Monday, 27 September 2010

10 Indoor activities for Toddlers

One of my first ever posts on Mummy Zen gave some tips for things to do on a rainy day. Back then, my son was still a baby, so the suggestions were for young babies and most of them don't apply to an active toddler. With the weather starting to get colder and more unpredictable as we move into autumn and winter, I thought a post on indoor activities could be useful.

Whilst spending time outside is a lot less appealing in the colder weather, it's still good to do, as long as you and your children are dressed appropriately. Children aren't as bothered by the cold and wet as adults, so they can still have a lot of fun. A couple of weeks ago, my son and I got caught in really heavy rain in the park. I had to literally drag him kicking and screaming back home! Despite getting totally drenched, he couldn't understand why I wanted to leave!

For those days when you are at home however and want to keep your toddler entertained, here are 10 suggestions:

1. Drawing / colouring / painting - If you're like me, you'll probably want an extra adult pair of hands around to help with clean-up after painting so that might be best for when you have a friend and their child over. Drawing or colouring is an easy one though. Let them 'colour' pictures on newspapers or in colouring books for a bit of variety.

2. Collages - these can be fun for something different. Your child could stick all kinds of things to a sheet of paper: dried lentils, spaghetti, screwed up tissue paper, cotton wool, leaves from your garden or local park, sequins or just whatever you happen to have at home.

3. Playdough - my son has recently really got into his playdough. You can help encourage their imagination by making animals, pretend food and shapes from the playdough. Let them roll it, squash it, pull it apart....You can also get various toolsfor cutting out shapes and modelling.

4. Water play - I know this sounds messy for an indoor activity but hear me out....Put some water in either a baby bath or into a sink, with a couple of cups / plastic bottles / bath toys and let them play. We have one of those baby baths that sits over the bath that our son can reach from standing but otherwise they may need to stand on a step to reach the sink. Keeping the water play contained this way should keep the mess quite minimal or at least easy to mop up quickly. Remember to NEVER leave your child unattended with water!

5. Pretend play - engage your child in pretend play such as having tea, cooking, eating, shopping and improvise with props around the house. The more you get involved, the more they are likely to enjoy it.

6. Building - most children like some sort of building play. It might be building a tower of plastic cups or boxes for them to knock down and re-build, making a tower of cushions/books/blocks, or building with Lego or other similar building bricks.

7. Hide and seek - if your toddler is a bit young to play hide and seek themselves you can introduce the game with one of their teddy bears for example. Show them how to play by explaining that you are going to hide the toy and then put it in an easy place to find when they are not looking (behind a cushion for example). Go around the room with them, looking in different places and let them find it quite quickly so they stay interested. You can gradually change the types of hiding places as they get to grips with the game. Make sure they have turns to hide it too!

8. Active play - being inside doesn't need to mean no physical activity. Chasing your toddler around your home, from room to room is a good way to get them moving, burning off some energy and probably squealing with delight! It's likely to be a relatively short activity as they might get over-excited and you want to avoid them taking a tumble and it all ending in tears! Creating an assault course with cushions, cardboard boxes, bean bags, big soft toys for climbing over can be another way to provide some active play.

9. Puzzles - for something a little quieter, puzzles can be good. Ask your child to find particular parts of the puzzle to get them looking at all the pieces and thinking about the overall picture. We have a London bus puzzle which my son loves. I get him to find the driver, the wheel, the woman on her mobile phone, the girl holding a guitar case, the boy holding a yellow balloon.....he really enjoys it.

10. Reading - most children enjoy being read to and it's a good way to encourage their speech and learning. Interactive books with flaps to lift, textures to touch and bits to move/turn on the pages are good for those who find it hard to sit still with books.

What else do you like doing with your toddler at home? What sort of activities hold their attention?

Photo credit


  1. Put 'em in the bath! This is always my last resort when my two are whining (they are 2 and 3). I let them out in old lcothes, let them get wet and good and muddy, then they have a big bath and end up in pajamas early for dinner. They love it. Other tips are cornflour gloop in the bath. Get the kids naked, give them the gloop. It's really odd stuff, half cornflour, half water till you get that weird constituency. Also, den making. Get those sheets duvets and boxes, and give them a corner to make their own.

  2. Hi Sheridan, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment with some great suggestions! I like the sound of the gloop :-)

  3. One idea that my kids had fun with when they were younger was playing with dry beans. I would get a tub and put some dry beans in with all sort of spoons, measuring cups and the such.

  4. Fab post! Very appropriate too given the forecast :)

    I'd second the den making idea - I also like to do indoor picnics - going on an imaginary adventure.

    Cooking / baking is always fun on a rainy day too!

  5. Thanks Tiffany and Lucy for more great, fun-sounding suggestions! I'll defintely be giving them all a try when we're stuck at home wirth bad weather.

  6. What a fantastic article! I'm with Sheridan on the whining - drives me bonkers! However, I digress. My little ones are 1 & 3 - I find drawing keeps them BOTH occupied as well as playdough that you've mentioned. It would probably come under your Active play - but both of my kids love "rough and tumble" and playing "horsey!". It leaves all of us feeling beat but we all have such a laugh. Otherwise, if its not raining and you've wrapped up - kicking a ball outside. We have an oversized tennis ball which is great for both the kids.


Thank you for reading. I'd love to have your comments and thoughts!