Active Play Ideas for Toddlers

Girl playing with dolls in front of dollhouse

If your toddler had their own anthem, it would probably be “I Like to Move It” on repeat. Even the chillest-of-the-chill toddlers still have a natural instinct to run, climb, jump, and move a ton throughout the day. While those wiggle-worm tendencies can be exhausting for us grownups, all that activity develops your toddler’s gross motor skills, improves their sleep, and helps regulate their mood. So don’t fight it – embrace it! These active play ideas can help your toddler get the movement their bodies crave in a way that’s safe, non-destructive, and fun for both of you!

Outdoor Active Play Ideas

Simply being in open outdoor spaces is a great way to encourage active play! If they need more inspiration, get moving with these easy active play ideas!

Capture the Flag (The Toddler Version)

A competitive team game of capture the flag is probably out of your toddler’s wheelhouse, but they’ll love a toddler-modified version! Use play silks or kitchen towels as your flags and tie them throughout your yard for your toddler to retrieve. Place them in places that encourage different types of movement (stretching, squatting, climbing, etc.). Then have them race to get them as fast as possible!

Nerf Battles

Nerf wars are always a fun way to get the whole family on the move! If they turn out to be a hit with your toddler, you can up the ante with a full Nerf hideout!

Bubble Chase

An easy but oh-so-fun classic! Blow bubbles. Chase. Pop. Repeat.

Climbing Games

Climbing engages all the major muscle groups, so it’s a great way to tire your toddler out and help them develop gross motor skills! Pretend to be mountain explorers on your little one’s playset, slide or toddler climber. Or play rescue by tossing a toy onto the playdeck of their playset, “rescuing” it by climbing up, sending it down the slide, and repeating!

Indoor Active Play Ideas

When the weather or your to-do list leave you stuck inside, these play ideas can still help your tots stay active!

Bear Hunt

Put a spin on the classic hide and seek by hiding a favorite teddy bear stuffie for each other to find! Make it extra fun by adding binoculars and flashlights and coming up with silly hiding places!

Shopping List

Have your little one take a shopping “trip,” filling up their favorite wagon with items from around the house. You can give them ideas for things to grab or even print out a visual list if you’re feeling extra motivated. To make it more engaging, end the trip by playing check out on the coffee table or at their Shopkeeper Stand.

Floor Tape Courses

For a simple, mess-free version of an obstacle course, grab some painters tape and make various lines, paths, and shapes on the floor. You can come up with specific activities to do for each shape (jump in the triangles, spin around in the circles, hop between dotted lines, etc.) and then race through the course together!

Hallway Bowling

Empty water bottles or paper towel tubes make great bowling pins! Have your little one set them up, grab a ball, and bowl away! They’ll get plenty of movement throwing and going up and down the hall to reset the “pins.”

If it’s the summer heat that’s keeping you indoors, our 6 Indoor Summer Activities for Toddlers can help you pass the time too!