Keeping your toddler busy doesn’t have to be expensive or high tech. You can create fun, enriching activities for your kids with a few staple products from your local dollar store. No craft skills needed, and you can be as hands on or off with these activities. They’re also safe for kids aged 2-5 years old, and many are great for parties and family nights too.
Prices given are estimates, and vary what you already have on hand. Many of the crafts below will require adult supervision or an adult to make.
Need even more activity ideas? Try these edible slime recipes! Taste safe they’re perfect for toddlers and quick to whip up from kitchen basics.
1. Sensory Ribbon Toy
Cost: $2.00 or less
A dollar store colander and scrap ribbon (craft stores sell grab bags for dirt cheap if you don’t have any on hand) easily become hours of fun for your toddler. The only crafting skill you need is knot tying.
2. Indoor Hopscotch
Use electric tape (4-pack for about $1) to create numbers on any vinyl or tiled floor for some indoor fun. You can make your traditional “bean bag” out of nearly anything, but a re-sealable bag filled with beans, any soft weighted item, or you can make one from felt.
3. Giant Erasable Coloring Mat
Cost: $2.00 or less
How much fun can your kid have with a set of non-toxic washable markers and a white shower liner? If you’re an artist, you can use a permanent marker to draw scenes or give your toddler a blank canvas for hours of fun.
4. Shark Attack Memory Game
Price: varies by what you have on hand
Reuse an old tissue box and you, your toddler, or the both of you can recreate it into a shark. Add your toddler’s favorite magnets and start an entertaining game that encourages fine motor and cognitive skills.
5. Outside Wet/Dry Play Stands (From A DIY Birdbath Tutorial)
Cost: starts at $3.00
Using seasonal dollar store supplies and a little glue, you can create these ground level birdbaths and use them as sensory tables. You can fill one with water and age appropriate plastic toys and the other with dirt and shovels.
6. Make A DIY Ice Cream Bar
Price: varies on amount of toppings, containers, and ice cream
This activity is great for the whole family or parties. Simply buy dollar store sugar shakers and fill with your favorite candies and loose toppings. Let the kids help themselves and create their own edible masterpieces. The best part is you can reuse the shakers.
7. DIY Doctor’s Kit
Cost: varies on what you have on hand
Turn an old cereal box into an inexpensive doctor’s kit for hours of role-play fun. You can fill the kit with toys you already have, or you can pick child-friendly medical supplies up from the dollar store. For older toddler’s, they can decorate it and color it themselves.
8. Sensory Bins
Cost: varies, but you can make up to 6 sensory bins for under $30 from dollar store materials
Sensory bins are great for young kids to explore with all their senses. You can tailor your bin to your child by switching out items they don’t like.
Want something portable? Be sure to check out her sensory bottle tutorial too.
9. Shaving Cream Slip and Slide
Cost: starts at $2.00
Shaving cream, food coloring, and a large plastic drop cloth are all you need for waterless fun in the sun.
10. STEM Ocean Jar
Cost: varies by what you have on hand
This hands on project is perfect for older toddlers who love the ocean and learning about ocean life. Simply use a large jar (recycled works), a few household ingredients (pick up anything you don’t have at the dollar store), and a funnel.
11. Fireworks Sensory Jar
12. Frozen Dino Eggs
13. Sponge Tower Blocks
Cost: starts at $1.00
Simple dollar store sponges can turn into hours of creative play. They’re also great for bath time and water sensory tubs.
14. Footprint Ghost Puppets
Cost: about $1.00 and up
This DIY project teaches art and motor skills. While they use cardstock in the project, dollar store poster board or cardboard also works.
Be sure to check out their footprint ghost games too.
15. Rainbow Bubble Snakes
Cost: starts at $1.00, but you should have most items on hand.
This fun activity promotes recycling by repurposing old socks and water bottles while providing outdoor entertainment for the kids.
***One word of caution – littles under 3/4 may not be able to understand that you should blow into the bottle NOT inhale. My little one kept breathing in and ended up coughing a lot. So, use discretion and make sure you also use a non-toxic bubble mix (like always, right?)***
16. Beach Cloud Dough
17. Felt Leaves And Buttons Craft
For more fall activities, check out this post.
18. Edible Strawberry Play Dough
Costs: Cost of strawberries since everything else should be in your pantry.
Even if you had to pick up one or two items from the dollar store, the recipe is still dirt cheap to make. The bonus is that it’s scented and edible, but it might not last as long as store bought dough.
19. Busy Binder
Cost: varies but most items cost under $1.00
A busy binder is perfect for when you need quiet time. The binder is great for younger toddlers and older ones, and if you have more than one child, you can personalize them. Simply fill the pages with reusable activities and the site provides plenty of ideas.
20. Fall Tree Activity
Cost: $4.00 and under
Contact paper, fake leaves, clear tape, and a brown paper bag provides creative entertainment indoors for young and older toddlers. You can apply this idea to many seasons by including fake flowers and felt shape cutouts.
21. Outdoor Mini-golf Course
Cost: varies, but most materials are recycled
This activity is perfect for parties or family fun. You will have just as much fun as making and setting up the course as you will have playing with it. The best part? Most items come from your trash, such as old cereal boxes, cans, and cookie sheets.
No matter the season or budget, you can find fun, interesting ways to entertain and interact with your toddler that won’t burn a giant hole in your wallet. What is your favorite dollar store activity or craft for toddlers?