Busy-body games for toddlers

To play smart you need to keep your toddler's body busy, but his brain happily stimulated too. Here are some hand-picked activities that do just this. 

12-18 months

Place the hat

Develops: Gross-motor, social awareness

You will need:

  • Familiar people or fluffy toys
  • Variety of hats

Place the dolls in different areas and at different heights in the room. Let them assume different positions, for example sitting back to back, on all fours, sitting on the floor with knees bent.

Encourage your baby to choose a hat to place on a figure’s head. He will have to collect the hat and then move between the toys seated with their backs together to reach the target. Cheer when he places the hat on the assigned head.

Treasure seeker

Develops: Sorting, senses, gross motor

You will need:

  • A bucket
  • A muffin tray

Take a walk together around the house or garden and let your child seek a collection of interesting treasures to place in his bucket. Pour them out and let him sort them into different sections of the muffin tray, according to colour.


  • Change hunting grounds.
  • Sort based on different concepts such as size or shape.

18-24 months

Musical catch

Develops: Gross motor, imagination, social interaction

You will need: 

  • Variety of music

Listen to music. Let your toddler decide what type of movement it dictates. For example, heavy drums may be the stomping of an elephant. Light music maybe a bird in flight. Let him move about that way until you shout, “A hungry mother is on the...stomp/tip toe/crawl/slither/run.” He then stomps as fast he can as you chase him. When you catch him cuddle and kiss him.


  • Let your toddler catch you. 

Tent fun 

Develops: Listening, tactile sense 

You will need: 

  • A blanket

Place a large blanket over yourselves, like a tent, in the garden. If your child needs light use a torch. Be quiet and listen for different sounds around you. Ask him to call out what he thinks he is hearing.


  • Place objects in his hands, such as a crisp leaf or a smooth stone. He must identify it by touch, without looking. 

24-36 months

Story play

Develops: Symbolic thinking, memory and language 

You will need: 

  • Children's books 

Encourage your child to select a page from his favourite book. Act it out. Select characters and perform the roles of the various animals, machines or whatever it is.


  • Use different stories 
  • Let him think up different endings
  • Use props

Artistic me

Develops: Gross and fine motor, creativity, colour concept, senses- movement, visual, auditory and tactile

You will need:

  • Baby shampoo
  • Non-toxic, washable, powdered tempera paint
  • Large balloon
  • Uncooked rice 
  • Old sheet

Mix the paint and shampoo together and allow your child to paint himself with his body paint mix, outside on a warm day. Once dry, place an old sheet down on the ground. Blow up a balloon with a few grains of rice inside. Let your child hit the balloon into the air and count how long it takes for her to catch.


  • Throw it to your child and let him catch it and hit it back to you.
  • Shake the balloon like a maracas and boogie to it. 

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