It’s only been a couple of days since we have been stuck inside indefinitely and the kids (and parents) are already going stir crazy!
With this virus forcing events and activities to be canceled and school and work to be closed, I think we’re all in desperation for simple activities to keep our toddlers busy!
The good news is that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel with Pinterest-worthy crafts to keep your toddler entertained while stuck inside. Your kids will find fun in simple activities!
Fun and Simple Ways to Keep Your Toddlers Busy While Stuck Inside
Here are some simple, low-prep ways to keep your little one busy so you can get work done and maintain your sanity during this tough time. You’ll find fun indoor toddler activities that will hopefully help your child stay entertained.
GROSS MOTOR / PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES
Toddlers need to move so get them active! Plus it will tire them out quickly so maybe nap time will be just right around the corner.
Since the weather is pretty nice, you should be able to also do a lot of these activities while outside.
- Roll a ball back and forth. Make it more fun by having them say a letter, word, animal noise, etc. each time they roll the ball.
- Play tag or chase each other
- Give them piggy back rides, horsey rides on your back, and airplane rides while holding them in the air
- Play soccer with a small ball and the “net” can be between 2 chair legs
- Have a pillow fight
- Have a jumping contest.
- Put your hands up and see who can reach them and keep moving them up to make it tougher.
- Put a marker on the floor to see if they can long jump that far.
- Count while jumping. Can they jump until 50 or 100?
- Set a timer to see if they can jump for 20 seconds or 1 minute?
- Toss bean bags into baskets or buckets
- Play catch. Make it more interesting by having them say a letter, word, animal noise, etc. each time they throw or catch the ball.
- Have them do animal walks: bear walk, crab walk, frog jumps, etc.
- Use Painter’s Tape on the floor in straight lines, zig-zags, or curves and have them walk along it like a balance beam, jump over small pieces, and see what activities you can come up with.
- A cardboard box can have a million uses.
- Give them some boxes to play in and watch their imagination run wild.
- Use a large cardboard box and a cup of water. Put them inside the box with a paintbrush and some markers. Watch them paint with water and color with markers for a somewhat mess-free activity.
- Blow up some balloons and have them hit and swat them all around the house.
- Do Yoga. Here are awesome, fun yoga videos that toddlers will watch, do, and love!
- Make a blanket slide – sit them on a banket and pull it across the room
- Play tug-of-war with a blanket or sheet
- Jump on a trampoline if you have one or let them jump on the bed.
- Set up an obstacle course with pillows and toys and play follow the leader.
- Blow up some balloons for a balloon toss/tap game
Educational & Tabletop Activities
If you have a younger toddler who doesn’t have a very long attention span and is always on the move, try some of these activities while seated in their high chair and buckled in. This way you can get them focused on a task for longer than 10 seconds before moving on to the next thing.
Of course, don’t leave your child in a high chair all day because they need the freedom to roam about and explore on their own.
- Put together puzzles. Puzzles have so many educational opportunities.
- Sort or match toys and household items by color, size, or shape. This is a great color sorting toy or use household items and toys you already have like socks, blocks, beads, etc.
- Place a piece of construction paper of each color on the floor and have your child put all the objects of that color on the paper.
- Read a book. Ask them questions about what they read to develop early reading comprehension or simply pointing to pictures for acquiring new vocabulary.
- Printable worksheets. Print out some sheets of their favorite characters or objects for them to color.
- Melissa and Doug has a variety of FREE coloring and ABC printables for your use.
- Free printable apple sheets with a variety of uses.
- Education.com provides some printable worksheets, as well. You just have to sign up for a free account.
- Just do a quick google search for toddler printables and you should find a ton!
- Give them a snack. All toddlers love to eat!
- Use muffin tins to sort small objects (pouch caps, pompoms, large beads).
- Play with letter or animal magnets on the refrigerator, dishwasher, or any magnetic surface
- Make a card. Have them sit and make cards for loved ones for a holiday or birthday coming up or even for an older relative who is home and isolated as well.
- Make a Quarantine Paper Chain by adding to it for everyday you’re stuck at home, helping them to learn about patterns and counting.
- Flashcards have become a staple in our house for my 2-year-old. Get them learning shapes, letters, numbers, and words with the help of fun flashcards.
- If you’re the crafty type of mom, here are some great springtime crafts you can make with simple materials like construction paper or cardboard.
- If you think you have a science or math genius on your hands or just want to get them learning some STEM activities, here is a whole list of great STEM ideas for the young toddler. They include cleaning pennies with ketchup, learning the phases of the moon with oreos, and learning how to code with Legos!
- Help them learn their letters on an alphabet mat.
Fine Motor Activities
- Use different writing and coloring modalities and instruments: markers, dot markers, jumbo crayons, paint
- Dry-erase boards, easels, and etch-a-sketch are a great mess-free way to get your toddler drawing and coloring.
- Use Stickers. Get stickers of their favorite characters or just fun objects. Put them on a sheet of paper, on their body’s, in a book, or make sticker art. You can use stickers on lines, shapes, letters, or numbers as a fun sensory activity to learn.
- Write on the windows and mirrors: These window markers make it doable for your toddler to write on mirrors and windows. They wash right off!
- Create a necklace with string, straws, and fruit loops, cheerios, or pasta noodles!
- Use chip clips or clothespins as a fun activity to clip on to baby gates, mega block edges, paper, or a thin tabletop
- Paint with water to avoid a mess for younger toddlers. Give them construction paper, a paint brush, and a cup of water. As they paint the water on the construction paper, the paper will look darker as if they are really painting.
- Rock painting: Acrylic paints can really come in handy so have them paint rocks, leaves, or other objects that you don’t mind crafting.
- Use an empty container (milk jug, bread crumb container, creamer bottle) and cut a small hole or slit in the top if there isn’t already one or it’s too big. Have them stuff pompoms, wine corks, cheerios, old credit cards, popsicle sticks, etc. in the hole.
- Take a warm bubble bath. Throw in a bunch of new bath toys, bubbles, and water colors. It’s a great place to keep your child contained and having fun for awhile regardless if you need to wash them or not.
- Water play. Stand them on a stool by the sink so they can reach the faucet or even just sit them at a table. Give them cups, bins, water toys, measuring spoons, etc. to play with the water.
- Give them a body massage with lotion
- Have them push furniture around (chairs, coffee tables, end tables)
- Roll them up tight in a blanket, or use a pillow, or large bean bag to squish their body if they like that feeling
- Have them run their hands in water beads.
- Use shaving cream, hair gel, whipped cream, yogurt, etc. on a baking sheet and let them swirl their hands in it for a fun sensory experience. Use food coloring or add small items like beads and glitter for even more fun.
- Play with Play doh or putty. Hide small objects like beads in it for them to pull out.
- Make a sensory bin. These are fun because you can fill them with anything and just let your child get a little messy and have fun. Use rice, beans, sand, water, dried pasta, or stones as the filler. Then add little toys or objects that they can dig out. Now that Easter is coming up, you can try this Easter sensory bin.
- Make slime
- Make sensory bags for little ones who would make too much of a mess with a sensory bin. Fill a ziplock bag with water, glitters, pompoms, sand, or any other small objects. You can tape it to the floor so they can play around with it. Just make sure they aren’t strong enough to open them up and spill out the contents.
- Make edible finger paint for your little one to play with using just flour, water, and food coloring. You can also try this recipe using whipped cream and food coloring.
- Let them get messy with safe and edible materials as they explore new textures, scents, and materials.
- Have a tea party
- Make fake food in a play kitchen and have them serve you dinner. Have them actually use some of the tools from your real kitchen and even use play dough as pretend food.
- Play dress up – try on mom or dad’s clothes and shoes, jewelry, or any costumes and dress-up clothes that they have. They’ll love pretending to be their favorite princess or character!
- Make fake phone calls
- Pretend a laundry basket is a sailboat or airplane as they scoot around
- Pretend to be an animal. Have them do walks and make sounds like a particular animal as they roam the house. You can guess what they are trying to be.
- Charades: Have your toddler act out a particular task, whether it’s brushing their teeth or eating. They can act out their favorite book, dance, animal, or character and you try to guess it.
- Mindfulness activities: Get your child learning and understanding how to focus on their thoughts, feelings, and actions. Here are some great examples of mindfulness activities.
- Give them the pampering treatment: Treat your little girl to full-on pampering session. Paint her nails with natural nailpolish and do her hair and makeup. You can use pretend makeup or real stuff. She’ll love feeling like a princess.
- Tip for painting little one’s nails: Use a quick dry top coat since they won’t be able to sit for long enough to let them dry. Also, only do 2 nails at a time so they can have a break in between to let them dry.
- Play school: Especially if your child is in daycare or preschool, they will love to play school. In the morning, have circle time where they can sing all their favorite good morning songs. Go over the calendar and the weather that most daycares will do. Ask if they want to be the teacher or if you will be.
If your kids have siblings, that can definitely help keep them occupied longer. However, if you have an only child, you’re going to have to help them out with this one.
- I Spy – Pick a color or item around the room and have your child find it.
- Simon Says
- Imitation game – Have your child imitate your actions, facial expressions, noises, gestures, etc. Then have them do it and you imitate them!
- Build a fort with couch cushions, blankets, and pillows.
- Hide & Seek
- Scavenger hunt – Hide things around the house and have them try to find them. Limit it to specific rooms or floors if you don’t want a huge mess.
- Flashlight tag: This is night time game- Turn off all the lights and everyone gets a flashlight. Everyone tries to find each other with only a flashlight.
- Make an alphabet train by writing all the letters on a piece of paper and allowing your child to find objects that start with that letter all around the house. Bring them back and place them on the paper.
- Have a dance party with some favorite tunes.
- Freeze Dance: When you stop the music, everyone freezes. When it starts again, the dancing resumes.
- Glow in the Dark Dance: Get some glow sticks from the dollar store, turn off the lights and let them dance away!
- Sing songs with gestures like Its Bitsy Spider, Mr. Sun, Wheels on the Bus, Where is Thumbkin, Peanut Butter & Jelly
- Do the Hokey Pokey by making a circle on the floor with painters tap or any objects.
- Make music with musical instrument like tambourines, maracas, drums, etc.
- Make DIY musical instruments with household items. Make shakers with rice/beans in a water bottle or use a storage bin flipped over as a drum. Here are 26 household items that can be used as toys for babies and toddlers.
- Karaoke: The dollar store has great microphones for only $1, but your child can probably use anything to imagine it to be a microphone (hair brushes work great!). Put on their favorite songs and let them sing. Take turns with them for more entertainment! If you’re really into, grab a karaoke machine with microphone stand like this, that they’ll be sure to love. Here is another great microphone that works well too.
- Have them clean up their playroom or room
- Play with household items. There is a huge array of options for simple play with regular household items- find a whole list here, including how to use ice cube trays, ziploc bags, and Tupperware for fun activities.
- Cook or bake together. What better way to be stuck inside than with the smell of freshly baking cookies?
- Your toddler can help you pour ingredients and stir them up or even just watch as you talk to them about what you’re doing.
- If you’re worried about them making a mess or ruining your recipe, have them make their own recipe with playdough or toy materials while you cook. They use a rolling pin and even put the playdough on a baking sheet and pretend to put it in the oven.
- Do chores and give them jobs – empty the dishwasher, sort the laundry, sweep the floor, wipe down the table, take out the garbage, or refill the toilet paper rolls – They may not be able to do these things but you can pretend to let them.
- Create a family bucket list. Talk about activities and things you can’t wait to do in the upcoming weeks while inside or even over the summer after this pandemic dies down.
- Sort through old clothes, toys, and pantry items. Tell your toddler that they will be donating their old things. Use this opportunity to do some spring cleaning that you’ve been putting off and let your child help. Although they make things a bit harder, you can get still get started with them there and they’ll love to help!
- Let them rummage through safe spaces in your home: Areas or supplies that are typically off limits may just be a great place for them to play. Of course make sure to make them safe now.
- For example, opening the pantry door and let them play with all the safe/non-breakable/non-spillable items on the lowest shelf or keeping a Tupperware drawer (removing any glass) open to let them safely play with those items.
- While it may normally be a mess that you don’t want to clean up, it can be a great way to keep your child busy.
We’re very fortunate that this pandemic began as the weather is starting to warm up. Even if you need to bundle your kids up a bit, fresh air is the best thing for them.
Although it’s still not considered safe to go on public playground equipment because the virus can live on these surfaces, here are some activities that you can do outside at your own home:
- Chase butterflies/bugs/animals
- Go for a walk or nature hike and point out things outside – house, trees, cars, leaves, flowers, street, etc. Use this Outdoor Scavenger Hunt BINGO Game to make your walks more fun.
- Switch between different modes of transportation like strollers, wagons, tricycles, cars, cozy coupes, or scooters.
- Have a toy car wash: Give them a bucket of water and some toy cars (or other toys). Tell them the cars need to go through the car wash or just be cleaned. They’ll love helping you clean all their toys in the bucket.
- Make water balloons and throw them at each other
- Blow bubbles or use a bubble machine
- Throw and catch balls
- Have some water play. If you don’t have a pool, use a water table for them to splash and explore. You don’t even need a fancy water table, but fill up a large plastic tub or container with water, throw some toys in, and that provides endless fun. It’s great to do this outside to help them cool off or even just so you don’t have a wet mess in your house.
- Do an Outdoor Scavenger Hunt
- Have a picnic
- Get a bounce house. This one is perfect for toddlers and can grow with them for many years to come.
- Run through a sprinkler to cool off. This Sprinkler Attachment will just screw right on your outdoor hose and spray water like a sprinkler.
- Use Sidewalk Chalk
- Pick and collect items in nature: flowers, rocks, leaves, acorns
- Look for animals – deer, squirrel, birds
- Play tag
- Give them a watering can and some gardening tools for imaginative play. They’ll have so much fun pretending (or actually) watering the trees and flowers and filling and dumping buckets.
- Make an outdoor obstacle course with these stepping stones and balance beams.
- Get the mail
- Ride around the neighborhood in an electric car
- Play hide-and-go-seek
Technology or screen time should be limited for toddlers to 1 hour a day, but there are many times when it is necessary and that’s perfectly ok! Don’t feel like a bad parent if you let your child sit in front of the tv for an hour.
As long as you can find something educational, technology is ok. However, I always use this as a last resort.
Also, be sure to use technology as you would any other playtime activity or game that you are doing with your child. Sit down with them while they are watching tv and point out the characters, objects or lessons learned.
Ask them what they see, what is happening, or what they are learning. This will ensure that it is not becoming a completely passive activity and they are still using some language and brain power for it.
- FaceTime with friends and family. We don’t have to lose all socialization just because we’re stuck inside!
- Watch YouTube videos that promote movement. These Robotots videos let your kids mimic the dances of some of their favorite Disney characters.
- Ipad educational games like ABC Mouse. My toddler loves ABC Mouse because of the wide variety of games and fun. She’s learning how to trace letters, numbers, make new sounds and words, etc. They’re giving a FREE 30-day trial now so sign up while you can!
- Educational television shows like Super Why, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Octonauts, Bubble Guppies, Doc McStuffins, Timmy Time, etc
- Have them look at the pictures and videos you have taken on your smartphone
- Leapfrog Laptop is a fun interactive computer that toddlers can easily use and learn on.
- Watch a movie. This would be a good time to get them started to like new characters and movie themes.
A few more tips:
We’re all going to get through this tough time together. Here are a few more ways to make sure your kids stay safe and entertained:
1. Use various areas of your home: If you don’t have an abundant stash of toys and craft materials at your disposal it may be hard to keep your child occupied (even though there are plenty of activities listed that don’t require any materials).
If they’re still getting bored of the same toys, try venturing to different parts of the house that they may not normally get to play in. Whether it’s a basement, guest room, or kitchen, you can find plenty of new spaces that will bring novel excitement to your child.
2. Keep to their normal schedule or routine: If your toddler was previously in daycare or preschool, they probably are used to a pretty structured day. Jojo Ebi suggests keeping your child’s routine the same as possible through this time.
Even though at home you may not think they will follow it, try to incorporate as many typical routines for them. This may include circle time, nap time, lunch time, outside play, etc. at the same time of day.
3. Social distancing and washing your hands: During this time we need to be aware that it’s so important to keep our germs away from one another. Our kids won’t necessarily understand what’s going on so we have to make sure to take all the precautions for them.
- Make playdates over FaceTime instead of in-person
- Keep outdoor play in your own backyard and off playground equipment.
- Wash your child’s hands (as well as your own) as much as possible
- Use high-powered cleaning products instead of natural ones to disinfect surfaces (Lysol, Clorox)
I hope you now have a ton of fun indoor toddler activities while stuck inside during this quarantine. Have fun finding new ways to entertain them!