13 Low-Prep Activities for Destructive Toddlers

Published: June 19, 2020 · Updated: March 1, 2024 by Sacha — This post may contain affiliate links. Read our full disclosure.

Does your toddler like to destroy things? Channel their destructive energies with these 13 easy activities that can be set up in minutes! These fun, low-prep ideas will help control the destruction so you don’t have to worry, and most of them involve materials you probably already have at home!

If you have a toddler at home, you know how destructive they can be. If you turn your back for a minute and they suddenly go quiet, it’s probably not a good sign!

So instead of fighting their destructive instincts, why not help your child channel them productively? Below you’ll find a list of 13 activities to control the destruction—because if they’re busy destroying the things you want them to, they’re leaving everything else alone!

And although these ideas are mainly aimed at toddlers, older kids will probably love them too! My four-year-old had a blast helping me take the pictures, and she’s been requesting some of these activities ever since!

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1. Smashing Egg Shells 

There are a variety of things you can do with egg shells, but the likelihood is that most of the time, you’re probably just tossing them into the trash or compost while you cook. So why not let your toddler have fun with them first? Just place them in a bin to contain the mess and let your child smash them with a toy hammer!

For best results, I recommend using wood rather than plastic—we used the one from this set, but they’re included in plenty of other smaller sets!

This activity is the perfect way to entertain your toddler while you cook a meal that calls for a lot of eggs. And if you have a garden, you can toss the crushed egg shells into the soil when your child is done playing with them so they can provide nutrients for your plants!

You can even add an educational component to this activity by drawing shapes or letters on the egg shells and asking you child to identify them before smashing them. What a fun way to teach them to recognize the letters of their first name!

Let toddlers smash egg shells with hammers.

2. Crumpling Dried Leaves 

This activity was actually the inspiration behind this whole article!

In the autumn, I like to go out with the kids and gather fallen leaves for crafts, but some of them always dry up before we have the chance to use them. If this happens, not a problem—you’d be surprised how much fun little kids can have simply crumpling up dried leaves!

As it turns out, this activity is so irresistible that when she saw the leaves I had left on the kitchen counter in preparation for this article, my almost-three-year-old couldn’t help but grab some and start crumpling them while I was looking the other way. I thought that was a perfect way to vouch for this activity, so I immediately grabbed my camera and took the photograph you see below!

Child's hand holding crumpled leaves.

Crumpling dried leaves can get a little messy, so if you have a back yard, I would recommend doing it outside. That way, you can simply let the leaves decompose when you’re done with them instead of trying to clean them up.

3. Popping Bubble Wrap

This one is sort of obvious, but it definitely fits the theme! If you have some bubble wrap lying around (perhaps you made some Bubble Wrap Butterflies with your child and had some scraps leftover), entertain your toddler by letting them pop it!

You can even use it as a learning activity by adding colors or letters to some of the bubbles using permanent marker and asking your child to identify them.

Child's hands popping bubble wrap.

4. Jell-O Toy Rescue

My four-year-old helped me take the pictures for this article, and the activities involving Jell-O were definitely her favorites.

Just prepare some Jell-O according to the instructions on the package and put some toys in it before placing it in the fridge to set. Once it’s ready, let your child rescue the toys using a spoon or—if you don’t mind letting things get messy—their hands!

I used toy dinosaurs because my four-year-old likes to play with them while her siblings are napping, but you can use anything you like. Just make sure to wash any toys before you place them in Jell-O, because your child probably won’t be able to resist eating some of it!

Child holding up a small toy dinosaur covered with Jell-O..

5. Smashing Jell-O

My four-year-old had so much fun with this! There are several ways to do it. We started by scooping out some of the Jell-O from the previous activity and smashing it with a spoon.

Child smashing red Jell-O with a spoon.

I had also placed some of the mixture in an ice cube tray the night before, so I let my daughter squish it with her fingers. She’s always been a big fan of sensory activities that she can eat!

Child's finger pressing down on Jell-O placed inside a Valentine's Day ice cube tray.

Instead of the ice cube tray, I had originally planned to use the silicone molds we use to make fruit gummies, but I abandoned that idea when I realized that they woudn’t be solid enough to pop out of the mold unless I added extra gelatin.

I don’t mind using Jell-O for sensory play because it’s inexpensive and taste-safe, but gelatin is expensive and I’d rather save it for recipes that are destined to be eaten. My daughter didn’t seem to mind!

Related: How to Make Taste-Safe Gelatin Cubes for Sensory Play

6. Squishing Water Beads

2024 UPDATE: I no longer recommend letting water beads into homes with children, even if the water beads are placed inside a sealed bag, because they have been know to cause life-threatening injuries to children who accidentally ingest them. But if you are looking for a similar sensory experience, grab a box of Jell-O, add ¾ the recommended amount of water, let it set, and cut it into small cubes before placing those inside a bag.

You may have noticed that when water beads have been hydrated for too long, they start to break pretty easily. That makes them perfectly suited for this activity! Just place the water beads in a sandwich or freezer bag and let your child squish them until they burst. I do it all the time and it’s seriously addictive!

Plus, since the water beads stay in a bag the whole time, you get all the fun and none of the mess! Water beads have a tendency to get everywhere, so I’m a fan of any activity that keeps them contained.

Child's hand squishing a bag filled with hydrated water beads.

If you love water beads too, but you’re scared your little one will put them in their mouth, try making them a Surprise Water Bead Sensory Bag!

7. Tearing Construction Paper

Need a little time to get things done? Give your toddler some construction paper and let them tear it to pieces! Then, if you don’t want to waste it, toss it into a food processor and use it to make DIY seed bombs with your child. They make great homemade gifts!

Child's hands tearing up orange construction paper.

8. Tearing Tissue Paper

Kids like unwrapping gifts, so why not give them some leftover tissue paper to play with?

Surprisingly, it’s actually harder to tear than construction paper until you understand that there’s a trick to it, so it could keep your child busy for a while as they try to figure it out. You can buy it at the dollar store if you don’t have any lying around, and you can even use it to make crumpled tissue paper art once your child is feeling a little less destructive!

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also buy bleeding art tissue paper and use a spray bottle or paintbrush to create abstract art with the torn up pieces—though I would suggest supervising more closely to avoid waste, because this sort of tissue paper is more expensive than the regular kind!

Child's hands tearing up colourful tissue paper.

9. Tearing Newspaper

I don’t know about you, but in our area, everyone receives a bag of promotional flyers every week. My husband and I like to share shopping lists, so we prefer to use apps that allow us to do that using our phones. As a result, we usually end up throwing the paper flyers straight into the recycling (though we do keep some of them to cover the table when the kids are painting).

If you have newspaper that you’re going to toss into the recycling, try letting your toddler take out their destructive energies on it instead! Our kids have actually done this on their own on the rare occasions that we’ve left it within reach. When they’re done playing with it, you can just recycle it or prolong the fun by using it to make papier mâché!

Child's hands tearing up promotional flyers.

10. Crumpling Aluminium Foil

It feels like a waste to immediately toss aluminium foil into the recycling when supper is done baking. So why not let you toddler have fun crumpling it up instead? Just be sure to supervise so they don’t tear up little pieces of it and put them in their mouth!

Child's hands crumpling up aluminium foil.

11. Crushing Cereal

Somehow, no matter how hard we try to finish old boxes before opening new ones, we always seem to have a mostly-empty bag of stale cereal in our pantry.

Cereal doesn’t taste great once it’s stale, so this time, I decided to put it in a Ziploc and let my four-year-old crush it with a rolling pin! Just make sure to let all the air out so the bag doesn’t burst, and if you’re still concerned that it will make a mess, double-bag it like we did.

Once your child is done crushing it, you can even use the cereal dust for taste-safe sensory play! Just finish it off in a blender or food processor if needed to achieve the right texture.

Child crushing a bag of cereal with a rolling pin.

12. Breaking Chalk

If you have old, broken pieces of sidewalk chalk lying around, let your child channel their destructive energies by crushing it!

Place the chalk in a sandwich or freezer bag with the air removed (we double-bagged ours to prevent the chalk dust from getting everywhere), then encourage them to break it by any means they can think of. They can use a rolling pin, whack the bag with a hammer or even throw the bag on the ground and try to crush the chalk by stomping on it!

And since a lot of sidewalk chalk paint recipes call for crushed chalk, you can even use it for another activity once your child is done with it! If you plan on doing this, just make sure to place different colors in separate bags to avoid ending up with muddy-colored chalk paint.

Bag containing yellow chalk, next to a rolling pin and toy hammer.

13. Tearing Off Crayon Wrappers

I don’t know if other kids do this, but mine have done this all on their own on several occasions when they got bored of coloring. And crayon wrappers can actually be pretty tricky to remove, so if your child wants to try it, this activity might keep them busy for a little while.

Once the wrappers are off, they’ll still be able to use the crayons to color, but if you feel like trying something different, use them to make melted crayon art or fun-shaped recycled crayons!

Child's hands tearing the wrapper off crayons.

What are you favorite ways to channel your toddler’s destructive energies? Sound off in the comments below!

Related Toddler Activities

Looking for other ways to entertain your toddler at home? Check out these fun taste-safe activities:

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18 thoughts on “13 Low-Prep Activities for Destructive Toddlers”

  1. Kleenex tissues my grandson is 4 very destructive and always pulls out all the tissues. Throwing them on the floor or up into the air to watch them fall. Which reminds me the little helicopters that come off of trees. We always throw helicopters and watch them fall.

    • Thank you, glad you found this helpful! We have two toddlers at home so we definitely have to find ways to channel the destruction if we want to retain our sanity!

  2. My kids would have loved these when they were little! This makes so much sense – give them appropriate outlets for their curiosities and everyone wins!

    • Yep, it’s great for them to have an appropriate outlet because it allows them to use up their destructive energies in a way that doesn’t make their parents want to pull their hair out!

  3. Bubble wrap is a winner in our house! I’ve had my daughter ride her tiny trike over it in the hallway when she was a little one and it was amazing! Great ideas.

  4. These are fantastic ideas! I always want to set up activities for my little one but it takes so much effort and she usually doesn’t play with them for very long. I’m going to try these and buy water beads ASAP.

    • It’s definitely practical to have a repertoire of ideas that don’t take a long time to set up! I hope she enjoys these activities! And I absolutely recommend water beads, they’re awesome!

  5. These are some awesome activities, and most of these things I have in my home! I have a very very very very busy 1 year old who’s favorite activity it hitting my ceramic bowls with metal spoons and pulling all of the wipes out of the wipe container! I will definitely try some of these simple activities with her!

    • Ours kids haven’t gotten into the wipes yet because of where we keep them, but they like to pull out all the tissue from the tissue box if we leave one within reach! I hope your little one enjoys these activities!

  6. wow these are fun specially the jel-o activities. Now I found additional activities for my toddler, Thanks for sharing!

  7. Wow, these are such great activities for proprioceptive input. Wonderful ideas for kids seeking some input for regulation. 😀

  8. I love these activities. I will surely try a few with my toddler. I don’t know about other people but popping bubble wrap relaxes me.


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