Image: iStock / evgenyatamanenko
Being at home with a toddler can make a day feel endless. It's not that we don't love our kids. It's that little ones can bounce from activity to activity like the road runner. Keeping their attention on one thing can seem impossible. I've called my husband and said, "We've played dolls. We've gone to toddler hour at the library. We've read books and colored in the coloring books. We watched more episodes of Doc McStuffins than I'd like to admit. It's only nine o' clock in the morning! Come home!"
If you've found yourself in that same situation, here are some activities that may help keep those little hands and minds you're in charge of busy. We all know that an occupied toddler is typically not a screaming mess making one, so we're here to help. Some of these require some prep while others can be done with typical household items. The great part is they're all an opportunity to sit down and play with your kiddo while he/she is learning.
Image: surviving life's hurdles/Natalie
What kid isn't into stars and astronauts? Here's a craft that takes that interest and adds glitter, paint, and stickers. That's the at-home toddler trifecta. Natalie (who did this project as a homework assignment from her kiddo's nursery school with him) also recommends making the craft part of a bigger theme. She says she read space themed books with her child and advises that it's easy to make aliens with playdoh. She also recommends making a few paint hand prints with your kiddo in fiery colors and then selecting the best for the rocket fumes. For a full rundown of the project you can visit Super Space Rocket Craft.
Image: Busy Toddler/Susie
The best part about this project is that you only need a few things to put it together. Water. Food coloring. Ice trays. That's it. Of course, you could use one of those fancy silicone ice trays that lets you make frozen water in the shape of, say, the death star. Anyway, as the ice melts the kids can use it to mix colors, a way to paint without the thick goop that's so hard to clean up. With toy tools they can also smash the pieces, move them across paper, or any number of things. Aside from a watchful eye, kids don't need a lot of direction to interact with this project.
Image: Pinterest/Melissa and Doug Toys
There are toilet paper roll boats and then there is this. What kid doesn't like to play pirates? Over at mollymoocrafts, one mom detailed how she used cardboard, matchsticks, and some paper mache for strength to make a pretty rad ship for her daughter. The sails she made with scrap fabric, and she let her daughter paint the hull. This is quite impressive, and if you're afraid you can't eyeball a perfect ship shape, you can find the cut out pattern here. Also, if you really want to go big and build a ship your kiddo can actually stand in check out this tutorial-
Image: Pinterest/Handmade Charlotte
This cute little house that could rival any of the plastic sets from box stores was made from old shoe boxes. That's next level recycling! This house was decorated with some cheap paper doilies and scrap booking paper. The sweet flag banner was made out of remnants, a project any kiddo could do with scissors, string, and some glue. It's almost too cute to let them destroy, but at least it's meant to be a temporary toy. The best thing about that is when it's broken, flattened, or dirtied it can be thrown out. With as quickly as kids grow, there'll soon be enough shoe boxes to make another.
Image: Pinterest/Brittany Clark
Buying this stuff from the store can get expensive. Why? That's an easy one. Kids just pour this sh...stuff out without concern over the fact that parents have pain good money for it. Instead of spending the dollars, the people over at momwifebusylife figured out how to make it at home. Mainly, it's cornstarch, food coloring, and water. Kids can stay busy playing in the driveway, Mom can be happy they're not pouring away money, and it can all be cleaned up with a spray from the hose. Heck, let's be honest. The kid's art can stay for a while and then wash away with the next rain fall.
Image: Pinterest/Lauren Keach
It's a corner jungle gym, perfect for any basement or kid's room. They can climb the bars, make their way up the rope ladder, or flip on the gymnastics rings. The set will put you back almost six hundred dollars (but, hey, shipping is free). You can see the jungle corner set listed on Amazon. If $600 is too steep, you could always dedicate yourself to building a fun wall diy style inside like this guy did. It's work, sure, but your kids will definitely enjoy it and stay out of your hair for at least ten minutes at a time. And we know you know, that's priceless.
Image: Pinterest/Farmers' Almanac
Ah, the classroom staple that is seed growing. Yet, a lot of people who start their seedlings use Styrofoam cups, plastic seed starters, or other non-biodegradable materials. They don't have to. Make a few omelettes with the kids, wash and save the eggshells, and you have a natural seed starter. If you want your kiddo to be able to garden year round, plant something like strawberries or dwarf lemon trees. With a full spectrum grow light and, eventually, a bigger pot, you have everything you need for a fresh snack no matter what the weather outside looks like. You can get a $12.00 grow light here.
Image: Pinterest/Premeditated Leftovers
This is an easy one, but you'll be surprised how much kids enjoy the process of writing if it's fun. Ask them to tell you a story, write it down, and let them illustrate it. Then, you can bind all the pages together with some twine and a brown paper bag. It's cheap, easy, and gives a kid's imagination a workout in a way a tablet just can't compare with. It can also be a project you do over time, a step a day. That way, your kid can see the book come together and know there's something to look forward to each time they get your attention. For a step by step walk through, visit Premeditated Leftovers.
Instead of uber messy dip dyes, this method lets kids get hands on without soaking their arms up to their elbows. Using markers, just let your kiddos make designs on a light colored shirt. The more they fill the shirt, the more coverage they'll get. However, if they want to turn the eventual splatters into something (like adding stems and leafs for flowers) they may want to leave some negative space. You can also draw on eyes and lips for emoji themed circles. Anyway, after the kids are done coloring, use a medicine dropper over their designs and gently release some rubbing alcohol. Tada! Your kiddo has a custom tee shirt and a memory of making something with you.
Image: PaperThinPersonas/Victorian Archives
We've just learned about this site, and it's blowing our minds. Over at paperthinpersonas there are tons of dolls, clothes, and themes that can be printed out for free and played with. The awesome part? The dolls come in different shapes, sizes, and races. You can theme the dolls to a lesson as well, since they come in period accurate historical eras and holiday outfits. They're offered both in color and black and white, in case your kiddo wants to design their own fashion. There are boys too, with cool outfits like 'fantasy,' 'knight,' and 'prince.' There's a paper doll for everyone! If adult coloring books are a thing, can paper fashion design be too? I think I may want to get in on this.
Puppets, the non-creppy kind, are an invitation for a kid to make up stories and have an audience. You can get in on the action by helping your kiddo with this easy, no sew project. Over at 30minutecrafts, they've put together a step by step tutorial and have templates that make cutting out characters a breeze. They use hot glue instead of a needle and thread, so the only hitch is that your kiddo will have to wait for their creation to dry before putting on a show. If you want to involved in the play as well, you can visit dramanotebook to get kid friendly, easy to read scripts for puppets.
Using paper towel rolls, toilet paper rolls, and a marker to make point values, you too can make a target range for your kid's Nerf toys. And those toys, they come in all shapes and sizes. They're Nerf guns, Nerf archery sets, Nerf disc shooters. When your little ones get good at it and hit the targets reliably, start moving back the line that they shoot from. Kids can do this for hours before it devolves into shooting their siblings, you, and really anything in sight. The problem? You'll have to find all those little foam projectiles before the kids can play. Then, you'll find them under every piece of furniture for the rest of your life.
With a few cardboard boxes and some duct tape, you can have an indoor slide. Kids can slide down it themselves, race cars on it, or experiment and see which of their stuffed animals makes it down the fastest. In a heavy vs. light experiment, you can even set up a bracket and have the kids guess which of their toys will win. This activity is especially easy around the holidays, when cardboard boxes from gifts are everywhere. If your kiddos are the rough and tumble type, you can always line the edges of the makeshift slide with pillows or cushions.
You can make this foam with dish soap, water, food coloring, and a hand mixer. Kids can mix colors, drive their cars through a rainbow car wash, or have their Barbies have the best pool party ever. Really, the limits of this project are the limits of the kids' imaginations. Over at funathomewithkids, the blogger advises that the project can be customized for little ones with sensitive skin. She recommends swapping out the dish soap for sensitive skin targeted bubble bath. You can fill up bowls, a tote bin, or go wild with it and cover the bathtub. Let them play in it. Let them dance in it. It's truly open ended play.
Just about anything is better in chocolate. Strawberries. Pineapple. Cereal. Oreos. There are ton of easy dip options that help keep messes contained when it comes to microwave chocolate. Slap down some wax paper, make sure your fruit is dried, and go crazy. The best part is that anything that gets on your fingers can be licked off. The greatest projects are the ones you can share, and everyone is going to want to have some of these treats. For extra sugar indulgence, add baking candies or sprinkles. Yum! For a longer lasting treat, cut bananas, dip them in the chocolate, and then freeze them in Tupperware or plastic baggies. There's a sweet, healthy treat just waiting for a rainy day.
You'll be amazed how intricate these things can get. After a quick google search, we found there's some seriously artistic versions of dream catchers outs there. The one pictured here is made from a wooden embroidery ring and yarn. For little kids, a hollowed paper plate would work just fine, too. However, older kids could take on this project, as well. For a full tutorial visit hellowonderful. For inspiration on how to personalize yours, visit Etsy and see some of the amazing interpretations on sale there. You'll notice how people have added lace, feathers, and leather twining to make these creations unique. And, let's be honest, you'll probably get more use out of this unicorn dream catcher than this unicorn toilet paper.
These are awesome! What kid doesn't like dressing up as their favorite super powered icon? In the tutorial over at mashable, they have you using cheap flats to wrap the duct tape around. That's not really necessary for kids who're only going to wear the boots inside. Just grab a pair of old socks (even ones with holes will do, and this is great recycling) and colored or patterned duct tape. Usually, hardware stores are stocked with duct tape of all colors and finishes. With some creative wrapping and cutting, your kid will have a new favorite pair of dress up shoes to fight crime in.
Using a beach ball or other non-house-wrecking ball, some pool noodles, and good ol' duct tape again, you can make an indoor basketball challenge for your kids. You could even take a page from the Nerf range above and add scores to each hoop, making it an inside version of HORSE. This is a good one for high energy kids that need to vent some steam before doing a quieter activity. For smaller kids, hoops closer to the ground are a good jumping off point. For older ones, go ahead and move toward the ceiling. This gives your kids a reason to pick up their toys, too. No one wants to step on Legos while trying to dunk.
This STEM activity really engages a child's brain and kinesthetic abilities. Give them paper, Popsicle sticks or chopsticks, and some tape. Have them build a bridge. Better yet, build your own bridge and see which one can balance a doll, a ball, or an egg. A child's brain often thinks quite differently than an adult's with fewer limitations on what they believe is possible. Not only can you teach them about concepts such as weight and gravity during a project like this, but you may learn a thing or two yourself watching your child problem solve. If you really want to keep their creations, consider using playdoh or another medium that will harden.
No matter what day and age it is, no matter how many electronics a kid knows how to use, there's just nothing like a blanket fort when it comes to indoor play. They were probably the stuff of your childhood memories. They may just be that for you children as well. After all, even our great grandparents had the resources to build blanket forts. At sayyes they've experimented and come up with the easiest and most stable indoor forts. It involves a long string, clothes pins, and blankets. For very little effort and money, your kids can play for hours in these living room wonders.
Tell us your favorite way to entertain your toddler below!