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Playing with the hermit crabs they caught in Palaui Island

Six Exploratory Play Activities For Toddlers

When I think of learning, I used to connect it to sitting down in a classroom with a teacher in front. For little ones, however, learning happens anywhere, anytime – not just in the classroom. We started teaching the minis as early as in their infancy. According to our pediatrician, Dra. Felita Lucena, it is best practice to let little ones explore since it is through exploration that their skills develop. This is called Exploratory Learning. Our role as parents (and their first teachers) is to guide them as they explore and discover new things. Here are some exploratory play activities that are fun and will encourage learning.

Exploratory Play Activities Toddlers Will Love

There are many exploratory learning activities you can do with your kids. These activities do not cost a lot and the materials you need are easily available. I have tried these with my kids (now 17 months old and 3 years old) and we are very happy with the results.

Activity #1: Outdoor Play

I have heard and read it a hundred times: Children are sponges that absorb everything they experience. What better way to encourage learning but to expose them to the great outdoors. When the minis were infants, we would take them on daily walks while inside their carrier. When they can sit down, we would put them in their stroller and walk them around the village. When they can walk, we would take them out every day and let them explore the surroundings. Every time we go out with them, we take that opportunity to explain their surroundings.

Bulawan Floating Restaurant

When they touch a flower, we would say, “That’s a flower… a yellow flower! Do you like it?” When we see a car pass by, we would say, “That’s a nice red car, right?” There are numerous things you can teach your children during outdoor play time. Aside from the names of things, you can teach your kids the alphabet, shapes, colors and numbers. Plus, outdoor play gives both you and your child your daily dose of exercise! The fun kind! 😀

Activity #2: Blocks and Puzzle Mats

If you ask me what kind of toy a child must have, I’d say blocks. Kids love blocks as these allow them to be creative. The Princess likes making castles, airplanes, boats, and shapes using blocks. The Little Man, on the other hand, likes making tall towers. More than encouraging creativity, playing with blocks develops children’s math and spatial knowledge.

To make play time even more fun, I usually add puzzle mats to their materials. We use these puzzle mats to build cubes, tunnels, and even houses! Trust me, kids love this.

Activity #3: Watercolor Painting and Coloring

Do you want to teach your little ones colors? One activity you can introduce is watercolor painting. You can even amaze them by showing them that they can create new colors by mixing two colors! Just be sure that your watercolor paint and crayons are non-toxic.

Toddler Art

Activity #4: Sculpting With Play Dough

Honestly, I do not usually do this activity with the minis because I fear that they (especially The Little Man!) might eat the dough. But, when I do take out their play dough, they get extremely excited about it. They absolutely love making figures out of it so I searched for dough that is safe for them so they can have fun without giving me a heart attack. Here’s a recipe of edible play dough you can try if you are also concerned about your child eating the play dough.

Activity #5: Field Trips

Going on field trips is probably the most effective learning activity we do with the minis. This is where they learn about things that we do not usually get to teach at home and during outdoor play. Recently, we took the minis to a trip to Taal Volcano. This is where they first learned about volcanoes. We also recently went to a beach trip to Sta. Ana Cagayan where they had a chance to hang out in Palaui Island, the famous location of the television show, Survivor. We took that opportunity to teach them about underwater life. There they made sand sculptures, collected shells in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and caught little hermit crabs on the beach.

exploratory learning activities in palaui island
Playing with the hermit crabs they caught

Activity #6: Play Dates

Aside from the intellect, it is very important to develop the social and emotional skills of little ones. To do this, we take the minis on weekly play dates either with their cousins or with other kids in Gymboree. Through interaction with other kids, values taught at home such as compassion, sharing, and teamwork are applied outside of the home.

If you find your child hurting another child on his/her first play date, don’t feel like you failed at parenting! Although The Princess adapted pretty well with other kids on her first play date, The Little Man did not do well at first. When this happens, simply take your child away for a while and explain to him that it is not nice to hit and that if he wants something, he just needs to ask.

Do you encourage Exploratory Learning as well? Share your favorite exploratory play activities in the comments section below!

Other fun activities you can try with your kids:

Kimberley Reyes

Kimberley Reyes is an Online Business Manager for entrepreneurs who are ready to get off the hamster wheel and step into their CEO shoes. On top of helping her clients get organized and scale their businesses, she is also happily busy raising her five kids with her firefighter husband.

This Post Has 17 Comments

  1. Chinky Magtibay

    It’s good timing for me to read your post now since I’ll be spending more time with my 2 year old son in the next months. Thanks for the tips Kim!

    1. Kim Reyes

      Yes! I read on your blog that you’ll be spending more time with you son. 🙂 Try these things out. Your little one will love ’em!

  2. Samantha Isabel

    If I will homeschool my kids, I will definitely take note of these 🙂

  3. Que Sullano - Gavan

    I agree on all points, our favorite is the outdoors and field trips. Play dates are fun for us mommies to get together and for our kids to get to know each other

  4. We do all those things with our three-year-old. 🙂 But we have to do more of the play dates because his older sisters are several years older than him and he needs to be around kids his age too. 🙂

  5. A-Plus IS

    My kids would love to play with water in our garden. My husband and I bought them an inflatable pool so that they can swim and play. We also take them to places (out of town/ within manila) every once in a while so that they can explore things. Most importantly, we give them enough time at night after work to read books with them or play and drawing and also, my husband and I reserve our weekends for our kids to spend time and bond with them.

    1. Kim Reyes

      More than anything, I believe the time we give our children is the most important aspect in their development. Thanks for dropping by my blog. 🙂

  6. My Jacob loves playing with play doh but he makes so much mess! As in little bits of it, pini-pinch off the big bunch of clay kasi! He also enjoys playing outside kaso maselan, he gets itchy when he’s too sweaty/hot na (not even prickly heat ah, just rashes on his back!). So right now, our favorite activity is playing with Lego!

    1. Kim Reyes

      My kids are like that. What I do is I bring a wet towel with me when we are playing outdoors. When they start itching because of the heat, I just clean them up with the towel, change their clothes, then okay na ulit.

  7. Patty | MrsC

    These are the things that I missed out on as a mom. I was working full time from the time Little MrC turned 1 until he turned 6. Luckily, MrC, and my mom and dad took care of him then. They did a lot of the activities you listed here. 🙂

  8. I’m doing all the list except for the play dates. Once in a blue moon ang aming play dates. Takot sa mga bully and brat kids.

    1. Kim Reyes

      We have encountered bullies and brat kids. What makes it more annoying is that their guardians are not doing anything kahit sa harap na nila nangyayari. What we usually do is we just take our kids away from them. One time kasi, my daughter fought back! I was so proud of her for standing up for her brother, though. 😀

  9. I agree with everything on your list and so far, we’ve been able to successfully do all that with them. Although I’m hoping that our field trips would extend to travels soon. I would love for our children to see other nations, to experience and interact with other culture, to have a glimpse of their history and their values. 🙂 Great post. I love it!

    1. Kim Reyes

      We’ve taken the kids to various places and exposed them to different cultures/traditions in the Philippines ever since they were 3 months old! Haha. But like you, we’d like to upgrade our travels to international ones. The only thing keeping us from doing this is the funding. Medyo mahal na since there’s four of us!

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