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Keeping toddlers active indoors

playing with boxes for hours of imaginative play

It’s warmer here than it was earlier in the month (34F this morning and set to go up into the low 40s, hooray!), but still not the kind of weather where we can spend a lot of time outside. Here are some of our favorite fun active indoors activities for toddlers.

  • Dancing: I love this one because it’s simple and easy. Put on some fun music and improvise. I’m a terrible dancer, but my kids are too young to know it.
  • Hide and seek: Neither one of my kids gets the concept of hiding and then waiting to be found, so if I count to ten they run and hide (nearly always in the same place) and then come running out when I say “Ready or not, here I come!” I actually love this version of the game, since I can play it with Emma while making dinner, emptying the dishwasher, etc. Johnny just runs and hides wherever Emma is.
  • Rolling and throwing balls: Kids get a workout with this one, especially when their coordination isn’t good enough to catch the balls. This is probably Johnny’s favorite game (he loves balls). You can have them roll/throw the balls to you or have them throw the balls into box or roll/kick them into a large bag (or a box on its side). Oballs make fantastic indoor balls because you can’t throw or kick them far enough/fast enough to do any real damage. We also have a cool soft rubber spiky ball I picked up in the “Beyond” section of a Bed Bath and Beyond store once that has similar benefits. Unfortunately, I don’t know what it’s called.
  • Activity songs: Both kids love these. When I don’t know or don’t like the words/actions I just change them/make them up.
  • Balance challenge: Put masking tape on the floor and challenge your child to walk along it. Johnny’s too young for this one, but Emma loves it.
  • Different modes of transportation: Practice walking on tiptoes, jumping, skipping, standing on one foot.
  • Red light, green light: The goal is to get from one end of the room to the other. They can move forward when the person in charge (who typically stands at the end of the room everyone else is trying to reach) says “green light” and stop when they say “red light”. This works best if you have a large room (we don’t), but we use our long-ish hallway.
  • Simon Says: My kids don’t get they they aren’t supposed to do it if it isn’t prefaced by “Simon Says”, but they will eventually and it’s still good practice in listening to and following directions.

How do you keep your toddlers active indoors?

a book full of baby play ideas that will help you enjoy parenting a baby and bond with your baby.

MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

9 thoughts on “Keeping toddlers active indoors”

  1. Found this on Pinterest and am facing five days of heavy rain with a 2 year old. THANK YOU! I think we may survive now. I really like that none of these require something extraordinary to make it work.

  2. Thanks MaryAnne – three years down the line but it is very helpful to me today! I especially like the balance challenge – we haven’t tried that yet!

  3. GREAT POST!!! I always need ideas in this area! One of our fave. winter activites is “going to the beach” in our bathtub. We wear swimsuits, bring toys, and splash away!!!

  4. Neat, I like how you laid those out! We do some of those, but I always forget about the simple ones like Red Light, Green Light. My son loves to play with balls, too – but like you said, he gets a good workout b/c he can’t quite catch them yet LOL!

  5. My kids love going through our paper recycling, but I only let them do it when I’m desperate for them to stay quiet because it’s a pain to clean up (even though they help) and they sometimes get upset at what they find in there (Disney-themed junk mail, for example). I’m always amazed at how much joy they derive from being allowed to dump things out.

  6. Infant Bibliophile

    Those are some cute ideas; thanks. We need to try some of these out, because we just go stir crazy. I filled a laundry basket with all of his balls (including oballs – love those!), and we empty it out and practice throwing them back in (and in a $5 nerfball hoop). Same with emptying out bags of blocks or fabric scraps (I’m a quilter). I have an “ispy” quilt that I use with him by asking him to find me items and sometimes pairs. It’s not easy to fill a whole day indoors, though!

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