Days with a toddler or preschooler can be loooong! For me it’s always the 2-5pm window where I’ve used up my energy on the mornings outing and the little one is growing restless but the thought of playing dress up for another hour is like nails on a chalkboard. I love playing with my daughter, and I give her plenty of time for self directed play as well, but sometimes I want an activity I can set up that I know will buy me 30 minutes at least of engaged play where I have to expend a minimum of energy! These materials have taken us from pre-toddler to preschooler and they are the open ended, versatile toddler supplies we’ve found to be best for hours of fun!
Toddler Activity Supplies-
First of all, get yourself a tray like the one below.
This tray pairs perfectly with the toddler supplies listed below for sensory and science play! It both helps to define the child’s workspace as well as helps to contain messes. All of our messiest science experiments happen on this tray:) The nice thing about contained messes are they make me feel a little more willing to try those messy activities! We don’t totally adhere to the Montessori guidelines for use, but there are some great benefits if you implement it properly! For how to set up tray work in the Montessori style check out this article.
2. TODDLER SCIENCE AND SENSORY MATERIALS
Science experiments and sensory play are our current favorite activities, and actually have been for quite awhile! These are our go to toddler supplies. Check out our Instagram Feed for all the ways we use these science and sensory materials for hours of fun.
- BAKING SODA & VINEGAR: This one also made our other list of 41 Activities with 10 Simple Ingredients, but seriously, so many hours of fun with these two fizzy friends!
- RICE: Inexpensive, non-toxic (although of course they shouldn’t be making it a snack;) rice is a great sensory material for hours of fun!
- BINS: We store our sensory rice in a large plastic bin. They can be slid under the bed and out of the way when not in use and keep the materials clean by giving the kids a defined place to play. The idea of using toddler supplies instead of toys is to reduce the clutter, and these are great for that! The two pack in the link below is great if you want one for rice and one for water play.
- MEASURING CUPS AND FUNNELS: We also have a collection of measuring cups and funnels for play. These get quite a bit of use as they work for rice, water and sand!
- CORNSTARCH: If you are a cook this may be something you make delicious food with. I however had never purchased it until I decided to make some Non-Newtonian fluid (oobleck:) for my daughter. We purchased this three pack and just ran out a year and a half later, I’d say that was $9 well spent! I may have even used it in a recipe or two, toddler supply and kitchen staple? Parent win;)
- PLASTIC TABLECLOTH/SHOWER CURTAIN: Add in a clear plastic shower curtain to contain the chaos and you’re all set! Seriously, this shower curtain is the best. Easy to wipe off and even throw in the wash.
- Food Coloring: This was never something I used in the kitchen (I can’t bake to save my life:) but once I had a kid it has been put to use in so many ways! Some toddler supplies aren’t for the faint of heart, and food coloring can actually dye your kids’ hands. We use this is play-dough, science experiments, as watercolors, you name it, kids love all things bright and colorful! We use the gel ones and traditional liquid, see the link below.
- SCIENCE KIT: This kit is great, but if you only get the basics, go for tweezers, a magnifying glass and goggles. We supplement with various recycled bottles and jars for pouring, and bought a large nesting set of funnels separately. Add in an old white button up adult shirt or dress up doctor coat and your little will be thrilled to play mad (and probably messy;) scientist!
- SAFARI LIMITED TOOBS: These animal sets are integral to our toddler supplies and so many invitations to play. We have several different versions of these (sea creatures, dinosaurs, safari animals etc) and they are so good for imaginative play! Just a note, the packaging recommends 5 and up, so maybe not for the mouthy set (although I can’t imagine a toddler being able to swallow one of these, maybe gnaw a tentacle off or something…)
- PLASTIC SYRINGES or PIPETTES: Great for pouring stations, we’ve repurposed some syringes from old baby tylenol bottles (after washing thoroughly of course:)
- PLAY-DOUGH: Check out our Simple Play-dough Recipe, odds are you have the materials in your kitchen already! I like the gel food colors because they are much more vibrant when added to play dough.
We have an entire Pinterest Board full of awesome play-dough ideas, all it takes is a slight change to an old activity to reengage a preschooler all over again! This is another way we use our Safari Limited Toobs (not a paid endorser, we just love them:) Glycerine is our secret play-dough ingredient, one bottle will last you till your preschoolers are taking driving lessons and giving you gray hairs…
3. TODDLER ART SUPPLIES
You know the basics, paper, markers, crayons. At this age we focus on process art, which means focusing on the experience versus the end product.
- SCISSORS: Are great for play-dough play, and great for building fine motor skills too!
- GOOGLY EYES: Add googly eyes to fruits and vegetables, rocks, you name it and you feel like parent of the year as your kid giggles madly:)
- CLEAR CONTACT PAPER: This non-art material has a surprising amount of appeal for small children! Kids love stickers, and they also realllly like to stick and unstick things on weird surfaces. We tape it to the wall or window (sticky side out) and use it with tissue paper, flowers, alphabet magnets, hastily cut out paper shapes etc.
- PAINTERS TAPE: This stuff is fantastic, and a lucky accident that we discovered it! We were laboriously painting our living room and had this stuff laying around, and it was TODDLER MAGIC! It was totally worth it to give her a roll to play with while we finished painting:) It’s easy to take off things, as long as you don’t let it sit too long, and it doesn’t leave residue! As far as toddler supplies go, it’s also surprisingly versatile. I’ve also used it to create some pretty cool ‘paint resist’ projects, for taping up contact paper to the window, and taping together out cardboard “Trash Toys” (follow us on Facebook for more info on that;) You can also use Washi tape, which comes in some pretty fun patterns and colors.
- EASEL: This IKEA easel is a perfect all in one tool for art projects of many different mediums! We often put ours outside and it reengages the little one all over again (and simplifies the mess!) IKEA also has a surprisingly great selection of basic art stuff for littles, markers, paintbrushes, paint, big rolls of paper etc.
Did you get all that? It might seem like a lot, but as someone who likes to try new activities (almost) everyday with my little one I can say with certainty these materials are the ones that have returned the most hours of play for the investment. With these toddler supplies and a bit of creativity (or just clicking on the activity links below;) you can keep your preschooler engaged and learning and even buy yourself a bit of quiet time in the process!
Now that you have your toddler supplies, let’s do some activities!
Below are links to 5 of our favorite (under 5 min setup) activities, using just the toddler activity supplies in this post:
- Sticky Window– this example uses tissue paper but I’ve used construction paper and other odds and ends around the house and the little one is just as into it.
- Tape Racetrack– Great for rainy days inside!
- Animal Tracks/Imprints– Grab a Toob of animals and some playdough, done!
- Oobleck– aka ‘Non Newtonian Fluid’ isn’t a liquid or solid, just as much fun for adults as kids;)
- Drip Painting– grab your easel and pipettes and your set!
What are your go to toddler supplies? Do you have a weird supply staple you use as a toddler material? I’d love to hear in the comments! Don’t have time to Prime it all right now? Pin for later!