Toddler Party Activities

When my daughter turned 2, we didn’t have family nearby, but we did have a group of “playgroup” friends with children the same age.  The kids, of course, didn’t play together, but they’d grown accustomed to playing next to each other.  And so they did at this party, with these simple, unstructured activities:

Playdough TableWelcome Bubbles
I set up a battery-operated bubble machine like this one on our front deck, so the children walked through bubbles as they entered the house.

Homemade Playdough
Play-doh is non-toxic, but the homemade variety (recipe below) goes over better with most moms of toddlers.  You can add food-coloring or glitter, but it’s not necessary at this age.  I taped kraft paper over our living room table and put out gobs of dough and a few simple tools.

If you’re new to playdough, don’t ever try to clean it up with water.  Just wait until it dries, and vacuum it right up.  It’s a wonder for toddlers who are just old enough not to put it right in their mouths.  And a gift for moms ready for something new to occupy the time.Painting the deck

Painting the Deck
Foam brushes from Dollar Tree and water are fun for toddlers who can “paint” deck rails, a fence or a brick wall – anything that turns darker with water.  When the water dries, it needs more paint!

Sand TableSand Table Party
See my Toy Hall of Fame post.  Best $70 we ever spent.

Playdough Recipe
1 c flour
1/2 c salt
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 c water
1 tbs oil

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and cook over medium heat.  Stir constantly until mixture forms a ball.  Knead until smooth.  Store in a covered container.  It lasts in the refrigerator for months.

Pirates – 3rd Birthday

To welcome our young guests for my son’s 3rd birthday, I used the poster part of The Backyardigans Party Game to make a sign for our front door.  I also taped paper pirate hats to the people in artwork and photos around the house.

Once the children entered, they saw our dining room set up with treasure boxes for them to decorate.  I found fun pirate fabric at Hancock Fabrics to use as a table cover.  Baby-wipe containers spray-painted with Krylon Fusion for Plastic served as the kids’ treasure chests.  $1 baby wipes from Dollar Tree supplemented my supply left over from our kids’ diaper days.

I like for kids to see something that’s just for them, so I personalized the treasure chests with pirate nametags ahead of time and then the kids decorated them with foam pirate stickers, sparkly tape and jewels, all from Oriental Trading.

99 cent Pirate Costumes!
An incredible deal – still available as I write this - from Little Tykes.  I wasn’t planning on dressing the kids, but I snatched these up when I found them.  They’re comfortable and they fit kids 2-4, at least.  My children used them for a couple of years before I resold them at a consignment sale. 

Simple, Fun Pirate Activities
First, each child used Captain Hook’s hook to fish beads out of a big jug (I used one of those plastic barrels that pretzels come in at Costco).

Then, we spread out 6 sheets or so of blue poster board and lay a 2×4 over it.  Remarkably, I had found inflatable alligator (crocodile?) pool toys at Dollar Tree.  Each child walked the plank while the rest of us made chomping motions with our arms.

Before the party, we dragged our Step 2 sandtable into our master bathroom.  After burying gold coins and more beads in clean sand, I drew a big X on a piece of paper, taped it to the lid and closed it all up.  At some point during the party – probably when things were getting wild - I told the kids to look around the house for treasure, which would be marked with an X.  They brought their treasure boxes and filled them up.


Pirate Food and Picture Books
Backyardigans party supplies decorated the kitchen, where I’d set up kid-sized tables and chairs.  Pirate ship-shaped pb&j, blue Gogurt and goldfish made a water scene on black sparkly plates from Dollar Tree.  My husband, a terrific storyteller, read books during lunch:  Pirate Treasure (Backyardigans), Shiver Me Letters: A Pirate ABC, Do Pirates Take Baths?

While my husband entertained the children, I hid their treasure boxes in a big cardboard box and put a bunch of Backyardigans balloons over them, covered the whole thing with a sheet and another X.  I’d also added a bag of chocolate gold coins from Trader Joe’s tied with a note that said “Thanks for coming to Luke’s party.”

As the children were finishing up cake (Backyardigans from Publix), I told them some sneaky pirates had stolen their treasure boxes. They ran around until they found the box and uncovered their treasure.

Frogs – 2nd Birthday

This was a simple party for my son’s 2nd birthday.  His favorite shirt had a frog on it and he loved the plastic frogs that cost $1 per pack at The Dollar Tree.  When I saw this invitation at Learning Express, Frogs it was.

We invited just a few kids (with a parent) for lunch on a Sunday.  A craft, an easy game, pizza and cupcakes were plenty for this age.

Fly-Catching Frog
This is a clever craft from Family Fun using red party blowers.  The kids loved blowing out their long red “tongues.”  And only because my son had just discovered the joy of glitter, I let the kids make their frogs sparkly (a big hit since glitter is too messy for most parents).  We also used glue sticks and sticky-back wiggly eyes.  Moms had to help assemble. 

Lily Pad Hop
I taped green poster board lily pads on the floor in our foyer and stuck a fake flower on a few of them.  The kids pretended to be frogs jumping from lily pad to lily pad.  Easy, cheap, cute.

Party Supplies
I still love the colorful frog plates we ordered from Oriental Trading.  The big, bright frog candles were adorable,  but they were a little wobbly (small cupcakes, not much icing).  So the kids’ cupcakes were each topped with a plastic toy frog.

A Frog Hoppers Game for ages 2-3, which my children still play with, and a frog bath toy for siblings 1 and under.


Personalize Kids’ Rooms

I love wrapping paper.  Every print, pattern, color, character possible, for less than $5 a roll.

When my daughter was crazy for Dora the Explorer, a piece of Dora wrapping paper pressed inside a cheap Ikea frame made her so happy.  Now, two of those same frames display her American Girl posters, one of which she made herself with Scotch tape and cut-outs from a catalog.

We’ve had an old particle- board bookcase for so long that I don’t remember where it came from.  It was headed for Goodwill 3 years ago when a can of red spray paint and a roll of paper (outdoor table covering?) from Ikea turned it into funky storage for our craft room.

Just recently, when our craft supplies outgrew the bookcase, my son inherited it for his room.  I replaced the old paper with Star Wars paper that he chose.  Well…at least he likes it.

Ikea Hensvik Cabinet

My favorite makeover, though, was with a vinyl tableloth – I loved the cheery print, but it was too girly for our family table.  So I used it to cover the back of an Ikea chest in our infant daughter’s room.  It served her well for 6 years before we traded it for “big-girl” furniture.

Kool-Aid Painting

The unseasonably warm weather we’re having reminded me of this toddler activity (art?) that yields Jackson Pollock-like results.

When I was pregnant with our first child, I worked at a daycare center with 2-year-olds.  The lead teacher was a wonderful lady and we had such fun with our tiny charges.  One day she announced that the kids were going to do “Popsicle Painting.”  She covered a table in the kitchen with craft paper, sprinkled different colored Kool-Aid powder on it, and gave each child a craft stick frozen in a chunk of ice.

Less than two years years later, I had my own daughter outside exploring the joys of melting ice and colored sugar.  It became a favorite warm weather activity for both of my kids.  My daughter loved the painting part and my son loved the licking-the-ice part.