It’s raining. You just don’t want to leave the house. You’re child is sick but not acting like it. These are all good reasons to want to stay inside, which means you need to have activities for toddlers at home.
Man! Children can drive you up the wall can’t they? One of the reasons I love the Toy Library so much is because it provides new entertainment at home every few weeks.
In case that is not enough though (it rarely is for me) below is a list of different indoor activities that you can do with your toddler. You can probably do some of these activities with older preschoolers, however I only have a one and a half year old, so I can’t really test these activities on that age group.
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Fun Indoor Activities to Entertain Toddlers at Home
Remember these activities can be fun for both you and your child! Perhaps I’m just a sap, but don’t you just love watching them playing? Both laughing with you as well as when they’re entertaining themselves?
No? Maybe I’m just a sap then…
Make a plan!
Having a plan can make things easier too. I know the feeling, you go to Pinterest, glance over thousands of activities, pick one to do today, rinse and repeat.
Instead of spending so much time coming up with activities each day, why not take 20 minutes, write down on your calendar an activity or two to do each day and do it. That way you can prepare by buying ingredients when you go shopping.
Of course, you don’t have to be a slave to your schedule. Perhaps your child asks to do something specific; you’re allowed to just go with it. But being prepared does save time and stress, so consider planning ahead.
Even if you do want to make a plan, it can be nice to have a list of all the different things you can do sitting right in front of you, so behold! I have made a free printable just for you with 40+ different indoor activities on it.
They are separated into different sections, so you can easily pick which one fits you today and so you can have a variety of activities that are messy and require preparation, versus those that will let them entertain themselves.
Potentially self-entertaining – No Preparation – No ‘Mess’ Activities
Admit it, half the reason you’re on here is because you want to set up your child and have them entertain themselves for even just two minutes while you cook dinner, clean the toilet, have a break! These activities may potentially give you that, but not necessarily. Each child is different.
Also, when I say ‘no preparation’ I mean, you need these things to begin with, but you may have them in your house already. Naturally you can adapt any of these activities to suit what you already have at home. ‘No mess’ means not dirty or wet or sticky, but may require some putting away afterwards.
Bounce a Balloon – I’m not the biggest fan of balloons, as they are a plastic waste. However on occasion they are a great entertainment for youngsters. I can recommend getting a cover like this one, as it gives the toddler something extra to hold onto.
Bounce on a Swiss ball – Hold your toddler’s hands and let them balance on a Swiss Ball. You may have put it away in storage, so let your toddler explore the pump as you blow it up.
Chase a ball – My toddler naturally does this from time to time, so yours may need some encouragement. Get a light ball and throw it. Encourage them to chase it. Our son did this with a raisin one night and wet himself laughing so hard (well, he’s in a nappy, but I assume that’s what happened). You could use scrunched up junk mail.
Colouring in – Get out some pens (or have some prepared in a zip lock bag) and hand them a piece of paper. If you need pictures I can recommend Messy Little Monsters. She has loads of messy colouring in play ideas too.
Dress up – Put some of your clothes on your child and try to put on some of their clothes. A mirror is a great addition to this game.
Duplo – Getting out the Duplo can be a big breather at times! We have the train set and the airplane/boat. This is a great toy to get second hand, as it’s difficult to break. Just be aware that some bulk second hand sets may include pieces that aren’t genuine Duplo, but they’ll still entertain your child though. Of course, any good Toy Library will have a few sets, just be aware of wandering pieces.
‘Egg’ and spoon – Get a serving spoon and a tennis ball. Let your child learn to pick it up and walk around with it.
Jump! – We’re always saying no aren’t we? Get some pillows for the floor and see how far your toddler can jump.
Piano play – You kinda need a piano for this, but if you do have one, or a different instrument, you can let your child make a racket every once and a while.
Play with Pegs – Clip them on anything and everything. Transfer them from one container to another. Let them help you peg out the washing.
Pool noodle fight – Pretend they’re swords and try to hit different things with them. Toddlers may take a bit out of these, so keep an eye out!
Pots and Pans and wooden Spoons – If you can put up with the banging noise that is.
Puzzle time! – Get out a little puzzle to do. Great toy to borrow from the Toy Library.
Read a book – Self explanatory really. Some toddlers like leafing through these by themselves. For older kids there are audio books you can get from your library or online, which you can have along with a hard copy, so you don’t have to read story after story after story.
Stacking – This could be plastic cups or containers or books or DVD cases or CD cases. See how high you can go!
Tongs and Toilet rolls – Or you could use thin wooden blocks, anything your toddler could pick up with the tongs. Put them in different containers.
Upside down furniture – This can be a chair or a coffee table. See if they can tip it upside down themselves. For extra difficulty put a sheet over the top. Create an obstacle course with it.
Vacuum cleaner – What? Yes. Your child is probably entertained by this normal household appliance. Let them climb on it, explore it, get sucked up by it (on a gentle setting).
Whiteboard drawing – Different to just colouring in. You may have on at home that you could let your child draw on. You could even paint the fridge with chalkboard paint and let them draw on the fridge with chalk.
Can you remember all those? Why not sign up and get a FREE printable with all these activities written on them!
Definitely not self-entertaining – No Preparation – No ‘Mess’ Activities
Sometimes you do want to actually interact with your child. Here is some inspiration!
Aeroplane/Horsey ride – Get on your back and balance your child on your shins. If you have enough strength and balance you could hold them on your feet! Don’t forget to have at least one crash landing.
Brush your hair – Some children really like to play with long hair, although some toddlers you wouldn’t trust with a hair brush anywhere near you!
Dance – Put on some music and away you go. The Wiggles is my go to because of the actions at the moment, but you can play Queen or Led Zeplin or Handle’s Messiah. They’re not going to care.
playing with Fire – Light a candle and let them observe it and blow on it. With adult supervision of course!
Hide and Seek – Or Peekaboo! You can hide objects too. This is a great game to teach your dog if you have one.
Nursery Rhymes – I can recommend This Little Puffin…, which is compiled by Elizabeth M. Matterson. You may need to read it before using them with your child. This is great for teaching fine motor skills.
Pretend play with toys – This is a great activity to play with boys, as we often don’t think to do so – or at least I don’t! Pretend to give a baby doll food or have a tea party with the teddy bears or help the toy monkey go on the potty.
Rough and Tumble – Blow Raspberries on each other (beware, they will copy!), chase each other, roll them up in a blanket, haul them over your back, trap them underneath you, tickle them. Active Canterbury has resources and links to resources all about staying active and the importance of it. The World Health Organisation has also published its findings on how much physical activity young children need.
Potentially self-entertaining – Requires Preparation – Could get messy Activities
Animal tape rescue – I got this idea from Busy Toddler – Making it to naps, one activity at a time. You could do this with any other small toys really. She has loads and loads of other indoor activities, and she explicitly states which skills they build on.
Collage – Pictures, leaves, grass, bark… What else can you glue onto a piece of paper?
Cornflour gloup – Something that’s on so many lists out there. The reality is you’ll need quite a lot of cornflour (like a half a cup to a cup) and barely any water (add drops at a time). Use food colouring to brighten things up.
make Damper – I don’t like things going to waste, especially food (hence I love my vacuum cleaning dog). Why not make some Damper (which is just self-raising flour, salt and water), and once they’re done playing bake it up? Some mess, but no waste!
Edible mud – Or perhaps it should be called Edible Mud, depending on the consistency. Under5s.co.nz are a good resource for thinking outside the box for activities (they have their own list of indoor activities).
Fake Snow – Messy Little Monster has a recipe to create some fake snow. Be sure to check out the rest of her activities and colouring in pages! (The basic recipe is Baking soda and water.)
Friend time – If you’re not sick have a friend come over!
Play dough – The activity on everyone’s list and so is included here.
Posting bottle – So, eat some ice blocks with wooden or plastic sticks. Rinse them and put them in a Juice bottle. This may entertain your kids for a few minutes at a time, trying to put the sticks into the bottle.
Q-tip with an Egg carton – I found this idea from Happily Ever Mom. For a child that’s crazy about Posting this activity is a must! Basically you get Q-tips, or some other kind of stick and stick it in an upside down egg carton that has holes in it. Simple, recyclable, love it!
basic Spiderwebs in the hallway – You’ve probably seen this idea before. Why not try it with your toddler? If you don’t have a hallway get a few chairs for him/her to climb over. Could be pillows, blanket boxes, cardboard boxes, soft toys, piles of books… Let your imagination take over!
Texture play (flour, oats, leaves, pasta, poultry wheat, rice, sand) – Some cultures find playing with food offensive. If that’s you then poultry wheat (which you can get from Bin Inn) is your go to! Let them explore the textures, mix different foods together, put food colouring with them! This will get messy though, so I recommend having a blanket on the floor with different containers to pour the food from one thing to another.
Definitely not self-entertaining – Requires Preparation – Could get Messy Activities
Bath time – Who says you can’t have a bath randomly in the middle of the day? It will kill 15 minutes of time. Your toddler can also experiment with filling up different containers with water, without getting your furniture wet. Give them a brush or a squeegee and they can ‘clean’ your tub for you too. Remember: ALWAYS SUPERVISE CHILDREN NEAR WATER.
Picture stories – The idea is you get a stack of little pictures and use them as prompts to tell a story. For young school aged children you could stick them in a book and get the child to write the story.
Toy Library – New Toys every few weeks for a fraction of the price! Here are some other excellent reasons to join a Toy Library.
Water play – If you don’t mind getting clothes wet you can skip the bath and chuck down a few towels on a non-carpeted area and get out a few containers of water.
Even when you’re stuck inside try to still enjoy your kids. They are not little for long, which makes these moments precious (even when you want to almost strangle them with frustration).