Easy craft ideas for toddlers

(30 Posts)
TinaMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 31-Mar-20 18:23:15

Crafting is a great way to keep young children entertained and for you to revel in their wonder at creating things seemingly out of nothing. It's also a fantastic way to use items you might already have - from empty loo rolls to Betty Crocker cake mix boxes.

And with such simple ideas, you may well find older kids getting stuck in too. And once you're all glittered out, there's plenty of other creative entertainment for the family you could try - from baking with kids, or educational games for three and above.

Without further ado, here are the best easy craft ideas for toddlers.

1. Box puppets

Small rectangular boxes
Coloured paper or wrapping paper
Wooden rod
Marker pen, googly eyes, pipe cleaners (optional)

Cover (and glue) your box in coloured card or wrapping paper. Use scissors to cut a circle or rectangle through the first sheet of card, for a mouth. Using your coloured paper again, cut out shapes for eyes and nose - or draw them straight onto your box with a marker pen. Now you can accessorise as you/they like - perhaps you could cut strips of paper for hair, or use pipe cleaners for bug-type antennae.

Finally, tape or glue a wooden rod behind your box. And create at least one more for an acting companion. Then, let the puppet show commence!

See an example

Betty Crocker cake mix boxes are perfect for this

2. Plastic tub animal

Plastic tub
Sweetie tubes or lolly sticks
Decorative bits

Using a plastic tub as the body of your animal, customize accordingly by sellotaping tubes (such as Smarties) or lolly sticks for legs and neck. For the head, you could scrunch up some paper and then create a paper cone for the nose, and stick on buttons for eyes. In order to keep your tub animal upright, sellotape its legs to a card base.

What's more, if you still have the lid on your tub, your child could even keep secret treasures inside their new animal.

See an example of a tub giraffe

Lovely things with loo rolls

Loo roll crafts (or TP roll projects as they’re more delicately known on Pinterest) are great for pre-schoolers. The body of whatever delightful item you’re making is already there so a few snips and sticks and a bit of imagination and you’re only minutes away from success. All the below require empty loo rolls, of course.

3. Loo roll rocket

1 loo roll
Coloured paper
1 drinking straw
Decorative bits to stick on
Felt tips

Decorate your loo roll by covering it with coloured paper, writing on the name of your rocket and adding any embellishments. Cut a circle of coloured paper and make it into a pointy ‘hat’ for your rocket. Stick the straw inside the rocket with most of it poking out of the bottom. Add coloured red and orange paper ‘flames’ at the bottom if you wish. Zoom, zoom, zoom, let’s go to the moon!

See an example

4. Loo roll owl

1 loo roll
Coloured paper scraps
Googly eyes
Decorative bits to stick on
Felt tips

Paint your loo roll and leave to dry. Fold opposite sides of the top over to form the ears, (it makes sense when you see an example). Add eyes, a paper beak, wings and any other details you like with pens etc. Owlmazing.

See an example

Related: Ideas for keeping primary school children entertained at home

5. Binoculars

Two loo rolls
Brown paper (or any sturdy paper)
Optional: decorating supplies (markers, crayons, stickers, tissue paper!)

Whether you have a tiny David Attenborough on your hands, or a budding spy, they’ll love having their own binoculars. Stick the loo rolls together and wrap in brown paper. Decorate however you like. Punch holes in the sides to attach the string so the binoculars can hang round the neck.

See an example

Paper plate projects
Paper plates provide endless scope for toddler craft materials. There are a million things you can make with them and if you don’t get through a whole packet, they’re great for parties (or just days when washing-up seems like an insurmountable task).

6. Gruffalo paper plate face

1 paper plate
Brown paint
Selection of craft things to decorate
Glue stick

Simply paint brown, and add the details using pompoms, card, stickers and whatever you have to hand. What do you <mean> you don’t know what he looks like? He’s the one with the terrible teeth and terrible toes and a terrible wart at the end of his nose!

See an example

Buy paper plates

7. Paper plate Elmer the elephant

2 paper plates
Different coloured tissue paper
Glue stick
Sticker shapes
Felt tips
Clothes pegs

A ubiquitous nursery craft project but a classic. One plate is your face shape. From the other, cut two quarters for ears and a long curly piece of plate ‘edge’ for the trunk. Glue the ears and trunk in place (secure with pegs while they dry). Once dry, stick different coloured squares of tissue paper all over the shape. Decorate with sticker shapes and pens for eyes, mouth and other details.

See an example

8. Dream catcher

1 paper plate
Coloured card - or simply use recycled card, from packaging eg cake mix boxes and paint accordingly
Coloured raffia or ribbon
Glue, glue dots or tape
Jewels etc to decorate

These are great for any toddlers starting to suffer from ‘bad dreams’. Cut the middle out of your plate, paint both sides and leave to dry. Cut strips of card long enough to cross the diameter of the hole in your plate and stick them across it like a web. Decorate the plate with jewels and stickers. Cut lengths of raffia or ribbon and attach to the bottom of the plate. Tie feathers on the ends. Attach a loop of raffia or ribbon from the top to hang in your bedroom and catch all your bad dreams before they reach your pillow.

See an example

9. Paper plate wreaths for any occasion

1 paper plate
Items to stick on it for the occasion

Easter? Birthday? Christmas? Autumn?... Thursday? You need a wreath for that. Simply cut out the middle, paint the circle and decorate as you wish - spring shades and bunny stickers for Easter, pretty leaves from the garden for Autumn. Go wild.

See an example

Related: How to keep preschoolers entertained at home

10. Rocking chicken

2 paper plates
Coloured card in red, yellow and brown/grey
Googly eye

Need to put a smile on your toddler’s face fast? Cock-a-doodle-don’t worry. This’ll do it. Fold a paper plate in half. Cut into the middle from one corner, fold down one quarter and you have a chicken shape to decorate. Cut out beak, wattle, comb and feet in cockerel-relevant (or whatever you fancy!) and stick the googly eye in the appropriate googly place. Et voila. Rocking paper plate chicken.

See an example

11. Alien spaceship

Two paper plates
Old newspaper
Plastic transparent cup
Gems etc for sticking
Pom poms, googly eyes and pipe cleaners (if you want an alien in it)

Sandwich two paper plates around some scrunched up newspaper and staple them together. Paint and let dry. Take a plastic cup. If you only have paper ones you can draw a window and an alien inside etc. If you have see-through cups make an alien from pompoms (green is traditional but not essential) and give her pipe cleaner arms and googly eyes. Put her under the cup on top of the craft and glue or sellotape it down. Go mad with gems, glue dots and other decorative items.

See an example

Buy pipe cleaners

Paint projects

12. Print painting

Paint (poster paints are best)
Selection of things to print with, eg apples, potatoes, sponges, bubble wrap, or even cotton wool balls/pom poms on clothes pegs.

Sometimes simple does it best. There is not a toddler on the planet who does not love shoving household items in plates of paint and splatting them on paper. Just lay it all out and let them at it. If you want to feel incredibly on top of your game, carefully place a clothes peg into the uncut side of the apple. Oh, you’re good at this!

See an example

13. Butterfly prints


That’s it!

Another oldie but a goldie. Toddlers squeal with delight when they see their butterflies open up. Take a piece of paper. Fold it in half. Let your child paint half a butterfly (or any pattern they like on one side. Fold the paper back over and smooth with your hand. Unfold and be amazed at your butterfly! You can sneak in an early lesson on symmetry here too and impress her key worker at nursery no end.

See an example

Related: Easy batch cooking recipes for families

14. Hand-print pictures

Felt tips of ‘craft extras’ if you like

There are more ideas for handprint paint crafts for toddlers on the internet than there are cat memes but try a few of these or have a hunt yourself. You can try elephants (the fingers are legs and the trunk), peacocks (fingers are the feathers) or monkeys hanging from trees (the fingers are the arms and legs swinging from branches).

Just paint their hand with the appropriate colour (toddlers love this tickly bit), place it carefully on your paper, let it dry and then add the details in. Fingerprints are also great for making trees with fingerprint apples in, lines of fingerprint bugs walking in the grass and snowy scenes with fingerprint snowflakes.

See an example

Big cardboard box crafts

There’s endless fun to be had with a cardboard box, as a home for teddies, or transport to another world.

15. Cardboard car

Cardboard box
5 paper plates
Coloured card

Take your box, add paper plate wheels and a steering wheel. Cut out cardboard bits for windows and a windscreen. Let your toddler at it with the felt tips to decorate. Don’t forget the cardboard in-car DVD player.

See an example

16. Cardboard town for toys

Cardboard box
Felt tip pens

Help them draw a town on the inside of a large cardboard box and encourage them to do a bit of town planning themselves. Then empty in their cars, Playmobil people or whatever they like and they have a readymade toy town. AND it’s easier to clear up at the end than it is strewn all over your living room. Score.

See an example

17. Cardboard lift

Cardboard box (big enough for your child to stand in)
Paper in different colours but white and black will do

This is so simple, we can’t believe we’ve had the cheek to include it, but preschoolers love it. Especially those preschoolers who love to touch every mother-loving button in the lift as soon as you get in it in the shopping centre.

Just stand the box on its end. Decorate the doors to look like a lift. Make a lift sign and perhaps a dial to show which floor it’s on and stick on the front. Draw some buttons on the inside. (Spoil them with some milk bottle tops for buttons if you like). You’re done. They can go in the lift and get out on any floor they like. These instructions also work for time machines. Lots of fun.

See an example

Related: The best online learning resources for children

Crafting kit essentials

If you’re new to this whole crafting thing. Fear not, you don’t need much in the house to conjure up some great activities, most can be pulled together from kitchen or office supplies. But if you’re looking to stock up, here are some supplies Mumsnet users recommend:

1. Paper plates
2. Tissue paper
3. Lolly sticks
4. Poster paint and brushes
5. Glue sticks
6. Felt tip pens or pencils
7. Scissors
8. Coloured card
9. Decorative gubbins like googly eyes /pompoms/ jewels etc
10. Pipe cleaners
11. Sellotape
12. String
13. Wooden rods

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OP’s posts: |
dyscalculicgal96 Wed 08-Apr-20 19:38:22

Sand art! Always a classic.

seeingdots Tue 05-May-20 19:23:48

Thanks for this! You've saved me having to hit up Pinterest for ideas for tomorrow. Now I shall spend my evening with MN and wine instead grin

Stilllivinginazoo Wed 06-May-20 04:49:23

Dlk and activity village both have loads craft ideas

Rhodri Wed 06-May-20 05:59:38

Do people already have a stash of things like glue and googly eyes? I don’t, and obviously can’t go out to buy any. I need to entertain DC with stuff I already have around the house 😩

gingerbeerandlemonade Wed 06-May-20 06:59:31

@Rhondi what stuff do you have? You can make playdough and salt dough really easily. Salt dough can then be painted and it sets. You can make loads of crafty bits with toilet rolls and cereal boxes. How old are is your child/children?

gingerbeerandlemonade Wed 06-May-20 06:59:49

@rondri **

Soozikinzii Wed 06-May-20 07:07:12

Baker Ross online are quite reasonable and they have a sale on at the moment with rainbow craft stuff 25% off . I ordered some to be sent to my grand children. And no I don't work for them !

Rhodri Wed 06-May-20 10:54:23

DS is two. He loves play dough but flour is too difficult to get hold of at present. We have some but need to keep it for eating. We don’t have glue or paint and can’t go shopping. We do have some felt tip pens and normal household objects like loo roll tubes.

gingerbeerandlemonade Wed 06-May-20 13:39:24

@rhondri totally get that about the flour! You could so simple things like tape the felt tips to cars to then drive them along making tracks. Stick paper under the table so they're drawing upside down. Make binoculars out of toilet roll tubes and decorate with felt tip pens. Cereal box car wash/garage. I set up a super simple activity for my two toddlers (3 and 2). They had to wash their muddy cars- I dipped cars in coco powder but you could do it with real mud! And then gave them cloths and a small amount of water to wash them. Tape a big piece of paper to the floor and draw shadows of toys. Have a look at pinterest and instagram. Loads of accounts on there- type in #myeasyplay and loads of easy activities for preschoolers comes up.

gingerbeerandlemonade Wed 06-May-20 13:40:06

P.s Baker ross is amazing but currently have paint shortage.

Alexsay Thu 07-May-20 21:45:16

Thanks @gingerbeerandlemonade great ideas there!

Alexsay Thu 07-May-20 21:46:53

In fact, @gingerbeerandlemonade do you have any good ideas for a 17month old please? I've got lots of craft bits but feel he's too young for them right now? I want to do some proper activities with him though. Everything I look for seems to be aimed at slightly older toddlers. Thanks for any tips!

Sparrowlegs248 Fri 08-May-20 22:15:51

@Alexsay I have 2 DS, older than yours now, but things they liked at that age......

Painting. Making a mess really but they enjoyed it. Still do.
Glitter bottles, you can do with or without liquid. The ones my son's loved best were without, so they Madera nice noise. Just get a small plastic bottle, give them a selection of things, buttons, rice, pasta, glitter, pom poms, feathers etc
Let them put in whatever they want. Glue the lid on.
Pavement chalks.

If you have paints, and Ziploc freezer bags, put blobs of paint in the bag, zip it up, let them squish away. Bonus points for putting it in a frame (e.g. we did autumn colours inside a leaf shaped frame, made from cardboard. Just cut a leaf shaped out and stick the Ziploc to the back.

Pipe cleaners and a colander. Old fashioned pegs (the wooden sort used for dolls) and a tin, my youngest spent hours slotting the peg onto the edge of the tin.

Not crafts as such but activities.

GlamGiraffe Fri 08-May-20 22:22:34

Poundland....they sell so much craft stuff suitable for toddlers. Stickers, sticky diamonds sticky foam shapes, different tissue paper colours (including animal and jungle prints today!! ) pipe cleaners, eathetsn shiny pomompoms, googly eyes..... i came out with a sack full and you feel brilliant as you've spent about 10 pounds for a huge haul😁
I do painting and sticking with my two and a half year old. Today I cut up a dishwashing sponge for the painting and we also use things we found in the garden as painting tools like old sticks bits of dry plants to make paint brushes, dry moss from the grass, scrunched old crisp packet bits etc that had blown in and leaves we pick. It's a really good way to explore what things are and where they come from and their textures and then to paint with them...(then to stick stickers all over the page afterwards, especially the diamonds) We spend a lot of time doing this.

GlamGiraffe Fri 08-May-20 22:30:55

Junk modelling is excellent for all small children. Keep boxes, loo and kitchen rool tubes, milk and other lids and either let them glue or sellotape them or do it for them. Let them use comments of gift wrap yoo. They will tell you what they are making...mind boggling!

Penne pasta necklaces. Let the paint it and let it dry. Then they can thread it on string or yarn. You will look so beautiful.

At my 2yo Montessori the children play tipping beans and lentils (dry) from one small jar to another without spilling and love it.
They wash cups and plates (must be dirty) in a small bowl of water
They clean floor tiles one at a time with cotton wool pads. Even better they follow the grout lines along "cleaning " with a cotton bud. (Onviously they atent dirty yo start with) DD does this mist days at home for fun🤔 They all seem to love this. Both of my children have loved it.

Alexsay Sat 09-May-20 08:01:39

Thanks very much @nottalotta and @glamgiraffe much appreciated!

GlamGiraffe Sat 09-May-20 14:06:02

@Alexsay I've been stuck in the garden for about 2 hours with the dreaded craft box before insisting we came back in....apparently it's so good it's even better than peppa on tv, in fact it's better than all tv.🤦‍♀️ my brain currently disagrees!

jpclarke Sun 10-May-20 00:33:08

Love the ideas. Thank you 😊

Babamamananarama Mon 11-May-20 20:52:08

Get a cardboard egg box.

Squirt paint into the egg compartments.

Put on a sheet of paper or old cardboard

Let toddler paint with gay abandon - the box, the paper, whatever.

When they are done you can throw the egg box away, rather than spent ages washing paint off loads of pots and the washing up taking longer than the activity.

gingerbeerandlemonade Mon 11-May-20 23:18:51

17 months is a fab age for introducing stuff some really good ideas from other posters. I did lots of cloud dough, oobleck, (obviously you need flour though). I found m at that age they are still into the enveloping schema so enjoy taking things out and putting things in. Collect jar lids and cut a slit in an old gravy tub- they will spend ages slotting them through. Cheerios threaded onto spaghetti is great for fine motor skills. Freeze toys in ice and leave them to explore it. Tunnels and ramps for cars. Crayons and cardboard boxes. Crawling through cardboard boxes. If you have ball pit balls then cut holes in a box and they can post those through.

If you have glue- sticking leaves or materials onto paper. Painting with different utensils such as potato masher or forks. Potatoe printing is always fun at that age 🙂

gingerbeerandlemonade Mon 11-May-20 23:19:33

Sorry! Didn't tag you in: @alexsay

gingerbeerandlemonade Mon 11-May-20 23:24:02

Basic craft ideas:

Potato printing

Sponge printing

Rollers (paint)

Running cars through paint

Utensil painting

I sometimes stick a huge piece of paper to the floor and let them paint with their body (great fun and if they do hand prints good for cards)

Crayons on different materials

Resistant painting (masking tape)

Bubble painting

Playdough models such as hedgehog (use lollysticks as spikes).

DanniArthur Wed 13-May-20 12:44:49

My DD (2) is fascinated by shadows. Now our favourite bedtime activity is positing a lamp against the wall and making animals etc with our hands. I then make up a story with DD contributing words etc. It sounds silly but has became a lovely part of our routine. Plus it seems to be encouraging her imagination, dexterity and communication skills. I've even caught her on a sunny day practising shadow shapes for that night!

Alexsay Sun 17-May-20 23:31:44

Thank you @gingerbeerandlemonade ! Apologies for the delay. Fantastic ideas! So far, he's not too enamoured with many crafty activities but does love water-based ones so I'm keeping him occupied with those. Thanks again.

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