“Mom, what can we do?” is a common question in our home. It can be a challenge to keep kids busy with stimulating activities, especially if they are eager to learn. My kids love doing crafts, playing pretend and spending time with mom or dad. We also encourage our kids to play independently. These interactive activities and educational toys encourage kids to keep on learning, exploring and problem solving.
Stimulating Baby Activities
Even very young kids actively observe and learn from the things that happen around them. Some of the best baby toys teach babies about cause and effect actions, textures and simple logic.
This cube playset from The Learning Journey has shaped sliders which babies can push along a slot. On another side, babies can fit chunky shapes and letters through matching shaped holes. The 3D shapes and letters all fit inside the cube through a soft silicone flap opening. Through simple motion, babies can also swirl beads inside a colorful spiral dial.
I appreciate that this toy is mostly silent, low-tech and doesn’t require batteries. A baby can easily reach for this toy or hold it in their lap. Babies can explore color and tactile motion with this simple yet engaging activity cube. It’s a great gift idea for baby’s first birthday or a baby shower!
Baby Sensory Bin
Another stimulating baby activity is a DIY busy box. You can easily make a baby sensory bin using oversized pom poms, a cut up egg carton, wooden shapes, soft toddler toys and crumpled up pieces of paper. Each item in a baby sensory bin should measure at least 3 inches in size to not be a choking hazard.
Create this baby sensory bin by placing medium to large items of different textures into a bin. A baby will have fun digging around and exploring each item.
Color Matching Shapes
Kids ages 2 to 4 years old can practice identifying colors and matching shapes. You can make a color matching game for toddlers using shapes cut out of foam or felt. Use large cookie cutters to trace shapes onto pieces of colored foam or felt. Cut each shape out and assemble in piles of same shape or same color. Once you have made enough shape pieces, the game is ready to play! Mix all the shapes together and encourage your toddler to match the pieces either by shape or by color. Kids can also identify all the warm colors or all the cool colors.
Interactive Pretend Store
My kids love playing pretend. They especially enjoy pretending things from real life. My kids’ games include running a pretend store, having a garage sale, or setting up a lemonade stand. To set up a store, kids can collect an assortment of toys or items from their bedroom. Arrange the items for sale on a table and make paper price tags. Once the store is “open” the whole family can visit the store to go shopping.
A kid’s cash register is a great interactive toy for a pretend store. This cash register from The Learning Journey allows kids to practice buying and selling with pretend money. Kids can buy things from each other and add up the total using the working built-in calculator. They can also accept pretend money and make change using the paper bills and plastic coins. A slot on the side allows kids to swipe the plastic credit card.
My kids love taking turns using this cash register and selling each other pretend food or their favorite stuffed animals. The register’s check out process is engaging and also reinforces the concepts my kids are learning in school about the value of money. They can make the correct change for a dollar using the plastic pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. And when they go to an actual garage sale, my kids can use these same concepts to buy something in real life.
The Learning Journey is a great resource for finding interactive toys and kid’s activities. I think toys like this are perfect for kids who are actively exploring their world. You can find The Learning Journey on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest.
Artsy Science Projects
Art and science experiments share a lot of the same basic principles. Both subjects require observation, experimentation and perfecting the final result. Kids will enjoy doing any of these creative activities that encourage learning through play.
Potato Stamp Art
This potato stamp craft is a fun way to use color, simple sculpting and attention to detail to create an original design or pattern!
Materials needed: 1 or 2 potatoes, a small knife, colorful craft paint
To make potato stamp art, you will need several potatoes, a small knife and colorful craft paint. Use the knife to cut each potato in half. Cut out the edges of the flat side of the potato to create a shape that will act like a stamp. Dip the potato stamp in a thin layer of paint and press the stamp firmly down onto a clean sheet of artist’s paper. Repeat with another stamp or another color until you’ve created a design on the paper. You can use paper decorated with potato paint stamps to wrap presents, create custom cards and more!
Another artsy science project combines kids love for playdough, experimentation and making a mess. I can’t tell you how many times my kids have mixed things together just to see what will happen. Kids can make playdough volcanos using their favorite colors of playdough and watch baking soda and vinegar boil over and onto a tray.
Materials needed: Playdough, a tray, baking soda, vinegar
To make a playdough volcano, form a mountain-like sculpture with a hollow in the middle. Position the volcano in the middle of the tray. Scoop a quantity of baking soda into the middle of the volcano. When you’re ready, pour a small quantity of vinegar on to the baking soda and watch the playdough volcano bubble over!
Kids can do this playdough volcano activity over and over again. Kids can also experiment with using different quantities of vinegar and baking soda. When you are done, you can pat the playdough volcano dry using a paper towel and salvage the playdough to use for future play time.
Easily mix up your own colors of homemade playdough using flour, water and salt! You can find our simple DIY playdough recipe here. Kids can help make homemade playdough, choose the colors and enjoy sculpting their own playdough creations.
Homemade playdough lasts several months if you store it in an airtight container. The salt in the playdough is a natural preservative that helps keep it from getting moldy. You can create as many colors of homemade playdough as you’d like! You can even add essential oils to make scented playdough. Or mix in glitter to add some sparkle to your homemade sensory playdough.
I think it’s important for my kids to enjoy learning and be eager to discover new things. We try to incorporate creative kids’ activities throughout our week all year round. Any of these educational activities for kids can help reinforce love for learning!
Katie is a writer and influencer based in beautiful Coeur d’Alane, Idaho. She enjoys DIY projects, photography, decorating and going on family adventures. She feels blessed to be a wife, a stay-at-home mom to three kids and a Pacific Northwest lifestyle blogger.