With the weather being a bit damp, I figured today was a good day for a few indoor toddler activity ideas. This list I’ve been keeping around since my own kids (now 10 and 13) were little. Honestly I don’t think much has changed as far as simple indoor toddler activities go, since it is very simple to keep a toddler entertained with a limited (or non-existent) budget.
1. Computer Games
Many websites offer specific games for toddlers, such as Nick Jr. or Disney. You can also check into free downloadable games that focus on early reading skills, teaching patterns and shapes, or other early learning games. I am a big supporter of toddlers on the computer, because it helps them learn necessary skills in today’s world, as well as being a wonderful teaching tool for other basic skills.
My son actually learned to read long before the rest of his peers, mostly because of computer games we would play together when he was just a year or two old that involved letter, number, and simple word recognition. Correct answers were rewarded with his favorite character, Winnie the Pooh, telling him “good job!”. This simple praise obviously went a very long way, because at 13 he is still a very strong reader, despite the digital distractions in his current life.
2. Tea Party
This game is so simple, and as long as the child is old enough to communicate you can keep them busy for hours. It does require some supplies, mostly toy food. Simply make a pretend dinner for the two of you, or for a group of close friends (teddy bears and baby dolls).
While these types of indoor toddler activities may seem more for girls, boys can join in the fun too. Have them do the cooking for just you and him, or let him pretend to be the waiter. It doesn’t have to be a “tea party”, and even if it was there’s nothing wrong with boys joining in too!
3. Kids in the Kitchen
Your little ones are better cooks than you may have originally thought! It’s easy to make almost any meal with your kids. Simply do the measuring for them, and let them mix in ingredients. Children are also great at making pizza, just make sure they don’t eat all the toppings!
If you are wanting to find more “kid friendly” foods, try searching for cookbooks made especially for kids. Although be warned, it still takes an older child to read the cookbooks. With little ones you’ll still have to help them in the kitchen. Even still, cooking different foods can make for great indoor toddler activities.
4. Read Books
A simple activity for kids, yet often forgotten about. It’s never too early to read to your child, just as long as you do it on their time. Never turn down to the chance to read to them if they are interested. Do make sure the book is short enough to hold their interest. Too long and they may be looking for something else to do before the story is finished.
If you want to make it extra special, take a trip to your local library and let them pick out their own book. Otherwise, if you are staying indoors for the day, you could alternatively use interactive books online or your own book collections. Even just picking up a magazine to brows through together can provide quality time with your toddler.
5. Hide & Seek
Probably one of the oldest and simplest indoor toddler activities. My children absolutely love this game, and it’s fun to see what hiding places they come up with. Don’t be afraid to make this a family activity to do together. You may be too big to fit into some of those small spaces, but you don’t want to make it too hard to be found anyway.
6. Make Playdough and PLAY
Idea By Gayle Geisenheimer
Bringing out the play dough always brings a few smiles at my house. The play clay available in the stores comes in bright colors with fancy (and expensive) kits and tools. Try making homemade play dough. It’s easy to prepare a few large batches. It works well for me because I usually have a “large batch” of kids in the yard too.
Gather these ingredients: Flour, Salt, Food Coloring, vegetable oil and Cream of Tartar
In a two quart saucepan add 1 cup of flour, 4 teaspoons of cream of tartar and 1 cup of salt. Mix dry ingredients together. Measure 2 cups of water (with two drops of the liquid food coloring of your choice added) Drop in two tablespoons of vegetable oil and stir to mix. Add the liquids slowly to the dry ingredients in the saucepan and stir till combined. Heat over medium heat stirring often until the dough begins to form, starts to pull away from the side of the pan, and becomes a bit dry. Remove from heat and place on counter or board. Knead until smooth and cool. Keep cooled dough in plastic containers or plastic bags to keep soft and “playable”
Now, forget the fancy plungers and character kits sold in the store. Use a shoe box or Plastic storage box to create a special kit your kits will love. Look through the kitchen drawers, you’ll be sure to find some safe gadgets to inspire creative dough play. My kit contains two small rolling pins, some rounded plastic knives, spoons, melon ball gadgets and a collection of plastic lids and cookie cutters. Boys and girls love rolling out the dough and cutting out the different shapes, gingerbread boys and animal shapes. They use the melon ball utensil to form meatballs and cut strips of dough with the plastic knives. Search neighborhood yard sales for cookies cutters and plastic trays and such for your homemade fun dough collection. I also include Styrofoam meat trays (trays on which you get meats & produce at the market) I put my trays through the dishwasher to make certain they are germ free for the little ones. These trays make a great surface for each child to roll out his play dough and/ or collect and display the “cookies” and other goodies they make. Add some plastic candle holders or any cake decorating goodies you’ve saved over the years. Children enjoy adding these to their “pretend” cakes and pastries.
Most often I observed the kids using the old cupcake trays and cookie sheets to “bake” their creations in their imaginary ovens. Do you think only girls will like making cookies and play clay pies? You’ll find the little guys are just as interested in pretend baking.
There are of course many things children will want to do with their play dough. You may want to try this with your mixture if your little one needs some help learning to cut with scissors, or needs to strengthen his/her hands. I was once caring for a young boy who, according to the Pre-K Teachers, had trouble cutting with scissors. The paper seemed to always slip out and he had a weakness in his hands. Cutting play dough is an excellent exercise for this problem. I rolled the dough into long robes and had the youngster use scissors to cut the clay into small pieces. The idea was a good one. The child’s cutting improved; he gained some strength in his hands and most importantly, loved the activity! When I play with the children I find they enjoy rolling out the dough and making their own pizzas and meatballs. Hotdogs, tacos and cupcakes are next on the list of favorite things to make with the mixture. Give these ideas a chance at your house and invent some news ones too. I only use play dough at the table on the deck whenever weather permits. When my children were small, I learned quickly the mess it makes in carpeting. So that would be my only advice about limiting its use…otherwise the sky is the limit with home made dough. Children have great ideas for using the mix for creating a good time. Make a batch today.and let the fun begin!
7. Arts and Crafts
Before you go surfing Pinterest for the next greatest indoor toddler activity, try setting your toddler up with simple arts and crafts supplies. This can include paper, safety scissors, glue sticks, crayons, stickers, stamps, and any other craft supply you feel comfortable giving them. Watch to see what kind of creations they come up with from their own imagination, instead of directing them to do specific activities.
Over the years I have noticed the greatest art and crafts projects have come from their own imagination. We had what we called a “scrap bin” where my leftover craft pieces were tossed. The kids LOVED to dig through it, finding precious parts to add to a conglomeration of pictures, inventions, and other crafty projects. It was fascinating to just watch them, and ask questions about what they were making. This idea, hands down, beat most organized craft ideas.
I know, you are probably looking for FUN indoor toddler activities, but don’t dismiss housework just yet! Toddlers can get involved with things like matching socks or dusting with a fancy feather duster. Including them in your daily housekeeping routine helps build a bond and teach them the importance of making a neat, organized home. Encourage them to pick up toys or play games such as “find the toy’s home” as you do it. They probably will get a lot more enjoyment out of cleaning and organizing activities than we do, so keep that in mind if you are simply trying to entertain them!
Do you have an idea to share that involves fun indoor toddler activities? If so, be sure to leave your ideas in the comments below!