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8 Independent Table Activities for 2 Year Olds

This post originally appeared at Wiley Adventures. It was a part of the Babywise Friendly Blog Network swap day! Original post was published on 1/12/16.

Do you have a 2 year old? This post is for you! My daughter is a young 2 (25 months). This is a challenging age when it comes to independent play (for us anyways).

My once amazing independent player, is now losing it when I leave the room. Needless to say, independent play (or room time) has become a challenge in our house at the moment.

While we continue to work on establishing independent play again, we’ve decided to introduce another type of play- “table play”. Table play is my chance to get some hands free time while she’s awake.

Table play is still independent play. It is a confined independent play, however, which is much different from the independent play that our daughter currently does in her room.

Table play is much more focused. I will provide her with choices of a focused activity that she can engage in.

With room time, she had access to everything in her room and got to choose the items that she played with. At table time, she is sitting in her booster seat at the table.

Table play is working very well for us at this age! Our daughter is very much disliking “room time” because she knows I’m actually gone (out of the room with the door closed).

She’s responding well to table time, however, because she knows I’m close by. Sometimes I sit at the table with her and work on my own things, sometimes I am walking around the house getting laundry and cleaning done, and sometimes I’m out of sight.

She seems to know, however, that I am more accessible to her. We are currently doing table time for 30 minutes at a time.

Check out these 27 taste safe sensory play ideas for toddlers by clicking here.

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Here are some of the activities we are incorporating into table time:

  1. Art – This is our go to activity, typically. Even as a young 2 year old, these activities can be done independently with some of the right tools: Art trays, these amazing toddler aprons, and everything washable crayola!

    – Drawing with pen and paper
    – Drawing with washable markers and paper
    – Coloring with paper/coloring books
    – Painting with washable paint
    – Painting with watercolors
    Water book painting (completely mess free)

    I know it probably sounds scary, but if you’ve done this enough times with your toddler, they can do it on their own as well! Tip: If you are nervous about a mess, put some press ‘n seal down on your table!

  2. Wipe clean books – Wipe clean books are fabulous inventions! While a young 2 is too young to trace or do any of the actual activities in the books, they can certainly draw, erase, and enjoy the pictures! Our daughter also loves seeing letters, numbers, shapes, etc. We love the wipe clean books from Usborne books! A baby wipe or hand & face wipe works perfectly for them to erase their own marks! My daughter often enjoys the clean up more than the writing time!
  3. Sorting – Sorting is something that is so much fun at this age! Just choose objects wisely so they don’t pose a choking hazard. Focus on colors, shapes, or even animals! Choose something that your little one will be interested in.

    – Flashcards: Target always has flashcards in the deal section up front. We scored some great shape, animal and letter flashcards for $1 per pack!! I have our daughter try and sort the shapes by type, and then by color.

    – Muffin tins: Possibilities are endless here. One idea is to put different colored cupcake liners in each, and have your toddler place like colored items into each section. You can use something as simple as cut up construction paper!

    – Big and small: Give your toddler plastic cups in different sizes, tupperware, etc. Have them try and sort by big and small. They might even start stacking and building towers. Let their creativity shine!

  4. Water play- Obviously limit the amount of water here since you aren’t planning on staying right next to them. Get the apron on and the art tray out that are mentioned above for easy clean up.

    – Sponges: Give your toddler two bowls- one with water and one without. Show them how to transfer water by squeezing the sponge. They’ll have a blast and do this for days!

    – Pouring/Transferring: Provide your toddler with a couple of different cups, and even try adding some food coloring to the water to make this extra fun. Show them how to transfer the water from one container to another.

  5. Magnets- A baking sheet makes for a great play item with magnets! Give your toddler some large alphabet magnets or other fun magnets to play with. Make sure they are large enough to not pose a choking hazard. If you have an old baking sheet you no longer use, you can even write/trace the letters on the sheet with permanent marker and they can match the magnet to a specific place on the sheet!
  6. Stickers- Stickers can be hard for your toddler to do on their own at this age, but one simple trick will make them more independent with stickers- pull off the edging material of the stickers! This makes it so much easier to get the stickers off. Give your child some colorful paper to place stickers on and you’ve got a great independent activity!

  7. Interactive books- Lift the flap books are so much fun for little hands! We like the lift the flap numbers, colors, and shapes from Usborne books. The pages are very colorful and engaging! Just like with the wipe clean books, they’ll grow into doing the actual activities.
  8. Apps- Here’s the real winner! Our 25 month old is excelling at these apps right now and she’s simply loving it. She’s so proud of herself and gets a HUGE smile on her face when she does the activity correctly. She gets instant feedback from the app and she knows she’s done it correctly. I LOVE the learning that she’s getting to do, and quite honestly it’s in teaching her in ways that I can’t do. She’s getting more learning in from these apps than I could ever dream of. So, here’s a big shout out to giving screen time using educational apps!

    Our favorite apps:
    – Shapes & Colors Sorting (Gennadii Zakharov)
    This app has them sort objects by color, and even has them sort things like water vehicles from road vehicles.

    – Shapes & Colors Games: Toddlers Kids Games Free (Tinyhands apps educational)
    This app has them sort by color, size, sillouhettes and more! It is one of our favorite apps and we are purchasing the full version!

    – PBS KIDS Video
    Not a learning app per say, but I have to mention it! All of the PBS shows for kids, for FREE. Awesome app!

    – Kids puzzles games (Tinyhands apps educational)
    This is another favorite. Shape sorting is more involved and includes more advanced shapes like hexagons, and also has big and small all at the same time. Our 25 month old handles it so well and does it perfectly! We’ll also be upgrading this app!

    – Shapes & Colors Learning Games for Toddlers/kids (22 Learn)
    This is a great little app that includes matching, patterns, shapes, colors, and more- all while riding a train through the app. This is another favorite that we’ll be upgrading! You can turn off more advanced topics like patterns if you’d like and really customize it to the level of learning that you need!

    – Shapes and Colors for Toddlers (Stefano Frassi)
    This is a very basic app for shapes and colors sorting. Not all of the shapes will have names, which is the only thing I don’t like (it has shapes like saw blades and fancy stars), but seeing our daughter still able to deal with the shape and match it to the correct location is awesome!

    – Toddler’s Farm- Animal Puzzles and Animal Sounds (Antti Lehtinen)
    Awesome little puzzle game! More advanced than I would think my 25 month old would be able to do, but after showing her, she can complete these in no time! Also planning to upgrade this one!

I hope you are able to incorporate some of these ideas into your “table time” at home! If you have any ideas to add to this list, please leave them in the comments! We’d love to hear from you!

Other posts of interest:

Independent Play- Our Progression

Reviving Independent Play “Room Time”

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