18 Simple Toddler Play Ideas for the IKEA Flisat Table

The IKEA Flisat table is one of the current 'must-have items doing the rounds on Instagram and it is PERFECT for simple toddler play activities.
simple toddler play for the ikea flisat table
Sian Thomas

Now, I’m going to say straight up that yes, I do think its a worthy purchase, but what exactly should you do with it once it arrives? First things first, make sure you check out the post ’10 IKEA Favourites that will Transform your Playspace’ for links to the table and accessories.  

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 course, Your Playful Home, I teach my students about 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 your toddler is 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. This is one of the reasons why the IKEA Flisat table can work so well with toddlers – because the resources are neatly presented within the trays, your toddler can always revisit throughout the day.

I personally find it best to present activities as an invitation to play, meaning that the child directs the outcome of play – you can read more about invitations here.

Age Recommendations

The toddler play ideas featured here are generally suitable from children aged 2+. Please use your best judgement when following these activities and consider the needs and capabilities of your own child. All of these activities should be done under supervision. Keep an especially close watch if your toddler still has a tendency to mouth things.

A Note On Themes

The themes I share in some of the activities featured here are ones that appealed to my children so you don’t need to follow them exactly. Take note of what really appeals to your child and adjust accordingly. For example, with the ‘wash the cars’ activity – you could do ‘wash the babies’ or ‘wash the animals’ instead.

18 Simple Toddler Play Ideas: Quick Links

This is a long list so just jump to the simple toddler activity that appeals to you most!

Rainbow Rice

DIY Light Table

Lentil scoop & pour

Pinecone Transfer

Pompom Push

Polenta & Pasta Kitchen

Muddy Farmyard

Wash the Babies

Ice Rescue

Farmyard Fun

Construction Site

Wash the Dishes

Feed the Farm Animals 

Land and Sea Sort

Citrus soup

Mark Making Tray

Post Office 

Small World 

flisat table ideas

 

1. Rainbow Rice + Tubes 

Rainbow rice is an absolute staple when it comes to simple toddler play. One batch can last YEARS, if you keep it stored correctly. You can find out my exact recipe by clicking this link.  Start by placing individual colours into the IKEA Flisat table (as shown top left) and offer scoops, tubes and cups that will invite your toddler to mix in the colours.

Once you’re done, pop the rice into a resealable sandwich bag and store for play at a later date.

Benefits: 

  • sensory exploration
  • colour recognition
  • hand-eye coordination

Materials: 

  • Batch of rainbow – you can check out our recipe here
  • scoops/spoons
  • funnels
  • cardboard tubes

2. DIY Light Table 

Light tables are a brilliant resource, but they can also be super expensive! Make your own DIY version in the IKEA Flisat by placing a string of battery operated LED lights in a Trosfast tray, then placing another Trosfast tray on top  – easy peasy! For this simple toddler activity, we added magnetic tiles and Grimm’s peg dolls for a colour matching invitation. 

Benefits: 

  • sensory exploration
  • colour recognition
  • hand-eye coordination
  • early maths – recognising and exploring shapes
  • language development 

Materials: 

  • Battery operated LED lights
  • Peg dolls 
  • magnetic tiles 

3. Lentil Scoop & Pour

A classic activity with the IKEA Flisat table. Scoop and pour activities are our number one all-time favourite: they also make for a great (and simple!) introduction to sensory play for toddlers.  Scoop and pour invitations are great for hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills and a general introduction to understanding measurements and capacity.

Benefits: 

  • sensory exploration
  • hand-eye coordination
  • fine motor skills 
  • early maths – capacity

Materials: 

  • bowls – wooden or plastic
  • fine motor tools – ours are from Learning Resources
  • Funnels
  • Lentils
  • Kitchen utensils 

simple toddler play for the IKEA Flisat table

 

4. Pinecone Transfer

This simple, yet mighty toddler activity packs a load of benefits. Not only did it take less than a minute to set up, it is great for ‘crossing the midline’ – which is really important for developing many everyday tasks including writing and putting on shoes! You can read more about it here. 
 

Benefits: 

  • sensory exploration
  • hand-eye coordination
  • fine motor skills 
  • early maths – 1:1 correspondance
  • Crossing the midline

Materials: 

  • egg carton
  • tongs
  • pinecones 
 

5. Pompom Push 

All you need for this activity to work is the lids to the Trosfast trays! Alternatively, DIY one out of cardboard. Here we added an extra element of challenge by using painters tape to create a ‘pompom rescue’ the pompoms were then posted into the little hole.

Similarly to the pinecone transfer above, this activity is great for crossing the midline and fine motor skills. 

The scissor scoop and tweezers visible in the photo are by Learning Resources and are brilliant for developing fine motor skills. 

Benefits: 

  • sensory exploration
  • hand-eye coordination
  • fine motor skills 
  • early maths – counting / sorting
  • crossing the midline
  • language development – colour recognition
  • problem solving – which pompoms fit into the hole?

Materials:

    • pompoms
    • painters tape
    • trosfast lid
    • fine motor tools from Learning Resources 

6. Polenta & Pasta Kitchen

Many parents ask me about introducing maths in the early years, but the thing is, maths and math concepts are all around us especially when we just let the kids play! This polenta and pasta kitchen helped my kids sort the materials – those that were small enough to fit through the hole of the funnel and those which weren’t. 

Try narrating to introduce new language into your toddlers vocabulary – for example, ‘the pasta is too big to fit.’ Narrating is better than asking questions because it doesn’t interrupt the natural flow of play, plus toddler play definitely shouldn’t turn into a test!

Benefits: 

  • sensory exploration
  • hand-eye coordination
  • fine motor skills 
  • early maths – counting / sorting
  • crossing the midline
  • role play 
  • problem solving – what fits through the funnel

Materials: 

  • polenta
  • funnels
  • pasta
  • toy pots and pans (ours are from ikea!

simple toddler play ikea flisat 3

 

7. Muddy Farmyard

To make the ‘mud’ you need:

  • equal quantities of cocoa powder and water (e.g. 1 cup of each)
  • 1/2 cup of cornflour

Adjust this according to how full you want the tray to be. I recommend that you use just one cup in the beginning as this can get messy!

Fill the other tray with warm soapy water and flannels to wash the animals clean. 

Muddy farmyard is a simple toddler play classic and the IKEA Flisat table definitely makes it easier to keep everything contained and organised. 

Benefits: 

  • sensory exploration
  • hand-eye coordination
  • fine motor skills 

Materials:

    • cocoa powder
    • cornflour
    • water
    • watering can / jug
    • animal figurines
    • wash cloth
    • baby bath
    • towel

8. Wash the Babies

Now whilst this is called ‘wash the babies,’ you don’t have dolls! Just like the muddy farmyard activity above you can interchange so many different themes from cars to dinosaurs or pets! Go with your child’s interests.

Using dolls helps children to become compassionate and caring. Talk about being gentle and helping keep the baby clean. This is also a great activity for preparing toddlers for having a new baby too!

Featured in the photo are the Miniland baby dolls  and a watering can from IKEA – they are perfect for small hands!

Benefits: 

  • sensory exploration
  • hand-eye coordination
  • fine motor skills 
  • role play – taking care of others 

Materials:

    • water
    • jug/ watering can
    • wash cloth
    • baby bath
    • towel

9. Ice Rescue

In the summer months we freeze absolutely anything and everything to do ‘ice rescues.’ This just takes a little bit more planning than the rest of the simple toddler play ideas because you need to freeze the items the night before. 

Note: this photo features salt as part of the ‘rescue’ however I do not recommend you include salt for children under 3, especially if they would be likely to drink the ice water at any point! In that instance, stick to warm water and a small wooden hammer instead!

Benefits: 

  • sensory exploration
  • hand-eye coordination
  • fine motor skills 
  • problem solving

Materials:

  • flowers/cars/duplo/small animal figurines frozen in a bowl of ice
  • toy hammer
  • warm water in a jug

ikea flisat simple toddler play ideas

 

10.  Farmyard Fun

Cornflakes make for such a great crunchy base for this activity – mine loved to stomp the animals into the mix. So much noisy fun!! On the right of this setup, you can see some empty eggs cartons – this was so the kids could ‘feed’ their animals at troughs.

Benefits: 

  • sensory exploration
  • hand-eye coordination
  • fine motor skills 
  • language development – animal names and sounds
  • early maths – counting, capacity

Materials:

  • animal figurines (we used the Little People range)
  • cornflakes – keep them afterwards and reuse for sensory play to minimise food waste
  • egg cartons

 

11. Construction Site

Old, stale cereal makes for an excellent construction site. Just pour the mix into the IKEA Flisat table and add some diggers – a simple toddler play activity created in under a minute.
 
I’ve always found that adding items that fascinate your child into sensory play bins really helps the duration of play. My youngest son loves diggers and cars so this worked well for keeping him engaged. 
 

Benefits: 

  • sensory exploration
  • hand-eye coordination
  • fine motor skills 
  • pre-writing skills – mark making in the cereal base
  • language development – vehicle names and the sounds they make 
  • early maths – counting, capacity

Materials:

  • toy trucks and diggers 
  • stale cereal (again, keep this and reuse at a later date!)
  • cardboard tubes
  • nature treasures – sticks, conkers, pinecones all work well 

 

12. Wash the Dishes

We actually did this activity after our dishwasher broke! The children had such a fun time cleaning their own plates – I love how the chores that seem so mundane as an adult can be so fascinating to a child.

Benefits: 

  • sensory exploration
  • hand-eye coordination
  • practical life skills – helps children feel part of family life

Materials:

  • dishes 
  • dishsoap
  • dish rack
  • cloth
  • tea towel 

ikea flisat ideas for toddlers

 

13. Feed the Farm Animals

Yet another farm themed activity! Mine have all been obsessed with farm animals as young toddlers – I feel like it’s almost a rites of passage! For this simple toddler play activity in the IKEA Flisat you need stale cereal or bran (which is what we used here) along with some bowls. Again, it’s another activity that can be thrown together in a few minutes. 

Benefits: 

  • sensory exploration
  • hand-eye coordination
  • fine motor skills 
  • language development – animal names and sounds
  • early maths – counting, capacity

Materials:

  • animal figurines (we used the Schleich range here)
  • stale cereal or bran 
  • bowls
  • spoons
  • funnels

14. Land and Sea Sort 

Part of the beauty of the IKEA Flisat table is the ability to easily sort items! Pour water into both Trosfast trays, dyeing one blue and one green – voila! Another simple toddler play idea. 

Here we also added shaving foam to the ‘sea’ and some herbs from the garden to the ‘land’ for an extra sensory element. 

This activity works best with slightly older toddlers and pre-schoolers. Children need to have some knowledge of the world and animal habitats first – this works well after a visit to the zoo or a sea life centre. 

Benefits: 

  • sensory exploration
  • hand-eye coordination
  • fine motor skills 
  • role play – pretending to cook 

 

Materials:

  • citrus fruit 
  • jug of water
  • kitchen utensils
  • toy pots and pans
  • funnels

15. Citrus Soup

If you have some citrus fruit that has been ignored in the fruit bowl, (lemons, I’m looking at you!) then this is a great toddler play idea for you! Simply slice up some citrus fruits, along with herbs if you have some to hand, then add them to a tray of water.

You can opt to add cookware and kitchen utensils if you wish, but it isn’t essential.

Benefits: 

  • sensory exploration
  • hand-eye coordination
  • fine motor skills 
  • language development – animal names and sounds
  • early maths – sorting
  • the world around us – understanding habitats 

Materials:

  • animal figurines (we used the Schleich range here)
  • water
  • food dye (green and blue)
  • tray – optional (this is the Kmart circular tray)

 

flisat ideas for toddlers

 

16. Mark Making Tray

Mark making is the first step towards eventually writing and this makes for a fun and simple toddler play idea! Use the DIY lightbox trick from activity 2, then place some rainbow rice on top. You can add paintbrushes or simply let them explore with their fingers.

This activity is ideal to do in the IKEA Flisat table during the autumn and winter months when the days are darker. 

Benefits: 

  • sensory exploration
  • fine motor skills 
  • mark making (which is a precursor to writing – eventually!)

Materials:

  • battery operated LED Lights
  • rainbow rice – remember, you can download our recipe here
  • paintbrushes

 

17. Post Office

Pretend play is a staple part of childhood. When you start to notice your toddler or pre-schooler absorbed in the world of pretend, this Post Office can be a really fun set up and it’s so easy to section off resources in the IKEA Flisat. 

Simply provide some old cards and envelops, stampers and old gift boxes – kids just love to use real resources in their play.

Benefits: 

  • language development 
  • boosts social and emotional development – particularly if they are playing with a sibling
  • fine motor skills 
  • mark making 
  • hand-eye coordination 
  • problem solving – e.g. which way does the post need to go to fit into the box

Materials:

  • cardboard box with rectangular hole cut out
  • old birthday cards / cut cardboard
  • stampers
  • old gift boxes

18.  Small World Play 

If the idea of doing a messy sensory play activity in the IKEA Flisat table has you a little freaked out, then try a simple small world base instead. 

When doing this type of set-up we tend to keep the same theme for around a week. We have started to do more and more of these now my daughter is a little older (5) and immersed in the world of imaginary play.

Benefits: 

  • language development 
  • boosts social and emotional development – particularly if they are playing with a sibling
  • fine motor skills 
  • hand-eye coordination 
  • early maths – counting, sorting

Theme Ideas:

The key to making a small world play work for your child is to follow their interests. Here are some that have worked well for us in the past:

    • dinosaurs
    • mermaids
    • unicorns
  • farm
  • safari
  • Lion King
  • What the Ladybird Heard 
  • diggers

Just use what you have from your toy and resources collection to make up the bases!

 

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