12 Fun Learning Activities for 2-Year-Olds

Looking for ways to entertain and educate your little one? Check out these expert-recommended indoor activities that will enhance your 2-year-old's development.

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After your child celebrates his second birthday, he'll experience major intellectual, physical, social, and emotional changes that will help him make sense of the world.

"The stage from 2 to 3 is major because language is really beginning to develop," says Robert Myers, Ph.D., a child and adolescent psychologist, founder of the Child Development Institute, and assistant clinical professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine. "Children are also starting to recognize that they're independent beings and are actively exploring their world."

Dr. Myers adds that parents can provide encouragement and support that enable the child to master key developmental tasks. For example, they can introduce children to hands-on learning activities.

"Always layer activities with lots of language, interaction, and imaginative play," adds Roni Cohen Leiderman, Ph.D., dean of the Mailman Segal Center for Human Development at Nova Southeastern University, and co-author of Let's Play and Learn Together. "Child development comes through the portal of relationships with parents or caregivers."

With that in mind, try these simple learning activities for 2-year-olds at home. They'll entertain your child while aiding his development.

1. Play Dress Up

Haul out a pile of old clothes and let your child play dress-up. "You can also participate, but it's great to encourage group play with two or three other children their age," Dr. Myers suggests.

Skills learned: Creativity, imagination, language skills, and social development

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  • To buy! Toptie Kids' Role Play Costume Set, $49.99, amazon.com
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  • To buy! Disney Princess Dress Up Trunk, $34.99; amazon.com

2. Decorate a Crayon Carrier

Cover a table with newspaper, then gather a resealable Ziploc bag, glue stick, pompoms, and crayons. Let your child use the glue stick to coat the Ziploc bag and help him stick on the colorful pompoms. He can fill the bag with crayons when it dries. Next time you go to a restaurant, whip out the carrier and let him show off his creation. He'll be excited to use his creativity again.

Skills learned: Motor planning, creativity

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  • To buy! Crayola UltaClean Crayons, $2.99, target.com
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  • To buy! Mr. Sketch Gel Crayons, $9.99; amazon.com

3. Hide Toys

For an easy indoor activity for 2-year-olds, hide a toy somewhere in the house, and ask your child to find it. Explore with her, using cues like "warmer" and "colder" to guide her. You can also use flashlights for the search or hide several objects at one time.

Skills learned: Listening, problem-solving, social skills, and memory

Parents Editor Picks:

  • To buy! Chuckle & Roar Scavenger Hunt Game, $9.99, target.com
  • To buy! Family Scavenger Hunt in a Box Game, $24.99; buybuybaby.com
  • To buy! Outset Kids Scavenger Hunt In A Box, $18.99; kohls.com

4. Make a Mailbox

Create a mailbox by decorating an old shoe box or cardboard box and cutting a slit in the top. Fill it with your junk mail for your child to open. "Not only does this develop fine motor skills as she opens the envelopes and takes out what's inside, you can use it to teach your child basic concepts," Dr. Leiderman says. "Talk about the pictures, colors, and letters; help her sort it by size, shape or color; or count the pieces. You can also layer in imaginative play by playing post office, or playing store with the coupons."

Skills learned: Develops an understanding of basic concepts, fine motor skills

5. Imagine a Boat

After your toddler sits on a towel or blanket, gently pull her around the room. Pretend the blanket is a train or a boat and that you are stopping at different places, like the zoo, the grocery store, or a favorite restaurant. This activity for 2-year-olds at home will also improve her balance!

Skills learned: Balance, pretending

6. Trace His Body

Have your child lie down on a large piece of paper and trace the outline of his body. "Because the child has to lay still to be traced, he learns self-control," Dr. Leiderman says. "You can show him where the two eyes, nose, and mouth go, but if your child just wants to color all over it, that's fine. Don't impose anything on him, just let him have fun with it."

Note: If your child doesn't want to lie still, don't force him. Start with tracing just his hand or foot, or tracing your hand and foot.

Skills learned: Sense of self, self-control, and identifying body parts/language skills

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7. Play Simon Says

Start out with simple directions ("Simon says, touch your toes"). Then graduate to silly, more complex routines ("Simon says, tug on your left ear, then your right ear"). You can also encourage your child to jump, skip, catch something, and more. And don't forget to drop "Simon says" every now and then during this learning activity for 2-year-olds!

Skills learned: Gross motor skills, following directions, and receptive language

8. Try a “Stop and Go” Game

Play games that involve starting and stopping, such as "red light, green light." Developing self-control will eventually help children negotiate, compromise, and work out conflicts without losing her temper, Dr. Leiderman says.

Skills learned: Self-control

9. Craft a Collage

Cut out different noses, eyes, hair, and other features from old magazines, and give them to your child. Encourage her to make funny creatures or silly faces with the features, then glue them onto a piece of paper. "Talk to your child about the pieces and how to glue them down, but don't be too directive with it," Dr. Leiderman says. "Ask a lot of 'wonder questions,' like "I wonder what would happen if you put the pieces down without the glue?' and 'I wonder why the glue is getting all over the table?' Childhood is about learning new facts and applying them to theories, so help them make theories."

Skills learned: Creativity, language

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10. Pass a Ball

This fun activity for 2-year-olds requires a play tunnel. Standing at opposite ends with your child, take turns lifting each end to roll a softball back and forth. "This can take some trial and error for your kiddo to get the hang of, but it's great motor planning practice and takes teamwork," says Rachel Coley, an occupational therapist, author of Simple Play: Easy Fun For Babies, and founder of CanDoKiddo.com.

Skills learned: Motor planning, understanding cause and effect, teamwork

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11. Drawing Songs

As you sing one of your child's favorite songs, draw a simple picture of what is happening in the lyrics, then hand your child the paper to draw something else mentioned in the song. For example, Coley would sing "The Itsy-Bitsy Spider" to her son, first drawing the spider and then having him draw his version of the rain. Go back and forth until the song ends.

Skills learned: Language skills, creativity, storytelling

12. Initiate Conversation

Hand over a doll or plush toy, and encourage your child to hold, talk, dress, and take care of it. "Talk to the doll the way you would talk to a child, and encourage your child to do the same," Dr. Myers says. In addition to language skills, this activity for 2-year-olds also teaches creativity and imagination.

Skills learned: Social, language and fine motor skills, creativity, and imagination

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