The basic supplies you’ve got to own (and the activities you can do with them!)
I love being able to do countless toddler activities and projects on a whim. Any day, any hour of that day, we can usually find something to do around here because we are set up to rock n’ roll. That makes for one happy mom and two happy kids, and (most importantly) keeps the crazies away.
The number one question I get asked all the time is what are the essentials? What could I absolutely not live without? The bare bones. The basics. The “will run to Target unshowered to buy ASAP” activity supplies that keep me sane with my two super young kids.
Here’s my back to basics, just the essentials, MUST HAVE toddler activity supplies.
Let me preface this whole list by saying I am a complete and total miser. I hate spending money. So when I’m willing to buy something or spend my hard earned cash, I better be getting a great return of investment: they better do well for me (i.e. extend into a lot of activities, contribute to a wild amount of fun, and makes loads of happy learning time to be worth the dough).
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Under the bed storage tub: I want to say this list is all in random order – and from here on out it really is – but this is my number one activity supply for a reason. I have an extra, empty under the bed storage tub that I use for everything. Sensory bins go in here, art project get done in here, messy play… guess what? I do it in this bin. Without an extra tub, projects would go everywhere and messy/sensory play wouldn’t be as achievable. Need to see this tub in action? Try my rainbow oobleck, pouring station, and rice bin.
Crayola Washable Tempura: Best paint I’ve found for toddlers. The colors are bright, it’s definitely washable, and it paints so well. I buy only the primary colors and mix up my own secondary colors to use. Some of my favorite projects using this paint have been our Toy Paint, Cookie Cutter Painting, and Easy Christmas Ornaments.
Food Coloring: Food coloring makes everything so much more special, baths especially. We dye water all the time – pretty much everyday something gets dyed at some point. As far as I’ve seen, we haven’t had any problem with stained toddler bodies. As long as the dye is diluted enough – you are good to go. Food coloring makes baths instantly more fun and makes water come to life. Some of my favorite activities using food coloring: Fizzy Fun, Cool Whip Painting, and Bubble Foam.
Water Beads: Best bandwagons I’ve ever jumped on. This is such a random supply to have on hand but I’m so glad I do. Water beads are fantastic sensory items. They start out pin head tiny, grow in water over a few hours, and boom – hello amazing toddler supply. Rainy day: water beads. Sick Mom day: water beads. Each bag has about 15 batches and each batch lasts about 4 days so you get a lot of bang for your buck. Try these ideas for water bead fun: Water Beads Scoop & Transfer and 4 Easy Water Bead Activities.
Construction Paper: It seems like a simple supply, but don’t forget to have lots construction paper on hand. When I taught grade school, I had students each day asking to take paper home – it’s just one of those forgotten items. We love this pack and it lasts forever.
Kraft Paper OR Butcher Paper: Having a large roll of paper has saved my bacon more times than I can count. These giant rolls are the best. They’re heavy weight paper which is great for toddler art – nothing breaks through. We’ve used our giant rolls (yes, we have more than one) to Dino Paint, Cookie Cutter Painting, and Toy Paint.
Trays: Random random but little trays keep activities in a nice space and make things just look better. Laugh all you want but activities can be a little like eating – you know, you eat with your eyes… Trays keep everything together and define the learning space. Everything looks more official and more inviting on a tray. Here are some times I’ve used trays and been so glad I did: Scoop & Transfer, I Spy, and Play Doh Faces.
Shower Curtain Liner: Probably the best idea I ever had was getting a cheap shower curtain liner and using it as a toddler tarp. Best. Idea. Ever. Seriously. It’s the perfect size for easy storage and it washes up in the laundry machine for some seriously easy cleaning. Makes messy activities so manageable! You can see our liner in action in Shower Curtain Paint, Rainbow Oobleck, and Pudding Painting.
Pom Pom Balls: Oh sweet pom pom balls. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways AND the endless toddler activities that I’ve done with just one 300 count bag (I keep them in a Ziploc bag and just reuse them constantly). I can’t even decide which pom pom activities to link to, but we’ll go with Pom Pom Push, Pom Pom Pool, and Pom Pom Grab.
Plastic Tongs: These plastic tongs are inexpensive and absolutely perfect for toddler hands. Win. Win. Win. These tongs are so amazing for fine motor skills and they make even the most mundane activity into a huge winning success. Everything is more fun with tongs, like Shoving Station, Block Stack, and Fall Leaf Craft.
Ice Cube Trays: In a world full of ice machines, ice cube trays are going out of style. Not with this Mom. Ice cube trays are BOMB. They are little tiny spaces for cute little supplies. A place to sort into! A place to make frozen chalk! I’m so glad I kept my two ice cube trays. The world of colored ice cubes needs them… My obsession with ice cube trays can be seen in Making Patterns, Scoop & Transfer, and Colored Ice.
Even more random items that I just can’t live without.
Con-Tact Paper: This sticky stuff is so much fun to use for toddler activities. Peel off the back to reveal a sticky, tacky surface perfect for sorting or for toddler art. I loved it as a teacher and love it at home. We’ve done Sticky Mosaic and Sticky Wall.
Pipe Cleaners: You just gotta have pipe cleaners on hand. They make for easy, quick project fun. Plus, did you know they’re magnetic? Cookie Cutter Fishing is probably my favorite pipe cleaner activity.
Munchkin Letters: Ok so I know this is actually a bath toy and probably not something you expected to see here but I love these letters so much and use them in activities all the time, even with my baby. Need proof? Window Grab, Floating Letters, Bath Targets – just to name a few. I probably do an activity a week with these letters.
And that’s my list! What are your most essential supplies? What can you absolutely not live without?