As I am writing this, the sun is shining and most of my family’s routine revolves around outdoor activities. My toddler and I were able to make it to the playground to burn off some much-needed energy today but the crisp air is setting in and I know in the near future, our time outside will be limited, AT BEST. With that being said, we need to keep those little ones busy and entertained to the best of our abilities. I researched some easy, low-cost, and minimal planning toddler indoor activities to keep on hand for those moments you need to keep the day moving in a fun direction.
Here are 25 toddler-friendly indoor activities to do with your little one when you’re stuck inside:
- Make Bubble Foam – Bubble Foam Recipe We now do this activity at least once a week, but I only add dye when we’re using it in the bathtub.
- Put a deck of cards into an old Container – I used an old oatmeal container we were throwing away, taped the top, and cut a slit into the top with a knife. I sat with my toddler and showed him how to place each card into the hole and the activity kept him entertained for my whole dinner meal prep.
- Wash the dishes – I fill up a bin with soapy water and grab a sponge and then let my son wash his toy kitchen dishes. If you do not have toy kitchen dishes, you could also use some of your old Tupperware or your own kitchen utensils. I am always shocked at how well my son actually washes the dishes and how much time he actually spends on this activity.
- Box of Toys – Any time something is extremely cheap or we get a bunch of toys at the same time (I.E. Birthday and Christmas) I stash away as many items as I can, in the “BOX”. This box is filled with magic because it has presents. I let my son pick one item from the box and it is always a hit. This is my go-to box when it’s really been a day and we need fun activities.
- Jump into Couch Cushions and Pillows – I feel like this activity was done in my house before I made it an activity but actually making it an activity, and allowing my son to do it, has created a new level of fun. I just throw all our throw pillows on the floor, lay a blanket on the top, and let him jump into the pile. This is a great energy burner and fun for everyone. You could also use the couch cushions if you do not have good throw pillows.
- Pom Poms in a cup or whisk – I picked up cheap pom poms in my shopping travels and I had my toddler put them into a whisk and plastic cup. This kept him entertained for way longer than I expected.
- Animal Rescue – Tape small animals (think of the mini-farm animals) around the room or on a cookie sheet and have your toddler “rescue” them. This helps with fine motor skills and identification.
- Decorate the box – All the diaper boxes before they go out to the trash, I have been having my Toddler color them with both markers, crayons, and recently stickers. I usually stick to a theme based on an upcoming holiday (i.e. Halloween, Thanksgiving, or Christmas). I also use the opportunity to identify colors, ABC’s, and numbers with him. Another tip, you can put your toddler in the box to color, and BONUS this keeps them contained!
- Golf Tee Hammering – Put Golf Tees (I bought cheap ones at Wal-Mart) into a cardboard box and have your little one use a hammer or bowel to knock them in. This is a good activity for physical toddlers.
- Paint in the Bath Tub – I just squirt some paint onto a paper plate and let my son paint away. I recommend the tub for easy cleanup or putting paper inside a zip lock bag and painting that way until you feel like your little’s are old enough not to paint your entire house.
- Glow Sticks in the Bath Tub – I Have pulled this one out at 8 am before…glow sticks are something I always put on my son’s Christmas and birthday list because he has so much fun with this easy glow in the dark activity.
- Emotion Stones – As a Psychology undergraduate I LOVE this activity. I had my son pick out smooth rocks at the playground (that we also washed, see activity #23) and I drew faces onto the rocks to match different emotions. Then, I went over emotions and feelings with my two-year-old. This allowed me a fun opportunity to help my toddler understand his emotions better.
- Homemade Play Dough – I use 1 cup flour, ½ cup of warm water & ¼ cup of salt ( a few drops of food coloring is optional). When I made this, I set up all the items pre-measured and had my son help me make the dough. Then, I set out a few cookie cutters for him to experiment with the dough. While this activity didn’t last as long as I would have liked, my son did help me make it and got exposure to play dough which is a win for me.
- Sing Nursery Rhymes – I almost hesitate to share this one because the demand my toddler now places on the Alphabet song is intense but it is learning and an activity that you can get lost in. We play our tunes on Alexa but there are a ton of available options online.
- Bubble Wrap Runway – Tape down bubble wrap and let your toddler stomp away.
- Clothespin Pull – Put the Clothespin on the outside edge of the bowl and have your toddler pull them off one by one and put them in the bowl. Sounds simple because it is and I was shocked at how long this activity ended up taking.
- The Book Drop – Cut a hole in a box and let your toddler drop books into the slot. After you can usually get them to sit (sometimes in the box) for a few of those books.
- Baby Doll Bath Time – I like this one because this teaches my son how to care for his sister without actually caring for her specifically since he still is learning.
- Alphabet Find – Draw the alphabet on pieces of construction paper and tape them over the wall and have your little’s find them. If they are too young to identify the letter, even just having them pull them off the wall and exposure to the letter is a good activity.
- Throw a ball at plastic cups (Indoor Bowling) – Set them up in a long hallway and have your toddler run amuck.
- Pouring Activity – Grab a pitcher and a few cups and fill with water, beans or rice, and allow your little to experiment with filling and pouring between the objects. Note – we did this activity in a sensory bin in the basement on the cement for easy cleanup. This could also become multiple activities using different mediums, which is also a plus!
- Muffin Tin Activity – I picked up cheap pom-poms at the dollar store and had my toddler sort the pom poms by color in the muffin tin. I also added a few of my son’s trucks to the tin and then put blue painter tape over some of the tins to make it more interesting.
- Rock Washing – I liked this activity because it was two-part. I let my toddler pick up “dirty” rocks at the playground and then later that day we washed them in a sensory bin. Also, this is a good activity to do during the night time bath…eats up more time during that fun Witching Hour.
- Rip the Paper – You know the junk mail that you throw away? I urge you to save it. Let your toddler doodle on it, then show them how to rip it and throw it away after. I have done this with my toddler for over a year now and he gets excited to go get the mail with me every day, for this reason. I also appreciate activities that keep me consistently getting rid of clutter even if it is just junk mail.
- Lego Bath – This one was such a hit, I had to include it. Throw those large Legos in with your toddler and have a bath. It kept my toddler entertained for longer than I anticipated and we also spent time drying them together, too!
We had a lot of fun trying out some new activities and it gave me confidence on how to handle the days we are all stuck inside.
What has worked best for me, is to put a list of these activities and new ones I want to try on the fridge and put checkmarks and stars next to ones we have done and liked. This way, I can easily access these ideas when I need them, and allows me to find alternatives to screen time, quickly. That way…the screen time works for when it is NEEDED because sometimes it is NEEDED!
Be sure to check out my 7 Tips for Creating Joy for spreading more Joy this holiday season.