18 Easy Highchair activities for Toddlers

The highchair can be a great place for busy toddlers to focus on an activity. I've asked some of my favourite bloggers from around the globe to contribute to this post on their favourite highchair activities for toddlers, so please read on for some fantastic ideas...
18 easy highchair activities
Sian Thomas

Our littlest learners can be the hardest to engage, that’s why I believe that toddler activities should be simple, fun and most importantly super quick for us adults to set up! Toddlers are typically able to concentrate for 2-5 minutes per year of age and so creating elaborate play activities for them really doesn’t make a heap of sense. Aim to create activities that take 5 minutes or less to put together.

A version of this list previously featured on my original website, Teach Investigate Play.

How Often Should You Do Activities With Toddlers?

Before we delve into the activities, I want to stress this: please don’t spend a whole entire day going from planned activity to planned activity with your littles. They also need the time and space for independent play. In my brand new toolkit, Playful Days at Home, I show my students the importance of establishing a daily rhythm – planned activities should really be done at a time when you are all well-rested and your child is at a loose end. If they are fully engaged in independent play, then there is absolutely no need to interrupt them to do an activity. For toddlers, one planned activity per day is more than enough.

Age Recommendations for Highchair Activities

This post has a combination of ideas from my own page and those of my favourite bloggers. Whenever a guest blogger has made a contribution, their name is stated in bold along with a link to their website or social media pages. There you will find more information about recommended age and any equipment you might need. This post round-up was made with very young toddlers in mind so and the general recommended age is 12 months +. 

 

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As with any DIY activity you need to keep your child under close supervision, especially if the activity involves small parts.

1. Peel the Orange

This is such an awesome fine motor activity from Hello Wonderful – you can read details in full about this highchair activity here and also follow the lovely Agnes over on Instagram for heaps of incredible and creative ideas.  

Main benefits: This sensory, hands-on activity is great for developing fine motor skills. Building up strength in the hands and fingers is a precursor to writing later on down the line.

2. Egg Carton Poke

This idea is one shared by Michelle from 7 Days of Play over on Instagram. She used an old egg carton (with holes poked into each compartment) along with some paper straws to keep her 11 month old entertained whilst in the highchair. 

Main benefits: Grasping the straw with fingers helps little ones develop their pincer grip. Accurately getting the straw in the hole requires hand-eye coordination. If your toddler struggles, make the whole bigger.

3. Straw Push

Never throw out the recycling, is my advice! This is such a clever reuse of plastics from Hello Wonderful. You can read more about this highchair activity here.  

Main benefits: Just like the activity above, this straw push helps to develop pincer grip and hand-eye coordination. The smaller hole requires greater focus so this activity is best saved for when your toddler has got the hang of the egg carton poke above.

 

highchair activities

4. Making Tracks

Mr 15 months is already showing signs of being just as car obsessed as my eldest – so it’s lucky we kept the collection! For this yellow themed sensory activity, I put a dusting of polenta on the highchair for E to make tracks with. You can always put a tray or drop cloth underneath for easy clean up, although this time E didn’t really make a mess – miracles can happen!  

Main benefits: Mark making is an early precursor to writing. But this isn’t the only reason it’s beneficial: mark making is also a good physical and sensory experience for little learners.

5. Ribbon Pull

This activity from Creative Play Ideas is brilliant for little ones. Jenni did this highchair activity with her son when he was aged 6 months old, but you could also make it work for the older age group . You can read more about it over on Jenni’s Instagram Page.

Main benefits: problem solving! You little one will need to figure out how to push and pull the ribbons – this is great for building resilience. 

6. Cheerio Push

We’ve done a few posting style activities with E involving craft sticks. This idea came into fruition after thinking up safe small objects that I could use to help Mr 15 months develop his pincer grip – this cheerio push worked like a dream!    

Main benefits: just like the straw-based activities, the cheerio push helps pincer grip and hand-eye coordination. Smaller objects present more of a challenge so try this once your toddler has gotten the hang of pushing larger objects.

 

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7. Animal Rescue

This is about as simple as it gets – simply place some chunky animal figurines in a muffin pan and put washi tape over the top.  You can really do this activity with any object that fits in the muffin tin. Just go with what they are interested in at the time.

Each time your toddler rescues an object, clearly state the name to help language development.

Main benefits: problem solving! Your toddler will need to figure out how to remove the tape in order to get to the animals.

8. Rubber band Guitar

Secure rubber bands onto a loaf tin and you have yourself a DIY guitar that has been made in less than a minute. This has been so popular with my youngest two that we had to start learning how to take turns!

Main benefits: getting creative and making music! It helps your toddler explore cause and effect too – they will start to understand that when they pluck the bands, they make a sound.

9. Shape Escape

This is a slightly harder version of the animal rescue above. The deep loaf tin we used here made the ‘escape’ a little more challenging. Again, you can ‘commentate’ throughout the activity by telling them the shape or colour. E.g. ‘Triangle! You got a triangle.’ 

Main benefits: problem solving, language development, shape recognition.

 

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10. Toy Trap

Place some of your child’s favourite toys in takeaway containers for them to set free. Start with easy to pull lids and gradually move on to containers with clip locks. It helps if the container used is transparent for extra motivation to rescue the toy! This doesn’t necessarily have to be done in the highchair of course, but it can be a great way to occupy toddlers whilst they wait at the dinner table.

Main benefits: language development and problem solving.

11. Tape Peel

A roll of washi tape is an extremely useful resource for toddler play – especially when it comes to café outings and holidays! Place strips of washi tape onto the highchair surface for your toddler to pick off.

Main benefits: fine motor skill development.

12. Circle Pull

Another great variation on the rescue and problem solving activities, this circle pull has elements of problem solving and music making. When the circles hit the elastics, they make sounds just like the guitar. You can find out more about this activity by Little Toy Tribe, by clicking here.  

Main benefits: language development (learning colours/shapes), creativity, problem solving.

 

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13. Paint Squish Bags

 You can use this technique to create baby’s very first piece of lasting artwork. This is an activity that can be done as a tummy time activity (around 4 months) and right in to toddler-hood for those days when you need a contained mess! You can tape the bag to the highchair to reduce the likelihood of mess even further. 

Benefits: sensory exploration, colour recognition.

14. Two Ingredient Toddler Paint

Good old messy fun that is confined to the highchair! All you need to do is add a dash of food colouring to natural yoghurt and mix. 

Benefits: sensory exploration, colour recognition.

15. Star Stamp

Use washable non-toxic paint to explore cause and effect. This is a good way to reuse old toys (like the Fisher Price shape sorter). Early art activities are best done in the confines of the highchair so that you can tidy away quickly!

Benefits: creative exploration, shape recognition, colour recognition.

 

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16. Shape Match

This highchair shape sorter idea comes from Little Button Diaries. With younger toddlers , keep the shapes in place for little ones to pull out, overtime they will be able to sort the shapes too! You can read more about the post here.  

Benefits: problem solving, shape recognition, fine motor development.

17. Sticker Peel

This highchair activity can keep toddlers occupied for ages! The possibilities are endless too – whilst we used simple colour dot stickers here, go with what your toddler loves right now. If possible, use the easy peel stickers, as they are easier to remove.

Main benefits: fine motor skill development.

 

18. Play Dough Poke and Pull

Place some craft sticks into a ball of play dough and invite your toddler to pull them back out again – this is a brilliant activity for developing hand strength and fine motor strength!

As an added challenge, place food pouch lids on the sticks for your toddler to pull. This is a precursor to threading activities.

Main benefits: building hand strength and fine motor strength

Play dough is an enormously satisfying activity to make with your toddler. You can download our recipe here

 

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