Screen Free Learning Activities for Toddlers

Girl playing with dolls in front of dollhouse

Screen time has its place, but don’t buy into the idea that your toddler needs apps or screens to learn. Toddlers learn best from hands-on experiences, so next time you want to give those little brains a boost, skip the screens and try one of these five screen-free activities for toddlers!


Sorting activities are great for helping your toddlers categorize and create order, helping build their attention and problem-solving skills. There are endless ways to introduce sorting activities to your toddler, so as they begin to master one type of activity, you can move on to something more challenging.

If your toddler knows a few colors, color sorting is a great way to start. One classic activity is to paint the different compartments in an egg carton with varying colors and provide craft pom poms for them to sort into the correctly-colored compartments. Of course, you can make it even easier by drawing circles with different colored crayons and sorting small household items into the circles by color.

If your toddler is a bit older, try out more advanced categories. For example, they can sort their stuffed animals and figurines into zoo animals, farm animals, and pets – or even African animals, ocean animals, etc.


Like sorting, matching is a great cognitive-boosting activity that has endless variations. A super easy way to get started? Gather some socks in a basket and let them find the matches! When you first get started, you can make it easy by choosing sock pairs that are clearly different sizes and colors. As they get more skilled, increase the challenge by only sock pairs that look fairly similar.

When they’re ready, try more advanced matching activities like matching pictures of different natural settings to the animal who lives there. You can always find free or low-cost printables for these types of activities!

Constructive Play

Constructive play is just a fancy term for “building things,” and it’s one of the best ways to build your toddler’s pre-math skills! You can provide different ways to explore constructive play with toys like blocks, building bricks, magnetic tiles, train sets, and even play dough. As your toddler gets older, they’ll start to attempt more complex builds, so be sure to build with them often to give them ideas and direction.

Tactile Letters

When you incorporate multiple senses and make it fun, you can start promoting letter recognition from a young age. A few of our favorites include:

  • Letters in the sand. Put some play sand or kinetic sand in a tray and provide printed letters for your child to practice copying with their finger in the sand. While they’re still learning their letters, you may only want to introduce one or two letters at a time.
  • Ice cube letters. Purchase an alphabet ice tray for a fun sensory and letter-recognition activity in one. Take all your letter ice cubes outside in a bin, and let your child paint them on a hot day. Talk about each letter as they pick them up!
  • Shaving cream letters. Cover the craft table in shaving cream, and let them start practicing their letters in it! It’s messy but oh-so-fun.

Real-world Role Playing

Remember that, for toddlers, social and emotional learning is perhaps even more important than learning letters and numbers. Pretend play is one of the main ways your toddler makes sense of the world and their place in it, so encourage it any chance you get… especially when they’re interested in role playing real-life scenarios. Fantasy-based pretend play is great too, but real-world roleplaying is especially helpful for learning social norms, practicing their social skills, and growing their vocabulary.

Follow their interests and pretend with them as much as possible. You can also encourage their pretend play by providing toys like dress-up clothes, play kitchens, doctors kits, and other real-life props. For even more immersive pretend play, the Let’s Pretend Pop Ups let you set up an entire restaurant, vet’s office, or grocery store in the playroom in minutes.

For more educational play ideas, check out our favorite activities to build your child’s communication skills!