10 Easy Ways to Occupy Toddlers Indoors

“It’s too wet to out, it’s too cold to play ball, so we sat there we 2, we did nothing at all.” The kids from “The Cat in the Hat” book needed a creative parent . But what do you do? Here are 10 indoor activities sure to occupy toddlers from 12 months to 3 years old. They’ll be learning new skills too!

1. Wash and dry a large plastic juice bottle, gather some clothespins (not the spring type) and a box or bowl to hold the clothespins. Show your toddler how to drop the clothes pins into to the bottle one by one. When the bottle is full, show him how to shake the bottle upside down to make the clothespins fall out. Young toddlers especially enjoy the noise the shaking makes. Expand the learning by counting out loud as the clothespins drop into the bottle.

2. Use empty water bottles, 16 ounces or smaller, fill with a variety of items and use a hot glue gun to glue the lids on tightly. For neat liquids try inexpensive shampoo. I like to use Suave shampoo because it comes in so many colors. Fill with about an inch of shampoo. Corn syrup works well too. Try filling a bottle 3/4 full with water, add a drop or 2 of food coloring and top off with vegetable or mineral oil. Make a bottle just half full of soapy water. How about plain water and a small plastic toy that will float.

For “shaky” bottles, fill with a few pennies, rice, small pom poms, or colorful beads. Use your imagination and experiment with different sounds. Always make sure the lids are glued tightly before allowing your child to play with them.

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3. Put your toddler in the bath tub and squirt a mound of shaving cream on the bottom of the tub in front of your child. Show him how to “finger paint”. (don’t use menthol scents because they can really burn if a little gets in his eyes.) Try adding a small amount of washable tempera paint or a bit of red, yellow and blue. Experiment with color mixing.

4. Got a Swiffer? Take a section out of the handle to shorten it and let your toddler push it around, just like a grownup. The Swiffer Duster is fun for toddlers too.

5. Fill a dishpan full of Quaker oatmeal and give your child measuring spoons, cups and small bowls to practice scooping and pouring. Have you child play in the middle of a sheet or blanket on the floor so cleanup is easy. You can also try using, rice, cornmeal, or beans. Try adding a waterwheel from the sandbox.

6. Fill a gallon size freezer ZipLoc bag with a couple tablespoons of tempera paint. Lay flat and press out all the air, zip closed, then insert into another freezer bag. Press all the air out of the second bag and zip closed. Lay the bags on a flat surface and let your toddler squish the paint around. Try adding more than one color and experiment with color mixing. If you want to make sure there are no accidental spills, use clear packing tape to seal the zippered end of the bags. I have also used this idea and taped it flat on a table all the way around all four sides.

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7. Roll up a few pairs of socks and show her how to toss them into a laundry basket. Try putting the basket on the floor, on the sofa, or a chair.

8. Would you love to have those big cardboard blocks but don’t want to spent a fortune? Save boxes that contain cans, i.e. soda 12 or 24 packs, generic Pediasure, and warehouse club veggie 8 packs, keep the empty cans and rinse clean. Put all the cans back in the box and use packing tape to close. I even buy inexpensive spray paint in fun colors and paint the boxes. These will stand up to a lot of stomping, tossing and standing. When they start to wear out. Toss ’em and make new ones!

9. Show your toddler how to use a blanket to pull her dolls and stuffed animals around like a sled. Use a bigger blanket and pull your child around the house. Kids never tire of this game. When you get tired of pulling, challenge your child to pull you. It’s OK to help a little by scooting too.

10. Make a kitchen band with pots and pans and wooden spoons. Don’t want such a noisy band? Use plastic bowls, measuring cups and spoons.

Bonus Idea: Put your child in the high chair and allow her to finger paint with pudding. Be prepared for a bath immediately following this tasty fun.

As with any toy or activity always closely supervise your child while they play.