Indoor toddler activities

Wondering how to keep your toddler entertained? Try some of these ideas for toddler activities – including craft projects, educational activities and indoor adventures for a rainy day – to help keep your little one busy and happy at home.

Activities for Your Toddler on a Rainy Day

When bad weather means your toddler’s stuck in the house, some of these indoor activities can be a lifesaver:

1. Snow drifts and moonscapes. Get your toddler set up with a large tray on the floor or at a table that’s easy to clean. Pour a little plain flour into the tray and help your kid create a winter wonderland – with snowdrifts and gullies – or perhaps a moonscape, and populate it with toys. You might see cars drifting through the snowscape leaving tyre tracks, dolls and action figures conquering the summit of a mountain or even the first dog to land on the moon – there are no limits to your child’s imagination! This might be a good one to try while you’re baking, since you’ll have the flour out anyway.

2. Edible dough. Squeezing and shaping modelling dough or putty is a great form of sensory play for toddlers, but it’s always a worry that some might get eaten. If your toddler is still at the stage of putting things into his or her mouth, just make some edible dough. You’ll still need to supervise your budding pastry chef at all times; but knowing that the dough doesn’t contain any toxic ingredients will make you more relaxed. Mix together the following ingredients: - 1 cup cornflour (gluten-free) - 1.5 cups baby rice cereal - 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil - 0.25 cup pureed fruit (like raspberries) - 1 tablespoon water.

3. Indoor hockey. Ball games are great fun for toddlers. If you’ve got an active toddler with energy to burn, try this version of indoor hockey. Grab a broom – a child’s toy broom is ideal, but a grownup broom is also fine as long as it’s clean – and make a goal, for example with a laundry basket on its side. Use the broom to push a sponge ball – or a plastic plate doubling as a ‘puck’ – towards the goal.

4. Recycled castle or playhouse. Save up some clean plastic or cardboard items destined for the recycling, like milk jugs, margarine tubs, cereal boxes and paper tubes. Let your toddler have fun stacking these items into a large fortress, playhouse, palace, shop or space station (for example) to play in, defend from intruders and – eventually – gleefully knock down.

5. DIY drums. Just a warning: You may want to skip this one if you live in a house or flat with thin walls and/or easily irritated neighbours. Assemble a drum kit for your toddler using pots, pans, bowls or buckets, all turned upside down. Hand your budding percussionist a couple of wooden spoons, grab some ear plugs, and let the banging begin!

6. Bubble wrap popping. Any bubble wrap you might have leftover lying around the house is a potential goldmine when it comes to indoor play for your toddler. Use a little masking tape or painter’s tape to attach the bubble wrap to the floor—this works best on tile or hardwood surfaces, but make sure the area is clear of hard furniture and sharp edges. Then let your little one jump around and pop the bubbles underfoot. A great choice for a toddler with energy to burn!

Skilful Activities for Toddlers at Home

Playing isn’t just fun for your toddler, it helps exercise your little one’s brain and develop all sorts of other skills – both physical and mental. Here are some fun indoor activities – including some colour games and number games for toddlers – that will put your child’s skill and eye-hand coordination to the test:

7. Magical magnetism. Give your toddler a box of safe household objects, including some metallic items that are attracted to magnets and some that aren’t, making sure none are so small that they could be swallowed or pose a choking hazard. Also, avoid items with sharp edges like tin cans. Have an empty box at the ready and ask your toddler to sort through the objects, placing the magnetic items into the empty box using a strong fridge magnet.

8. Shape-matching. Trace various shapes onto felt or stiff card. (To make it easier you can draw around different-shaped pastry cutters.) Cut the shapes out and then cut each one in half. Have your toddler match the different halves. Use different coloured felt or card to make the art project even more colourful.

9. Stackable cups. Get a pack of paper or plastic cups – the more colourful the better – and encourage your toddler to stack them up as high as they’ll go. If the cups are different colours, your child could sort them and stack multiple towers separated by colour.

10. Marble maze. To make a maze for your toddler, glue some paper straws in a maze pattern onto a square piece of cardboard. It might help to draw the maze pattern onto the cardboard first. Then put a marble on the starting point and show your toddler how to tilt the maze to move the marble around the maze. If your little one finds this hard it’s fine just to push the marble round the maze as well.

11. Sorting box. Carefully cut some holes in the sides of a cardboard box and decorate the edge of each hole in a different colour. Put some plastic balls or mini pompoms in different colours in a bowl and have your toddler drop each one into the right-coloured hole.

12. Excavation site. Fill a large tub with sand and bury some of your toddler’s favourite small toys in it, like mini plastic dinosaurs or other treasures. Then let your child dig around and excavate all the hidden items.

13. Card dealer. Cut a slot into a cardboard box, like a cereal box. Let your toddler insert playing cards one by one into the slot. You could also turn this into a counting game for your toddler by having your child put a specified number of cards in the slot at a time or by teaching your little one to recognise the numbers on the cards.

14. Colour sorting. Get a package of colourful pompoms and pour them into a bowl to play this colour game with your toddler. Have your child use a pair of tongs to sort the pompoms by colour into the holes of an empty egg carton or muffin tray.

Skilful Activities for Toddlers

Water Play for Toddlers

Some of the best indoor games for kids involve water – when it comes to exciting play ideas for your toddler, there’s almost nothing to beat a little splashing about. Whether your child is playing in or just with the water, the smiles and giggles are almost guaranteed. Just make sure you never let your little one play in or around water unsupervised, not even for a moment.

15. Alphabet fishing. Fill a large bucket or tub with water. Feel free to add a few drops of blue food colouring to make it a little more ‘sea-like’. Drop some plastic alphabet letters into the ‘ocean’. Then hand your toddler a mini sieve, colander or slotted spoon to use for fishing out the letters into a bowl. If you use magnetic letters (the kind you usually stick a fridge door), you may be able to improvise a fishing rod with a magnet or metal key fob on the end of a string to ‘hook’ the magnets. Try getting your toddler to name the letters as they’re fished out.

16. Will it float or sink? Fill a large tub with water and add a bit of blue food colouring if you like. Gather different objects from around the house that you don’t mind getting wet. It should be a balance between items that have some weight, like toy cars, and others that are quite light or filled with air, like foam balls. Before adding each item to the tub of water, ask your toddler to guess whether it will sink to the bottom or swim at the top. This is a fun learning game that can get quite splashy!

17. Bubble jar. Fill a jar with water, some liquid soap, and a few drops of food colouring. Tighten the lid, and let your toddler have some fun shaking the jar and watching the colourful bubbles form inside.

18. Water xylophone. Fill water glasses or glass jars with water at various heights, and line them up. Hand your toddler a wooden spoon and watch your tiny virtuoso improvise some tunes by tapping the sides of the jars. To make it more appealing, add a different food colouring to each container.

19. Building block bath. This could become a favourite bath time activity. Simply add some plastic building blocks to your water toddler’s next bath and see what interesting things your child can build while soaking clean. It could be fun to stack the blocks up on the edge of the bath and knock them down again into the water. Just remember to never leave your child unattended in or near water.

Craft Activities for Toddlers

If you’re still looking for more toddler activities to keep your little one busy, why not unlock your child’s inner artist with some of these craft activities:

20. Button art. You probably have a box of random buttons somewhere in the house. Put them to good use. Give your toddler some craft paper, some kid-safe glue and show how to glue some of the buttons (and scraps of fabric if you have any) to the paper and combine them with drawings. Watch as your little artist creates unique masterpieces that you’ll be proud to hang on the fridge. Because small items like buttons can become a choking hazard, this is one indoor activity that needs to be closely supervised – never leave your toddler unattended with buttons or any other small items that could be a choking hazard. Once you’ve finished creating button art together, put the supplies away out of reach of tiny hands.

21. Sticker art. If your toddler’s still too young for button art (or if you just happen to have some stickers handy), give your child some craft paper and a sheet of stickers or coloured labels and let him or her go to town creating sticker art.

22. DIY snow globe. Get an empty jam jar, clean it well and soak off the labels. Let your toddler choose a little plastic figure that you’ll hot glue to the inside of the lid. Add a spoonful of glitter to the jar and fill it nearly full with baby oil. You can also use water, but the glitter remains suspended for longer in baby oil, making it more snow-like. Squeeze some glue to the inside of the lid and screw it back onto the jar. Now, flip it over and your toddler has a homemade snow globe to play with and take pride in.

23. Tracing objects. Get some black or dark coloured craft paper and a chalk marker. Gather different objects from around the house like cookie cutters in different shapes and have your toddler trace each of the items onto the paper.

24. Finger painting. When it comes to painting activities for toddlers, this old favourite is hard to beat. It’s easiest to purchase some non-toxic, child-friendly finger paints, or – if you’re feeling adventurous – see our article on finger painting for a DIY finger paint recipe. You’ll also need large sheets or a roll of paper. A waterproof apron with sleeves is great for protecting your child’s clothing from paint splashes. Once you’ve gathered everything you need, show your little one what to do and get ready for some messy fun – your child will love smearing and splodging paint onto the paper. Ideally, you’ll want to time this activity for just before bath time...

Finger Painting

25. Paper flowers. Gather paper cupcake liners in different colours and help your child cut out different flower shapes using child-safe scissors. Then help your toddler attach the flowers to pipe cleaners or wooden coffee stirrers using glue. You could then ‘plant’ the flowers in a pot of earth or arrange them in a vase.

26. Making handprints. Gather paper plates, some finger paints, paintbrushes, and some rags or paper towels. Pour out different colours of paint onto a paper plate. Let your toddler paint one of her hands and then press it onto a paper plate to create a handprint. Wipe up any excess paint and mess and hang your toddler’s handprints on the fridge when they dry.

27. Egg carton caterpillar. Gather some colourful pompoms, pipe cleaners and child-safe glue. Let your toddler decorate an empty egg carton to look like a fuzzy caterpillar, covering it in pompoms and adding pipe cleaners on the sides to act as its legs. Add some stick-on googly eyes to complete the look.

28. Tissue butterflies. Get some sheets of tissue paper, watercolour paint and pipe cleaners. Have your toddler paint the sheets of tissue paper in all sorts of bright colours (or start with coloured tissue paper and skip the painting step). Once the paper has dried, help your toddler fold the paper and gather the centre like an accordion. Tie this onto a pipe cleaner that can serve as the butterfly’s body and antennae.

29. Animal tracks. Purchase some mouldable air-dry (or bakeable) modelling clay. Using a rolling pin, roll out a large oval for your toddler. Get your child to gather together some favourite animal toys like plastic dinosaurs, ducks or ponies and press their feet into the clay to make tracks. Once the clay is dry or baked hard, you’ll have a fun archaeological find that your little one could even paint later on.

30. Jelly aquarium. The night before, make some jelly – following the instructions on the packet. Pour the liquid jelly mixture into a large glass baking dish and add some of your toddler’s favourite little toys, like plastic fish, toy cars, etc. It’s a good idea to sterilise the toys first by putting them in boiling water for 10 minutes. (Just make sure that placing the toys in hot water won’t damage them.) Refrigerate the jelly overnight. The next day, your little one can dig around in the ‘aquarium’ to get at the toys. It’s fine to eat some of the jelly too, but make sure none of the toys are so small they could accidentally be swallowed.

More Play Ideas for Toddlers

Although all of our toddler games and activities require adult supervision, the following activities may involve some additional help from a grownup:

31. Paper tube chute. Using the tubes from inside rolls of toilet paper and paper towels, help your toddler build a long spiralling chute by sliding the tubes into each other and taping around the edges. Your toddler can hold the chute over a bowl and drop plastic balls or marbles down it. To make it extra cool, help your child to decorate or paint the outside of the chute.

32. Mini metropolis. Break down a large cardboard box, and – using various coloured markers – help your toddler create a city by drawing roads, buildings, homes, driveways and so on. Once the town is ready, your trainee urban planner can start populating it with cars, toys and anything else you have handy in the toy box.

33. Edible jewellery. Give your toddler a bowl of O-shaped cereal in different colours, and a long piece of shoestring liquorice. Show your child how to thread the pieces of cereal onto the liquorice and help tie off the end. Voila! You now have a colourful, edible necklace or bracelet. Never leave your apprentice jewellery designer unattended with the edible necklace or any other food items.

34. Teddy bears’ picnic. Your toddler will love setting up a picnic for his or her teddy bears in the garden, or if the weather’s bad why not make it a tea party in the kitchen? Your child will probably be happy ‘feeding’ the bears (or other cuddly animals) with pretend food, but you could also combine this game with tea-time or elevenses and bring some of your toddler’s favourite healthy snacks to the party.

Toddler playing indoors

35. Ball-and-cup game. This toddler game could cement your reputation as the family magician! Get three opaque plastic cups and one of your child’s favourite items that can easily fit beneath one of the cups. Hide it under one of the overturned cups, and turn over the other cups, too. Then shuffle around the cups and ask your toddler to guess which one has the toy underneath.

36. Indoor Hopscotch. You might think of this classic playground game as an outdoor activity, but it can work inside too. After clearing away any obstacles and hazards, use masking tape to mark out the squares on an uncarpeted floor surface. Alternatively, you could paint them onto an old sheet that can be folded up and stored away when not in use. In this case, it’s important to make sure the surface under the sheet is grippy enough to prevent slipping. It’s OK if your toddler doesn’t completely get how to play the game yet – just trying to jump from square to square will be fun.

37. Hide and seek. Young children love this game, where one player counts up to a certain number before going to look for the other, who’s hidden in the meantime. Keep in mind that the rules are quite complicated for a toddler, so could take some time before your child learns to play it properly. Don’t be surprised if your toddler always hides in the same place, wants to be told where to hide or gleefully calls out ‘I’m here!’ when you walk past the chosen hiding place.

The Bottom Line

Trying to keep an active toddler occupied can be challenging. Fun activities that you can do at home are the key, whether it’s an indoor activity for a rainy day, an absorbing art or craft project or just something to keep your little one busy for a short time while you cook dinner. What seems like a simple idea to you can be a magical experience for your little one. Let your and your toddler’s imagination run wild and you’ll find there are tons of things you can do together. Enjoy!

How we wrote this article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the National Health Service (NHS). You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.