Parents and digital devices are working overtime while we try to adjust to a new reality of being confined largely to our homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many of us are running out of ideas and patience. What easy indoor activities for toddlers (ages 2-5) can be whipped up with whatever you have in the house?
We’ve picked a range of activities that will keep young kids busy for a chunk of time so you can do one of the many other things that need to get done….or just take a few minutes to yourself.
As one blogger notes, always having a list of easy toddler activities in your back pocket is a great tool “to help break up the day, keep the kids from asking 47 ‘but why…?’ questions, buy myself a chance to unload the dishwasher or hit the reset button if things aren’t going so well.”
1. Audio Books
Get your child comfy with a pile of pillows – and possibly some headphones – primed to listen to a few books. Normally you can find free audio books through local library online services, or pay through a subscription service, but during the COVID-19 shut-down Audible is offering FREE stories for kids of all ages!
2. Insta Storytime
We love how communities are rallying online to engage, energize, and encourage everyone stuck at home. High-profile authors, artists, actors, and many other talented professionals are stepping up to volunteer their services in real time.
For kids, this includes a daily live storytime with authors like Oliver Jeffers (via Instagram live or find past stories on his website); and “Save With Stories”, launched by Jennifer Garner & Amy Adams, who’ve created “a spot to watch your favourite celebrities read your favourite children’s books” also for a good cause.
3. Recycling Blocks
If you’re a serious recycler, your household paper recycling collection probably contains several small boxes from your toothpaste, cosmetics, etc. In our house of four, we mysteriously go through a roll of toilet paper each day which adds up to a lot of rolls weekly.
Rescue those boxes and give them new meaning: Tape up the ends and ask your toddler to decorate the shapes with scraps of wrapping paper, washi tape, or paint (a little extra mess, but will take up more time if that’s what you need). Blocks can be buildings, balanced, or bowled over with a small ball.
4. Creative Cardboard Toys
Put a shoe box or ANY box that’s kicking around to good use as a toddler learning tool for shape sorting, colour recognition, or counting. We love this Delivery Box Parking Lot idea because it combines cars and number matching in a really easy, fast-to-make way.
Let your imagination – or your child’s – run wild with what you can make with the box. Ideas that we found on Pinterest include boats, kitchen appliances, a laptop, and a puppet theatre. Or cut out pieces of large cardboard to make ramps for cars; or an A-frame shelter for stuffies.
5. Balloon Sports
Fun, super easy, and an adaptable activity for all ages.
Blow up a balloon to be batted around the house with various implements: Balloon ‘tennis’ can be played with Popsicle sticks taped to paper plates. Balloon ‘hockey’ can be played with a plastic spatula or fly swatter. Balloon ‘basketball’ involves a basket on a chair.
6. Simple Playmat for Toys
This is so ridiculously simple, you’ll wonder why you haven’t done it before. Maybe you have! Take an extra-large piece of cardboard or cardstock – or tape pieces together – to make the playmat at least 16” x 24” in size. With a pencil, draw any type of map for smaller toys to play within.
Customize it to your child’s current obsession, such as parking lots and roads, rooms of a house, kingdoms, train tracks, construction site, fairy forest, etc.
Use washi tape, symbols, colours, stickers, and even 3D objects. Go over the pencil drawing with black or coloured markers. Your child can help draw or colour in areas.
If you have access to a good colour printer at home, skip the drawing part and find free printables with a search for “DIY playmat for toys” (although it won’t be as eye-poppingly large).
[Also just putting it out there that there are some really cute cotton rugs available online that do double-duty as playmats. Not free, but affordable: H&M Home or Etsy are great spots to look for play rugs.]
7. Toddler Chores
We’re serious about this. Wee ones think it’s cool to help around the house. Snag ‘em now before they know any better.
Fun stuff includes tossing clothes into the washer while the water’s running (toploader only), sorting clothes into types or colours, using a hand vac to clean crumbs off the floor, and sweeping with a hand broom. With chores, not only can you put your feet up while your toddler sorts the washing, there’s the added bonus of one less job to do later on.
8. Feed the LEGO Monster
You’ll need 3-4 paper lunch-size bags, construction paper, black marker, and LEGO Duplo. Googly eyes if you have them.
Feed the LEGO Monster is a simple three-in-one craft featuring colour sorting and building game that’ll burn at least an hour of time.
9. Pipe Cleaner Colander
Run, don’t walk, to your colander with a handful of pipe cleaners. If you don’t have piper cleaners on hand, ribbons also work but are trickier for little hands to thread through the colander holes.
Pro TIP: Tape the colander down to the table with clear packing tape so your toddler doesn’t run off with it as a hat, and then hide pipe cleaners in your closet. Otherwise, it’s a great simple fine motor activity that has the potential to captivate for an extended period of time.
The team at NOVERO hopes your family is keeping healthy and safe at home during these unprecedented times. We look forward to when we are able to see each other again in person.
Feature photo credit: House photo created by freepik – freepik.com