My Favorite Indoor Activities For Toddlers

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I assume you’ve heard about the coronavirus. I don’t have anything else to add to all the other voices on the internet right now regarding that, but I did want to pop in and share a post today that I hope will be useful to you! Chances are, you’re practicing the recommended “social distancing” and you may find yourself feeling a little stir-crazy. As a stay-at-home mom of littles, I do have some favorite activities to do with my toddler when we’re indoors!

A couple quick notes: Obviously, every child is different. What may be interesting and fun for one child may not hold the attention of another child…I know every family has different approaches to things like screen time, snacks, and crafts, too. So, feel free to glance at this list of ideas and take away whatever strikes you as a good fit for your own little one! Secondly, my daughter Sophie is almost 2 and a half. She’s generally really self-disciplined and enjoys tasks that require focus or imagination (or chatting!), but also craves some big muscle movement. She’s the only toddler I have – so the things I suggest in this post are what I know to be fun for my daughter! However, I am a licensed elementary teacher with years of experience under my belt, so I tried to be mindful of the needs of all kinds of kiddos I’ve interacted with when writing this post. But again, at the end of the day, my personal experience with what my own daughter likes is what influences this list.

Additionally, I know that outside play time and outdoor activities are also super important for littles. We sure love walks to the park, biking outside, sidewalk chalk, and bubbles! But for the purpose of today’s post, I’m just listing some of our top indoor activities. 🙂

Here we go! These are my current favorite things to do at home with Sophie!

My Favorite Indoor Activities For Toddlers

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  • Reading. This is an easy answer, I know. 🙂 But we are big fans of books and reading in this household! My husband Bjorn owns the most books out of all of us, but Sophie and I (and now baby Soren) have growing collections of our own as well! Reading is one of those wonderful “reset” activities. When I was a little girl, my mom knew that scooping me up into her lap and reading a couple books was the perfect reset button for me if I was on edge. There’s something about sitting down with a book that both focuses and relaxes you. And it’s the same for our little ones. There are, of course, lots of proven statistics out there singing the praises of books. Reading is one of the best things we can do for and with our kids! And don’t forget, our kids also need that physical closeness with us – so, why not spend even 5-10 minutes a day with your toddler on your lap, soaking up a good book? Need a couple suggestions? I’d love to do a more in-depth post on books before long, but here are a couple quick recommendations for now: Flip-Flap Farm, Mr. Putter & Tabby Pour the Tea, and My Favorite Things.
  • Sensory Bottles. It all started with the week we potty trained Sophie. Once I picked our start date, I knew I’d want to have fun activities on hand that I could enjoy with my daughter while we were at home (and close to the potty chair!). So far, we’ve made three different sensory bottles (two of which I’ve posted about on the blog). We had fun with a St. Patrick’s Day bottle and a rainbow water beads bottle, but probably Sophie’s favorite bottle was our “Frozen” themed sensory bottle! These bottles aren’t just a craft for a parent to make and hand to their child; you can make them together, which gives your little one a sense of pride and ownership of their fun new toy!
  • Sensory Dirt with Farm Animals. It’s is a blast to play with (yes, even for the parents!). I purchased this kinetic dirt from Amazon, along with some farm animal toys. I also picked up a large clear plastic bin from the dollar store (that would be the means of containing this dirt!). Sophie loves to “play farm” in the kitchen, using the kinetic dirt and farm animals inside her plastic bin! Besides these farm animals, she also has some Schleich brand horses, which are our favorites! I picked up a plastic toy fence, too, which ended up being larger than I expected, but it still works well. I love how this dirt is a dark brown color, unlike the more common kinetic sand. PS – even though I reinforce 2 rules: don’t eat the dirt, and the dirt stays in the bin, messes do happen. That’s just how it goes! My trusty handheld vacuum (seriously LOVE this thing) helps me clean up the little granules that we can’t quite scoop back up into the bin together.
  • Water beads. You’ll have to go with your own judgment with these, because some kids are more apt to put things into their mouth, but I decided to try water beads as a special (and supervised) activity with Sophie! (She’s never been big on putting strange things in her mouth, which I appreciate! You do NOT want your child consuming water beads.) These were a BIG hit! The water beads start out super small, and you just soak them for something like 6-10 hours in a bowl with a certain amount of water. So, if you plan ahead, you can make the water beads in a bowl before you go to bed, and they’ll be ready for your child to play with the next morning! They have the coolest texture, and are quite addicting to play with. 🙂 I let Sophie play with these in the same big plastic tub that I mentioned above. She knows the rule: the water beads stay in the bin. I like to give her some plastic funnels and measuring cups from the dollar store, so she can practice scooping and pouring! There are the generic colored water beads I bought, but I also bought these ocean colored water beads as well. So pretty and such fun! (Plus they’re cheap and you get literally thousands of them to make!)
  • Head-to-Tail Puzzle. Fitting together puzzle pieces is something that clicked with Sophie more recently, so we’re having extra puzzle fun lately! I had purchased this head-to-tail puzzle for her a while back, and right now she is at the PERFECT age to do these with me! It’s a whole box of individual 3-piece puzzles, where you have to fit together an animal’s head, body, and backside. 🙂 I was pleasantly surprised at how long Sophie wanted to sit and do these with me! I’m also pleased that each puzzle piece offers decent “clues” with how they cut off each image, so it’s not too tricky to figure out which pieces go together. Finally, I like how these puzzles use real photos of animals! The box says age 3+, but I bet this would be just fine for many toddlers to do with their parents! I highly recommend this puzzle. But if you are looking for something a little easier, there is a Head and Tails puzzle option from the same company where each animal is just 2 pieces to match together.
Sophie with her “Jungle Fun” crate
  • KiwiCo Crates. My parents bought Sophie a year-long subscription of KiwiCo Crates for Christmas, and they have been such a fun gift! (I’m a big fan of subscription gifts, because your child gets to enjoy them all year long!) If you haven’t heard of KiwiCo, they send you a crate (box) every month with specially crafted STEM (science/technology/engineering/math) or art activities. It follows a particular theme each month. So far, we’ve received a doctor’s visit crate, alphabet play, jungle fun, and number play. Sophie gets the “Koala Crate,” which is for ages 2-4. Since our specific crate is for kids up to age 4, some of the activities are slightly over her head, but we will be hanging onto these crates and we love to keep pulling them out and playing with the activities again and again! And each of our “Koala Crates” has come with a cute little board book on that month’s theme, too! We’ve had a great experience with the “Koala Crate.” But, just so you know, KiwiCo offers many other age ranges, too!!
  • Drawing. Sophie loves to sit at her IKEA table and draw!
  • Jell-O. Any kind of pudding or jello is really fun for a toddler to make with their parents! We’ve made a 79-cent box of lime green Jell-O recently, which Sophie was so excited about, but we’ve also enjoyed making the Betty Crocker Chilled Treats – such a fun little activity to do together! (And it’s a great way for little ones to practice patience and learn about timers – I set the timer repeatedly on my phone for those Chilled Treats recipes, and Sophie enjoyed watching that, too.)
  • “Coffee.” One of Sophie’s favorite things is having “coffee” with her daddy on weekend mornings! What Bjorn makes for her is basically this hot vanilla milk recipe. She knows she’s not technically having the same coffee as Bjorn, but that’s what they call it and it’s a special treat and time together! A way to make this extra special is to buy your child a small ceramic mug. A little espresso cup works beautifully for this!
  • Bake together! Even something simple! Baking is the perfect activity for scooping, measuring, counting, pouring, focus, other sensory “play,” and patience! 🙂 Our two favorite things to bake together right now are muffins and a pancake-in-a-bowl. A boxed mix works well when it comes to muffins, and then your toddler can help scoop and pour batter into the muffin tin! (Sophie’s favorite muffins are the Krusteaz brand blueberry muffins that come with a can of wild blueberries in the box, and my favorite are the Kodiak Cakes protein muffins!) And the pancake-in-a-bowl recipe is such a blast for Sophie to help me with! (The recipe is saved in my Instagram profile, in my Food + Drink Highlights.)
  • Music and dancing! I have a whole Spotify playlist for Sophie that I made when Sophie was born (it’s called “BB’s Songs”) and although it’s a bit random, it’s our little collection of favorites! Besides this playlist, we’ve also been enjoying the “Live Ireland” station on the free TuneIn Radio app!
  • “Frozen” Kids Yoga. I only discovered this recently, so I don’t know much about the “Cosmic Kids Yoga” channel, but Sophie and I did the “Frozen” Kids Yoga today and she loved it! It’s a nice way to use screen time as an opportunity to still move your body! (The woman leading this yoga session actually talks through the entire story line of the movie “Frozen,” occasionally bursting into song. 🙂 And all the poses are acting out and retelling the story in a fun way! It’s a little over a toddler’s head, I think, since the poses move quickly, but Sophie still loved it and was able to do a ton of them!

PS – If you have older kids: when I was a Title I teacher in the elementary school (phonics, reading, and math interventions), two of my very favorite sites for printable games and resources were The Measured Mom and This Reading Mama. Definitely check them out and head to their “Free Printables” sections! Sooo many awesome printable games, activities, and more! At the school, we had other games, resources, and curriculum, but these two websites are awesome if you need something to print out and do with your kids at home!

I hope this list was interesting and useful to you! If you end up doing any of these activities, I’d sure love to hear! Feel free to tag me on Instagram (@hannahbeeolson)!

What are your favorite activities to do inside with your little ones?