19 Crafts for Toddlers That Won’t Destroy Your Home
Like postal workers, neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night will prevent your kids from tearing through (and tearing apart) your house when they’re bored. As tempting as it is to plunk a tablet in front of them, letting the warm glow of Disney+ entertain them while you try to restore some sense of order—and get maybe five seconds of peace—you want to wait until they’re at least a solid tween before they get completely screen-obsessed. So how do you keep them occupied? That’s where these crafts for toddlers come in. They’re fun, they’re easy enough for the 2- to 4-year-old set and they won’t cover your house in glitter, glue and googly eyes.
Most of these crafts can be tackled using things you already own, sparing you a trip to the store. And if you want to feel really good about your decisions, it’s worth noting that all of them tackle one of the CDC’s four main categories of early childhood learning: social and emotional skills, language and communication, physical development and learning/problem solving. Hello, mom of the year.
1. MAKE PLAY DOUGH
If you have flour, salt, vegetable oil, water, food coloring and, uh, cream of tartar (less likely, we know, but it’s crucial for giving the dough its elasticity), you can make your own play dough. You’ll have to prepare the dough, since it requires some cooking on the stove, but your kids can get in on coloring it: I Heart Naptime blogger Jamielyn Nye recommends placing each dough ball into resealable bags with a few drops of gel food coloring. Seal them up, then let your toddler knead the color into the ball, watching it transform. Get the tutorial here.
2. Capture Their Handprints in Salt Dough
No cream of tartar? Pivot! Oh, and capture this moment in time when your kids’ hands are the size of your palm—and potentially turn them into ornaments for the grandparents to “aww” over. All you need is flour, salt and water. Get the tutorial here.
3. Put Their Own Stamp on ThingsPotato stamps are classic rainy-day fun, though they’ll require a little work on your part: Slice potatoes in half and use a paring knife to cut out the shapes your kids request. (And if your child demands Elsa’s face? Best of luck to you, friend.) Your toddler can brush on paint, using the stamps to his or her heart’s content.
4. Try Their Hand at Rainbow Salt ArtThis craft from OneLittleProject.com
5. Paint with Broccoli
Those little florets make for great brushes. Cover a table in craft paper, dab a little paint in a saucer and let your kids see what designs they can make. If you need help getting them started, draw a tree trunk and have them stamp the florets onto the paper, forming the leaves on top.
6. Turn Snack Time into a Trip to Old MacDonald’s FarmMindy Zald, aka theplatedzoo, has gained a cult following on Instagram for the ways she turns fruit and vegetables into frogs, pigs and even Seussian characters. Scroll through her feed—or watch this video of the animals coming together—to get inspired. Then use cookie cutters and a kid-safe plastic knife to cut out shapes, challenging your toddler to help you dream up a few creatures of your own.
7. Make Popsicle-Stick Monsters
Let your kids’ creativity run wild as they color Popsicle sticks and glue them together (OK, you’ll handle the gluing, lest your dining-room table gain some colorful new additions). Here’s a chance to clear out old craft supplies, like extra pom-poms, pipe cleaners and odd bits of washi tape. Who knows what they’ll need to give that critter its spiky tail or speckles? Get the tutorial here.
8. Craft Jewelry That Could Rival Tiffany’s (in Your Heart, at Least)What, macaroni necklaces aren’t chic?! Don’t tell that to your toddler. It’s a classic for a reason, and whether you let them use markers or paint to color their “beads” or just plop down some uncooked noodles and yarn, your little ones can hone their fine motor skills as they practice threading.
9. Play with Edible Finger Paint
This craft is particularly fun for 2-year-olds—and the mess is minimal if they’re still small enough to stay wrangled in a high chair. Add a few drops of food coloring to containers of Greek yogurt, mixing them up to create different shades of “paint.” Spoon a little directly onto the high chair’s tray, letting them use that as their canvas. Once they’re done, snap a pic of their masterpiece, then wash it away. Done. (And if you’re not into food coloring, you can always try mixing in pureed baby food.)
10. Put Your Amazon Boxes to Good UseWhat kid doesn’t love making a box fort? If you have a large box, cut out a door and windows, then hand your kids stickers, crayons and markers so they can design the castle of their dreams. If you only have medium-sized boxes, cut out eye and mouth holes and re-create The Masked Singer at home. The big reveal won’t be too shocking, but then again, neither was the Monster in Season 1.
11. Design a Shoebox Dollhouse
Those magazines you keep meaning to KonMari out of your home have a new purpose. Help your kids cut out plants, furniture and other pictures they like, then glue them to the inside of a shoebox. Challenge them to scour their rooms for doll furniture and little character toys to live there (finally, a home for all those Little People!).
12. Make a Pine Cone Bird FeederWhat it lacks in aesthetics it makes up for in just plain fun: Let your kid slather a pine cone in peanut butter, then roll it in bird seed. Hang it from a tree with some thread and you’re all set for some quality bird-watching. Which means you’ll also need to…
13. Build a Pair of BinocularsWith two old toilet paper rolls, some paint and thread, they can have their very own pretend pair of binoculars. Let your kids decorate them however they want (for less mess, swap the paint for a ton of stickers), then tie or tape the two tubes side by side. That was easy.
14. Help Them Channel Their Inner Artist During Bath Time
Grab a muffin tray, squeeze a little shaving cream into each cup and add a drop of food coloring to each one. Mix them up and you’ve got an instant palette for your budding Van Gogh to paint the bathtub walls with.
15. Construct a Fairy GardenYou may need to take a trip to Home Depot, Lowe’s or your local nursery for this one, but it’s worth it. Have your child choose a small planter—or an old mug or bowl, like in the photo above—and pick out plants to fill it. Then use dollhouse furniture, acorns and twigs, or small toys to create the fairy’s getaway, sprinkling the whole thing with a little pixie dust (aka glitter) to encourage Tinker Bell to visit.
16. Craft Lightsabers out of Pool Noodles
Your kids have been obsessed with all things Star Wars after catching a glimpse of Baby Yoda, and now you can fully indulge their obsession. Becca Beach’s two-minute YouTube tutorial will show you how you and your kids can use tape and old pool noodles to make the lightsabers of their dreams.
17. See the Rainbow, Match the RainbowHere’s an easy way to help your toddler learn colors, courtesy of KiwiCo: Use markers to draw a rainbow on paper, then present your toddler with pom-poms, beads and buttons to match to the colors on the rainbow and then glue on. You can also use this time to discuss the texture of each object used: Is it soft? Hard? Smooth? Fluffy? Get the full tutorial here.
18. Grow Pipe Cleaner Flowers
With some pony beads, pipe cleaners and straws, your little ones can create a bouquet of colorful faux flowers (while unwittingly improving their fine motor skills). All it takes is a little threading and twisting. Get the full tutorial here.