Entertaining toddlers when you are exhausted: a greatest hits guide for 2 year olds

Now, I do know a few 2 year olds but not that many – so this list is mainly composed of things that my 2 year old loves. So don’t blame me if you came looking for inspo and your little one hates it … but hopefully you’ll find something to give your little one smiles and you some sanity minutes!

1. Magic Sand

At first I was relieved when Boo stopped watching the creepy daddy finger videos on YouTube in favour of magic sand (or kinetic sand) videos. But they become boring really quickly. However, my daughter remains obsessed with the inane music and gloopy sand. She received some of the strange stuff for her birthday and, I kid you not, this morning she played with it for 45 minutes ON HER OWN. Parenting gold dust!!

I’ve already primed every colour under the rainbow … maybe I will have a clean house again?! She plays with it non stop. Day after day. She builds. She squishes. She stretches. She destroys. She evens hides things in it for me to find. I think she finds it easier to manipulate than play dough and the sensation of it slipping around is pretty mesmerising, even for me. Before we had some, I was not convinced. But I am a convert. It is amazing stuff and when else do I get to drink my tea hot and browse instagram for 45 minutes?!?!
2. Puzzles

Boo has had wooden puzzles for ages but until now they have led to frustration. All of a sudden, she seems to have cottoned on to the notion of putting the piece into the hole that matches its shape. She’s also now able to put very simple puzzle pieces together. She seems to have reached a point in her development that she gets enjoyment from solving things or fixing them. I need to be close by when she’s playing with puzzles to give hints or nudges if she’s stuck, but I can get away with folding laundry next to her while she plays.

3. Sensory rice

This isn’t something we bought but something we made together which made it doubly fun. I bought cheap rice at the supermarket (the cheapest they had), food colouring and rubbing alcohol. Pintrest has lots of recipes but I basically added a few drops of colouring and a slug of rubbing alcohol and mixed. You can use ziploc bags to mix it but Boo enjoyed putting it in a sealed tub and shaking it around. The first time I made it I hadn’t got rubbing alcohol so I just used vodka and that worked too although the dye did rub off a tiny bit on my hands. After it’s mixed, spread it out on a tray then leave it to dry.
Once it’s dry, it’s great to just run through your hands. Boo loves it when I fill a small paddling pool or ball pit with the sand then put lots of cups and containers in so she can practise filling and pouring.

She absolutely loves this activity and I can see why – it is so relaxing running the grains through your hands. You can also dye other grains or pasta or for a different texture, you can dye cooked pasta. As far as messy play goes, this activity is quite an easy clean up so if you’re not usually a fan of messy play this is a good activity for you.

4. Muddy Puddles

If your child doesn’t love Peppa Pig, then they surely aren’t a toddler! Boo’s 2nd birthday party was Peppa themed and everyone loved it. That party was inside so I made muddy puddles from brown paper. I just cut out puddle shapes and stuck them to the floor.

In summer, I use the paddling pool in the back garden and use a little food colouring. But Boo’s favourite muddy puddles to jump in are real ones! It’s a great way to get outside on a rainy day. We just put on our rain coats and wellies and go for it. Any puddle will do, muddy or not. Before we leave the house I run and hot bath so when we get back I can put her straight in to get clean and warm. We then make babychinos (I use this milk frother – perfect babycino for Boo and cappucino for me!) and have sofa snuggles. We both love this activity – it brightens up even the most miserable day.

5. Dance party

Boo loves to dance. If we are ever stuck in the house and she is getting restless I turn the music up and she runs around dancing. She is a massive fan of Raffi (seriously, Raffi has saved the day too many times to count – go and listen with your toddler now) but will dance to anything! We have Sonos speakers dotted around our house so it’s easy to use Amazon Music to play whatever we want, wherever we want. This activity is perfect for this times that you have no energy but your toddler is full of beans. I find that getting up and moving about always helps me shake the sleepiness too so it’s win-win.

6. Teddy bear’s picnic

This is so simple, I don’t know why I didn’t think of doing it sooner. It’s easy too. Put down blanket. Get out teddies. Plates and food optional. Boo likes to make cups of tea for all her guests. I set up her little table with a small jug of water and some plastic cups. At first, i needed to give a lot of help and have kitchen roll on hand, but now she is really great at pouring. It’s a great skill to learn as it helps to develop gross and fine motor skills, and improves hand eye coordination. If your little one struggles, give them a sippy cup to pour from as it will make less mess and helps them pour more accurately.

6. Den building

Boo can’t do the building yet, but she absolutely loves getting into a makeshift tent. It’s great for her imagination play – she often tells me it’s a bedroom or kitchen. I use whatever blankets and cushions I have to hand (or this gorgeous muslin from Etta Loves) and she will then play in her den until she accidentally destroys it. We have a little play shop too that she loves going in. There’s something about going inside something that seems to really captivate her and hold her attention for long periods of time.
Hopefully there will be something there that you can do with your toddler when you are too tired to think. If all else fails, there’s always the park, soft play or even a walk around Toys’r’us. I’ve written this post today because Boo has been up since 1am. It’s going to be a long day. If you have any other suggestions of simple and engaging activities, please let me know in the comments!!

You Baby Me Mummy


  1. My 4 year old enjoyed many of these when she was younger. Play dough was her favourite and still is. She has some kinetic sand too but prefers play dough. She still loves muddy puddles and now our 15 month old does too.

    Liked by 2 people

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