2 And a 3 Year Old Activities

Updated on July 29, 2010
S.D. asks from Olympia, WA
14 answers

I have a two year old daughter and a 3 year old niece. My niece started living with us fairly recently. She is very verbal, more physically careful, has a great memory for alphabet, animals, counting etc. and loves music. My daughter is extremely, extremely physical, has a great understanding of, but limited use of vocabulary. She is fearless and will climb to the top of (and then jump from) the highest possible object. She likes a couple songs, but actually stops me when I am singing something apart from her top two. Anyway, they love (and also fight with) each other and are almost complete opposites.

I am looking for (inside) activities.
I take them to the park, long walks or to another outside activity every day. We also have our yard set up to be fun. We read books,draw and do other normal inside activities...but we still run out of things to do and when I am worn out, they are still bouncing off the walls, making big messes or fighting. Any of you have suggestions of how to keep both busy and engaged for a while? Something that complements both personalities and ages? And, (is it possible?) would have minimal cost, setup/cleanup time. Now, this might just be unreasonable, but if you were to give me an idea that would also allow me five minutes to read my own book or make an uninterrupted phone call I would be eternally grateful. Seriously.

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So What Happened?

Thanks for the suggestions folks. I'll keep on reading, it can never hurt to have more ideas!

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answers from Seattle on

I highly recommend the book "Unplugged Play". It's got a TON of activity ideas for different age groups, and focuses on individual and group play, as well as inside and outside home activities.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Rice in a big, shallow plastic tub (like the under-bed bins from the storage section at Target) is a big hit at that age! Add some toys that can get buried and some cups and spoons for pouring, and if you have a small colander that's great too. And, to keep it relatively mess-free, put the whole thing on a large vinyl tablecloth or something like that.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

puzzles, playdoh(you can make homemade), water paint books/wonder color paint books,

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

There were some good ideas here, but SERIOUSLY, as you ended your post, if you really are looking for time to read a book or make a phone call longer than 3 mins, the kids need to be absent! I cannot believe respondents who say that their child, at this age, plays with xyz "for hours". Yes my 3 and 4 yr old actually do play with playdough for quite a while, but every 5 mins I interrupt what I am doing to mediate a disagreement over tools/colors/space, take someone to potty, to come and see! Etc etc. The list goes on - they are incredibly creative at getting me away from something I want to do if my attention is not on them. They are getting better, but they used to always fight if I was on the phone, and they still often do. My solution is trades. I do it 2 ways. Either I invite a friend over with her kid(s), she plays with them for an hour and I do housework, study, phone calls. Then I take the kids for an hour and she goes for a walk, runs an errand and so on. Afterwards we often hang out, take a picnic to the park or something, so we get some adult social interaction. Next time we go to her house so she can do stuff in her home. Other times I drop my kids with the friend at her house for 2-3 hrs and repay the favor later in the week. I'm busy juggling kids, grad school and a husband who works alot, so I don't always have the time to reciprocate and so cannot ask friends to trade. But I do when I can, I do, and my friends all seem up for it, cos they need a break too! Alot of my friends and mom aquaintances still only have one child and so I thought the trade idea might not seem fair to them since I have 2, but they really don't seem to mind at all. Parents of single kids are often really wanting temporary playmates for their little one. Also going to other houses gives them variety from play at home. Just make sure they have similar values to you if this is important. Seriously, if you want to be able to read a book or make a phone call without the inevitable distraction, one of your "activities" should be trading. I think this gets to the heart of the matter and I hope this helps!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

My first best answer would be playdough. It is amazing how long they can sit down with the stuff if given the space, some supplies that work with their individual level of ability, and enough playdough per person. If you are purchasing it, let them each select two bags of the stuff--the plastic cups seem to contain less (maybe it's me?) and they need enough to really get themselves engaged. One bag for each kiddo, and two to share/supplement.

Regarding props and tools--stay away from those 'pumps' and extruders (where you mash the playdough in through a hole to make a shape.) After the 800th whine, you will want to throw them out the window, b/c they are difficult to use. Instead, mine your kitchen. Popsicle sticks, straws, pasta cutters, rolling pins, cookie cutters or canning rings, plastic scissors (a great way to practice cutting) and save all the lids from bottles, etc.--the kids love to press these things into the dough. Add a couple artists palates, muffin tins or other fun places for them to put their bits and pieces (we're encouraging dramatic play here) and they'll be set. Oh, and two plastic or vinyl placemats, which will help designate their individual spaces, which they need help with at this age.

You'll need to supervise, and help them practice asking for turns, but I've found this to be a big hit. In fact, we took some playdough to a beer festival as entertainment for our son, and found that a lot of adults are very happy to play playdough too! have fun!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

It's not minimal cleanup but something that keeps my 3 and 4 yr old boys busy for a long time-- sometimes as long as an hour!-- is painting. I started them on this when the younger one was 2 and he's an active little daredevil like your daughter. I got some washable paints and sponge paintbrushes from the craft store for under $15. I put the boys in old t-shirts and cover the table with a couple layers of newspaper then let them get to work painting me masterpieces. I let them paint on large sheets of paper, paper plates, and sometimes I buy little wooden crafts like dinosaurs etc. for them to work on. They absolutely LOVE this activity and even though I have to wash up messy hands afterward, it keeps them occupied and in one place for a while which is amazing. Plus, I end up with some great pieces of art that I can display in my home. :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I can understand the personality differences. It sounds like my two kids.
Get them involved with making cookies or cupcakes. Get a dustbuster so they can help you vacuum
Have you thought of an indoor ball pit?
My oldest entertains both of them while she plays house. I often read as they play house so I can still run interference.
Otherwise patience. Let them get used to living together and then maybe they will settle down and start to play without you interferring.


answers from Eugene on

They are a year apart in age. Three and four year olds have more in common than a two and three.
My daughters were completely different. One intellectually gifted and the other a experience and physical type. To get some time for a shower I would put out the finger paints for the younger one. I put newspaper on the floor and table and let her go for it. I also found playdough a great help. We made cakes, play dough and bread together. I bought butcher paper and put it on the walls in the hallway. On it they could draw or paint to their heart's content. The ones they really liked were cut from the roll and placed on the refrigerator door or higher up on the wall. I replaced the butcher paper where the gap was.
I know herbs and sometimes we would go on herb walks while I taught them what was okay to eat and how to identify each plant. My older daughter had begun learning from a neighbor and when I saw she had such an interest I continued.
Whatever skills you have can be passed on at an early age to the two children in your care. Even simple things like using a cherry pitter or an apple peeler or making apple sauce are good activities.
We also had a garden which works once a child shows interest in growing things. Even a few growing plants on the balcony can keep them from arguing. Each one can plant her own box and keep it watered with reminders.



answers from Tulsa on

they are too young to do it right but sweep the house, dust cook dinner with you, play dough, easy bake oven (loved it when I was a kid) dancing. picture books. work books. old days jacks with the ball and everything. make you a card with scissors and glue or even for an elderly lady at church. give them some washable markers or crayons scissors, glue, elbow noodles, beans, strings and cotton balls. wiggley eyes. good luck you may have to try alot before you find one.



answers from Fresno on

I say buy a mini bounce house that can be set up in the house or outside. Also, my 3 year old loves doing crafts. You can buy cheap paints, stickers, felt etc.. at a craft store. Water activities in the backyard are usually popular with that age.



answers from Spokane on

I am a music and movement teacher and parents often tell me how much they use the activities in class to stimulate the kids at home. The class may only be once a week for 45 minutes but the value is having home materials and Cd at home where your kids can explore and be the teacher and try new things on their own. When we were young we went to musical preschool classes too! My mom said she would just put on various LP's ( CD's) and then go back to her duties . We would listen to marching music and carry on to that, then PEter and the Wolf. Carnival of the Animals, Harry Belefonte. She would play a wide variety but it always included a lot of classical which has a lot of depth and drama which would get our imaginations going. We would come up with stuff for hours. Less is more. Fewer toys& More Empty space for moving with just a few scarves, instruments empty cardboard boxes, yarn balls and the imagination takes over.Toys are too specific these days and you can only do one thing with them. Boring is better, then the child makes it active and interesting and THAT IS FUN!
Best Wishes!



answers from Pittsburgh on

Things that keep my kids engaged are:

playdoh - will hold their attention for over an hour

silly putty - I just recently showed them how to press it against paper to capture a picture or print then distort it by stretching it

Crayola color wonders - keeps them creating and is no mess

magnetic drawing boards - love to draw, erase and do it over again

At that age, my kids also loved Candy Land Castle, playing instruments, building with mega blocks, playing with a kitchen set, playing with an indoor basketball hoop.



answers from Seattle on

I love all the answers so far. Another is make a fort. Holy cow, I can put a blanket over a table and my 2 & 3 year old will play for hours. Another one we do is train tracks or set up a race track for them and let them put matchbox cars down it. This keeps both my son and daughter happy for hours at a time.



answers from Portland on

I highly recommend dot paint and those crayola "magic" paper coloring books, where the markers only draw on the pages and not your furniture. The dot paint might keep your daughter interested, because it's not about coloring in the lines and it's more about doing a fun action and getting a picture at the end. Other things...balloons. Blow up a bunch and let them play. Try water play outside. Get a big bucket or mini-pool or water table and they can play with little animals for a while. Maybe big foam letter puzzles or something like that too. The three year old could try to put them together. The two year old could play with them. You are wonderfully busy! It gets easier soon.

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