Being stuck indoors with little ones isn’t the best, right? Especially if you’re trying to work too. We all need ways to keep toddlers entertained at home.
It can be tempting to shove them in front of the tele and leave them to it, but my mum guilt gets the better of me and I tell myself I should really come up with at least a few activities to keep them entertained.
You may have read my other post about keeping preschool and primary aged children occupied but since writing that I’ve realised I need just as many ideas for the little ones.
So here are a few ideas from some other bloggers and I of how to keep toddlers entertained at home, whether you need to set them up with something and let them get on with it whilst you attempt to do some work yourself, or concentrate on something vaguely educational with older children.
Some obviously need more supervision than others (depending on how relaxed a mum you are!), but others you can literally just leave them to it. Maybe not a daytime bath though…
Ideas on how to keep toddlers entertained at home
- Okay, let’s get it out the way quick. Play doh – most of us have play doh, don’t we? We love it or hate it. But it seems to be a staple of most parents cupboards. And a great way to keep toddlers entertained at home. I mean, even I have some of the stuff. In fact, I have LOADS. Okay, you’re going to have to do a bit of clearing up after. And you’re going to have to get over your OCD about them mixing colours if you’re not going to be there to supervise. But if you need 20 minutes to get on with some work or do something with your older kids, this is an ideal way to occupy them. Read the Rainy Day Mum’s tips on making playdough minibeasts, alien monsters and superworm fun.
- Bubbles – this is basically my go-to activity if the weather is nice. And my twins absolutely LOVE bubbles. They can literally spend ages and ages outside blowing them. Or using their little fan gadgety things they’ve got which are fab. I guess it depends on your house, but I can sit at the dining table and do phonics with the four year old and have the other two in full view in the garden. So this is PERFECT!
- Sing a song . Every child has a song (or many) that will make him slow up and pay attention, says The Diary Of Dad. Fortunately you do not need a great voice or any classical training for this. My son’s top tune is “You Are My Robster” sang to the tune of You Are My Sunshine, and I have sung this to him since he was one day old. It works particularly well if you have any actions or dances to go with it that they can interact with.
- Baking. Whether you’re Mary Berry or not, your kids will love baking with you and it’s a great way to keep toddlers entertained at home with some home recipes. I used to be properly into baking when I didn’t have kids and actually had time to spend on it. But I have to say I’m not the most patient when it comes to them helping me. The Other Half is much better. I find cheating and using a packet mix is way better. There are less steps for them to mess up! Having said that we made an awesome chocolate and banana cake the other day using this Taming Twins recipe and it was delicious. I may or may not have eaten most of it myself.
- Rainbow rice alphabet hunt from Two Hearts One Roof. This is a great way to keep toddlers entertained at home. Either use an alphabet jigsaw and take out the letters, or cut out letters from coloured cardboard. Then hide them all in a big tub of rice. If you want to push the boat out make it dyed rice to be more interesting and colourful. Your little one then has to rummage around in the tub to find a letter and put it back in the right place/order. It’s great for letter recognition for little ones. Just make sure you do it on a tuff tray or play mat to make the clean up operation a little easier.
- Spaghetti and cheerio fun. Okay so I totally nicked this off facebook, but it kept them occupied for a good 20 minutes. Stick a length of spaghetti (uncooked obvs) into a blob of playdoh on the table. Then give them a tub of Cheerios to thread onto it. Simple but mine really got it into it. Apart from they kept eating the cereal. And the uncooked spaghetti for that matter. But they did that, whilst I got the four year old to do some ‘learning’ on the other side of the table so was a winner.
- Cress heads – this is a proper old school activity, isn’t it? But it still appeals to little ones today. Especially if you decorate the face with them and wait for the egg heads to grow cress hair. And let’s face it, you’ll have plenty of egg shells left over from all that baking you’ve had the time to do… Here’s how The Mini Mes and Me suggest doing it.
- Ocean World sensory play from Thimble and Twig. If you’ve got a tuff tray (obviously I don’t own one of these) or even a big plastic Ikea toy box (I own plenty of these) the kids will love playing with all the bits you put inside. Add whatever you like, but Thimble and Twig suggests shells, animal bath toys, shiny stones and shiny fabric. And voila, you have your very own underwater world for them to play in. But the best bit is, they can play on their own and there’s no water for them to get wet in!
- Junk modelling. My four year old loves doing this. Basically sticky taping any old crap from the recycling bin together to make a ‘robot’. But I didn’t think the twins would get into it. Twin Two wasn’t bothered at all, but Twin One spent ages sticking all the yoghurt pots together into a train. Then bashing them like a musical instrument.
- Create an edible farmyard from Messy Little Monster. Okay, so this could go spectacularly wrong, but it also might mean you don’t need to feed them any lunch, right? Using a tray use weetabix to build walls and create four different areas. Then fill each area with a different cereal – for example Rice Krispies, Shreddies, Cornflakes or Cheerios. Add a few farmyard characters and animals, and even a few plastic trees and let them get on with it. Hours of fun. You hope…
- Toys and ‘special toys’ from The Diary Of Dad. The most obvious way to keep a child amuses is simple, loads of toys! Right now my son Robbie has a love of cars and trucks and the house is littered with them. It’s always good to have toys that help with his development as well. Many of our toys help with counting, shapes and animals. And although the constant noises may give me a headache it is good to know they are helping the little man’s development. We also have some ‘special toys’ that are not always out and available. It’s wise to have a weapon up your sleeve for those times when he is getting bored of his normal gear. Or I need five minutes to actually achieve anything in my own life.
- Construction truck sensory bin. This is a great idea from Simple Play Ideas if your kids love playing with toy diggers and dumper trucks. All you need is a large plastic box that they can reach into, some duct tape to create some roads, and some dried tea leaves, coffee or even dirt. Then you’ve got yourself your very own construction site for them to play in.
- Garden fun. There are so many things you can do in the garden. And you’ve no doubt got more imagination than me. But what about planting seeds (here’s a list of plants that grow quickly). Doing a simple scavenger hunt where you ask them to bring you something red, spiky, round, for example. Or a dinosaur hunt with their toys, lots of painting and chalk-drawing if you have the right space. Or how about good old fashion PLAYING. My boys love being out in the garden on the trampoline or swing. This weekend they’ve even discovered they can pretty much make up their own version of ‘zorbing’ with a blown up but empty paddling pool. Nutters!
- Get them to line up all their toys. Sounds dull, but could take them AGES depending on how many cars/dinosaurs/trucks/animals they have. And depending on how old they are, you could get them to group them into colours, sizes etc. Or even see how many they could count to. I love this idea from Tales from Mamaville.
- Pick, Carry, Drop from Fatherhood . Place a bunch of small items on one side of the room and an empty container on the other. Give your little one a set of kitchen tongs and tell them to get all the items across the room into the container as quick as possible. With a bit of luck they’ll want to do this over and over again to lower their time. Or they’ll just wander off half way through…
- Duplo or building blocks. Pretty safe to let them loose on their own, and see what they can come up with alone. Or set them challenges to build certain items, or if all else fails how tall a tower can they build. Should buy you 10 minutes at least!
- Kinetic sand – if you’ve not tried this stuff you really should. In my mind I think it’s just as ‘bad’ as play doh. But in reality, it’s great and a lot less messy. The trick is to give it to them on a tray. We’ve got a few sets and my boys love it, especially using the utensils and shapers it comes with. If you don’t believe me, read 5 Reasons To Play With Kinetic Sand.
- “Playdough – make things from their favourite books. Junk modelling and masking tape so they can rip it. Duplo – make dinosaurs, houses for their dinosaurs. Play houses/castles from boxes. Dare I say it, baking” Anna from Twins and Travels.
- “Kinetic sand, mud kitchen, tap tap art (this is going to be down to the individual as to whether you can leave them doing it), drawing, painting, dressing up, puzzles. I have play stations set up with these things.” says Emma Reed.
- Daytime bath – lets face it kids will get messy whatever they’re doing. And especially if you need to let them occupy themselves for a bit whilst you get on with other things. So a daytime bath could be a good thing. Just take the play into the bath and let them have longer than you normally would in there. Might confuse the hell out of them. But it’ll save you time later that evening, so it’s a winner for me!
- Screen time! If you follow my blog, you know this is so not my kind of post to write. I’m crap at entertaining my kids at home. I’d MUCH rather go out than stay at home, so this is hard. Like, really hard. I’ve bought shed loads of ‘craft’ stuff and I just can’t bring myself to get it out. So if all else fails, there’s always screen time. And no, I’m not going to feel guilty about cuddling up on the sofa watching a movie in the afternoon.
And if you want even more ideas, check out Home Play Ideas for 2 Year Olds by Emma Reed.
Do you have any other ideas on how to keep toddlers entertained at home?
How did I do?
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