Simple Toddler Crafts, Sensory Activities, And Favorite Toys

Since we are all spending a lot of time at home these days due to Covid-19, I thought I would share some of our favorite toddler craft and sensory activities. Most of these ideas were done and photographed during our first toddler winter in Virginia. It was very cold outside and with an antsy toddler, I was desperate to keep him busy!

While I love a good craft for myself, I try to keep things pretty simple when it comes to my kids. So these are all pretty easy. And with a second child to manage now, some of the messier projects I would skip these days. But perhaps it might inspire you to try some of these activities if you are stuck at home with your kids! I will also share some of our favorite toys at the end!

And I have all these pictures because I meant to share these a long time ago BUT I also plan to put together an art photobook. Instead of keeping all of the art (we save a few favorites) I take pictures so we can remember what he made.

Sensory bins - safe for toddlers to eat!

I would use oatmeal or rice which was safe if my son decided to try to eat some! I would then fill it with random small toys or craft supplies. I kept an empty bin and would fill it with the oatmeal or rice and then rotate toys each time. He was only into this for a small amount of time but fun while it lasted.

I also always had him do these activities in the high chair to contain the mess. I would say it was up until he was about three and a half that I was still making him sit in the high chair to paint! Hey - as long as they still fit! ;)

 Water Wow books - paint with water! No mess!

Squigz and everyday junk - I would have our Squigz and a bin full of lids and plastic containers that he could play with. Saddenly the Squigz didn't make it past our Virginia to Washington move because we had to hard core purge. But if we had more space I would have kept them. They were well loved by our son but I would say around three he started to grow out of interest in playing with them. Of course besides just dumping them all out on the floor and then leaving to play with something else! If something has a lot of pieces but doesn't get played with properly, we usually get rid of it. But definitely a toy he enjoyed for a good couple of years.

This is my favorite first painting project. Draw a design to cut out on a piece of card stock and then put it in a ziploc bag with paint. You could add a marble inside the bag for them to also roll around the paint. Either just using their hands or pushing the marble around, you get a beautiful little painting. After it dries I cut the shape out. We did a heart recently for my one year old daughter's first paint project.

Sand table - this continues to be a favorite. I love having it on our front porch so they can go out and play with it close by. It is our going outside activity without committing to going out into the yard.

During the scribbling phase I like to create a cute template that they can then color.

Similar to the painting in a bag, I would draw shapes, let them paint, and then cut it out and assemble once dry. This would be cute to make a star or heart wand of some sort.

Beans and trucks sensory bin - this is the only sensory bin we still use regularly. He loves to dig and fill the trucks with beans. We have this in a lidded container that can get played with often.

 White board and white board markers in the high chair

Unflavored gelatin with a few drops of food coloring - dig the toys out!

Sensory toys in the bath! We did this midday to kill some time. I have also heard other moms like to do paint in the bathtub as well. I am not brave enough!

Cheerios on pipe cleaners - my son mostly just liked to eat the Cheerios but it still occupied him for a few minutes!

Contact paper craft - this was a cute activity we did at a museum. Contact paper glued on to cardboard, sticky side up. Then random materials the child can stick on themselves.

Foam stickers - I try to keep these themed/holiday. They make cute little art we can send to family and friends.

Sticker and coloring notebook - I keep one notebook that my son uses to color and put stickers on. He likes to go through and see his old pages as well as attempt to pull off stickers and restick. I feel like it contains everything better being in a notebook. Plus cute to look back on later! I can't remember how old he was but I would set a timer for a few minutes with him to color and do stickers to try to teach him to sit still and do an activity.

Coffee filter butterfly - he made this at MOPS but seemed cute and easy enough!

And we just made these this past week for Easter...

Simple painter's tape crosses with paint

And cardboard crosses covered in washi tape!


Three and a half years later, two kids, and another cross country move to a smaller house - these are the toys that have passed the test of time. We try to have open ended toys and our son really likes to build and play with cars. I find that our one year old daughter mostly just wants to play with her brother's toys now. So while we have some baby toys, they are mostly pass their use. So we continue to invest in toys that I think they can both enjoy and continue to use years from now.

Magnatiles - we have the largest set and recently got an additional set. We LOVE them.

Train set - I like the cute sets (ours is from Pottery Barn) but any set will do.

Bristle blocks - another favorite building toy. I print out idea pictures online and laminate them for us to follow when we build (super type A right here!). We have three sets we love them so much: 1 | 2 |

Books - we mostly keep board books with a one year old around. It makes it easier, in my opinion, to not worry about ripping books until we are out of the baby phase. My son does have a few special paper books that we keep out of reach. But because they are out of reach, I find that we don't read them as often as the others.

Duplos - my daughter seems to like these the most of her brother's toys. I think babies enjoy the sound they make. We also print out and laminate pictures to build. We have a few sets and then I buy extras we need on ebay. Since my son likes cars I ordered extra cars and trains. New duplo sets can be expensive or we don't need the extra block pieces. So this allows us to have pieces we want without having too many extras.

Kitchen and accessories - we have the Ikea kitchen and love it (I shared about it here). We have mostly wood toys and accessories for the kitchen. I like Melissa and Doug, Magnolia for Target, Hape and Plan Toys for food. We do have one plastic set - this adorable tea set. And we have plastic and metal utensils from Ikea.

The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game - this game is very simple and so fun! Plus it doesn't last very long so it can be a short activity or you can play again! Anyone else ever in the toddler board game trap that will never end? This is a great solution!

Candy Land - we have the vintage remake of the original game and I love the nostalgia.

Water Table - we love our water table for warm days. We have also brought it inside and placed it on a towel when it was too hot, humid, and bug infested in Virginia! Your child definitely needs to be at an age where they have self control with the water if bringing inside! But at the right age this is a life saver for staying in. We also set up our outside toys in the garage in Virginia which works great - for the winter or we would close the garage to keep bugs out in the summer (we had multiple wasp stings one year leaving both me and my son traumatized all summer!).

Tool bench - we didn't plan on getting a tool bench for our son but I ended up finding a really good deal on the Melissa and Doug set and decided to go for it. He LOVES it. I would say it has brought lots of creative endless play. We didn't think we would have room for it at our current home but I finally found a place for it!