Kids, Motherhood

24 Easy Indoor Activities for Toddlers

We have survived 4 months of ice and snow with little kids inside! As a stay at home mom with a 2 and 3.5-year old,  we have had to figure out some indoor activities for toddlers to help me (and them) not go crazy! We live in a two bedroom apartment so you can picture space is limited. I’ve made a list for you of some inside activities for toddlers that have kept us busy this winter.

Also, I am not a mom with a ton of toys, or very crafty.  So a lot of these ideas should be reproducible and fairly inexpensive.  And when desperate, there’s always T.V. No judgement here.

Fun indoor activities for toddlers to keep them busy at home. Inside activities for kids to keep them moving, playing, and ideas for what to do with toddlers at home #toddler #toddleractivites #blueandhazel #kidactivities #preschoolers

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Indoor activities for toddlers

Gymnastics Rings

This is THE BEST indoor activity for toddlers and older kids! We installed ours when my oldest was 2. My husband inserted hanging rings from the ceiling in our hallway, and they have gotten used DAILY for the last two years!

toddler boy swinging in a hallway upside down on gymnastics rings; indoor activities for toddlers
I’m not joking when I say my kids take turns on these gymnastics rings on and off ALL day. Perfect for age 2 and up, and you can make them longer or shorter. My 3.5 year old is also WAY stronger than other older kids at the park now because of these and can do the monkey bars alone.

My kids twist and spin and swing their hearts out. They also do summersaults on the rings and just hang. We adjust the height by putting knots around carabiners which can hook into the Bolts. To do this get these three things:

Rings

Two large Eye Lag Bolts

Carabiners

We tie the carabiners into the strings on the ring set.  This allows you to easily adjust the height by clipping the carabiner into the Eye Bolts. And man will this a great way to get out energy inside.

Update Mar 2018: Both my kids swing on these probably 10-20 times a day and have now for two years!

Make an obstacle course

This is a favorite, and once I set it up, they just climb up and down on things, trying not to touch the floor.

We get all the chairs and pillows in our house, (including fold-out chairs), and line them up from the couch to the kitchen or hallway.  Sometimes I’ll put a couch cushion or pillow between the chairs or stool so that my 3.5 year old has to get tired by going up and down a lot.  My son calls it “sweaty time”. Things to use:

  • Chairs
  • Couch cushions
  • Pillows
  • Books
  • 2×4 long piece of wood to balance on

Play Doh

Some of you are cringing right now! Me too, if I’m cleaning up lots of Play Doh. But I make them keep it in the kitchen and that really helps.  They want me to pretend to eat what they make and give them ideas of what to make next. Also, they play better if I have things for them to poke at it with such as:

  • Candles
  • Cookie cutters
  • Jar lids
  • Things to bury inside like small toys

Mostly they make “birthday cakes” and stick candles in them.   I have learned how to make my own play dough which lasts for a couple weeks and is very easy!  Overall it’s a huge hit, but get a broom handy and don’t expect to just lay it out and walk away 😉

Play dough toddler activity
This was a bakery and he was laying out Muddy Mud Pies from our favorite show Tumble Leaf. Be ready to have to “eat” a lot of creations! This is also the board we use for obstacle courses and as a balance beam.
Toddler girl playing Play Doh on the floor with birthday candles, a perfect indoor activity for toddlers
Candles make this indoor activity last way longer here.

Run away from the vacuum

I’ve found when I do chores they play better than when I’m sitting down, go figure. They run and hide. Somehow it’s a game?

Bristle Blocks

Picasso Tiles 100 piece Bristle Shape Blocks as an indoor activity for a toddler girl

These are perfect for little kids because of how easily they stick together.  My daughter especially loves to just stack them.  We also make a game of sorting the different colors and shapes it comes with.  This was given to us free to test from Picasso Tiles.

Scooping Beans at the Table

Bean scooping as an indoor activity for toddlers
Spoon in hand & some containers are a favorite 15-20 minute activity here, but warning it does require sweeping. Lots.

Also messy and plan on sweeping up, but cheap, and usually lasts 15-30 minutes.  I lay a bunch inside of a cookie pan or 9×13 pan and have a few things they can use to play on the table.  

Their favorites include a spoon, a cup to fill up, and little diggers to scoop the beans. I can tell when they are getting bored when more and more start going onto the floor.

You can also just use rice! If you want to make it extra fun, here’s how to dye rice! This took about 25 minutes start to finish and my toddler loved it.

Scooping beans toddler activity
He used to love to drive diggers around in them, but now filling up a cup just seems to do the trick.

Related Post: Dinosaur activities for preschoolers you can find on Amazon

Baking with mom

Quick and Easy candied pecans in under 10 minutes! This is the only recipe you will want to use with its buttery rich taste and simple ingredient list

Their all-time favorite! You can get this yummy candied pecan recipe here. Who wants a play kitchen when you can make real food??! Haha.

When I bake with them, I have to get into the mindset that it is for fun, an activity, not just a hustled thing to whip up.  They want to “help”. Which means lots of flour spills, extra spoons and surfaces to clean, and making them take turns scooping.

“Fixing” things around the house

Realistic tools are great for pretend play and an easy indoor toddler activity!
Use a dry paintbrush, roller, or any “real” looking tool around the house for a fun indoor pretend activity. You can use whatever you have, and they can “fix” or “paint” or whatever you suggest…its awesome. My 3 year old fixes daddy’s bike and pretend paints it all the time.

We got rid of our big toolset when downsizing toys, but kept some tools.  Like the plastic hammer, drill with batteries, saw,  hardhat and that’s about it!  We also have real paintbrushes for playing.

I tell them things that need fixing (for pretend) like the closet door or the kitchen chairs and they love to get to work.  Sometimes they are not into it, but other times this goes on for 30 min to an hour, without my full attention needed!

You may also enjoy: How to teach preschool at home: Getting started

Jump onto couch cushions

This is hard for me being 9 months pregnant, but getting out ALL the blankets, couch pillows, and sometimes the crib mattress is a HUGE hit! We let our kids jump on couches and beds to get out energy, so that might give you a heart attack if it’s not your style 😉

Run around in a circle to music

I put the toy box in the middle of a cleared out living room and turn on Pandora kids station.  They chase around, running, a great 15-minute activity! We especially love the soundtrack or DVD version of Hide Em In Your Heart by Steve Green which teaches them bible verses through music.

Quiet time

Honestly, I’m pretty bad at knowing how to do “quiet time” but love the idea.  Recently I just put out a pile of books in the living room, as well as paper and some pens, along with their soft fuzzy blankets and said they had to play quietly.

This was hard to initiate and I had to kept telling them I was not going to read the books, but they could look at pictures and imagine.  That was when I just needed a break from talking to toddlers, for 10 min. They ended up getting the hang of it and I think it was nice!

Little Free Library
Check out littlefreelibrary.org to see if you have any of these near you! We take and drop off kids books all the time for free at these and locations are often registered online.

Painting

do a dot painting
These are fun to paint rocks, but also you can freely print do a dot pages online, or just use a white sheet of paper

For not being an artsy mom, this is a stretch for me.  If I recommend one thing, its these Do A Dot paints.  So much less messy with little sponge tips and they don’t spill (but do get on fingers)! It’s easy to paint old cereal boxes or rocks with them too.

We have also tried watercolors but with a 1.5 year old that just usually stresses me out with the spills. (My 3.5-year-old can do it now).  We sometimes paint the inside of cardboard cereal boxes or coloring books.  

Related Post: Easy crafts for toddlers for the non crafty mom

Coloring

They usually break crayons, and markers do end up on their fingers… I know a lot of moms who have toddlers that sit and color quietly alone…for hours…but I’m still waiting for this to happen.  My kids are just too rambuncious and not super into it. Worth a shot every now an then though 😉

Coloring & drawing indoor toddler activity
I usually give them about two colors each, which helps with toddler damage control when they start throwing them 🙂

Playing in the sink

I make sure all the breakables or dangerous things are away from reach and put a few bottles and lids in there.  Then I add a few empty cups and some scrubbers and my 2 year old is happy for a long time! If you don’t want to waste a ton of water just put a pot full in the sink.

Reading to them

For a list of our favorite books right now, see my top 10 here!

I’m too lazy to drive 15 min to the library each way and right now its hard for me to get out with 2 and soon 3, so we have some books here and I read a little every day.  The more I do this, the more they look at pictures on their own quietly at random, and when days go by without reading, they stop doing that!

Related Post: How to avoid sibling jealousy with a new baby

Bath time with toddlers

Here are 20 bath toys for toddlers to make bath time more fun!

Doing this as a day activity gives us something to do inside, and helps me from feeling so overwhelmed at bedtime.  It has lasted for 10 minutes when they hated baths, to this weeks all-time crazy over 2 hours of play and my 3.5 year old begging me to let him keep playing! They love adding bath paints, teapots, and these cool water color tablets.

Dress up

Mostly Bob the Builder vests around our house… Thrift stores after Halloween are perfect for grabbing awesome dress up stuff for CHEAP! We love this Melissa and Doug builder dress up set!

Bob the builder costume on toddlers as they play in the dirt

Trains

This set on Amazon is a perfect small wooden train starter set and interchangeable with all the major train tracks.  We add engines from Ebay too.

This is a 15-30 minute activity for us.

Sometimes my kids grab stuff from each other or scream about toys (which is so frustrating), so trains are a bit frustrating at this point unless one is sleeping.  Once my middle child got old enough that she would break tracks and steal trains on purpose, I had to be more attentive with teaching how to share rather than “just trade her any toy”.

Update: my oldest kids are 2.5 and 4 now and all that teaching has really paid off.  They can play nicely, share, and take turns with the occasional fighting and whining.  Now trains are a real joy!

Also, since trains have lots of little parts, we keep them in a clear tub and put them away at the end of the day to keep my sanity.

Little toddler in a dinosaur costume playing with this railway mine set from Hape Toys
This Mighty Mountain Mine Set by Hape Toys is AMAZING! Hape Toys sent this free to us to test and our kids go bananas over it.  When little 2 to 5-year-old kids come over to play it’s the main hit they all share. And, best part to me is that it connects with our other standard wooden tracks from all major brands.
Indoor Activites for Toddlers mine railway by Hape Toys
We put the mighty mountain mine together in about 20 minutes. It has a crane on top, a conveyer belt, trap doors, and tunnels.

Related Post: Preschool treasure hunt to help teach prepositions

Tea Party

Indoor activities with a toddler like this toddler boy drinking tea out of red scarlet fiestaware
While a tea party takes work on your end, it’s very memorable to them. Even doing this once a month or once a week will be so special! I let them pour with my help or let them try pouring the smaller pitcher of milk.

This is a huge hit! We usually grab some treats or crackers, and on a good day we will make some cookies.  But really, this is magical to them!

I baught little white Espresso cups with saucers on Amazon that hold 3 oz…and they are the PERFECT size tea cups for little hands. You can see them below.

Pots and pans pretend play

I put my smallest pot and pan out with some spatulas and they get busy making pretend food on the floor.  Maybe 10-15 minutes? I’ve found that real household items always trump the toys for some reason.

pans for cooking/toddler play

Invite a friend over

Always their favorite and good for me too 🙂 They play we visit! Instant entertainment.  And we all need a mom friend. And to not be afraid to invite someone over.

Water Wow by Melissa and Doug

These have been amazing for the toddler age! We use them in the car, inside, and at church.  I just fill up the water brush it comes with and they “paint” the page.  Color comes through and when it dries the color goes away and it can be used again.

The books have 4 large pages and are a little larger, but the ABC cards are WAY nicer because for the same price you get 26 smaller water wow cards. It took my kids a lot longer to color all 26 smaller cards with water than it did the 4 larger paged books.

Give them a scenario to act out

I tell them scenarios to play like: there is a fire to put out…go swing through the jungle…go fix this or that with your saw, go play nap time (my favorite trick and they bring their blankets out and pretend sleep quietly for maybe 10 min!), go dig a foundation, ect.

Repurpose cardboard boxes

cardboard boxes used as toys or indoor toddler activities
Every cardboard box, even small ones from Costco, can be used to a kid for a day of fun and then recycled. You don’t have to paint it (although your toddler will love it). Pretend they are: cars, beds, trains, spaceships, or robot bodies.

When I get an order shipped online, the box gets repurposed for a few hours.  If its big, we may cut a door or holes in it to make a spaceship, mailbox, house, whatever.  If they fit inside it can be a car, a boat, whatever you suggest 😉 We also pull out the markers sometimes for coloring the inside.

Playing Preschool by Busy Toddler for toddlers ages 3 and older.

Updated Aug 2019: I bought and LOVE a 190 day curriculum called Playing Preschool by Busy Toddler. The worksheet free curriculum is perfect starting around age 3, and I love it because it gives me something to do each day! Because half the battle is just coming up with ideas. She is the QUEEN of toddler activities! You can follow Susie on Instagram.

If you want to know more about how we are using it with my 4 year old, (along with a tag along 2.5 year old), see my full unsponsored review of Playing Preschool here.

Why every mom needs easy indoor activities for toddlers…

Overall, summertime makes winter seem like cake.  When they are outside, they are happiest and play for hours…and I get a break.   Indoors requires so much more activity swapping, and to be honest, we watch shows more when inside all the time.  

If you are even reading this, you are a great mama and want to play with your kids, so I hope you find a few ideas here and check back for more! What do you like to do at home with your toddler? Let me know in the comments!

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More toddler posts you may like

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6 thoughts on “24 Easy Indoor Activities for Toddlers

  1. I know this is an older post but it was the first time for me reading this…. you are definitely a real mama and I love how real you are. Thanks for your fun, honest, and creative input into the mom world! You were fun to read!! <3

    1. Thanks Lauren and I’m glad you found it useful for keeping your toddler busy! We will be revisiting all of these again with my third when he’s older I’m sure!

  2. Thank you so much for this list!! It makes me feel more prepared for the long winter coming up 🙂 Also, you mentioned wanting the little tea set, we’re getting one from Green Toys for my daughter’s second birthday and I can’t wait to see what she thinks!

    1. Thanks Jaime! Yes winter here means way more time inside. I love the tea set you recommended! Hope you guys try some of these. Also your daughter is just the age my son was when we got the gymnastic rings for inside.

  3. I LOVED how realistic you were in this article! And the activities were just as much so. Thank goodness I’ve finally found someone who posts real, practical things and not just a bunch of Insta-ready stuff. I’ll definitely be using most of these.

    1. I’m so glad you found activities here you will actually use! So many activities out there require a lot of prep or actually doing the activity for your toddler and so hopefully these are easy and fun for you.

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