I’m just going to say it. I don’t really enjoy playing with my daughter’s toys all that much. I love the idea of her having Legos, dolls, blocks, trucks, kitchen stuff, a dollhouse, instruments, and balls. I like the variety that we have been able to provide her, but for some reason, I can only handle playing with the toys for about 10 minutes.
However, I love to “do” things with her. We go run errands, we go shopping, we go for a walk, ride her bike, go to the library, and cook. We play hide and seek, look for bugs, go swimming or color.
So when faced with a baby or toddler in the dead of winter or on a rainy day when you don’t want to leave the house, what am I supposed to do that will entertain both myself and my little one? Here is the list I’ve developed over the past couple of years filled with blizzards, hurricanes, and hot, hot summer days:
- Build a fort – I’ve been building forts for my daughter and myself since she was about 9 months old. All you have to do is put some furniture together in a circle and throw a blanket over top. The surroundings are different and exciting to a kid that small. As the child gets older (and able to eat more neatly) you can even have a snack or picnic lunch in your fort.
- Crafts – Somehow crafts and coloring don’t seem all that boring to me. Make sure your child is dressed in something you don’t mind getting messy and pull out the washable markers, finger paint, glitter, etc and color or paint your day away. Or at least the 20 minutes that your child is willing to sit at a table for (yes, eventually my daughter developed enough of an attention span to sit and color for 20 minutes).
- Running – I’ve met a number of kids that seem to just like to run. My daughter has a lap around the living room and dining room and she will literally run in circles for 25 minutes. Sometimes she switches to galloping like she’s riding a horse. Sometimes we run or skip to songs like She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain and Skip to My Lou.
- Indoor Trampoline – we do have a lot of severe weather conditions where we live and a very energetic toddler. So we bought her an age appropriate indoor trampoline. It’s got a handlebar on it that she can hold onto to keep her balance and jump to her heart’s content.
- Playdough – is great, even for babies. Even if your child is too small to make anything out of playdough, the feel of the playdough is a new texture for the baby to play with. Older kids can roll it into balls and start building snowmen out of it. You can make shapes and have your child tell you what shape it is. You can build your family in play dough and tell your daughter stories with the characters. The possibilities are only limited by you and your child’s imagination. Note: keep an eye on your child with the play dough. My daughter loves to lick it. That’s only one set away from eating it in my book.
- Sensory Activities – Activities that have the kids playing with different textures like playdough are good at exposing your kids to different things. Another example is to take dried beans or rice and put them in a plastic container. Add some toys (Little People figures, cars, sand shovels, and rakes) or spoons and let your child play with the beans or rice. The fun of filling spoons and dumping them out and feeling the beans in their hands is a good sensory activity. You can find all kinds of activities on Pinterest.
- Music class/dance party – You can sign up for music classes with babies and toddlers and I highly recommend you do. However, even if you’re not interested in that, you can still hold music class at home. Turn on a cd, pull out buckets, wooden spoons, pots, and pans and whatever else you’re willing to let your kid bang around with and play to the music. If you decide to let your kids play with the pots and pans, make sure you have headache medicine available first. Or just get up and dance with you child.
- Indoor Water Play – Fill up a bucket or a dishpan with soap or water. Let your child play and get wet. Do this on the kitchen floor or a table where you don’t mind if water splashes. You can give your son some plastic dishes to wash, toys to clean, etc. Maybe your child can give that smelly teddy bear a bath which is productive fun (cleaning the bear and playing in water).
- Practice climbing the stairs – One boring weekend, work with your baby on climbing the stairs. Show him the technique you want him to use, such as scooting down on his but or belly, climbing up one knee, the other knee, and then one hand, and the other hand at a time. Practice it with him to get him comfortable crawling up the steps. Never leave him unsupervised.
- Homemade climbing jungle gym – Take furniture cushions and pile them up around a soft ottoman. Work with you child on climbing through the cushion maze and up and down the ottoman. Always supervise this activity, but it’s a good way to get your child climbing in a soft and controlled manner.
- Hide and seek – Hide and seek is great to play with a child old enough to walk. Even if they don’t understand the rules as you know them, having them start “finding” you is a great activity for the smallest kid. In our household, we’ve graduated to playing high and seek with the dolls in the dollhouse, to playing hide and seek inside and even to play it outside.
- Dusting and other household chores – we used to try to clean the house on the weekends with our daughter in the room with us. It was really entertaining for her. She loved to dust. Most kids like to help at a young age. We quickly realized if we wanted to clean efficiently, it couldn’t be around our toddler. However, if you’re looking for things to do when stuck inside and starting to feel a little stressed about the layer of dust on your furniture, try to make it a fun activity for your toddler.
- Science experiments – My husband and I are a scientist and an engineer. We want our daughter exposed to science, math, arts, and language. However, I will say, the science activities are some of my favorite. When preparing for blizzards and the almost guaranteed snow days this past winter, I did a quick Pinterest search for science experiments for toddlers and chose a few to have ready the next day.
- Bake cookies or brownies – a great indoor activity that everyone can enjoy. I suggest keeping ingredients on hand, even if it’s those box mixes or the refrigerated dough so that this activity doesn’t require any prep and can be pulled out in case of desperate emergency to distract your toddler from whatever tantrum they are throwing at that minute.
- Tea Party – have a tea party. Sit down and serve your child juice and muffins from plastic dishes. It sounds like a snack, but if you call it a tea party (or a juice party) it makes it a nice change.
These are a bunch of my go-to activities to do with my daughter when stuck in the house. Some days it’s easier than others to make sure both you and your child are entertained well. What do you and your kids like to do on those long days when no one wants to go out in the weather?