Keeping a toddler entertained might seem like a never-ending task. They’re curious, energetic, and easily bored. But play is crucial to healthy development. Having a list of easy indoor, age-appropriate activities can help you stay on top of your toddler’s need for entertainment without leaving the house.
Stuffed animal hide and seek. Kids of all ages enjoy hide and seek. If you’re only trying to entertain one or two kids, though, it can be harder to make it fun. That’s when stuffed animals can help.
Let your toddler know that you’re about to play hide and seek with their toys and have them cover their eyes. Choose a few of your toddler’s favorite stuffed animals and hide them in easy-to-find locations around a room or around the house. Then let your child run around and find their toys while you give them hints. This helps your toddler practice coordination and following directions.
Scavenger hunts. Instead of hiding objects, you can have your child follow a scavenger hunt. Depending on your child’s attention span, this can be as simple as asking them to find you three red objects, or more complicated, like two brown sandals, a red block, and four chairs. You can make checklists with pictures or describe items out loud.
Dance parties. Kids like to move and play, and toddlers are still learning coordination. Throwing a mini dance party for your little one can help them use up extra energy without having to run around or use a lot of space. Play some of their favorite music and set a timer, and dance with them for 10 minutes. The movement allows them to practice standing, walking, bouncing, and following a rhythm while staying mostly in one place.
“Tightrope” walking. Balance is an important skill for toddlers. If you have a stretch of open floor space, such as a hallway or large kitchen, have them practice walking a “tightrope” of masking tape or string laid out on the floor.
If you can make up a story about why your child is crossing a tightrope, like they’re an explorer in the wilderness, they’ll keep building the adventure on their own. If you put down a second string or line of masking tape parallel to the first, they now have a river to jump across or a narrow bridge to explore.
Bedsheet parachutes. If you have a spare bedsheet, you can help your toddler develop their upper body strength and coordination. Use a flat bedsheet as a “parachute,” and raise it up in the air and lower it back down. You can help your child hide under the bedsheet, bounce balls on the sheet, or play peek-a-boo.
Pillow forts. Toddlers don’t need a lot of space in a pillow fort, so it won’t take much to build one. Using couch cushions, chairs, and a few blankets, make them a fort in the middle of their room or play space. They can help build it, then “camp out” with their toys inside of their private fort.
Pom-pom drops. With a little masking tape, some paper towel or toilet paper tubes, and some pom-poms, you can entertain your child with pom-pom drops. Place a small roll of masking tape on the side of the cardboard tubes and stick them to a door or wall so their holes line up. Then drop a pom-pom in the top tube and watch it fall all the way down through the bottom tube.
Your child can move the tubes around and experiment to get the pom-poms to fall in different ways. They can also use tongs to drop the pom-poms, practicing coordination.
Newspaper or sock throwing. Throwing things in the house isn’t always allowed, but you can make a game out of it if you choose the right objects. Balled-up socks or newspapers are soft, light, and don’t move very fast. Use an empty laundry basket as a target, or throw your indoor “balls” at each other in a fake snowball fight. Your child practices aiming and nothing gets knocked over.
Shadow puppets. Toddlers and young children benefit from “sensory play,” where they explore the world with their senses. Lots of types of sensory play are messy, but shadow puppets require nothing but a flashlight and a dark room.
Place a flashlight on a table or chair in a dark room, and show your toddler how to make shadows in the light. If you have clear plastic objects like water bottles, you can show them different colors and depths of shadow. You can even use shadow puppets to make story time more interesting.