Two-year-olds are naturally squirrelly and energetic, and occasionally, we just can’t get them to the park or the bouncy house. The following activities involve minimal materials and prep, and support large body movements like pushing, pulling, jumping, running, and swinging.
Here are 4 DIY activities to help your two-year-old burn energy indoors:
Setting up a roadmap with tape and little cars—on the ground or a table—gives your child a fun landscape for all kinds of pretend play. Moving their body around on the groundworks different muscles than most upright gross motor activities.
Here’s how to make a playscape of tape roads:
- Although you can buy tape with road patterns on it, you can also do it yourself: using low-adhesive tape, create a series of roads on a large surface like a table or the floor. You can also make roads with black felt, using white tape for the lines.
- Draw lines on the tape and create intersections, roundabouts, free way on ramps and off ramps, driveways, and anything else you can think of.
- Add small vehicles throughout the roadmap (cars, trains, trucks, planes—anything that moves) as well as other items that might appear in the road, like bridges, tunnels, and signs. You can use blocks to add to the landscape.
- You can get your child involved with the set-up, or surprise them by doing it yourself while they’re out of the way.
- If you have extra cardboard, you can make the roadmap multilevelled by including cardboard ramps that run from the ground to a chair, up to a table, and back down to the floor. If your child is really into it, you can extend the roads into different rooms and all over your living space.
Giving your child opportunities to be active while they learn is a form of kinaesthetic learning, which links mind and body and is beneficial in a wide variety of ways. The colours add a fun matching component.
Here’s how to play “colour tag”:
- Start with three pieces of paper—like red, purple, and yellow—and tape them up around a room (use a low-adhesive tape).
- Name a colour and ask your child to run and tag it with their hand; if they run to a random colour, point to the correct colour and try it again.
- If they have a lot of energy, you can tape the papers on opposite ends of a long hallway, or in different rooms. You can also mix it up with hopping, crawling, or walking on tiptoes.
- See if your child can follow a two-step direction: “first run to red, then to purple”.
- Try adding more colours, then invite your child to direct you in the game.
Pop-up paper tunnels and floor “croquet”
In this activity, your child pushes toy cars, trains, planes, and other small vehicles through DIY tunnels. Small balls are also fun to roll through—you can even approximate a two-year-old version of croquet 🙂
Here’s how to play floor croquet with pop-up paper “wickets”:
- Gather some colourful paper, low-adhesive tape (like painter’s tape or washi), small balls, and little toy vehicles. Thicker paper like card stock or construction paper works best, but anything you have on hand will do.
- Fold tabs on both ends of each piece of paper, bend the paper into an arch, and tape the tabs down on a flat surface to make a tunnel.
- This is a great opportunity for your child to help with the challenging task of taping: you rip off a piece of tape, hand it to them, and have them place it on the edge of the tab. Taping is tricky! Manipulating tape involves a lot of patience and bilateral coordination (working with both sides of the body—like hands—at once).
- Try connecting several tunnels into one long one, arranging the tunnels in circular patterns, and lining them up side by side like the start of a race.
- Croquet usually involves mallets and extensive rules, but in this version, rolling a ball through a tunnel (the “wicket”) counts as a success. Children often learn to roll a ball at around 12 months, but rolling one in a specific direction is a fun new challenge.
- Because the tunnels are fragile, this activity requires a certain degree of movement control. If your child keeps stepping on or knocking over the tunnels, show how to go slowly and carefully to keep them upright. Consider starting with fewer tunnels, keeping two or three feet of distance between them. As your child gains more movement control, you can add additional tunnels.
Plate & balloons paddleball
Using only a few simple items, this indoor (or outdoor) activity gets your child moving and encourages gross motor precision. Playing paddle ball with a balloon makes it easier for your child to keep the game going.
Here’s how to play DIY paddle ball with a two-year-old:
- Gather two paper plates, two ice lolly sticks, some sturdy tape, and a balloon. Make paddles out of the plates by taping an ice lolly stick to each one. If you happen to have ping pong or other paddles, you can certainly use those instead.
- Choose an area with some open space—since the balloon isn’t likely to do any damage, you don’t need much. See how long you can keep the balloon in the air, without worrying about taking turns. This is great gross motor practice, and your child will need to coordinate their arms and with their eyes to strike the balloon in just the right way.
- If your child is having trouble hitting the balloon (which is likely 🙃), try tossing it right at their paddle so they can enjoy some success. They can also ditch the paddle and use their hands, arms, and feet.
- To play a version of badminton, you can set up a “net”. Anything that stands in the way will do: a table, chair, or—if you’re feeling up for it—a blanket or sheet strung up across the room.
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