Thinking of some cheap and easy ways to entertain your toddler without leaving the house? Look no further than our easy-to-execute, relatively mess-free activities list. Use your combined imaginations and have fun!
Tape the corners of a piece of paper to a work surface and slide some small flat objects, such as coins or keys under it. Ask your toddler to guess what is underneath before getting him to rub crayons or colour pencils over it. Very young children may need your help to do the rubbing or may simply enjoy watching the pattern magically appear.
How you can get started: www.kidsplaybox.com/art-math-activities-coin-rubbings
2. Play Dough
Image cc licensed (CC BY 2.0) flickr image Homemade Play Dough by Sharon
Help your toddler to mix water with flour and different food dyes. Together, knead your way to an afternoon of fun. The possibilities of what you can make together are truly never-ending.
A simple homemade play dough recipe: www.diynatural.com/homemade-playdough
Line your kitchen floor with large sheets of paper. Help your toddler paint his hands and feet and make prints all over. Frame the nicest ones up as a keepsake and every time you do this activity, you’ll both see how big he’s growing! You can even turn the prints into fun – and funny – pictures with a little imagination.
Find lots of ideas here: www.funhandprintartblog.com
Get your child to select different objects, from their hand, to a spoon, a teddy bear and anything else. Use a pencil to trace around them on a piece of white paper. Then get your child to match the objects with their outlines.
How one parent did it: www.artfulparent.com/2010/07/lots-of-tracings.html
5. Foam Art
Image cc licensed (CC BY 2.0) flickr image SF003 by John Dyhouse
Make a cloud painting with shaving foam. Just dispense a fair amount into a tray, add a few drops of food colouring and your child will automatically get his fingers working. Then place a piece of cardboard over it for a few minutes, before removing it and letting it sit for another minute to dry a little. Scrape off the excess and admire the artwork.
Help your toddler cut dish-washing sponges into different shapes and prepare plastic plates of various kid-friendly colour paints. Let him use these to create a painting.
See what one toddler did: www.notimeforflashcards.com/2008/04/sponges-arent-just-for-cleaning.html
7. Water Play
Image cc licensed (CC BY 2.0) flickr image Pond Sensory Table by Emma Craig
Great for bath time, fill a small tub with water and let your child explore with scoops and bowls. Sandcastle-building beach toys work too. To add variety, include toys that can float, sink and maybe even squirt – all these are great tactile learning experiences for those little hands.
More examples here: www.netmums.com/activities/fun-at-home/water-play-in-the-bath-and-paddling-pool
8. Sensory Box
Image cc licensed (CC BY 2.0) flickr image Dyed Pasta Rainbow by Selena N. B. H.
Use food dyes to colour rice grains and different types of pasta. Mix them together and let your child explore the textures and colours. Don’t stop there. Keep creating more sensory boxes to keep the little one feeling and learning.
Lots of sensory box fillers in this link: www.littlebinsforlittlehands.com/our-favorite-sensory-bin-fillers
9. Go Camping
Image cc licensed (CC BY 2.0) flickr image Blanket Fort by Benjamin Chan
Throw a couple of old sheets or blankets over a table or chairs. Fill the tent with cushions, books and snacks. Give your child a torchlight and pretend to go camping with his stuffed toys. This is fun both day and night!
How one mummy did it: www.mykidsadventures.com/how-to-have-an-indoor-camping-experience
10. Treasure Hunt
Image cc licensed (CC BY 2.0) flickr image Money – Trying to grab a chocolate coin by Ambernectar
Buy a bunch of chocolate gold coins and hide them around the house for a treasure hunt. This is a good opportunity to teach counting. Start out hiding them in plain sight to begin with, then slowly up the difficulty factor as your child grows. Change up the activity as your toddler grows, from counting to learning the ABCs and more.
A pirate-themed version: www.toddlerapproved.com/2012/05/beginning-sounds-treasure-hunt-and.html
11. Sidewalk Chalk
Image cc licensed (CC BY 2.0) flickr image The Chalked Patio by Oddharmonic
Brighten up the pavement with some chalk paintings. Drawing ladders to “climb” or animals to “pet” makes for fun play-acting too. The possibilities are endless.
Check this link for lots of ideas: www.pleasantestthing.com/sidewalk-chalk-activities
12. My First House
Image cc licensed (CC BY 2.0) flickr image The Rise of the Cardboard House by Daniela
Cut doors and windows into a giant inverted cardboard box. Get your child to decorate his own “home” with markers and crayons. Scrap pieces of cloth can be glued on to form curtains too. Then furnish it and have tea parties with stuffed toys, or invite some playmates over.
Step-by-step instructions: www.mykidsadventures.com/build-cardboard-playhouse
13. Tunnel Tots
Image cc licensed (CC BY 2.0) flickr image Cardboard Box Tunnel! by David, Bergin, Emmett and Elliott
Create tunnels by cutting doorways into opposite sides of a few large inverted boxes and join them together. This can be used for the game “Follow the leader” or as part of an obstacle course. Get creative − and more boxes − and make an obstacle maze!
If you live near an ice-kachang seller, buy a few bags of shaved ice. Or do it yourself if you have an ice-shaving machine at home. Fill a cookie tray with a large mound of snow and make miniature snowmen. Alternatively, freeze small items or plastic toys in water – large silicone baking trays work great – and let your child discover them as they melt.
How to get started: www.teachingmama.org/ice-excavation-activity
15. Candy Canes
Image cc licensed (CC BY 2.0) flickr image Easter Finger Puppets by Wendy Piersall
Get your child to thread red and white beads through a pipe cleaner. Make kinks on both ends so that the beads don’t fall out. Bend into the shape of a candy cane. And don’t stop there – pipe cleaners can make lots more than just candy canes, like these adorable finger puppets!
A simple how-to: www.education.com/activity/article/beaded-candy-cane-ornaments
16. Muffin Madness
Image cc licensed (CC BY 2.0) flickr image Delicious Fujiz Muffin by Marufish
Muffins are easy to make and even toddlers can help with the mixing and stirring. Add bananas, apples, strawberries or anything you feel like. Let them decorate the muffins with chocolate chips or raisins before you put the tray into the oven. Turn on the oven light so that they can watch the muffins rise under your supervision.
A basic recipe to start with: www.kidspot.com.au/kitchen/recipes/basic-vanilla-muffins-132
Toddlers love to imitate grown-ups. Give them the all-important task of cleaning doors and tabletops with a spray bottle of water and a piece of cloth. How about folding laundered face towels next? Soon you’ll have yourself a wonderful little helper.
18. Pouring Fun
Image cc licensed (CC BY 2.0) flickr image Pouring by Dave Haygarth
A great way to practise their fine motor skills is to practice pouring water from a small pitcher into cups. Add ice cubes made with colourful fruit juices to make the game even more exciting and up the cool factor. You’ll be surprised how much fun – and a sense of accomplishment – this will give your little one.
Why this is a great activity: www.handsonaswegrow.com/pouring-water-toddler-activity
Begin with a simple peekaboo game using a blanket. Another variation is to hide your toddler’s stuffed toys under a blanket. Get him to feel each “lump” in turn and guess which one it is.
More ideas for blanket games: www.mydeliciousambiguity.com/2010/08/15-games-you-can-play-with-blanket.html
20. Frozen Fruit Pops
Image cc licensed (CC BY 2.0) flickr image Fruit Skewers by Steven Depolo
Get your toddler to help peel and cut a banana into slices. Next, get him to pluck seedless grapes from a bunch. Place the fruits on a plate, skewer them if you like, then just freeze and eat. Drizzling honey, chocolate or maple syrup adds to the fun and yummy-ness.
Here’s how: www.superhealthykids.com/frozen-fruit-kabobs