10 Toddler Learning Center Boxes – Perfect for At-Home Learning


This is part of our 2020 Back to (Virtual) School series. You can find our other posts here.

UPDATE: As I was putting my boxes together, I created labels to keep everything organized. You can get the free printable at the end of this post.

This will be our first full virtual school week (for my 1st grader), and it will be the first (virtual) school days where his 1 year old brother is home. Typically, he would be at daycare, and we absolutely LOVE our daycare/ preschool provider and how much they have taught both of our kids. (They have been amazing since our oldest went at 3 months and I miss them desperately!)

Until that is all possible again:

I realized that in order to keep myself save (and maybe have a minute to do any of my own work), I needed to implement a preschool schedule for my little guy.

To do this, I need some pre-made activities that are **new** and **exciting** (to him) to make sure that everyone stays busy – and that he is learning in the process!

The list below isn’t comprehensive by any means – the possibilities are endless. I wanted to pull together a mix of things that would keep him engaged, as well as work on some things he is interested in learning. (He is very excited to sing the “ABCs” right now and to count everything around him.)

Regardless of what you want to include, doing an hour or so of prep to create these will be well worth it so that I have 10 options to rotate in during our back to school days. (I also plan to update and revamp some of these as the seasons and holidays change!)

You can jump down to the 10 toddler boxes and come back and review supplies later.

Supplies for all 10 boxes

Most of the boxes below are made with items you already have at home or can be made by re-purposing some of your existing toys. The following is a list of some supplies that you might need to buy, see more of the details for each box below.

Small containers

If you already have small plastic bins (shoe size) or larger pencil boxes you can use those. (I have found that A LOT of supplies are sold out right now!) The following sizes should work + store well, but if you change what boxes you want to do just review the dimensions.

  1. Fine Motor Straws
  2. Egg Carton Button Loops
  3. Felt Shapes + Buttons
    • Same buttons as above (you can share a pack) – Large Colorful Buttons
    • Felt – I like this adhesive felt to make it easier to attach to backing
  4. Alphabet Activities – see the post below for an activity for each of the 26 letters before you finalize what supplies you want to get
  5. Balls! – you should just pull from what you have around the house
    • Ball set – this can add fun to your existing toys (please inspect everything that arrives to make sure all options are suitable for your child, some may be small or not the right material)
  6. Popsicle Sticks + Container Transfers
  7. Shape + Color Sorting
    • Poster Board – you can use whatever paper you have on hand, but I like thicker card stock fo the large color-sorting shapes
    • Ice Cube Tray
    • (Optional) Wooden Circles – these are 1.5″ in diameter, if you are worried about very little kids you can easily adapt this with larger pieces
  8. Human Body – print out the desired worksheets
  9. Foam Number Recognition
  10. Ball Balancing + Color Recognition
    • Colorful play balls – this is for a set of play pit balls (which you can use for a variety of activities), or any single-color balls about 2-3″ in diameter will work

This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases. (This does not change the price that you pay at all!) Regardless, all product recommendations are my own opinions.


Ideal Age Range:

This is designed for toddlers ages 18 months – 4. Some activities may skew a little younger, so you can enhance them for your older preschoolers.

Mess Factor:

Low. Outside of the alphabet activities, everything should be (permanent) mess-free.

Prep Time:

Making all 10 boxes should take you about an hour to compile various toys, print + make a few things.


How to Prep:

Back to School rushes have slowed shipping and pick up of a lot of organization supplies, so I would recommend ordering everything you need now (especially bins).

Below you can see the posts that inspired all of the activity boxes that I am going to be making. Given the shipping challenges mentioned above, we are still working on making ours for the start of the school year. We will update this post with pictures and play notes over the next few weeks.

Several boxes are simple ideas that follow something my toddler loves – so we will need to update on with photos soon!

Let us know what questions or comments you have below. We would love to help you craft an activity box customized to your toddler!

  1. Fine Motor Straws

I’m excited for my son to work on fine motor skills (and patience!) with these two activities. The photo on the left I found without a link to any activity (please let me know who to attribute it to). The photo on the right from A Crafty Living is an old post that is a timeless idea.

Here's a simple Busy Bag idea for Toddlers & Preschoolers using Plastic holey golf balls & straws! ⛳️
Acraftyliving.com

There will be two different activities for this box. You can do them together, or rotate them in to create more variety.

Activity 1: Cut the plastic straws into thirds. Bundle a group of straws with q-tips. Children will place q-tips inside of the straws to help with fine motor development. (If you straws are a bit longer you may want to cut into 4 pieces – test it out – q-tips should be visible from both sides of the straw.)

Activity 2: Place wiffle balls and straws together. Children will poke straws through the open holes in the balls. For younger children, you may be to do only 1 ball and have them put straws into all of the holes (or as many as possible). For older children, add color recognition by having them fill the holes in one ball with pink straws, another ball with blue straws, etc.

  1. Egg Carton Button Loops

I fell in love with this image on Pinterest, but it isn’t attached to a post (please reach out for attribution!). This is a great activity for little fingers to get used to buttoning. Using hair ties makes this a bit easier for younger toddlers (like mine). I will also add a link below to another post that uses a ribbon that will be a bit harder for older toddlers.

To make this, get buttons that have large holes so that you can secure the buttons using pipe cleaners. Turn the egg carton onto the bottom side. Down one entire side of the carton (i.e. all 6 on the left), poke holes in the carton. Thread pipe cleaners through the button holes and into the interior of the egg carton. Trim excess pipe cleaners, leaving enough to twist into a knot.

On the opposite side of the egg carton, poke a single hole into the center of each area. To affix hair ties, tie a large knot as close to the end of the hair tie as possible, leaving the remaining loop coming out (on the same side as the buttons).

Be sure to test how secure the buttons + hair ties are – and always monitor small children when playing with small pieces!

This post from the OT Toolbox has details on how to make a button activity that might be better for older toddlers.

  1. Felt Shapes + Buttons

This is another buttoning skill that also incorporates shapes + colors. (The picture below wasn’t attributed to a post.)

Cut a large piece of felt into thirds. Draw a square, circle and triangle onto each piece. Sew a large button in the center of each outlined shape (you can try fabric glue, but it probably won’t stand up to toddlers using this repeatedly). In different colors of felt, cut multiple triangles, circles and squares. Create a slit in the center of each large enough for your buttons. (Do a test with one to make sure the slit isn’t too small or too big.)

Kids can simply work on buttoning, or they can match like colors or shapes. You can switch up the directions to keep this fresh. (You can create additional shape cut outs when you prep this that you can rotate in to also help keep this feeling new.)

  1. Alphabet Activities

My son really loves letters. Right now he walks around the house pointing to any large letter he sees and repeating the names (albeit the wrong names). These weekly letter crafts + activities from 123 Home School 4 Me are fun and will help him focus on learning his letters.

Super cute Alphabet Crafts from A to Z for toddler, preschool, prek, kindergarten age kids. So many fun letter crafts to hel kids learn while making a fun craft for kids. #alphabet #preschool #kindergarten
123homeschool4me.com

Unless you are doing 26 weeks of boxes (I am not) take a look at the projects and see which ones you want to combine. The supplies for these activities are not listed above, since there are so many variations, but you can find details in the original post.

  1. A Box of Balls

These activity boxes can really be as simple as put a variety of balls into the box and be done! This was inspired by Life With Onesies original post that included some other interesting items like pool noodles and other round items.

lifewithonesies.com

I highly suggest using toys that already exist around your house. If you quietly gather them and put them away when no one is looking, they will seem like brand new toys when you present them in this fun box! If you need to add some balls for variety, see our supplies above.

  1. Popsicle Sticks + Container Transfers

This box was also inspired by Life With Onesies. Her box is a collection of colorful and natural popsicle sticks (in different sizes) and various collected containers and cups.

lifewithonesies.com

Gather some containers from around the house that you can recycle. Cut different styles of slits + holes into the tops of the containers, large enough for the popsicle sticks to poke through.

  1. Shapes + Color Sorting

This shape and color sorting activity (color sorting not shown below) is a quick + easy way for your toddler to work on both of those skills. I like being able to use the same pieces for two different activities. See the post from Mess for Less for details.

Shape Sorting Activities for Toddlers from Minne Mama
messforless.net

I am going to make the shape circles and then rotate between the ice cube tray shape sorter and the poster board color sorter activity week to week.

  1. Human Body

My toddler knows his basics, but as the granddaughter of a doctor, I was drawn to this human body activity from Living Life and Learning. There are a variety of activities and printables in her post that you can adapt based on the age of your child.

livinglifeandlearning.com
  1. Foam Number Recognition

For this easy activity, take your foam numbers (or you can also use letters), and trace each one on a piece of paper using a colorful marker. You can fit 3 – 5 on a sheet of paper depending on how large your numbers are. (Laminate the sheets if possible for repeated use.)

If your child is new to matching numbers, you may want to trace each number using a marker that matches the color of the foam to make it easier.

If you child is older, you can use a single number per sheet and then draw corresponding units next to it (traced number 3 with three dots next to it). This way they can start to identify units or count it out themselves.

  1. Ball Balancing + Color Recognition

With the amount of toilet paper tubes that we have lying around the house, this one was a no brainer! You can see the original post from Oh Hey Let’s Play. Use balls from an existing toy (or order play pit balls from the supply list above).

ohheyletsplay.com

To enhance this activity, I am going to use a marker to color the top 1″ of each TP tube so that my son can match the colors.

Now that you have reviewed all of the toddler learning boxes, I hope that you are inspired to prep some activities. I really believe that this will help keep YOU productive during your work day, with the added benefit of enhancing your child’s learning!

You can jump back to supplies to review what you need.

Label Printables

You can download these two sheets of labels for the boxes outlined in this post. There are also two bonus labels for additional activities and books that you can integrate as you are planning this out.


I would love to hear about the toddler boxes you are putting together for your at-home preschool learners! Every child is different, so please let us know if we can help with ideas for activities that your kid is interested in. Leave us a comment below.

If you would like to pin this activity, please use the image below.

Let's Chat!