TV Free Activities For Toddlers

When I was on maternity leave I was overwhelmed. I had an infant and a rambunctious toddler. Luckily, my toddler was easily distracted by television. In the beginning I was able to keep her occupied with TV while I got some chores done or fed the baby. As time went on I leaned on TV more and more and realized I used it outside of those said tasks. I had the TV on all the time! I began looking for TV free activities and ideas for my toddler to help me break the habit as soon as possible. Here are some of my favorite TV free activities for toddlers.


I have a ton of books for my daughter but we often only read the same ones. To make sure to keep their interest try toy rotation strategies with your books as well. On addition to reading the books on hand you can create additional activities using the books such as:

  • I-Spy
  • Naming colors found in the books
  • Counting objects on each page
  • Letter recognition
  • Counting the pages of the books

By switching up your reading approach you can get a lot more life from each of your books and keeping them engaged with the books on hand.

Picnic lunch

Lunch time is often a scramble time for us. I try to bring out the food quicker than my daughter can eat it. It feels like a marathon most days and it can be exhausting. I have found that having a picnic lunch slows down the process and allows us to take our time during meals. It requires a bit of planning but will hopefully will be beneficial to you and your child.

Having a picnic lunch somewhere other than the kitchen or dining room changes the routine a bit for both of you. We got my daughter’s stuffed animals involved the last time we had a picnic. This led to some great pretend play. If you’re lucky enough to be able to have a picnic outdoors, it lends to more learning opportunities as well as just some great fresh air!


As an adult puzzles are seen to be mammoth projects spanning days, weeks, maybe even months. But for a toddler, simple puzzles are amazing for cognitive development.

Don’t have a puzzle in your house? Use paper plates or cardboard to create an easy puzzle.  Also by making your own puzzles you can make them as simple or as complex as you’d like.

Play Clay

When I was on maternity leave I needed something to keep my active toddler engaged enough to not destroy my house. I decided to make homemade clay which ended up being a fantastic time filler while I nursed my newborn.

What’s great about homemade clay is that it is relatively easy to clean, stimulates the senses, and gets your child’s fine motor skills involved. I would also place my toddler in her high chair or seat which kept her contained to one area since she wasn’t able to easily get down.

Here are some great ideas to take your play clay playing to the next level.

  • Add essential oils to make it a full on sensory experience
  • Incorporate something like pasta to make structures
  • For bigger kids use play dough mats to incorporate learning with shapes, numbers, and letters.

Sensory bins

I had never heard of sensory bins until a few months ago. Since then I’ve been OBSESSED! And so has my daughter. Sensory bins, at least in my house, enable my daughter to explore different textures using their hand (or feet as she has showed me). Sensory bins can be customized to suit any learning activity – sorting, spelling, counting, color matching, etc. Here are some sensory bin resources for those just getting started.


Blocks are one of the open ended play items we keep out as much as possible. Open ended play is extremely important for a child’s development because there is no limit to the creativity used to play with the toy. Open-ended toys allow for endless possibilities. A block can become a brick in a tower, the arm of a robot, or a “topping” on a pretend pizza. Because of this, the toys are more engaging than singular focused toys.

tv free activities for toddlers (1)

I find that when I change up my approaches to these items not only does my daughter stay engaged but I do too. What tactics do you use to keep TV time limited?


featured image from flickr – Peter Miller, modified

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