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TV-Free Activites That Keep Toddlers Engaged and Happy

Based out of Dallas, Texas, Kacie McCoy is a writer and social worker. She's a single mom, lover of Texas barbecue, and a die-hard fan of yoga

Entertain your toddler's growing brain with these smart activities

Trying to keep a toddler entertained is no joke. With all their energy and curiosity, they're always getting into something — so it's super easy to throw a iPad in front of them and call it a day.

But if you'd rather keep your child occupied with some screen-free fun, we've gathered some great activities that are educational and entertaining.

1. Paint with cotton balls

Entertain your toddler's growing brain with these smart activities
Image: Domestic Mommyhood

Painting is a tricky endeavor with a toddler. Your little one likely wants to paint, but may have a hard time grasping a brush — and finger paints are a total mess. Try cotton ball painting for a new kind of paint project. It's still messy, but the clothespins reduce the mess and are easy for little hands to hold.

More: 12 Ways to Raise More Independent Kids

2. Bubble pop road

Entertain your toddler's growing brain with these smart activities
Image: Hands on as We Grow

I have a confession: This activity is one that I would readily enjoy with my kid. It's perfect for toddlers who are super energetic and want to stay moving — with both their bodies and their toys. Save your Bubble Wrap and create a road through the house. Your toddler will enjoy popping the bubbles for as long as you would like.

3. Toddler Plinko

Entertain your toddler's growing brain with these smart activities
Image: Teach Me Mommy

When I was growing up, I always thought The Price is Right game Plinko was mesmerizing. Your kid will probably think so, too, when you create your own toddler-friendly Plinko game on a wall at your home. Who knew paper towel rolls could provide so much fun?

4. Thread pasta beads

Entertain your toddler's growing brain with these smart activities
Image: Laughing Kids Learn

All you need for this activity is Play-Doh, straws and large noodles. Your toddler will enjoy the threading activity and he or she will also build fine motor skills in the process.

5. Splash with a water bin or table

Entertain your toddler's growing brain with these smart activities
Image: Simple Little Home

Sure, this activity will require some cleaning up, but it's totally worth it. Fill a bin or tub with water and drop various floating and sinking objects into it. For extra fun, you can even add a few drops of food coloring. Just make sure to supervise the activity closely since children sometimes tip into the tub.

6. Create a space for wall art

Entertain your toddler's growing brain with these smart activities
Image: Little Moments to Embrace

Foam blocks aren't just for bath time anymore. Affix contact paper to a wall with the sticky side facing outward so your toddlers can place foam figures directly on the wall. They'll love the artwork and you'll love the fact that this art activity requires little supervision.

7. Sculpt with cloud dough

Entertain your toddler's growing brain with these smart activities
Image: Powerful Mothering

Whip together some cloud dough for a sensory activity that your toddler will love to sculpt and mash. The material is fluffy, dry and won't stick to little fingers. Special feature? If your kid chooses to put the dough in his or her mouth — which will absolutely occur — the ingredients are safe.

8. Contain the mess in plastic bags

Entertain your toddler's growing brain with these smart activities
Image: Mama Smiles

Finally, here's one last idea for mamas who want to distract their toddlers without having to pay for it later. Squeeze paint into firmly sealed plastic bags and affix them to a tabletop with tape. Your toddler will paint to his or her heart's content without creating any mess at all.

More: 9 Ways to Reduce Parental Anxiety That Actually Work

Before you go, check out our slideshow below:

Entertain your toddler's growing brain with these smart activities
Image: St. Clair Hospital

Originally published August 2015. Updated March 2017.

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