper so crayon doesn’t get all over your kitchen table! The highchair we bought came with an extra tray that connects to the highchair’s table and as my son got older we stopped using the tray and just use the table. So, when he colors we use the tray and then take it off when he eats, easy peas-y clean up!

I strongly suggest getting jumbo crayons though! Especially if it is their first time, they may press hard or even bite it! The jumbo will help you not have to keep buying more! Also, keep an eye out because I’m pretty sure they will always try to put it in their mouth, even when they think mama isn’t looking!

5. Toddler Puzzles

Toddler completing puzzle - Activity

This is something you’ll have to purchase but it’s worth it and not pricey! I think they’re around 12 dollars on Amazon! They have different options too; we have the dinosaur and farm ones! They are large pieces and two connect to make one! It’s a good practice for the Little’s to get the hang of putting puzzle pieces together before getting overwhelmed with the the 50 pieced puzzles!

What to do:

  • Buy a puzzle
  • Teach your little how to connect the pieces

What you’ll need:

  1. A puzzle
  2. An open space (we use our area rug).

Pros of doing toddler puzzles

  • Cognitive
    • Your little will see what is happening when you connect the two pieces, it comes to life! Two separate pieces make one cow? Or a Stegosaurus! Wow!
  • Motor
    • This activity helps your little’s fine motor skills. He will have to delicately use his fingers and hands to connect two pieces together perfectly.
  • Sensory/Art
    • When she connects the two pieces she will notice a picture!
  • Other: Once you get the pictures together you can have him point to the correct one : “where is the pig?” and have him show you. And then ask “what sound does a pig make?” It’s small things like this that really help teach your little toddler get ready to be a big toddler.

6. Cleaning {Yes, you read that right}

Talk about cheap toddler activities! This one can be of no cost and something gets cleaned?? You’d be surprised how much your little will love helping you! If he sees you cleaning often, he may want to try one day and just pick up your broom! As for us, we vacuum our house almost every day due to having a bunch of animals, so my son sees it a lot! And now-a-days I can’t vacuum without him trying to grab it! Trust me, he will cry if I don’t “share”!

What you’ll need:

  • Any cleaning tool you have: broom, vacuum that isn’t too heavy, a swiffer, duster, or even a lint roller! **Just no sprays or chemical cleaning supplies!!** And don’t leave child alone with vacuum, that can be dangerous!
  • There are play cleaning supplies! We bought our son a play vacuum for Christmas since he loved ours so much but he still likes to use ours!

What to do:

  1. Give them a tool and show them how to use it.
  2. Don’t forget to praise them for being good helpers!

Pros of little helpers

  • This is a good Montessori activity!
  • Motor Skills

7. Card Slot Fine Motor Activity {DIY}

Cardslot Toddler Activity

There are a lot of DIY fine motor skill toddler activities, This one is just so convenient! It is easy to set up and clean up! It only requires two materials to play, and you probably already have them laying around! Oatmeal container and a deck of cards! My husband had some old business cards that were pretty thick so we used those too! Not only is it fun but also helps our Little’s learn and grow (mentally). I found this awesome idea on Susie’s website!

What you’ll need:

  • Empty Oatmeal container
  • Deck of cards or something of the sort

What to do:

  1. Cut a slit on top of the oatmeal lid using a knife. We buy Kroger Oatmeal and their lid is a rubber material so it’s super soft to cut and won’t hurt the little fingers either. I am not 100% sure but I think the Quaker lid is paper material but it will still work!
  2. Clean out the container, just don’t use too much water if your container is paper-like, which I think most are.
  3. Put the lid back on top.
  4. Grab a deck of cards and your Little.
  5. Show them how to put each card inside the slot and they’ll surely take over!

Pros of Card slot activity:

  • Fine Motor Skills
    • Littles will have to delicately place the card into the tiny sliver using their little fingers.

8. Cereal Finds

Cutout Toddler Activity

**Not a promotional post, aka not sponsored!**

Now, this happened by accident! My son likes cereal for snacks, especially Kix! My son also likes Paw Patrol! And you know how there is always something on the back of the boxes to do; like a maze or crossword puzzle? Well, one day as I was pouring my son some Kix to snack on, I noticed the back of the box had some Paw Patrol characters on it, but I’ve always just shrugged it off because, I mean, it’s just a cereal box. However, this one was different! This one was a cutout! With a background and everything! Omg, it was so cute and I thought how perfect! It didn’t cost anything extra, just the amount normally spent for the cereal! I just think how wonderful it is for Kix to do something like that for the kids. They didn’t have to go the extra mile and make it a cutout where you can play with the characters, but they did! Good job Kix!

So, next time you are pouring your Little some cereal, check the back! You never know what kind of fun activity you will find!

*The back of cereal boxes always change so I don’t know if this specific one is still available.

Materials I had:

  • Kix Cereal
  • Scissors

9. Oh, how far books will take you!

Child Reading a book

My son LOVES books! They’re his favorite and have been since he was able to hold one in his hands. He will read them over and over again, sometimes fast and sometimes backwards, haha!

Books are great because they are endless, and you can check them out for free at your local library! If you want to buy some for cheap, try a thrift store or used book store! Even bigger stores, like Target, have sales often!

What you’ll need:

  • Books

What to do:

  1. Read it to your child or let him read it to you.
  2. Point to the illustrations, explain what they are.
  3. Reading a book about animals? Make the sounds of each animal you see!
  4. Eventually, you can ask your Little to point to a certain illustration or picture.

Pros of books:

  • Language
    • Listening to you read helps them learn how to say the words; repetition is good for them at their young age so it’s okay if you only have a couple of books!
  • Fine Motor Skills
    • Eventually, they can try to turn the pages.
  • Sensory/art
    • They will admire illustrations in the books. It’s fun to watch which pictures or colors they like more. They’ll end up having favorites too!

10. Kiddie Pool

Child in kiddie pool

Water is a must for summer toddler activities! You can buy a cheap kiddie pool from anywhere between $10-$20! If you don’t want to do that you could also use sprinklers or a hose like I did when I was a kid! Anything with water is fun for them and it helps keep them cool while out of the house.

**NEVER leave a child alone in a pool/tub/or anything similar!**

What you’ll need:

  • Kiddie pool/sprinklers
  • Sunscreen!! Always! Maybe even a sun hat! Protect that little face!!

What to do:

  1. Put a LITTLE BIT of water in pool, with some bath toys maybe, and have fun! Again, STAY with your Little!

11. Park Fun

Park Fun

Okay, so maybe this is cheating a bit since it’s more of a “field trip” rather than being at home like the majority of the toddler activities, but it still counts! Sometimes a mama might just need to not have to think about the activity! A simple one is going to the park! It’s free and easy; and nothing to set up or clean up! It’s even easier if you have a local park in walking distance! If your Little is too small to climb on the playground, I bet she’ll still enjoy running around the grass or being pushed on the swing! This gives mama a little brain relaxation as well as some fresh air!

What you’ll need:

  • Sunscreen/sun hat to protect your Little’s precious face!
  • Some water to stay hydrated, both mama and Little! – and maybe some snacks, again both mama and Little! haha

What to do:

  1. Find a park near you
  2. Then go to it! – Easy, right?
  3. Always keep an eye out on your child(ren), and check for glass or anything dangerous on the grass too! The park nearest my house isn’t kept up as well as it should be so I always have to make sure there isn’t any trash or dog poop!


Toddlers don’t need much to be entertained, just a little bit of imagination and someone to play with! I don’t know about you but my son is always wanting to do different activities, his attention span does not last very long! Once they hit the one year mark, everything just goes by so fast and they grow like crazy! I feel as if it was just yesterday he took his first step! Am I right?!

Well, mama, you’re doing great! Don’t worry about the Jones’ next door and just keep working hard! Even if you can’t give your child everything, all they want is you. You’re doing amazing! Remember, Christ is always right there with you, lean on Him! I know life can get hectic but you can always find the Grace in the midst of chaos!

Do you do something that is not on this list of toddler activities that fits the “criteria”? Haha, let me know down below! ↓ Also, curious of how our backyard landscaping is going down? Follow me on Instagram!

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