This week, I wanted to try something different. I decided to set aside my usual thematic and respond to a need which has been expressed time and time again on forums: activities suited for 2 and 3 year olds. Since I have spent the last two years working with children in this age group, I have several successful activities to share with you.
My years of experience, although short, have helped me realize a very important fact. At two years old, routines and transitions are frequent and occupy a great part of the day. At this age, it is preferable to carefully plan these routines and transitions and then complete the day with brief activities. Keep in mind that with meals, naps, potty training, and hand washing, little ones are busy enough as is. The activities planned throughout the day must never overburden children's already hectic schedule. Favor discovery and exploration activities.
Hoping this short document will please you and be useful!
Lunch and snack:
Drink with straws
Add food coloring to milk
Decorate placemats, tablecloths, or paper plates
Have a candlelight lunch with quiet music
Have a picnic
Make a tent and eat the snack inside
Play Mr. Jell-O. Children must lie on their mats and be flabby like Jell-O. You walk around lifting their arms and legs to see if they are really limp.
Use toy glasses or a giant magnifying glass (sometimes found in dollar stores) to examine tiny hands to make sure they are really clean.
Make a transition bin. Fill a storage bin with small objects found at a dollar store. Children have access to this bin whenever they are waiting for the rest of the group to complete an activity. Review the content of the bin regularly.
Stick a large sheet of paper to the wall and attach crayons to it with a string. Children can draw between two activities without the trouble of having to clean up afterwards.
When the noise level peaks, initiate a search for Mr. Silence. Look under tables, behind furniture and doors. Mr. Silence only comes out to play when it is quiet.
Motor skills activities
Have paper ball fights or sponge fights.
Show pictures of various animals and have children imitate their cries or their walk. Speak of their habitats and feeding.
Suspend beach balls from the ceiling at children's level. They will have fun tapping on them to make them bounce.
Have a workout session. Play energetic music. Children can reproduce your exercise moves. When the weather is nice, this is a great outdoor activity.
Make sound bottles. Fill empty water bottles or medicine containers with various objects such as rocks, dried pasta, buttons, money, sand, peas, rice, etc.
Make odor bottles. Use small opaque bottles such as film bottles. Fill them with sweet smelling elements such as coffee, cocoa, various flavors of Jell-O powder, dried fruit, etc. Pierce holes in the top and have children guess the content.
Play a game of sound bingo. Record several common sounds such as an alarm clock, a cat, a police car siren, a door closing etc. Draw pictures associated with the sounds on a piece of paper. When children recognize a sound they place a marker on the corresponding picture.
For water games, add bubble bath or food coloring to the water. Freeze small toys in water. Children will have fun watching the ice melt to find what is hiding inside. For children to experience the difference between hot and cold, fill rubber gloves with hot water.
Creative arts activities
Instead of painting with a traditional paint brush, offer sponges, paint brushes meant for wall painting, or even vegetables. Cutting a potato in two is great. Shapes can also be cut from the potato to create stamps.
During summer, hang a white shower curtain outdoors and invite children to paint on it. This is perfect for warm summer days when children are wearing bathing suits. Once the activity is complete, a splash of water from the hose and you have mess free fun!
Musical awakening activities
Use puppets at song time to animate your songs. Allow the puppet to sing in your place.
Invent a story animated with sounds. When given a signal, children produce a certain sound with a musical instrument, their hands or their mouth.
Have each child bring a fruit to daycare and present it to their peers. Once children have all had their turn, make a large fruit salad.