My little one just turned three and it is getting more difficult to keep her entertained for any extended period of time. I stay home with her and she currently does not attend pre-school, so we have a LOT of time together. I do not always want to leave the house and sometimes it is just too cold, hot, buggy, muggy to go outside. I love Pinterest and have scrolled through activities to do at home with my toddler, but most of them seem to need all kinds of materials, which means a shopping trip to a craft store with a toddler – ultimately, costing lots of money and who wants to go to a craft store with a toddler?! Not me!
So, I discovered some easy, inexpensive things to do using materials that we have around the house – these activities have allowed me to do things that were never difficult before I had a toddler – go to the bathroom by myself, put away laundry, make a phone call. Please note that some of these activities are things you have to supervise (I mean, you always have to supervise your child, but do not try to put away laundry when your toddler is doing something that could ultimately include a trip to the doctor to extract a bead from an ear or heal a cut from using scissors) – use your common sense and have fun!
All of these are tested and approved by me and my toddler!
1. Sidewalk Chalk
If it is raining, grab a large sheet of butcher paper (or any paper) and let your child draw on that. If it is nice outside, this is another activity that can keep your toddler entertained for awhile.
Stickers can be tricky because you do have to watch that the stickers are being placed on something approved by you…not on the dog or the couch or your face. BUT, my little one loves to peel stickers off of a larger sheet of stickers and then stick on a piece of paper.
This is a new obsession at my house. And, one that is super important, actually. In my life as a school librarian, I would meet MANY kids who did not have the fine motor skills to use scissors or who could not figure out how to grasp the handles to make it work. Get practicing those scissor skills! Get some safety scissors and provide paper and that’s it! Be sure to teach the proper way to hold scissors while walking around the house and talk about not running with scissors and all of that other important stuff.
My girl has enjoyed scooping and pouring things for about a year now and she is still going strong. This can be messy, so you may want to make it an outdoor activity, but we do it indoors a lot when it is raining, too cold, or too hot outside. All you need to do is get a plastic box or set up at the sink (if you are using water – don’t let your kid pour a bunch of dirt down your drain). Pour something in the box to scoop, along with cups and containers (we use measuring spoons and cups along with small snack bowls…or dirty dishes at the sink). I have used uncooked rice and beans; potting soil (make sure you get a bag that is only soil – no fertilizers or anything); and water. My little has been known to scoop for a good 45 minutes.
5. Tent Party
Anything can be made into a tent. This is perfect for rainy days. Grab a sheet or a blanket and make a tent. My little likes to look at books and hang out with stuffed animals in her tent.
6. Digging for Buttons, Dinosaurs and Other Small Objects
Use the same materials that you use for scooping, but this time, tell your little one to dig for whatever you have in the box!
7. Stringing Beads
This helps fine motor skills and focus. Get some string, large beads and show your toddler how to string those beads. This is one of those activities where you need to be close by. It’s great to see the look of concentration as they try to string the beads!
When my little turned about two and a half, she really got into puzzles. Now, it’s a go-to activity when we are stuck inside. We have many puzzles, so I only leave a few out at a time and rotate them.
This one can be hard. It’s messy, it is one where direct supervision is needed (at least at my house), but it gets my little involved for the longest period of time. Do I love the clean up afterwards? No. But, it’s fun and sometimes she paints some cool things!
10. Mixing Colors
Buy some food coloring and mix colors in glass jars. My little also likes to “paint” with food coloring. I lay out newspaper and put paper towels on top of the newspaper and she will squeeze food coloring dots out for longer than you would think this would be interesting. Messy and lots of clean up required. There are natural food dyes available, if regular food dye makes you nervous.
11. Books/Library Visits
You do have to leave your house for this one, but we visit the library multiple times a week. We do not always check something out. We do not always attend a story time or other program. Usually, there are other kids to have fun with and coloring sheets/puzzles. The library is a great, FREE way to get out of the house.
She loves stacking and building.
13. Glue Sticks
Get a glue stick and some small pieces of tissue paper or cotton balls and show your child how to stick items down with glue. This is great because a glue stick does not make a mess. You could even draw a shape first and then have your child trace your shape with the glue.
14. Planting Seeds
This is the perfect time of year to plant some seeds. But, let’s say it’s raining or you aren’t really into having plants – get a box, some dirt, and ANYTHING that looks like a seed (we’ve used rice, little beads, beans) and show your child how to “plant.” Bonus points if you get actual supplies to plant seeds outside. We have a row of sunflowers that we planted and it is fun to go outside every day to seed if they’ve grown.
15. Masking Tape
Masking tape and painters tape can be fun for a rainy day. We have used it to create tracks for cars, lines for walking, and boxes for jumping.
16. Tracing Shapes
Draw some shapes on paper and have your child use a different color to “trace” the shapes. Do this with numbers and letters too.
17. Puff Balls and Cotton Balls
Get a straw and blow the balls around; try to pick them up with kid tweezers; or try to pick them up with toes.
18. Spray Bottles
Fill a spray bottle with water and show your child how to spray and wipe. We do this on a chalk board and not only is it helping those muscles that are holding the squeeze bottle, but she is cleaning her chalkboard at the same time!
19. Dance Party
I have always loved a good dance party. This is a great mid-morning activity when you are feeling like nap time is FAR FAR away.
20. Flashlight Fun
So much you can do with a little flashlight! I stick letters and numbers around the house with post it notes and my little goes around with a flashlight looking for them. She also just enjoys shining it on the floor to look at shadows and the reflection it makes. Eventually, we’ll be ready for shadow puppets!