10 Preschool Learning Activities for Active Kids

After our first week of quarantine, I shared our homeschool schedule and everything we are doing to maintain some sanity throughout this weird phase of life.  There was some novelty that first week with my 3 year old and after that week I had to quickly think of some new ways to get him engaged. I don’t want to constantly fight with him about “doing school” so I wracked my brain for some new ideas. Ellis is incredibly active and I finally found some preschool learning activities for an active preschooler that work! 

Last Friday, they officially announced that schools will not open back up this school year in Illinois.  As many other states have done the same. I want to do a follow up to the original post now that we are in it for the long haul of at least another month. Hopefully you have found your stride, given yourself lots of grace and know that what works best for your family may not look like everyone else’s.

I have a 5 year old in kindergarten, a 3 year old in his first year of preschool and a 14 month old toddler.  My 5 year old can get distracted, but there are some school activities that he enjoys. My 3 year old on the other hand. Phew! If you have an active toddler or preschooler, these activities have worked really well for my active kids.

We are still following the same schedule– some days we are more on it than others but the boys expect it which keeps us grounded. Integrating chores is also sooo important. If your house is anything like ours, people are eating constantly! And there are constant dishes and toys and homeschool supplies to clean up. 

Our philosophy is that keeping up with a household is a family job. Check out these other chore ideas if you are looking for more ideas on age appropriate chores.

The following post has affiliate links, please refer to the disclosure policy for more information.

10 Preschool Learning Activities  for Active Kids

Related Post: 10 Simple Finger Food Meals

I have to put another plug for this website, because I have gotten a ton of ideas on here and want to give credit where credit is due! Busy Toddler– This website is a mecca for toddler/preschool activity inspiration.

1) Homemade playdoh We tried this our first week and a great activity for active kids since it’s so hands on. Not only was this a great science experiment, we talked about how the consistency changed as we added ingredients. Add in a pack of sea animals or shapes to increase play and creativity. 

2) Lots of big floor puzzles! You are going to notice a theme. If I can find a bigger version of anything, it is usually a win. 

5 Continent Puzzle Pack– We used this our first day of homeschooling and I’ve recommended them to various people. Another great one for 2 or 3 year olds is this world map with matching animal cards. 

Floor Puzzles- These large puzzles are a great conversation starter as well! Like this Melissa & Doug Solar System Puzzle or Massive Dinosaur Puzzle or this beautiful Underwater Ocean Floor Puzzle.

preschool learning activities

3) ANY work on butcher paper! These 4 items have given me tons of activities. Sometimes I put them on the wall and other times the floor. You can pretty much make anything you see on a worksheet into something bigger so they can stay active during the activity. These have been a few of our favorites:

Supplies: Butcher paper, Post-it notes, Dot Stickers, Do a Dot Art Markers

Number Recognition (pictured above): Number values 1-15 drawn out with dots and also written down on post-it notes. Student works on matching the numeric values by placing post-it number on top of the correct number of dots.

shape practice for preschoolers

Shape Practice: Draw a variety of shapes all over a large piece of butcher paper. Instruct student to color in all the triangles in red, then squares in blue, etc.  Or they can pick the color they want. 

homeschool activities for preschoolers

Addition Practice: Use dot markers or dot stickers to practice addition. Write a few basic addition equations on a butcher paper, with a large square after the equal sign. Have your student put each number in different colors and then count all the dots in the square to state the final answer.  

activities for active preschoolers

Letter Recognition: Write their name in huge bubble letters. On the dot stickers, write their letters  randomly all over the sheet. They work on putting all the letters in the appropriate place.  The day before I wrote all the letters of the alphabet on the butcher paper and he had to match them with the ones written on stickers. This name activity was an extension of that. 

4) Chopping and helping out around the kitchen. A lot of times my preschooler just wants to be near me and help out, so having him chop fruits or veggies is one of his favorite activities. You can check out all my favorite kitchen supplies for preschoolers, but a wavy chopper or a pack of intro knives are a great place to start. 

preschool learning activities sorting beads5) Sorting Work. Any activity where you can sort items has been working well. Sorting beads into different colors, sorting animal sets into where animals live or size etc., and collecting items to find out if they sink or float. Animal sets can also be used to talk about their names, draw them out on paper and lots of other tactile activities. 

6) Real Life Skills. This busy board activity binder is a great intro to a lot of real life skills. Has buckles, zippers, tying work, and buttons. They can then move on to their own clothing and shoes. 

7) Themed Days. Another tactic that keeps my boys engaged is having themed days. The work above was our solar system day: we read two books, did one of the floor puzzles listed above, listened to a couple planet songs and watched a short youtube video on asteroid belts. Then we used cookie cutters and cardboard planets to trace out the planets and draw our own. Butcher paper again! My oldest then practiced his handwriting by labeling everything. 

Botany Day: We planted some seeds, read a couple books on what is a seed and parts of a plant. Our art project was construction paper flowers where we labeled the different parts of a plant. 

8) Building Activities. This activity was a favorite. Of course, they were able to eat some of the supplies.  They build huge structures with marshmallows and toothpicks, and it was great watching them figure out how to make them stable/taller/bigger. 

9) Educational Toys. There are some games and activities that are easily integrated into a school day activity. Especially on a day where they are not feeling up to doing much. 

Dinosaur Fossil Dig Excavation– Very engaging and hands on way to learn about dinosaurs and fossils. 

Imagination MagnetsStill one of our favorites after owning it for two years. Fun pattern play that ranges in difficulty from easy to more difficult.

Insect Lore Deluxe Butterfly Garden– There is nothing better than the real thing to help stimulate the minds of your little budding scientists. In this garden, you get 5 caterpillars, all the food they need and a mesh habitat to grow your butterflies.

creative art preschool learning activities

10) Creative Art. Creativity and art are essential at this age. Coloring or drawing on regular paper can get old, so adding some different activities has kept it engaging and fun. Above is an activity we did at Ellis’ 3rd birthday and it was so fun, we did a version of it again. A huge canvas drop that was hung up on the side of the garage. They used paint  poured into water guns and spray bottles (mix with a little bit of water), and foam paint brushes.

Sidewalk painting of our shadows: We turned our chalk into paint by crushing it and adding a little water. Traced our shadows and painted them in. This was perfect for a nice day art project. 

The boys also do lots of watercolor painting at school so we invested in watercolor sets for each and a pack of large watercolor paper

Hope these ideas help add some fun activities to your homeschool days! If you have any you’d like to share, leave them in the comments for us all to read. 🙂 

Related Post: 15 Essential Books on Kindness for Toddlers & Preschoolers

Homeschool Schedule, Activity Ideas and Resources!

The world is just crazy right now. That is the only way I can really sum up everything going on.  Currently, I’m in the second week of having the two older boys home from school, practicing social distancing and trying to create some sense of normalcy around this obscure time.  I created a homeschool schedule from the start, because that is just how my brain works.

Before we jump into any of that, remember this is SURVIVAL. This isn’t a period of time that will be your new normal forever.  Before you do anything, give yourself GRACE. Lots of it. I’ve had some great days with my boys, and some days like today when they didn’t want to do anything I had planned.  And that’s okay.  We’ll start over tomorrow. 

This time looks different for everyone. Some of you are working from home, some still have to go to work, others can manage this time with both parents and others with only one. Because of this, what works is not a one size fits all. You can see other families’ schedules and activities, but at the end of the day, you have to decide what works best for your family.  

I almost didn’t write this post, because there are so many schedules and ideas going around.  But I have found inspiration in all those things and love seeing what everyone is doing at home. So I want to share what is working for us, not to give you a fail free formula but maybe some ideas that will make your days in quarantine a little easier. 

This post covers routines and schedules, including our sample schedule, activities and resources as well as Amazon links to some of our favorite educational toys.  You can scroll down to whichever section you are most interested in!

Routines & Schedules

If you’ve been around this blog for any amount of time, this isn’t a new topic for me.  Babies and children work better with a schedule, or at least a general routine for how their day will go.  This was affirmed during our first quarantine weekend a few days ago.  My kids were so much more whiny and frustrating when they had a “free day”. 

Most importantly for me, I argue with them less with a routine.  One day last week my 3 year old Ellis got up from his nap around 2:30, which I have as quiet time until 3. Options are to read a book, he can color, do a puzzle or any calm activity. He asked his brother to race cars with him in the basement. My 5 year old Miles walked over to our routine (written on an easel) and explained to his brother that it was still part of the school day and quiet time.  That he would play with him at 3. I guess he’s my son, huh? 🙂 

While Ellis was upset, he grabbed something to do quietly. It is a bigger fight with him when it is new and unexpected.  Most importantly, routines help tremendously with screen time. They know when they can watch tv or play with tablets.  They don’t ask for it all day, because they know exactly when it’s allowed.  All in all, it really helps with behavior, emotions and the flow of the day. 

Routines for Babies and Toddlers

There is a series of blog posts on sample schedules for babies and toddlers. They are separated by specific ages as babies change so much within months. If your daycare is closed or your nanny isn’t coming because of social distancing, these schedules may be a helpful framework to start with. 

Sample Schedules- Newborn to Two Years Old

Each schedule has a list of activity ideas, key milestones, some of the best educational toys for that age, in addition to a sample schedule.  Being creative with activities is especially helpful for toddlers during this time. Scroll down to the next section for activity ideas and resources. 

Routines and Schedules for Older Children

A great way to approach a schedule with older kids is to try and replicate what they were doing at school. It doesn’t have to be exact, but schedule lunch, recess and any other activities you can at the same time they do them at school. This helps keep some normalcy to their daily school lives, even if just a little. 

Side note: it’s also extremely hard to work from home and have conference calls with your children in the background. Especially if they are young and can’t work on something independently for too long. Each family’s situation is unique. You should decide what works best for you. It’s worth repeating that. Don’t feel pressure to create something that is not sustainable. This schedule is for you as much as it is for your kids. 

Our Current Schedule

This is the routine we are following during the Covid-19 school closure.  I have 3 boys- a 5 year old in Kindergarten (Montessori school, so officially he’s a 3rd year in 3-6), 3 year old in his first year of 3-6 Montessori or preschool and a 12 month old that was used to having me all to himself. 

Exercise: My boys are rambunctious so having a morning workout has been excellent. Even if it’s something simple, such as yoga and meditation. We use youtube for this: Cosmic kids yoga or zumba for kids- sometimes we do both!

Lunch and Outside Time: At school they go outside at 11:30 and have lunch at 12.  We kept that same window, but made it longer. I am having them help make their lunches and giving them more outside time to run and get as much fresh air as possible.

Related Post: How to Set Up your Kitchen for Cooking with Toddlers

Socialize: Facetiming with friends during or after lunch has been a great way to stay connected with classmates and family that we are not seeing on a regular basis. 

Naps/Quiet time: My 3 year old and 12 month old consistently take their afternoon nap at 1, so that has been fairly easy to maintain. My 5 year old gets independent work time or we work one on one on his sounds and pre-reading work.

Ideas for the other sections of our schedule are below! 

Activities and Homeschool Resources For Toddlers

(18 months-2 years old)

Related Post: 10 Simple Finger Food Meals for One Year Olds

In addition to the age specific schedules and activity ideas, here are some other resources for creating a schedule for this age group. If they are in daycare, following some of their routines will also help with the transition and sustainability of this time at home. 

Top Indoor Toddler Activities– great post for some quick ideas to get started. 

Create Magical Spaces– amazing inspiration for fort building or reading corner nooks.  It’s a perfect time to build forts and other things you normally don’t have time to do with your kids as you run from one activity or event to the next. 

Busy Toddler– This website is a mecca for toddler activity inspiration or you can also follow her on Instagram where she shares her best resources for having fun with toddlers.

*Scroll to the next section for some of my favorite educational toddler toys. 

Activities & Resources for Preschoolers

(3-4 years old)

Related Post: 15 Essential Books on Kindness for Toddlers & Preschoolers

I’ve found lots of great free printables on this blog called Life Over C’s.  Everything from alphabet work, to math and science, including these DUPLO number pages that were a hit at my house. Gave me the idea to use even more LEGOS for their work, like the addition problems my older son is doing in the second picture. 

homeschool schedule for temporary school closure

Make homemade playdoh! Not only was this a great science experiment, we talked about how the consistency changed as we added ingredients. My kids also played with it for hours, integrating sea animals and building structures of all kinds.

How I Organize my Preschooler’s Day & Activities

For my preschooler, I have a two hour work window in the morning from 9am-11am. Originally, it was 3 but that was just too long.  We’ve done this about  7 days now. Some days are better than others, depending on his mood. He rather be running and jumping and playing outside.

Working on practical life (prepping snacks and lunch), the alphabet, numbers, counting and map puzzles have been his primary focus.  

I saw an alphabet activity that another mom shared recently. She wrote out the alphabet on individual pieces of paper. One huge letter on each sheet. Then laid them out in a row, almost like a frog’s lily pads. Then her daughter jumped from one to the next. Saying the letter sound and something that starts with that letter. I love how it includes movement and would be a perfect fit for my son. 

Make your work window around what works best for your child. My 5 year old can work on 1-2 things during this window. But I set up a bunch of short activities for my 3 year old. He usually naps from 1-2:30, so he’ll work on quiet activities or games when he wakes up.

Activities & Resources for Elementary Aged Children

This article has TONS of online resources for kids in various subject areas including Kahn Academy and BrainPop.

Most schools and teachers are offering amazing homeschool resources to help you during this time. Definitely take advantage of those. Since my boys are in a Montessori school, the majority of my research has been specific to that pedagogy. Mostly because that is how they are learning at school and I want them to experience continuity.

The following post has affiliate links, please refer to the disclosure policy for more information.

We’ve also used educational games and play as they are young. This pack of map puzzles from Amazon was a great activity- we built the puzzles, talked about the world, drew them out on paper and then used our animal toys to discuss where they were from. Lots can come from one simple activity that you extend. 

My kindergartner has a 2 hour work window in the morning with his brother (9am-11am) and a 2 hour window in the afternoon by himself (1-3pm). A couple times in the afternoon I’ve let him use his tablet for phonics apps, it’s like a game but he is spelling and rhyming words the whole time.  We have also worked on his handwriting, reading and overall language skills during this time.  He needs quiet and concentration for this work, so it’s the best time to do it while his brothers are asleep. If he finishes before the two hours, he plays quiet games like magnet pictures, puzzles or LEGOS. Some of our favorite educational toys and resources are listed at the end of this post. 

In the morning, he works on math- addition and subtraction so far. And we’ve also tried lessons that his teacher shares via her daily blog post and google drive handouts. 

Chores and Expectations

We use chore charts and routine lists to integrate chores and daily expectations for the kids. They work well in getting a habit established in kids, especially young kids. And they also create a clear outline of what they are supposed to do when. 

Miles (5) is in charge of setting the table and cleaning it after everyone clears their own plate. Ellis (3) feeds the dog breakfast and dinner. They both make their beds in the morning (we need to work on this more 🙂 ), as well as help fold and put away their laundry.

We choose not to pay them for chores they do everyday. It’s something I learned from my oldest son’s teacher. Doing chores should be an expectation for their daily lives. Their home is also theirs- it’s a place to take care of and be grateful for. I think about them as adults, that instilling these habits within them now will carry over to adulthood.  Hopefully.

We do pay them for extra chores. Other times they have helped with bigger household chores, like deep cleaning the bathrooms or shoveling snow (not much help there, lol). Extra stuff like that we give them a small allowance. 

Master List of Age Appropriate Chores– from toddlers to teenagers. If you need age appropriate chores for your kids. 

Routine Lists– Have kids monitor their daily progress with a morning, afternoon and evening checklist. Each of my sons have two checklists. One for upstairs where their room is and one for downstairs in the kitchen. 

Daily Routine Chart– If your child loves to have something to pick up and move, rather than check things off a list- this is a perfect starting point. Miles used this routine chart when he was 2 and 3. 

Educational and Concentration Toys


  • Boley 12 Piece Safari Set– These animal sets are perfect for speaking and vocabulary building.  You can talk about the animal names, they can set up a safari scene, you can also buy another farm set and categorize which ones go together.
  • Busy Board Activity Binder– Working on practical life tasks are a perfect toddler toy. They are building skills, but also love learning how to figure it out, this one has buckles, zippers, tying work, and buttons.
  • BeginAgain Dinosaur A to Z Puzzle– I love the entire line of puzzles from this brand! They are all wooden, beautifully made, durable and a great “next step” puzzle.
  • Melissa & Doug Standard Unit Solid-Wood Building Blocks– Never underestimate the power of simple natural wooden blocks for endless open ended play and building. Works on motor skills, creativity and early engineering skills.
  • Magna Tiles 100 Piece Set– These magna tiles are all the rage and for good reason! There are really endless amounts of possibilities so it helps your 2 year old use various skills at one time.
  • Do a Dot Art Markers– Great introduction to marker play and creative design. Helps develop hand eye coordination and art creation in a simple medium before advancing to more complex drawing. There are lots of alphabet and number printables you can download where toddlers use these markers to practice.

Preschoolers and Kindergartners

All of the toddler toys also apply to preschoolers, as most are open ended and can be enjoyed for multiple years. Personally experience this twice over now with both of my oldest.

  • 5 Continent Puzzle Pack– We used this our first day of homeschooling and I’ve recommended them to various people. The boys do the puzzles but then they trace them on paper and color in the countries. The kindergartner then writes out the names of the continents and oceans. 
  • Color Matching Mosaic Pegboard– Perfect for younger preschoolers. The pegboard activity is great for creativity and fine motor skills.
  • Imagination MagnetsStill one of our favorites after owning it for two years. Fun pattern play that ranges in difficulty from easy to more difficult.
  • Floor Puzzles- These large puzzles are a great conversation starter as well! Like this Melissa & Doug Solar System Puzzle or Massive Dinosaur Puzzle or this beautiful Underwater Ocean Floor Puzzle.
  • LEGOS-No list is complete without mentioning LEGOS. They are a great quiet time activity, help with concentration, following instructions and early engineering skills. Start with DUPLO sets and move up to the older sets around 4 or 5. The LEGO city collection is a great starter set or the LEGO and friends has lots of characters and adorable scenes.
  • Insect Lore Deluxe Butterfly GardenThere is nothing better than the real thing to help stimulate the minds of your little budding scientists. In this garden, you get 5 caterpillars, all the food they need and a mesh habitat to grow your butterflies. So cool!
  • Qwirkle– All this social distancing will also make room for family game nights. Preschool is the perfect age to get started!  Qwirkle is one of my favorites. Involves strategy and pattern play that make it fun for adults and kids.
  • I Never Forget a Face Memory GameMemory games are a classic and perfect educational game for preschoolers and kindergartners. We start out with a small amount and move on to bigger “boards” the more we played. And this memory game in particular is beautiful! Another option is the Life on Earth Matching Game that has more animals and plants instead of faces.


15 Essential Books on Kindness for Toddlers & Preschoolers

 One of my son’s best friends has leukemia.  She was recently diagnosed a few months ago. (Before I continue, her mom knows I’m writing about this. She gave me the idea of sharing one of their many pictures together.) Also, know she is going to be okay and is currently in a 2 and 1/2 year treatment plan.  She is a strong, brave and incredibly intelligent young girl.  We are lucky to have her in our lives! Helping my son navigate this change in his friend reminded me again how books are truly powerful,  especially books on kindness.

While acknowledging that nothing Miles has gone through is even remotely close to how this is impacting his friend’s life, it’s a great reminder on friendship and kindness. Navigating a friend getting sick is a difficult experience for an adult, let alone a 5 year old.  She missed school for a long time and then because of her medicine, she looks differently and is more tired. Amongst many other side effects. The only way I can describe his overall reaction to her is fear. Fear of change and uncertainty and an unclear picture of what is happening. 

There were a few interactions that made me aware of his fear and uncertainty. At this point, she has not lost her hair yet from chemotherapy.  One day, Miles goes up to her and says, “I don’t like bald people.” Yes, it is heart wrenching to hear that he said that to her. This is his best friend. I don’t think it was malicious.  He is scared of how she is going to look because it’s different than what he’s used to, and also scared of what it means.  This does not make it okay by any means, because it probably hurt her feelings. I had to pause and reflect on why he chose to say certain things. Her  clapback (response) was absolutely the best though! She responds, “Your dad is bald. So you don’t like him!?”. Which is very true. Lol.  

Miles proceeded to ask his father if he was scared when he lost his hair and if he had cancer also.  All these things were clues that he had not fully grasped what was going on with his friend and needed to talk about it more. Even though he was telling me otherwise.

Why I didn’t buy books initially

I have bought books for so many things in his life- potty training, becoming a big brother, kindness, embracing diversity etc. I initially didn’t buy any books to talk about his friend! Serious mom fail. Since this is a classmate, they were talking about it a lot at school. He seemed like he was getting an overload of information.  If I brought it up, he’d say “I know, I know.” I concluded that he was receiving a lot of information and I should back off. 

I should have known then, that me talking or his teacher talking is very different than reading a book! A book gives them imagery and a story they are not personally involved in.  Taking out the pressure of how he was supposed to be or act or say, was very beneficial for Miles- and most kids. 

All the information he was hearing actually got confusing and overwhelming, so he started shying away from the topic instead of embracing the change.  They were told at school to be careful around his friend- that she can catch colds easier so don’t share snacks with her.   At one of our playdates, he had an uncharacteristic response to sharing with her. He didn’t want a lollipop she brought to share with him. This kid doesn’t turn down sweets nor does he have emotional reactions to things like that. It was a wrapped lollipop- which is not the same as sharing a lunch or opened snack that they have at school.

It dawned on me that he really did not understand what was going on. Why sharing this snack is okay- how he can’t catch cancer- how his friend is the one that can catch colds and fevers from him. As a result of him not having a full understanding, he started to come off as unkind. All these things happened around the same time- the comments about the hair and snack sharing. 

I truly feel that the majority of the world would be kinder to each other if they understood each other more, and empathized with each other’s differences.  But that could be an entire post on its’ own!

Turning Point after Reading some Books

So I finally bought a couple books about children that got cancer and/or more specifically, leukemia. Almost immediately I saw a change in how he spoke about his friend and what she was going through. In the books, they were very clear about how the child was feeling- how cancer is something you fight- especially as a community. He internalized how he has a role to play in helping his friend fight cancer. 

A few days later on the playground, a couple girls said that his friend looked “fat”. One of the visual side effects of taking steroids, is that she looked different than before.  Miles turned to them and said, “My friend has cancer and you hurt her feelings!”.  

Miles is by no means perfect. He will probably still say the “wrong” things sometimes, but I do think he showed up as a friend at a time when it mattered. I know it meant something to her, that she didn’t have to fight all these changes and reactions by herself- at least not every single time. And I hope he will continue to show up like that in the future. 

Books 100% made the difference- so important and powerful. 

Why Should we Read Books on Kindness?

In general, one of the biggest values in our family is kindness- not just saying nice things to their friends- even though that is an important first step. But also being a peacekeeper in their classroom, an includer if someone new wants to play with them, and speaking up if someone else says something mean- even if it’s not to them.  It is something that shows up in small ways, not just something you focus on when something more difficult happens (like a serious illness). 

Kids develop and prefer acts of compassion at a very young age.  As they enter daycares and schools- they are immersed into large groups of kids with differing personalities.  The lines become blurred and they need guidance on how to approach the world. 

This is why young kids are especially open to learning about kindness and compassion. We need to teach them the importance. How to identify emotions and feelings.  How to encourage appreciation of others that are different than them and empathize with someone else’s perspective or feelings. 

Many times when we talk, it can go in one ear and out the other.  As my example above reminded me! Books give them imagery and another world that makes a lasting impression. Kids remember them like they are living them in real life. They give our kids the language and context they need to fully embrace a concept or big change.  

This made me reflect on all the books I’ve gotten for the boys that I absolutely love and feel they make a profound impact.  Books on different types of kindness that will become essential parts of your home collection. 

Related Post: 10 Best Children’s Books to Diversify your Library

This post contains affiliate links, please read our disclosure policy for more information. 

Best Toddler and Preschool Books on Kindness

books on kindnessBe Kind– Perfect introductory book on kindness. Expressive pictures and descriptions on simple acts of kindness. Shows kids that kindness is not a difficult feat to achieve, it’s not huge gestures, but little acts in your daily life that can make a huge difference.

be kind books for toddlersShould I Share my Ice Cream? (An Elephant and Piggie Book)– If you do not have an elephant and piggie book, run and get one! My boys think they are soooo funny. And they always deliver a great message through a fun and engaging story by these two lovable characters. Our first that we loved was “Waiting is not Easy”. 

books on empathy for preschoolersThe Rabbit Listened– Beautiful book! Makes kids reflect on listening to their loved ones, instead of automatically offering what they think would be best in a situation. Good reminder that everyone needs something different to feel better when they are sad. 

Book of Empathy for KidsI am Human– This book was recommended to us by my son’s friend and her mom.  They were reading it and she exclaimed that he looks like my son Miles.  And he does! This book describes all the ways being human is always a work in progress. We all have great and challenging aspects of ourselves. It describes how it’s okay to make mistakes, pointing out good choices to use as responses to those mistakes. 

Books for kids giving to othersLast House on Market Street– Appreciating what we have, enjoying the different people in our communities and giving back. This book reads like an ordinary day between a boy and his grandmother, but paints a beautiful illustration on appreciating all the people around us and the power of giving back in simple ways. 

books for preschoolers kindnessThe Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade– Encouraging story about a girl that is little, but fierce. She notices all the bullying and unkind things around her.  One day, she chooses to speak up and her small voice makes a huge difference.  Perfect example of “see something, say something”. Even if it’s not happening to you. 

toddler books on feelingsTaking a Bath with the Dog and Other Things that make me Happy– Great first book on feelings and identifying the things that make us happy- all the little things throughout the day. Good precursor to a book directly on kindness, as identify feelings and how different situations make us feel differing emotions. 

feelings book for toddlersThe Way I Feel– Another essential book for toddlers on identifying and naming their feelings. The one listed above talks about being happy, while this one explores a variety of emotions. Uses imagery and verses to describe different characters’ feelings and what made them feel that way. Also a great conversation starter, you can ask your kids if they can identify a time or thing that made them feel that same way. 

empathy books for preschoolersA Sick Day for Amos McGee– A man works at the zoo and has 5 different  and close animal friends. Shows how we can be friends with people that are different than us, and different animal species also! After the man develops a cold, the friends all repay his kindness and friendship with the same in return. Demonstrates diversity and kindness beautifully. 

working through conflict books for kidsTalk and Work it Out– This book is for older kids, maybe 4 and up. It gives kids specific language for how to deal with conflict with their friends or classmates or siblings.  Kindness is essential in handling conflict, but very hard for kids to think through what that looks like when they are upset that their friend took their toy or doesn’t want to play.  This book will give them tools to work through peaceful conflict with friends. 

books for kids on including othersStrictly No Elephants!– Great message on being includers. Little boy is excited to attend a pets’ club with his pet elephant. But he wasn’t allowed in. After feeling sad, he encounters a girl with a pet skunk. They eventually form their own club with other non traditional pets. But everyone is invited to join. Even those in the other club.

Stick and Stone– Perfect book for toddlers on being a good friend and sticking up for each other. Uses rhyming sing song verses to show the power of loyalty and a subtle anti-bullying message that is influential for young readers. 

Same, Same but Different– Kindness is also rooted in understanding and accepting differences.  This is a great book on long distance friends that live in different countries, and while there are so many differences because of that. They find all the ways they are similar. 

The Barefoot Book of Children– A book for learning about the children of the world.  Learning about differences creates empathy and acceptance- key elements of kindness! Also a great conversation starter about differences in a safe space. You can observe what your child brings up or you can ask them questions about what they see in various pictures. 

books about friends being sick for kidsHow do you Care for a Very Sick Bear?– Our last essential recommendation for books on kindness. Explores the friendship between two bears, showing kind and gentle examples on how to be a good friend through sickness. Describes how they may feel and simple gestures that young kids can do for their friends. Your child doesn’t need to have a sick friend to enjoy this book, instills the value of kindness even when things change and are difficult. Great addition to any home library. 

The Absolute Best 2 Camera Baby Monitor

You’re about to find out which is the best 2 camera baby monitor on the market! Save the headache of buying the amount of monitors I have, that eventually all give out. Even if you only have one child, you can use it with just one camera, or get a second for a playroom, or already be prepared when you have a second baby! You buy the monitor with one camera and add a second (or third or fourth!) separately. Yep, up to 4.  Seriously the best. 

Our Baby Monitor Journey

Ugh.  I haven’t had a bunch of baby video monitors because I love buying them and go on wonderful shopping sprees. They just stop working or aren’t user friendly. My family consists of 3 boys. I have an 11 month old Rhys, he’s my third boy.  My older two sons are Miles who is 5 and Ellis who is 3 and 1/2. Ever since I was pregnant with Ellis (4 years ago), I started researching, and then purchasing video monitors that could have 2 cameras.  A 2 camera baby monitor was and is important to me. I can see the nursery and toddler room simultaneously but only carry around one monitor receiver. 

At this point, I think we’ve gone through 4 or 5 different monitors since our very first one when Miles was born. It’s beyond time I share my experience with you all, and tell you the absolutely best one.  Because you’ll save money not having to re-buy the same product 4-5 times like I did.  

We started with video monitors from the beginning.  And audio monitors to bring on trips or have as a back up. It’s comforting to be able to see your baby in their room.  Hearing them sleep in the beginning, to seeing what they are up to in their crib later on, and finally to see if they are getting out of their toddler bed after transitioning.

Even now, my two older boys share a room and if one of them has a bad dream or has wet the bed, we know because of the monitor.  Yes, they are old enough to get up and walk to us. Sometimes it’s nice to hear them having a hard time and meet them where they’re at. It’s also super convenient to hear and talk to them through the monitor.  For example, their brotherly interactions while in bed are adorable to hear, but I can also press the microphone and tell them it’s time to stop telling jokes and go to sleep.  At night, I have the monitor set up to switch back and forth between their room and the nursery. 

Which Baby Video Monitors Did Not Work?

These are my experiences, but I also have a lot of mom friends and my history is not unique.  Our first video monitor was a Motorola MBP36S wireless video monitor, and it is capable of having multiple cameras.  It worked okay at first, but after a short time- it would always lose the signal and beep obnoxiously.  We lived in a small condo at the time. Even though it claims to cover a 590 feet, we never experienced that to be true. 

Since we had already purchased it, we decided to keep trying to make it work.  Like positioning the monitor closer to the room to keep the connection, even though that kind of defeated the purpose of having a baby video monitor in the first place.  Then, it finally gave out- when it started losing its’ charge quickly or not charging at all when plugged in. 

Next, we had the Summer Infant Video Monitor.  Which worked fine, until it didn’t.  I replaced the power cord more than once.  Eventually, it stopped turning on completely. Now that I have a camera that works well, I realize it didn’t have that long of a reach either before the connection would get lost.  Finally, my parents got a different monitor to have when we visited.  That one had a terrible image resolution and died within the first year as well.  Even without consistent use. 

When I was pregnant with my third, I was super annoyed that I was shopping for a monitor again.  I did tons of research and wanted to get one that would actually last me until I didn’t need a monitor anymore.  I wish I knew about it earlier!

This post contains affiliate links. Please refer to my disclosure policy for more information. 

Okay, okay. I’m sure you’re anxious for me to tell you about the monitor I actually LOVE.  After tons of research, we landed on the Infant Optics DXR-8 Video Baby Monitor.  The reviews alone will tell you how amazing this camera is. Now that I’ve had it almost a year,  I want to give you the real mom reasons why this should be your first choice from the beginning.  

Absolute Best 2 Camera Baby Monitor 

Best 2 Camera Video Baby Monitor The Camera

The Infant Optics DX-R Video Baby Monitor initially stands out for a variety of reasons. One feature is that it’s one of very few baby monitors that has an interchangeable lens.  Based on the room size or the position of your camera, you can choose the original lens, a zoom lens or a wide angle (sold separately). The original lens zooms in even without the special zoom lens, and it’s also capable of panning and tilting very far angles either up and down(120 degrees) or side to side (270 degrees).  See my sons’ room below. This is pitch black at night when they are sleeping.  I can span over to each of their beds, depending on who I need to check on. 

2 camera baby monitor night veiw

baby monitor at night

As you can see on the pictures above, the cameras also pick up the temperature in the room. This was so useful for us when we moved into our new house! The air and heating system was not working evenly, but we were able to make sure our boys’ rooms were okay via the monitor reading. 

baby video monitor interchangeable lensRight now we have two cameras. (The second camera is bought separately) One set up in the shared boys’ room and the other in the nursery. We have contemplated adding a third in the basement.  This baby video monitor can add up to 4 cameras. The boys often play in the basement, while I can’t be there. Either I’m making dinner or doing other things around the house.  Right now the 2 oldest are fine alone, but one day my youngest will start joining them. It will give me peace of mind to peak in on them if I am cooking dinner or other household chores upstairs. 

The Monitor

baby monitor camera viewThe Infant Optics video monitor has an excellent picture quality.  I can see the rooms clearly and the picture quality at night is great.  My baby Rhys likes to play a little before falling asleep, and sometimes he gets fussy before falling asleep. Lately, he’s been sticking his leg through the crib, and I can see that clearly in the monitor. I’ll go in and help him adjust, while if he was just playing and nothing was wrong, I’d leave him alone.   

The range has proven to be excellent.  It’s listed as a 700 feet range on the website, but all I know is that I haven’t lost the connection. We live in a 2 story house with a basement.  All the bedrooms are upstairs and my husband and I often watch a movie or hang out in the basement after the boys are all asleep.  The monitor does not lose connection at all, which is super important because I can’t hear the rooms well from the basement at all.  We also have a yard and I can go out there with the older boys while the baby Rhys sleeps.  I’ll put the monitor on the deck while I play with them. It doesn’t lose the connection even though it’s outside of the house! 

Waking up and playing after nap.

Many baby monitors have a 2 way communication talking feature, but it’s a feature that has proven to be necessary as babies become toddlers. Young babies will find your voice comforting, giving you a minute to make your way to their room.  Or you can remind toddlers to settle down into sleep. Most times that is all my boys need to hear- I’ll tell them really quickly through the monitor that it’s time to stop talking and get some rest.  Other times, I’ll go in there also- but it works enough that I always use it first. 

I usually keep the power cord in our room when I take the monitor downstairs, because I rarely need it to keep the monitor on.  I have it in battery saving mode the majority of the time which is about a 10 hour battery life in power mode or 6 hours when fully displayed. It’s a lifelong rechargeable battery, not anything you have to repurchase. It will make a loud annoying beep before it runs out of battery and turns off. Which is good so you know it’s turning off, even if it’s not in eye sight. 

Scan mode switches between the two rooms.  You can’t have both rooms showing at the same time, but I don’t mind this. For that to be possible, you’d have to choose a room to have sound for and the other room to mute.  When it scans, the monitor goes back and forth between seeing and hearing each room. 

Possible Cons

One con that other parents have mentioned is that the monitor only comes with one camera, and you have to buy the second and subsequent cameras separately. The good thing is that it makes a good monitor for people that only want a one camera video baby monitor, it’s not just great for the multiple camera features.  And as your family or needs grow, you can get buy the separate camera units. 

Other reviews have mentioned interference with cell phones near by, but I have not had this problem.  This could have been an issue with older models, since I have my phone and the monitor right next to each other on my nightstand every night. It does not use wifi, which means there is no app but I also believe this is why the connection and range are great and remain consistent. 

Finally, this isn’t the cheapest 2 camera baby monitor, but it’s also not the most expensive.  It’s exactly what you need. The fancier models have more features, they might be nice to have but you don’t need to spend the money if it’s not in your budget.  And the cheaper models I’ve already described. They tend to break often or have inconsistent performance.  Not worth it when you think how long you’ll use the baby monitor, especially if you have to keep replacing them. 

Let me know if you have any other questions in the comments! 

15 Christmas Gifts Kids Can Make

A few years ago, I started the tradition of making homemade gifts with my boys.  Originally the idea was that it would be gifts from them to various family members.  I want them to think about giving as an integral part of the Christmas season- not just always talking about what they want from Santa.   They were 1 and 3 the first year we made gifts, so the original  post was born- Gifts Toddlers Can Make.  A lot of those ideas can easily be made by older kids- probably even better and more independently.  But I also found a few fresh ideas that had to be added to our vault of homemade gifts kids can make.

These gifts have been well loved! And we’ve started incorporating their teachers as additional recipients. The idea of creating something with a few craft supplies and lots of love and intention really embodies what gift giving is all about.  The first two years we made fridge magnets and thumbprint keychains that you can find in the first post.  This year we are taking on shower steamers that are listed below.  

There is something so special about homemade gifts! Get your toddlers involved in the season of giving with these20 gifts toddlers can make.There is something so special about homemade gifts! Get your toddlers involved in the season of giving with these 20 gifts toddlers can make.Other things we are trying to incorporate every holiday season is purging some of what we have- either donating or throwing away toys that aren’t used. Also, volunteering and giving back to the larger society as a whole.  Hopefully some of these values stay with them into adulthood. 

Related: 20 Simple Gifts Toddlers Can Make, The 31 Best Toddler Gift Ideas & The Ultimate List of Preschool Gift Ideas

Lavender Heart Shaped Bath Bombs Spa like gifts are actually really easy to make! And inexpensive.  When you think of teachers and grandparents- a little relaxing bath product is always a great idea. Most people love them but don’t always buy it for themselves.These heart shaped bath bombs are adorable with their lavender pieces and relaxing essential oil scent. 

Citrus Sugar Scrub– This has 3 ingredients! Your kids can help you mix them together. Find cute jars to store them in and decorate with a ribbon and label.  Most importantly, it will be well loved!

Tissue Paper Votive Candles– these are simple, inexpensive and have a really nice lasting effect!

Hand Shaped Ring Dish You’ll never regret making a mold of your little ones’ hands.  One day, it will be so shocking that they were ever that small. 

Gifts kids can make heart necklacesPaper Heart Necklaces– We get A LOT of art home from school these days.  It’s hard to keep it all, but something that is wearable or has a function is super fun and something to be cherished forever. 

Washi Tape Wooden Bracelets– Another idea for wearable art! This one is very child led, if you are looking for a truly independent gift activity for the kids. 

Shower Steamers– These are our gift for this year. I’m excited about them! Make sure you listen to the instructions about adding water slowly. We already ruined a couple of batches.  The boys thought it was hilarious though- because they look like volcanoes and keep growing over time.  So not a total waste. Lol

gifts preschoolers can makeJewelry or Trinket Dishes– There are two posts that describe how to make these trinket dishes. Jewelry with flower paper or trinket superhero paper.  It’s a great idea to customize for different family members or teachers- deciding on how to paint the trays and what paper pattern to add. 

Painted Flower Pots– I love gifting flowers and plants- especially to teachers.  It’s such a nice addition to any room in the house, outside or in a classroom.  Can never have too many! Kids can paint these pretty independently as well. 

Sea Glass SunCatchers– These are beautiful additions for a kitchen window or breakfast nook- when the it catches the sun- it’ll draw amazing light all over your room.  Sweet way for grandparents to always think of their grandkids when they see that everyday. 

bath salts gift kids can makeHomemade Bath Salts– Yes, I’m still in love with all these easy spa like gifts that I personally think we all need! 

homemade gifts by kidsGingerbread Jar Cakes perfect for your budding baker and easily gifted in the mason jar. Win win! This reminds me of my baby shower- my sister and friend gave everyone Strawberry Shortcakes in a mason jar as the parting gift.  Oh my! They were such a perfect gift at the end of a long day.  I wouldn’t be mad if I left every party with a mason jar dessert. 🙂 

Peppermint Bar Soap– 10 minutes for a perfect Christmasy scented soap.  Done! Easily customizable with colors and other scents if desired. 

Sharpie Art Tile Coasters– If you haven’t noticed already, I love art gifts that are easily used around the home.  Your kids can paint a picture for someone on any day, but making them into household items that can be used is extra special. 

DIY Canvas Print– With a printed picture and a little glue, your kids could make their own Canvas art piece.  I love how this looks- would be a great addition to most modern home decor. 

The 31 Best Toddler Gift Ideas!

Toddlers learn the widest range of skills in the shortest amount of time than any other age range! Probably why they are so spirited, that is a lot of work. But thankfully for us parents, they work on a lot of those skills while playing. These toddler gift ideas are all about helping our little people thrive in everything they are learning. These ideas include open ended play, pretend play that is new and exciting for young toddlers, skill building like vocabulary and puzzles and just overall fun that can be enjoyed for years to come.

I’m including 12 months- 35 months (1-2 years old) in this gift guide.  Since so much changes in this age, I’ve listed more specific age requirements in the description if applicable.  Some of the toys are perfect for the young 1 year old toddler, others are best for 2 years and up.  Finally, they are organized into categories. Hope this guide helps cut down some of your gift shopping time! 

Related Posts: Daily Schedules and developmental milestones for toddlers can be found on the main  routines and schedules page. Split up into specific age ranges. 

This post contains affiliate links, please refer to my disclosure policy for more information. 

Related: The Ultimate List of Preschool Gift Ideas and 35 Baby Christmas Gifts Most Loved by Moms

Learning through Play Toys

safari animal set for toddlersBoley 12 Piece Safari Set

Toddlers are working a lot on speaking and vocabulary. These animal sets are perfect for so many different types of play.  You can talk about the animal names, they can set up a safari scene, you can buy another farm set and categorize which ones go together.  I love putting these in our diaper bag for when we are on the go, they work great waiting at a doctor’s office or other random places where you need something to do. 

Busy Board Activity Binder

Working on tasks that we find simple, are actually some of the best toddler toys. I have made some travel busy bags from household items that were LOVED by my boys- especially from 15-24 months. This activity binder has everything you need for a perfect travel toy- buckles, zippers, tying work, and buttons. 

Board Books for ToddlersLittle Feminists Board Book Set

Books are the best way to introduce lots of different topics to children- it’s never too early! This set is adorable and teaches your young children about amazing women throughout history. Great for babies-toddlers (longer length books for preschoolers)


Melissa & Doug Take Along Shape Sorter

Shape sorters are a perfect gift for the young toddler (12-24 months).  It’s easy to take along to a restaurant or weekend trip, but also play at home.  Identifying shapes and the motor skills associated with playing will guarantee lots of great play with this toy. 

puzzles for toddlersAwesomeCube Wooden Puzzles

Beginner wooden puzzles are a great introduction to puzzles. They are good quality, have bright colors, and are just hard enough that it will take your young toddler some time to play and figure them out. 18 months- 3 years old

BeginAgain Dinosaur A to Z Puzzle

I love the entire line of puzzles from this brand! They are all wooden, beautifully made, durable and a great “next step” puzzle.  Better for 2 year old toddlers and older, after they have mastered matching puzzles, they can move on to forming a picture with pieces. 

Lots of Pretend Play

pretend play toddler giftsPretend & Play Doctor Kit

This age is the beginning of pretend play and toys that fall into this category are perfect for this age.  As their vocabulary grows, their ability to create and tell stories bursts.  It’s a pretty cool milestone to observe.  Start writing them down! You’ll love looking back at these as they get older. The doctor set is our first one in this category.  Can be any other kit for pretending to be a  profession that they really like.

teepee tent gift for preschoolers

Teepee Tent for Kids

Hideaway spaces are perfect for the imagination.  I love how this teepee tent comes with a carrying bag, decor, and fairy lights! It’s also waterproof, which is everything with kids. It’s a great place to read with your kids or have them tell stories to each other.  Possibilities are endless. 

Melissa & Doug’s Pretend Play Kitchen

I love how neutral this pretend kitchen is. We ended up moving ours out of the playroom and into the kitchen and it’s nice when it’s not an eyesore to move around your home.  My boys stopped playing with theirs as much, but I turned it into a real kitchen station for them and it’s serving a whole new purpose.  

toddler gift ideas cleaning setLet’s Play House- Pretend Cleaning Set

I always see this pretend cleaning set recommended. You might also see it everywhere.  And it’s because- it is that good.   It’s simple, inexpensive and kids love it. Not sure why it really makes kids want to help.  My 3 year old son loves this broom ( and has since 20 months when we got it) ! He grabs it whenever he makes a mess and tries to help. 

Ultimate list of preschool gift ideas includes toys in various categories for your science enthusiast, builders, creatives and masters of imaginative play.Dress up Costumes

Pretend and imaginative play is not complete without some dress up costumes. You can get a pack of 6 or pick out the ones your child would be most interested in- maybe a fireman suit or a pack of princess dresses.doll house preschool giftWooden Doll House

Perfect wooden doll house that is good quality and fully furnished. This traditional 3 story dollhouse, is award winning and sparks role play imagination among friends. I like that it’s gender neutral, and anyone can play with it. 

wooden tool box toddler gift

Hape Fix it Kids’ Tool Box

A tool box is part of the idea that they can “help” you around the house through pretend play.  And we all pray that it lends itself to real helping later on.  🙂 But seriously, kids love to mock us, feel part of the family and feel important.  These types of toys do that. 

Active Play & Building Sets

basketball hoop toy for 2 year oldLittle Tikes Basketball Hoop

Your toddler is really working on hand eye coordination and this basketball hoop is a fun way to work on it! Can go indoors or outdoors. 

Mega Bloks First Builders Deluxe Set

Mega Bloks are a great way to start building before toddlers are ready for the LEGO Duplos that are for 2 years old and up.  My boys started with Mega Bloks around 15 months. And they still played with them after we got more LEGOS.

wooden building blocks for toddler giftsMelissa & Doug Standard Unit Solid-Wood Building Blocks

There is nothing like simple natural wooden blocks for endless open ended play and building. The quality is also exceptional and can be passed down to multiple kids or given to another family when your kids outgrow them.

Ultimate list of preschool gift ideas includes toys in various categories for your science enthusiast, builders, creatives and masters of imaginative play.LEGO DUPLOS

No gifts for toddlers list is complete without mentioning LEGOS. Start with DUPLO sets for 2 year old toddlers. They’ll graduate to the traditional sets at 4 or 5 years old.

building toys for toddlersMagna Tiles 100 Piece Set

These magna tiles are all the rage and for good reason! Higher price than other toys but we have built some pretty amazing structures with these- there are really endless amounts of possibilities so it helps your 2 year old use various skills at one time. And it grows with them through at least 5 years old or more. There are other sets you can add and expand your collection- they include vehicles and other shapes that help them build completely new ideas.

little tikes slide for toddlersLittle Tikes Slide

Perfect addition to a large playroom.  I’ve also seen them set up with a ball pit at the end- hours of fun!  And really, who doesn’t want a slide?

How to choose a toddler learning tower, kids kitchen helper or Montessori learning tower? 9 different options to research and choose from! Details optimal age range, benefits, as well as pros and cons of each. Everything you need to make the right decision for your family.

Toddler Learning Tower

These aren’t exactly toys, but I’m a HUGE fan of toddler learning towers.  After having a second son that always wanted to help and at least see what I was doing, a safe tower to be involved was a perfect addition. This is the original, but I have a whole post on everything toddler learning tower– what it is, why you would want it and other options out there. 


Riding Toys are Great Toddler Gift Ideas

Fairy Cozy Coupe

Riding toys are a big hit at the toddler age, or anything that resembles a car.  So I have a few different recommendations.  When we didn’t have a playroom, my sons would chase each other around the kitchen island with theirs’.  Even better if they can ride outside or in a basement. The cozy coupe is a well loved option or a motorcycle type riding toy. 

PowerWheels Thomas and Friends

Most PowerWheels are for 3 and up, but this Thomas ride starts at 18 months.  If you have the space and a Thomas fan, this will probably be their favorite gift ever!  It’s so fun and will make them truly feel like train conductors. 

Step2 Whisper Ride Cruiser

This is a great alternative to a stroller.  When we lived down the street from the park, we’d always take the car instead and it was a favorite for both my boys (third is still pending since he’s only 8 months, but I’m sure he’ll feel the same!) 12 months and up.

Schwinn Roadster Tricycle

This beginner’s tricycle is a must for younger siblings especially. They’ll have a little chance of keeping up with their older siblings. Great for 2 years old and up- it takes them a while to get a hang of pedaling so nice for them to have something now before they are full bicycle age. 

Fun & Musical Gifts for Toddlers

robot doll toddler giftFisher-Price Dance and Move BeatBo

There are just some toys that are purely fun.  I couldn’t leave this guy off my toddler gift ideas list, because this singing and dancing robot doll was so well loved by both my boys! It was also fun for me to watch them dancing and singing along with the robot. Now I buy it for a lot of my friends and their baby’s first birthday. Great gift for young toddlers 12-18 months.

Construction Trucks for ToddlersGreen Toys Construction Vehicles- Set of 3

Construction vehicle set that is environmentally friendly. Yes please! Great first set of vehicles as they are not sharp or heavy, since young toddlers still like to put things in their mouth and throw things up in the air. 12 months- 2years old

SmartKids Musical Instruments Toddler Toys

Musical instruments are exhilarating to young toddlers.  I know, I know- the noise is not always pleasant. Lol. But you could store them and take down when you are up to hearing their beautiful musical percussions!gifts for toddlers train setWooden Railway Set

A large train set really leads to hours of play- with setting up the tracks in lots of different ways and then playing with the trains. We’ve acquired at least 3 different sets that my boys put together. 

Ultimate list of preschool gift ideas includes toys in various categories for your science enthusiast, builders, creatives and masters of imaginative play.KidKraft Waterfall Mountain Train Set and Table

If you have avid train set fans, than a train table may be the right route to take. A train table keeps all the tracks together and organized. It is one of the first toys that my boys (at 2 and 4 years old) played together for hours without any arguments or destruction. So I would suggest it a lot when they were looking for something to do.  

Alarm Clock Lamp for ToddlersEcho Glow Smart Lamp

I’m really excited about this new Echo Glow lamp (comes out 11/20/19)! You do have to already own an Alexa compatible device like an Echo Dot to be able to program it. After you have both, you can set lighting cues to help with routines or rainbow countdowns. I don’t like alarm sounds at all. Having my kids pick their favorite song and color to wake up to sounds so much better!

Creative Play

creative play toddler toyHape Wooden Kid’s Art Easel

Gifts for toddlers wouldn’t be complete without some art items. Even though this play will truly flourish for many preschoolers. An easel is a great toddler gift that sparks creativity and is easy for you to help them draw shapes or letters. As my oldest son Miles started practicing writing, he would use the easel to practice and easily show us what he was working on. 

Ultimate list of preschool gift ideas includes toys in various categories for your science enthusiast, builders, creatives and masters of imaginative play.

Do a Dot Art Markers

Easy to use and put away! Great introduction to marker play and creative design. Helps develop hand eye coordination and art creation in a simple medium before advancing to more complex drawing.

Ultimate List of Preschool Gift Ideas- 45+ Gifts!

There are A LOT of toys out there.  This Christmas 2019 gift guide for preschoolers will help you sort through all the madness and find some quality preschool gift ideas.  These are investments and should be good! So what makes a toy worth recommending? These are some of my biggest factors. They need to be good quality, can be played with for years, lots of open ended play and educational or skill enhancing toys. What are the best ages? Preschoolers are 3-6, so if you are searching for 4 year old gift ideas- than you are in the right place. 

Some of these were featured in my toddler guide, because they follow those requirements I listed above.  A great toy lasts for years- so something can be bought for a toddler and they learn more and more ways to play with it. But if you haven’t gotten yet as they enter preschool age- it’s still very much worth getting! 

Related Posts: 35 Baby Christmas Gifts Most Loved by Moms and The 31 Best Toddler Gift Ideas!

These are some of my favorite choices and there are a lot of options on this list! To make it easier, I’ve organized them into categories.  What you decide to buy will depend on what your child is interested in. This list does not mean they need ALL of the things of course. One other tip that I have found helpful is to send the list to the grandparents and aunties you know will be getting your little ones a gift!

This post contains affiliate links, please refer to my disclosure policy for more information.

Creative Play

Crayola Washable Paint and Paper Set

Nothing says creative play more than making art! My kids love to color, paint, and draw. I have a craft station packed with all the supplies and it’s perfect for them to grab what they need without my help.  I love that this case has all they would need to sit down and paint. Easily transported to grandma’s house or outside to play. 
Ultimate list of preschool gift ideas includes toys in various categories for your science enthusiast, builders, creatives and masters of imaginative play.

Color Matching Mosaic Pegboard

Perfect for younger preschoolers. The pegboard activity is great for creativity and fine motor skills. Progresses in difficulty by matching the pictures and then creating their own pictures with the color pegs.Ultimate list of preschool gift ideas includes toys in various categories for your science enthusiast, builders, creatives and masters of imaginative play.

Do a Dot Art Markers

Easy to use and put away! Great introduction to marker play and creative design. Helps develop hand eye coordination and art creation in a simple medium before advancing to more complex drawing.imagination magnets for 4 year old gifts

Imagination Magnets

Fun pattern play that ranges in difficulty from easy to more difficult. Carrying case also makes this a perfect travel toy! It is engaging and interesting. I remember when Miles could only master the first few cards and now can fly through the more advanced puzzles. This is still a favorite in our house after owning it for 2 years.

Ultimate list of preschool gift ideas includes toys in various categories for your science enthusiast, builders, creatives and masters of imaginative play.Play-Doh Arts & Crafts Activity Table

The ultimate quiet time sensorial toy.  This activity table is great for kids playing independently and a Play Doh Creations Chef Kit is the best start set. An amazing tip for multiple play doh players is to buy a few $1 shower curtains from Dollar Tree. Lay it on the ground before play and it catches all the extra remnants that escape during play and clean up.

creative gross motor gifts for 3 year oldsHABA Geo Shape Tack Zap Imaginative Design

My son goes to a Montessori preschool and became obsessed with the hammering work they have there. I haven’t seen another game quite like this one. Children use real nails and a wooden mallet to create designs on a cork board. Comes with lots of shapes and design ideas.


Book as Preschool GiftsThe Wonderful Things You Will Be

Books should be part of every Christmas or birthday.  It’s always a good opportunity to replenish their shelves and instill the fact that books are just as fun as every other toy they receive! This book is beautiful, with a similar message to the Places You’ll Go but a great update to the classic story. 

The Last Stop on Market Street

Amazing story about seeing the beauty in the everyday, appreciating everything you have and giving back to your community. 

stem toys gifts for preschoolersBotley the Coding Robot

Helps develop early STEM skills with screen-free play. Children use the remote to program Botley and send him on his way through command sequences and obstacle courses.

Elecfly Kids Microscope Kit

Spark curiosity by using a real microscope. It is easy to use, yet works really well.  Focuses and zooms, changes lighting and includes a science kit with 25 slides, petri dish and lots of other accessory. 

Ultimate list of preschool gift ideas includes toys in various categories for your science enthusiast, builders, creatives and masters of imaginative play.Floor Puzzles

These large puzzles are a great conversation starter as well! Like this Melissa & Doug Solar System Puzzle or Massive Dinosaur Puzzle or this beautiful Underwater Ocean Floor Puzzle.

Building Enthusiasts- Magnets, LEGOS, Blocks and More!

best building toys for preschoolers magnet tilesMagformers Deluxe Magnetic Building Blocks

These magnetic blocks are a step above the Picasso Tiles. In addition to the magnetic building blocks, it includes car pieces and other accessories. Gives kids the ability to build cars, robots and expand their imagination. We have multiple sets of magnet tiles and they are one of our favorite open ended toys- both my 5 and 3 year old can play with these for hours!

wooden building blocks for toddler giftsMelissa & Doug Standard Unit Solid-Wood Building Blocks

These are like the ubiquitous preschool toy.  But they have to be mentioned. There is nothing like simple natural wooden blocks for endless open ended play and building. The quality is also exceptional and can be passed down to multiple kids or given to another family when your kids outgrow them.preschool building toys

kid k’nex 

Oodles of Pals building set lets you make lots of different designs- of varying sizes and difficulty.  k’nex also makes amazing models for older building enthusiasts, starting at 7 or 8 years old if your little ones love this set. 

Ultimate list of preschool gift ideas includes toys in various categories for your science enthusiast, builders, creatives and masters of imaginative play.LEGO DUPLOS

LEGOS- Traditional for Older Preschoolers

No list is complete without mentioning LEGOS. Start with DUPLO sets and move up to the older sets around 4 or 5. The LEGO city collection is a great starter set for smaller LEGOS or the LEGO and friends- lots of characters and adorable scenes.

Our house has exploded with LEGOS after Miles’ 4th birthday. It’s a little overwhelming at first, but that boy will concentrate so hard on putting together a Lego space shuttle or city vehicle.  It’s pretty amazing to watch. Having the right storage makes having a LEGO fan a lot more manageable. 🙂  We have two of these case storage organizers and they work perfectly. Don’t know how we were managing before them. Maybe not a gift, but definitely worth mentioning if you see your kids becoming avid fans. 


Outside Rides & Active Play     Scooter for kids gifts 

Micro Maxi Deluxe Kick Scooter

Age 3 or even age 2 is a perfect time to start on scooters and tricycles.  I looked at a lot of different scooters, because I wasn’t sure that this one was worth the price tag for this particular brand. In the end, I decided it definitely was. The quality is one of the best and can be shared through multiple kids or passed on to friends. 

Ultimate list of preschool gift ideas includes toys in various categories for your science enthusiast, builders, creatives and masters of imaginative play.Strider Balance Bike

Gifts for preschoolers outdoor toysSchwinn Elms Tricycle

In the same vein of scooters, getting started on bike riding and more excuses for outdoor play is always great.  You can decide if you want to go right into balance bikes or start with a tricycle that can transition to a two wheeler. Many parents have raved about how easy the transition is to a regular bike from a balance one. And it grows with your child from 18 months to 5 years old.

gifts for preschoolers bounce houseLittle Tikes Bounce House

If you have the space for it, why not?! Guaranteed to be lots of hours of play and is also perfect for birthday parties at home.  Great price and lots of good reviews.  My friend has it in her basement also, so it’s not strictly an outside toy. 

Eezy Peezy Monkey Bars Climbing Tower

Active kids need somewhere to burn energy! These can also be coined successful nap inducers. My sons’ school just sent out an email recently on how the playground was open before school started.  They have noticed that kids, especially little ones, focus so much more on their work if they’ve had a chance to burn some energy first.  Which is when I realized that we needed some climbing fun for our home as well!


Science Experiments

Ultimate list of preschool gift ideas includes toys in various categories for your science enthusiast, builders, creatives and masters of imaginative play.Insect Lore Deluxe Butterfly Garden

There is nothing better than the real thing to help stimulate the minds of your little budding scientists. In this garden, you get 5 caterpillars, all the food they need and a mesh habitat to grow your butterflies. So cool!

Ultimate list of preschool gift ideas includes toys in various categories for your science enthusiast, builders, creatives and masters of imaginative play.Learning Resources Primary Science Lab Activity Set

Another great gift for the little Scientists in your life. Real hands on experiments that kids can conduct with easy to follow beginner activities. Also introduces a lot of science terms and tools.

Board Games

board games for preschoolersQwirkle

Family game nights is something that we have started recently and preschool is the perfect age to get started! You probably hear about the classics, but there are some other games that are a lot more fun for us adults to play as well! Qwirkle is one of my favorites. Involves strategy and pattern play that make it fun for everyone. 

Ultimate list of preschool gift ideas includes toys in various categories for your science enthusiast, builders, creatives and masters of imaginative play.I Never Forget a Face Memory Game

Memory games have been a really fun activity for us to play with our 4 year old. We started out with a small amount and moved on to bigger “boards” the more we played. And this memory game in particular is beautiful! Another option is the Life on Earth Matching Game that has more animals and plants instead of faces.

Ultimate list of preschool gift ideas includes toys in various categories for your science enthusiast, builders, creatives and masters of imaginative play.The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game

No reading required as toddlers compete to get their squirrels fed. Helps with color recognition, beginning matching skills, and of course turn taking and how to win/lose. My 3 year old always picks this one out and my 5 year old still enjoys playing it with  him and the whole family. 

Little Red Riding Hood board game for preschooolersLittle Red Riding Hood Game

Puzzle game that is ideal for working on logical thinking skills, problem solving and spatial reasoning. Kids use  puzzle pieces to create a path from the little red riding hood to her grandma’s house . Has varying levels of difficulty so your child can play with it for years to come! It is part of a line of games from SmartGames with more advanced games for older kids- all with great reviews.Hoot Owl Hoot

This is a nice change as it’s a cooperative game. There are no winners and losers, which was hard for my boys to accept at first.  Which confirmed why it was a great addition to our collection, they work together to get all the owls to the nest. Teaches that there is not only one way to play a game. 

Imaginative & Pretend Play

teepee tent gift for preschoolers

Teepee Tent for Kids

Hideaway spaces are perfect for the imagination.  I love how this teepee tent comes with a carrying bag, decor, and fairy lights! It’s also waterproof, which is everything with kids. It’s a great place to read with your kids or have them tell stories to each other.  Possibilities are endless. 

Ultimate list of preschool gift ideas includes toys in various categories for your science enthusiast, builders, creatives and masters of imaginative play.Fort Boards- Fort Building Kit, 90 Jumbo Blocks

Okay, okay. The traditional materials for building forts is imaginative and free. BUTTT, these are super amazing. Your kids can build really cool forts of different shapes, which doubles up this toy as a building kit but then also have endless hours of imaginative play after they construct them.

Ultimate list of preschool gift ideas includes toys in various categories for your science enthusiast, builders, creatives and masters of imaginative play.Pretend Play Toy Kitchen

Imaginative play is strong at this age. They come up with some of the funniest scenarios. I’ve bought a pretend kitchen for my boys as well- this is great for any gender! Don’t forget the accessories though. No play kitchen is complete without some food and cooking utensils.

Grocery Store/Lemonade Stand

You can add to the pretend kitchen, and set up a little store.  This grocery store/lemonade stand is a perfect addition to use more pretend food and practice pretend selling to friends and siblings.  

Ultimate list of preschool gift ideas includes toys in various categories for your science enthusiast, builders, creatives and masters of imaginative play.Dress up Costumes

Pretend and imaginative play is not complete without some dress up costumes. You can get a pack of 6 or pick out the ones your child would be most interested in like a fireman suit or a pack of princess dresses.doll house preschool giftWooden Doll House

Perfect wooden doll house that is good quality and full furnished. Traditional 3 story dollhouse, that is award winning and sparks roleplay imagination among friends.

Miscellaneous and Fun!

Ultimate list of preschool gift ideas includes toys in various categories for your science enthusiast, builders, creatives and masters of imaginative play.KidKraft Waterfall Mountain Train Set and Table

Our train sets are constantly played with and a train table keeps them all together and organized. It is one of the first toys that my boys (at 2 and 4 years old) played together for hours without any arguments or destruction. So I suggest it a lot when they are looking for something to do. 🙂 Still true as they’ve gotten older!

Hot Wheels Criss Cross Track Set

I’m not really sure what category Hot Wheels fits into, but I do know that my boys are obsessed with their tracks.  It’s also the first thing they usually play with when they have friends over.  Tons of time racing cars, each other, and adding tracks together from various sets.  This criss cross one is still the all time favorite though. 

camera for preschooler giftVTech KidiZoom Digital Camera

Takes real digital pictures! And at a great price, this is such a fun beginner camera for kids to play with. Also has a selfie mode, collages and cool photo effects to play with. This is on our Santa list for this year!


4 Daily Toddler Schedule Samples

I recently joined the 3 kid club and the forever boy mom club. The shop is now closed after I had my third boy 6 months ago. 🙂 My husband and I always planned on 2-3 and joke that a 4th would drive us out of Chicago where we love. So now that my 3rd boy Rhys is growing up, I’ve been revisiting a lot of my baby and toddler schedule posts. I decided it’s time to give you all an update on different variations to daily toddler schedule ideas. Included are options for multiple kids!

These next two pictures of my then 2 year old Ellis happened within minutes of each other.  Perfectly captures toddler life, emotions can change very quickly! Some standard routines help them make sense of the world a little bit better.

two year old schedule, two year old disciplinetoddler emotions daily schedule

This post is part of our sample schedule and routine series, that has schedules from newborn to toddlers. In this post, you’ll find key elements of creating a toddler schedule, factoring different family models. Currently I have a 5 year old, 3 year old and a 7 month old baby.  Included are some toddler daily schedule examples for one toddler, toddler and baby and a multiple toddler schedule. 

If you want more specific developmental milestones, activity ideas and toy recommendations, check out the post for the specific age:

Related: Two year old schedule, 12-18 month schedule, 18-24 month schedule

Key Elements of a Daily Toddler Schedule


  • They may start fighting sleep as they enjoy being awake with you. Stick to your routine- even if it’s just quiet time in their room for nap.
  • 2-3 year olds need 13-15 total hours of sleep. 1 nap that lasts 1-2 hours and a bedtime window sometime between 6-8pm.  Many families have found that a 4 hour window between waking up from nap and bedtime works really well. So wake up from nap at 3pm, bedtime at 7-7:30. Decide what works for your family and how to get your toddler the hours he needs.
    • My friend was recently telling me that she was worried her son went to bed too late. He goes to bed at 9pm. BUT he doesn’t wake up until 8am and consistently takes at least a 2 hour nap.  So he is getting the hours he needs, it’s not something I would worry about.  The one thing I suggested to her is that when he gets closer to school age, she’d want to slowly move it earlier since he’ll have to get up earlier. 
  • My oldest son Miles dropped his nap around 4 years old, even though there were some days where it was evident he needed the rest.  We maintained some quiet time and an early bedtime so he would be well rested for preschool. 


  • They really need consistency and predictability at this age.  I often tell Miles and Ellis what is going to happen after we get out of the car so they know what is next. Ellis and I have the same goodbye routine at school also- it gives him a sense of comfort and control that he knows what it will be each day.
  • We’ve also utilized these checklists to help them create habits. You can start at age 2, but at 3 they can actually start to go down the list independently. 


  • In addition to a daily schedule, routines for common situations are really helpful at this age as mentioned above. 
  • For example, when my boys walk in the door they have to hang up their coats, take off shoes and put them in the bin, put their lunch box in the kitchen, go potty and wash hands.  If I randomly add a task instead of engraining it into a predictable routine, there is more room for protest.


  • There is so much that can be said about discipline and various ways to approach this subject that it has its’ own post. For starters though, decide as a family how you will acknowledge behavior- positive and negative, and stick to your plan.
  • Their emotions are very real and they need to be understood and taught how to handle them. This will also vary widely based on personality! The way we disciplined our first was so different than what we had to do with our second, because they are completely different people.

Choices are so so powerful! 

  • Regardless of personality, this age thrives for independence. It’s funny because I previously wrote how my son Miles protested bath, but it’s nothing compared to my second son Ellis! He protests everything. Ha!
    • He likes to pick out his own clothes, shoes, decide what he eats and when etc.  If you say anything that sounds like a command, he’ll automatically disagree.  Last night he told me, “well, I am not going to wear matching pajamas ever again. I want a train top and dinosaur bottoms.” Lol. Okay kid, whatever works for you. He just wants to exert his power and see how far he can take it. My philosophy is if it’s not a dangerous situation or does not affect anybody negatively- than let it go.  I could care less if he wore matching pajamas or if his shirt was on backwards if that makes him happy, lol. 
  • In other situations where you have to set boundaries, limit the choices given. For example, in the winter wearing a coat is not an option. So instead of telling Ellis to go put on your coat, where he would then try not to wear one and put on shorts. (insert emoji face palm here) I’ll say do you want to put on your mittens or coat first? It still guides what he has to do, but with a choice so he feels he has some control over it.
    • All depends on your child’s personality- I can tell Miles “put on your coat” no problem.  He’s older now, but also has a more laid back personality. 

Remember that all these schedules and times are approximate.  Things can change based on the day, which is totally okay.  Also your times may look different and that is okay! These are to give you ideas and inspiration to create your own. 

One Toddler- 1 Year Old Schedule

7- 7:30am | Wake Up- Sippy cup of milk

7:30-8am | Play: Story time, sensory bins, building blocks or nesting toys, singing songs, or listening to music while playing instruments (xylophone, drums)

8-8:45am | Breakfast

8:45am | Start nap soothing routine

9am | Morning Nap (This nap fades out between 15-18 months)

10:30am | Wake Up- Sippy Cup of Milk

10:30- 11am | Snack

11- 12:15pm | Play time: Large motor development- park or open play, push and pull toys, riding cars. Social development- play dates or reoccurring music or art classes.

12:15pm-12:45pm | Lunch with Water

12:45pm | Start nap soothing routine- same one every time.

1pm | Afternoon Nap

3pm | Wake up and Snack

3:30-6pm | Play: Start easy paint or craft projects. Go outside at least once a day for fresh air.

6:00pm | Dinner and water or milk (milk can be part of soothing routine)

6:30pm | Start bedtime routine. Include same soothing routine for naps but add extra to signify night sleep: like a bath, calming music, lotion massage, pajamas and read stories.

7:00pm | Put down drowsy, but not completely asleep.

Daily Toddler Schedule- 2-3 Year Old

7- 7:30am | Wake Up- Glass of milk or water

7:30-8am | Play independently.

8-8:30am | Breakfast

8:30-10:30am | Outing to the park or indoor play. Or attend toddler gym, dance, music, or art class. Or schedule a more structured classes like ballet, sports, art, or karate.

10:30- 11am | Snack

11- 12:15pm | Help with making lunch and cleaning up. Start thinking about chores they can do when they are 2. 

12:15pm-12:45pm | Lunch

12:45pm | Start nap soothing routine- Read 2 books, then dark room, snuggling, , soft singing then white noise machine, cover with favorite blanket and stuffed animal.

1pm | Afternoon Nap

3pm | Wake up and Snack

3:30-6pm | Play with favorite toys or have a second outing, then independent play so you can make dinner or wrap up the day. They can color at this age for longer periods or work on puzzles or other quiet activities.

5pm | If you want to have a designated screen time, this is a good time after a long day and gives you the opportunity to make dinner or other things you have to accomplish.

6:00pm | Dinner and water or milk (milk can be part of bedtime soothing routine)

6:30pm | Start bedtime routine. Include same soothing routine for naps but add extra to signify night sleep: like a bath, music, lotion, massage, pajamas and read books.

7:30pm | Bedtime.

daily toddler schedule, toddler and baby daily schedule

One Toddler and a Baby

7-7:30 | Wake Up and start the day! Change diapers/pull up and get dressed.  

7:30-8:30 | Toddler gets a glass of milk and set up for independent play.  Nurse or give bottle to baby and cuddle time.  You can also choose to have this be your screen time hour for the day- so you can calmly get the baby ready for the day.  I save our screen time for right before dinner when they are more antsy or exhausted from the day. 

8:30-9 | Make and have breakfast.

9:00 | Baby takes morning nap. Toddler can play with a puzzle, blocks or magnetic books if you choose to stay home. It’s not ideal, but as I have had more kids and more energy to factor in with my older boys, this is the nap we take on the go.  It’s usually not as long or restful, but then they take their long afternoon nap in their crib. 

       *Activities worth leaving early for could be museums, or places farther away. We live in Chicago and the Botanical Garden is about a 45 minute drive so we make a day of it. 

9-10:30 | If you are home, you can do housework or prep dinner. Involve your toddler where ever they can pitch in. 

10:30-11 | Baby wakes up. You can go out for an outing with the two. Unless- see above- you have already left for the day. Check that diaper bag has all the essentials, change baby and get toddler to use potty.  

    *A baby and toddler schedule is not complete without some activity ideas. The best classes for a toddler and baby together are music classes hands down!  With story time being a close second. They both benefit from it so much and we try to go at least once a week to both.  Or you can sign up your toddler for classes like art or sports and hang out with your baby on the sidelines. The park or indoor playspaces are also great options. 

12:30 | Lunch

1:00-2 | Both take a nap. 

3-4pm | Wake up and snacks. 

4-5pm | Play time or second outing even if it’s just a walk around the neighborhood.  Depending on whether we got outside time earlier.  Many babies take a 3rd “power nap” until 6-9 months old, which would be a good reason to stay home.    

5-6 | Finish dinner if needed or general clean up.  This is when I like to give them a little screen time or dad comes home and plays with the boys.  If you are breastfeeding, good time to nurse the baby before you sit for dinner.

6-7 | Dinner and family time. Clean up toys, start baby bedtime routine first. 

7-7:30 | Bedtime routine

7:15- 7:30 | Baby is asleep first, potential story time together depending on how tired baby is.  Toddler may want longer stories and it’s nice alone time with them if they get a separate story time. 

8pm | All kids are asleep!daily toddler schedule with two toddlers at home

Two Toddlers (both at home)

7-8AM | Wake up and have breakfast. Play independently or with each other. This is our summer schedule, since Miles has been in preschool since a few days after turning 3 years old. Ellis had just turned one, so the last few summers we have a more relaxed morning than the hustle and bustle of getting to school. During this time, I’ll plan dinner also if needed and we have time. 

9AM | Get dressed and pack up diaper bag, snacks and possibly lunch for morning activity. Even if you have already potty trained, back up clothes were always nice to have for accidents that are bound to happen those early months.  You can always leave it in the car and take a smaller bag out with snacks. 

10-12PM | Morning activity to the pool, library, kids class, playdate, park fun, a museum, or walk in the neighborhood. We like to make a summer bucket list to help plan our summers and visit as much as possible in the city. 

12-1PM | Lunch at same location of activity if possible or make something quick at home. 

1PM-3PM | Nap time. Chores for mommy like laundry, cleaning the house, or working on the blog. If we ventured out to a longer activity like driving to the suburbs, we may still be out and about during nap time. I think that’s okay every now and then, happens more in the summer and that’s expected. My older son Miles stopped napping at 4, he would have quiet activities like playing legos or puzzles or we’d work on something together since it was my only alone time with him. 

3PM-5PM | Afternoon Activity. If we had a simple morning activity that didn’t extend through lunch and nap, we may venture out again. To the pool, a playdate, library, swimming lessons, park, take an art or music class, play in the yard or do some crafts inside.

*If we came home during 3-5, we would have quiet time and try to calm down after our long day. Do a puzzle, play with legos, set up the train tracks, color, draw or do a simple craft project.

5-530PM– Prepping and eating dinner. Varies based on the day. I usually like to meal plan at least a little bit. Crockpot or Instant Pot meals also are a stress free way to get dinner on the table when you are busy during the day.

*5PM also starts the dinner checklist and chores.  You can start chores as early as 2 years old- mostly cleaning up with assistance, and our second son Ellis started his first chore of feeding the dog at 2 years old.  He’ll dump the whole container in the bowl, so it’s definitely a supervised activity.  He asked for this job because he wanted something to do while his older brother set the table- which has been his job since 3 and 1/2.  Learning to clean up their place after eating and toys after playing are perfect starter chores, before adding chores that help the family.

6-730PM | Bedtime routine. We try to keep this as normal as possible. Sometimes we’ll skip bath if we were out late or had friends over late, but we try to do it often. The boys just get so relaxed and ready to sleep when it’s still included. Finally, we read books together.

8PM | Everyone is asleep!

Hope this helped you create a daily toddler schedule that fits your family’s needs and size best. I’ll be back soon to share all our preschool routines! 

Water Party Ideas: Splish Splash Birthday Bash

We have a couple summer birthdays at our house, and there are so many quintessential birthday themes that are all about summer. My son Ellis has the first summer birthday in June, followed by Miles in late August. Ellis is a ball of energy- incredibly playful, loves to to run and all the sports.  A theme has to involve running and play for it to be successful for him. Since he already had a ball themed party last year, nothing says summer birthday like a splish-splash party with lots of water game activities.  Read more for all the water party ideas and free printables at the end!  

Related: Wild “One”, Superhero, Ball Theme, or Rockstar Birthday Parties

To give you an idea of what to expect from my birthday parties. These are real parties that I try to keep under a certain budget, be kid centered and have some creative theme details, but never the perfection seen on other parties on Pinterest. No knock on those parties- there are some beautiful parties, but it’s not what I strive for. There are creative details I enjoy doing, but most importantly, I love creating a magical scene for the kids.  Since our budget does not include Disney World or international vacations at this point, birthday parties are their special events. 🙂

Before we go any further, all of these pictures were taken by Pinky Promise Pix.  I’ve taken my own photos at parties, but with all the setup and everything going on- it’s hard to get good shots and remember to keep taking them.  If you are in the Chicagoland area, I highly recommend Pinky Promise Pix for your next event or family photos! And if you aren’t in this area, consider hiring a photographer or assigning family and friends the task of capturing the event. 

I’ve shared my philosophy in other posts about how to approach birthdays.  Decide what works best for you and your family.  It’s not everyone’s jam to throw a big party. It doesn’t have to be at the most extravagant place or spend the most money (unless you want to do that!). You  can get together as a family, small group of friends or bigger.  As long as it comes from a place that you are happy with.  Ok, enough about that! Let’s talk about all the water party ideas. It was not too expensive, and with a little planning- our backyard was transformed into a small water park.

This post contains affiliate links, please read the disclosure policy for more information.

Games & Activities

Lots of Inflatable Pools

splash party slide pool

inflatable pools water party ideas

For toddler parties, I have found that stations work better than organized games.  They can wander around and do what they want. We set up stations with different pools and a water table for the younger kids. These are all the items we had: one pool with a slide going into it, another with a basketball hoop and the green pool had the water balloons in it (that get used very quickly!). The water table was closer to the eating tables so the younger babies could be near their parents. 

Other Water Party Ideas

dinosaur super large sprinkler birthday party

dinosaur sprinkler birthday partyThe sprinkler is the main event for sure. And yes, having a larger than life dinosaur was necessary.  🙂 Elevated the scene from just another day out playing in the sprinkler. I’ve also seen unicorns that are adorable.  I went back and forth on the water/squirt guns, but glad I got them.  The water balloons- even though we had over 400- were used sooo quickly! The kids were able to squirt each other for the whole party though.  And they didn’t leave tons of itty bitty pieces in the grass. Kids love the balloons just be ready for the clean up!

squirt guns water party

water balloons birthday party

Kids Mural Art

water party ideas mural art

roller paintbrush kids mural artThis was my favorite part of the party.  Ever had an idea, but not sure how it would actually transfer in real life? This was one of those things that actually worked exactly as I imagined. Maybe even better.

A water splash party is a perfect type of party to integrate messy art because the kids are already in bathing suits. They can wash off any paint they got on themselves in the sprinkler.  

Basically, we hung up a huge canvas on the side of our garage, laid out plenty of different painting supplies and the kids made a huge mural together.  Afterward, I took some of the mural and made a gallery wall for the boys’ playroom.  paint squirt bottles art birthday party

Supplies for Art Project

  • Canvas drop– comes in multiple sizes depending on where you can hang it/how big you want it. We got the 12×15 and it was bigger than the wall, which is what I wanted.
  • Washable paint– because kids. We pretty much used all the paint in this set.  It was perfect.
  • Spray bottles– pack of 12 ( I used 8). I added about two tablespoons of water to these to make them easier to spray and adds a different texture.  Do not add too much water though because it will drip more than you want. 
  • Squeeze bottles
  • Paint rollers and sponge brushes
  • Trays (I used two cookie sheets from Dollar Tree to place bottles on)

Invitations & Signage

We send digital invitations, but these can also be printed.  I’ve included a free download file at the end. The invitation and signs were designed in Canva.


Food Table

With this kind of party, the activities make up the majority of the decor.  The food table is the one place where I put some DIY touches.  The splish splash sign was transferred onto a foam board (one of the downloads available!) I used the same method for making signs that I did in the Wild Things party. The sand buckets and shovels I snagged at Walmart- perfect for snacks. Beach balls we had from the ball themed party. Finally, I cut up a bunch of pool noodles.  Made a cupcake stand and a garland out of them.  Also from Walmart and Dollar Tree.  All about the budget friendly decor!

*Cupcake stand: Cut 3 pool noodles into 3 inch pieces and assemble for the bottom row.  Glue together outside circle, stuff the middle with loose pieces and secure with a ribbon or goggles.  Top row: cut 3 pool noodles in 5 inch pieces and assemble the top row the same as the bottom.  

Accessories & Goody Bags

Final water party ideas were some accessories and items kids can take home.  One basket was filled with bubble wands and sunglasses – used in place of goody bags.  Another basket had towels and sunscreen for anyone that needed any during the party.

Repurposed Art

I didn’t want to throw away the entire canvas.  But you can if you want to! 🙂 I cut out 16×20 pieces and used them as a mat for picture frames.  Since it’s so colorful, I used plain black and white pictures of the boys.  It’s hanging in their craft/play room and fits in perfectly. 


Master List of ALL the Food Ideas for 1 Year Old Babies

Feeding your one year old toddler is one of those parenting milestones that can leave us puzzled and confused. From the quantity, when to feed, what to cook or how to cut the food- it’s a big change for us- and them of course : ). If you ask 100 parents, half will call their 1 year old a baby and the other half toddler.  That perfectly exemplifies this year- a year of transitioning from being a baby to a full fledged toddler.  So what meals do you give a child that is both- a baby/toddler combo?? Let’s talk about all the important notes and gather a master list of food ideas for 1 year old toddlers. (Printable menu can be downloaded at the end of the post!)


Every parent’s transition to table foods looks a little differently. Some go directly to baby led weaning where your baby eats table food from the beginning, starting with smaller soft foods and transitioning more and more.  Others start with traditional pureed baby food at 4-6 months and then integrate finger foods around 10-12 months. I’ve practiced the latter- cooking my own baby food and introducing finger foods after. I am considering BLW for my third baby who is now 5 months.  I’ll update you on that one later!

Something that can be pretty standard is that most babies and toddlers start eating table food with their fingers, as they have not developed the ability to feed themselves with a spoon or fork. I started finger foods at 10 months- here are some ideas for recipes & meal prep you can do and simple finger foods that mostly don’t have to be cooked.

Related Posts: Healthy Baby Finger Food Recipes-Meal Prep and 10 Simple Finger Foods for a One Year Old

At the same time, you can start to preload a spoon so they start to practice lifting it to their mouth. Gradually, between 14-18 months they will get better.  But it’s a skill they will continually work on through their 2nd year. 

Yogurt is one of my favorite one year old foods as it’s nutritious and you can mix in different fruits to change the flavor. Pre loading the spoon or even just having them play with it starts the important journey of using utensils. It’s not a clean journey by any means- feeding kids in general isn’t.  Hope I didn’t ruin your day with that! My 4 and 1/2 year old is pretty clean now, lol, it takes time.  


Up until their first birthday, solids and table food have been supplements to breast milk or formula- where they were getting the majority of their nutrients.  Now they start to transition to cow’s milk- or many moms continue nursing, but they start to get more of their nutrients from table food. It becomes more important to give them a variety of food groups and nutrients. 

Their schedule will generally consist of 3 meals and 2 snacks.  I usually offer 1/2-1 milk per meal and water for snacks. If you have a milk lover that is not showing much interest for food, consider adding the milk after they have eaten some of their food.  That helped tremendously with my first son Miles. 

Serving sizes: One year olds don’t eat a whole lot.  This will differ from baby to baby, but a general guideline is to keep servings at about 1/2 cup or even 1/4 cup for sides.  For example, a 1/2 cup of oatmeal with half that amount of strawberries on the side. 


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Related Post: Quick & Nutritious Breakfast Ideas for a One Year Old

I don’t know about you, but in the hustle and bustle of everyday, I can forget the simplest things.  Which is why I like referencing a list of meal ideas for 1 year old toddlers. It encourages me to maintain variety in their meals and see which foods I have in each category.

This is a great year to introduce anything, from different flavors to textures. They are developing their palates and haven’t established a specific taste for anything yet.  My mom asked me once- your kids will have sandwiches on whole wheat bread? Not white? And I responded, well they only have wheat bread at home so it’s what they are used to.  Now do we go to Jimmy Johns and split one of their delicious sandwiches with white bread- Yes.  Not striving for perfection, just helping them establish a taste for whole grains so they continue to like it in the future. 

Meals should strive to have a balance of foods from these categories- at least 3 per meal. Dinner is where I get the most adventurous and offer what the rest of the family is having. Breakfast and lunch- I put together especially for the kids. Check out these toddler lunches for school or daycare for lots of lunches that include foods from each food group.

    • Fruit- bananas, strawberries, blueberries, “cuties” (clementines), peaches, etc.
    • Veggies- avocado, green beans, carrots, peas, sweet potato, squash (easy to cook or low sodium/no sugar added cans)
    • Dairy- cheese, plain whole milk or greek yogurt, milk
    • Protein- eggs, turkey slices, chicken breast, ground beef, beans (with rice), fish
    • Carbs- whole wheat toast (or whatever bread you buy), oatmeal, potatoes, rice, pasta, corn tortillas, whole wheat pancakes, graham crackers, whole grain goldfish


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  • Monitor your baby as they eat. Gagging a little is natural, but you want to ensure that food is cut in small pieces and cooked to a softer texture. 
  • Fun divider plates or placemat plates.  
  • Reusable placemats for restaurant dining or disposable placemats are both fantastic.
  • Starter spoon to practicing pincer grip and holding silverware.
  • This grape cutter is amazing- my 3 year old loves to use it himself.  Also an apple cutter comes in handy. 
  • Bentgo lunchbox for travel or daycare. 
  • There will be phases of pickiness- don’t give up on specific foods.  But also don’t get discouraged and try to make them eat it.  It will get frustrating at times to make something they don’t eat, but it’s all part of growing up and seeing what they like and don’t like.  My oldest didn’t eat meat for at least 6 months- I kept trying and one day he ate it again.  To substitute for protein we did a lot of eggs, beans and greek yogurt. Read more tips for picky eating phases here!
  • If you use canned or prepackaged fruits and vegetables- buy ones without added sugar or salt. Setting up their palate to not prefer extra sweet or salty things!
  • Incorporate whole grains when you can- brown rice, whole wheat bread, and whole wheat pancakes.


These are some toddler dinner ideas. Pretty much what I make for my entire family, with what I would plate for my one year old. A little note- I have a heavy hand sometimes because I have an older son as well to serve.  Not eating everything is common at this stage, so you could start out with smaller portions. 

deconstructed taco one year old meal

Deconstructed tacos- ground beef, cheese, lettuce and tomato. Skip the shells for young one year olds. You can also substitute meat for turkey. Side of corn and avocado. 

pasta shells grapes food ideas for 1 year old

Pasta shells in red sauce topped with some parmesan cheese, cut green grapes with a side of yogurt and honey. 

menu for 1 year old chicken rice quinoa

Grilled chicken with broccoli and rice quinoa mix. 

asian chicken and noodles toddler dinner

Asian chicken and noodles with a side of cooked green beans. 

italian beef toddler lunch idea

Italian beef cooked in crockpot, french bread, and a cucumber-tomato salad. 

spanish rice and chicken toddler meal idea

Spanish rice with baked chicken and avocado.

salmon food for 1 year old

Salmon, pan sautéed noodles, and green beans. 

shrimp gnocchi mango meal for toddlers

Shrimp, cauliflower gnocchi with broccoli and mango bites. (Ok- I really wanted to try this Trader Joe’s cauliflower gnocchi that everyone raves about. I liked it, but my family did not. 🙁 ) Will try again one day- maybe season differently. 


Use this sample menu as a reference for feeding your little one. Includes all the meal ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I don’t include snacks, because I would generally offer the leftovers from the meals for snack.  Or a small portion of the things you are already feeding them. 

meal ideas for 1 year old menu


If you are still looking for more ideas, find all of the posts related to feeding babies and toddlers here: Baby and Toddler Food Ideas