Use a sandbox to teach your toddler about the desert.

Desert Theme Toddler Activities

by Zora Hughes

Teaching your toddler about colors, numbers and other fundamentals can get a little dull if you don't switch things up once in a while. Come up with a creative theme each week to teach him the basics and expose him to new experiences. For a desert theme, use, sand, cacti and even camels to teach your tot about the world around him.


Using common nursery rhyme tunes, teach your toddler songs about animals and plants in the desert. For example, sing about the animals in the desert to the tune of "The Wheels on the Bus." One verse could be, " The rattlesnake in the desert goes hiss shake shake, hiss shake shake, hiss shake shake, the rattlesnake in the desert goes hiss shake shake, all night long." You can also use maracas or similar shakers to make the rattle snake sound. Make up other verses based on other desert animals such as as camels, jack rabbits and chameleons.

Sand Play

If your toddler is like most kids, he loves to play in the sand. Explaining how to find water underneath the sand might be a little much for this age group, but you can teach him simpler elements, such as the difference between wet and dry sand. Show him how easy it is to draw in wet sand, and how easy dry sand is to pour. A sand box outside or an indoor sand play table is ideal, but you can also use regular kitchen bowls. Get colored sand from an art supply store to help your toddler create sand art while learning about colors.


Come up with games that incorporate the desert theme but also help reinforce fundamentals, such as counting. For example, you can print out multiple pictures of desert animals such as lizards, camels and coyotes, or use toy animals. Lay all the animals out and ask your toddler to bring you a certain number of a specific animal. If you have a group of toddlers, have them take turns and help each other find the amount and correct animals. Another idea is to turn your living room into a play desert using sheets and throw pillows to create caves or sand dunes. Hide toy desert animals throughout the "desert" and have your little explorer find the hidden animals and identify each one.

Arts and Crafts

Create desert-themed works of art with your tot. To make a cactus, put your child's hand in a mitten and trace it on green construction paper Cut out the shape and paste it onto dark-colored paper. Use crushed graham crackers for the sand (save a few from snack time) and dip a fork in yellow paint to create the needles on the cacti. If you want to create a camel, cut out two cups out of a brown egg carton, or your toddler can paint it brown. Use pipe cleaners for legs and a long neck. Save the cork from a bottle of wine to use as the head.

About the Author

Based in Los Angeles, Zora Hughes has been writing travel, parenting, cooking and relationship articles since 2010. Her work includes writing city profiles for Groupon. She also writes screenplays and won the S. Randolph Playwriting Award in 2004. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in television writing/producing and a Master of Arts Management in entertainment media management, both from Columbia College.

Photo Credits

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