It can be challenging to come up with activities for an energetic toddler who lacks focus and can’t stay engaged in one task for too long, especially when the weather is cold or rainy, preventing outdoor play.
Throughout the day, it is important to have a variety of activities available for your toddler, including physical, sensory, artistic, creative, unexpected, untidy, or playful options, in order to cater to their mood and energy levels.
Here are the best games you can play with your toddler indoors
1. Follow my leader
Have your toddler imitate all your actions: jump, crawl, pat your tummy, place your slippers on your head – the more ridiculous, the merrier! Afterwards, it’s her turn to take charge…
2. Rescue the animals
Get a few toy animals (or cars or small dolls) and a roll of masking tape. Stick the toy animals to a window or a door using strips of masking tape, one by one. Afterwards, encourage your child to carefully remove the tape and “rescue” the toys. This activity is not only enjoyable for toddlers, but it also helps improve their fine-motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Abi, a MadeForMums superuser, shared a picture of her daughter Maisie playing the game and mentioned that Maisie also had fun sticking the animals back on the window and asking Mum to rescue them again for round 2!
3. Hunt for buried treasure
For this activity, you will require small toys and either sandpit sand or a homemade version made with flour and oil. Place the sand in a washing-up bowl and conceal the toys within it. Provide your child with a spoon and a sieve and encourage them to search for hidden treasures. To prevent any spilled sand, consider placing a mat or sheet on the floor beneath the bowl.
4. Play Parcel Surprise
Wrap a few of your child’s beloved toys using old paper, being mindful not to use excessive sticky tape. Proceed to give one wrapped gift to your child and encourage them to conjecture its contents – is it Teddy? Or Dolly? Or Panda? Next, permit your child to unwrap the toy (it is acceptable to tear off the paper) and relish in the joy of the unexpected discovery.
5. Sweep and dust
Toddlers enjoy mimicking adults as they engage in mundane household chores, tasks that adults would rather avoid. Therefore, provide your child with a gentle cloth and engage in the activity of ‘dusting’ together. Alternatively, offer them a pint-sized broom, dustpan, or even a miniature vacuum cleaner that creates impressive suction noises, and devote some time to thoroughly cleaning the floor.
6. Do some magic painting
Using a white candle or crayon, create a basic design on a sheet of paper. Prepare diluted paint in a vibrant hue and allow your young child to apply it to the paper. As they paint, the secret design will gradually appear, creating a sense of enchantment.
7. Play musical freeze
Playing a simple and fun version of this game does not require being at a party. Just play some music and dance together, informing your child that both of you will sit down when the music stops. Then, pause the music and exclaim, “Hurry, sit down!” Once your child understands the game, occasionally pretend to be sluggish and take longer to sit down, allowing them to enjoy the satisfaction of beating you.
8. Pretend to be animals
If you’re not skilled at drawing, you can simply print out an animal face from Twinkl and cut holes for the eyes on a card. Let your child color it and then attach a straw at the bottom for them to hold it in front of their face. Create multiple masks and take turns pretending to be different animals, moving around on all fours and making appropriate animal noises like growling, quacking, or bleating.
9. Play Post Office
Toddlers are captivated by the act of placing objects into variously shaped holes, which can entertain them for a long time. Furthermore, this activity aids in the development of fine motor skills, such as gripping an object, positioning it above a hole, and releasing it, as well as comprehending that dropping something into a container doesn’t make it vanish.
10. Get potato printing
This activity is beloved by toddlers but often avoided by many of us due to the time-consuming task of intricately shaping a potato into a reverse 3-D shape. However, we have a clever hack! All you need are some cookie cutters (and obviously, a potato or two) and then…
- With a knife, cut a potato in half vertically, then press a cookie cutter right into one of the cut surfaces – so that you can only just see the top of the cookie cutter.
- Take your knife and make a cut into the side of the potato half roughly where the embedded end of the cookie cutter is. Stop when you feel your knife touch the cookie cutter.
- Cut around the rest of the side of the potato half in the same way.
- Peel off the strip of potato you’ve just cut, leaving the middle bit (inside the cookie cutter) in place.
- Remove the cookie cutter – and you have a perfectly shaped potato stamper!
You can place poster paint in saucers and allow your child to dip the potato into the paint, which can then be used to make prints on paper. Another option would be for an older toddler to use a paintbrush to apply paint onto the potato stamper before creating prints.
11. Tape Games
Once you try these clever ideas that encourage kids to channel their energy in creative ways, you will discover that a basic roll of low-tack Painter’s tape can become your closest companion.
Play the Tape Shape Game by placing tape on the floor to create different shapes, letters, and/or numbers. Ask your child to stand on their preferred one and provide them with directions to guide them to their next location (for instance: “crawl like a bear to the square”, “jump like a frog to the T”, “run towards the rectangle”). This game promotes physical activity while also enhancing your child’s knowledge of shapes, letters, and numbers.
Create 5-10 distinct lines of tape, approximately one foot away from each other, on your floor or carpet. Designate the initial line as the “start” line and provide your children with straightforward directions:
- Long Jump: See how many lines they can jump over. Have them try and beat their best score each time. Experiment with arm swinging vs. arms behind their backs.
- Run ‘n’ Jump: Now let them take a running start and see if they can jump even further!
- Long Jump Backwards: Increase the difficulty by performing the tasks jumping backwards.
- Hop: How far can they jump on one leg?
- Reach ‘n’ Stretch: How far can their leg reach with one foot on the “start” line?
Design a Race-Car Track: Utilize painter’s tape to construct an expansive road network for your children’s matchbox cars. Expand your creativity by incorporating furniture and other barriers into the track, ensuring they are items you are comfortable with toy vehicles traversing. The trick to ensuring it remains a dynamic activity is to create a sizable layout, encouraging them to activate their core muscles while exploring every inch.
Creating a basic hopscotch “board” indoors will captivate your children and astound them with its coolness.
Create a big square using your tape and then split it into 9 or more smaller squares, where you randomly label numbers. Afterwards, instruct your child to execute a particular action to reach the subsequent number, such as “leap to 10”, “dart to 3”, or “crawl to 67”.
12. Balloon Games
Did your child ever become completely captivated by receiving a balloon at a birthday celebration? Elevate that level of enchantment by incorporating a few “guidelines,” and watch them joyfully engage in physical movement, enhancing their motor skills and expending their abundant energy.
Prevent the Balloon from Touching the Ground: This is the traditional game that children always get attracted to. The instructions are simple – keep hitting the balloon up in the air but ensure it never makes contact with the ground. To add more difficulty for older children, let them juggle multiple balloons or restrict one hand behind their back. Time their performance to measure how long they can sustain it, or in case of several kids, let them count how many times they can keep the balloon in motion… and then challenge them to surpass their previous time or score! This game effectively enhances arm strength and hand-eye coordination.
To enhance the fun, consider including stuffed animals. Encourage your child to choose their preferred stuffed animal and hold it in their hand, so that it is the one making contact with the balloon. You will be amazed at how this small change can increase their involvement even more!
To play Penguin Waddle, have your child place a balloon between their knees and traverse the room without letting it drop. For older children, enhance the difficulty level by incorporating a few obstacles along the way. If they happen to drop the balloon, they must return to the starting point.
To involve multiple children, encourage them to participate in a team activity where they hold a balloon between their hips. Once they become comfortable with it, use a timer to measure their speed in completing the task.
Create a balloon taping game by suspending a balloon a few inches above your child’s arm reach using a string attached to a doorway. Encourage them to tap the balloon with their hand and keep track of how many successful attempts they make consecutively (due to fatigue, this becomes challenging rapidly!). Increase the difficulty level by challenging them to jump and touch the balloon with the top of their head!
Create a “course” and test your child’s ability to propel a balloon to the finish line using only their breath. This activity will require multiple instances of army crawls, enhancing their upper body and core muscles.
Encourage your children to try out the Backhand Balloon Balance game and observe how long they can keep the balloon on the back of their hand before it drops to the floor. You’ll be amazed to see how much they’ll be in motion with this activity! Additionally, for the Balloon Paddle Ball game, utilize a fly swatter, tennis or badminton racket, or create your own paddle with a paper plate and an oversized popsicle stick (or a paint stir stick or plastic spoon can be used). These tools can be used to enjoy the aforementioned games.
Your kids can have fun trying to balance their balloon on these paddles while navigating obstacles or running around the house. It’s not as easy as it may seem!
To present a genuine challenge, instruct your children to recline on the floor with their legs elevated and attempt to maintain balance of the balloon on their feet. Accomplishing this task is not effortless and demands significant focus. Moreover, it serves as an excellent exercise for strengthening the core muscles.
To play Balloon Volleyball, create an improvised net with string and chairs, and encourage your child to move from one side to the other while hitting the balloon back and forth, aiming to prevent it from touching the ground. If there are multiple children, challenge them to hit the balloon over the net repeatedly without allowing it to drop.
Balloon Hockey: Use a small kiddy hockey stick or make your own out of cardboard to navigate a balloon into a net (use a laundry basket or box on its side if you don’t have any smaller ones to bring indoors).
Engaging in these activities will not just combat boredom (resulting in decreased complaints, hooray!), but it will also stimulate their mental and physical abilities, enhancing their strength and releasing the excess energy they have accumulated. Consequently, you will be left with stronger children (although slightly sweaty), who will not resist going to bed. Undeniably, this is a desirable result.