Tips, Ideas & Advice – Indoor Toddler Activities

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Welcome to the first edition of Tips, Ideas & Advice!

Last week, I kicked off this series by asking:

I live in an apartment, with little or no access to a backyard, patio or playground. Do you have any fun age-appropriate indoor activities to suggest for an 20 month old toddler?

I received some wonderful responses, and have been busy occupying my son with some of these activities! Here are some of the best ones.

Leighann of Multitasking Mumma (@multitaskmumma)

  • Bowling. We bought the plastic bowling pins from the store and bowl (actually we just set the pins up and she runs at them)
  • Coloring and crafts. We have a HUGE colouring book and we colour our hearts out (grandparents love these pictures as gifts).
  • Forts. We build forts and have a picnic in them (Mommy might pray for a nap too).

Lindsey of Campfire Song (@dashingly)

  • Playing with homemade playdough
  • Involvement in routine chores (making grocery lists, folding laundry, helping with dishes etc.  My kids sucked at it at this age, but LOVED to help).
  • Dancing to loud music
  • Anything involving diaper boxes (mine love to be robots, make them into boats etc.)

Kid Id of From Diapers to Diatribes (@diaperdiatribes)

  • Switching out toys will be critical, otherwise they’ll get bored with what they have. So having a little kid table and boxes of activities that you switch out every few months so they feel like they have new stuff will keep them entertained!

Kimberly of Zook Book Nook (@zookbooknook)

  • Indoor Sandbox. I put a bunch of pots and pans and measuring cups and spoons on the kitchen floor and pour a few cups of dry oatmeal in one bowl. My girls then play with the oatmeal, pouring and stirring and digging into it as if it is sand.
  • Pudding Art. I make vanilla pudding, separate it into a few different cups, add different food coloring to each cup. Then I give each daughter a cookie sheet at the table with the cups of pudding in front of them. We do finger paint pudding art, but I think paint brushes would also work. In the beginning I put a piece of wax paper down on the cookie sheet for their first art work, and then I remove it and let them paint on the cookie sheet for their second art work.

RoryBore of Time Out for Mom (@RoryBore)

  • Basket of stuff. I bought a big woven material (like a braided rug, soft and safe) laundry basket that sat on the floor and filled it with stuff he could pull out and play with. I had age appropriate toys, books, but also some of the stuff that he sees me use everyday that is also safe, like a wooden spoon and a plastic bowl, play food, or plastic keys. Also, a small broom and dust pan – since they love to mimic you.
  • Homemade sand. I made my own ‘sand’;  made up of dried beans, dried peas/corn, rice, pasta noodles. All stuff that is safe should he put it in his mouth, and that can easily be swept or vacuumed. He would play with that stuff for hours just like being in a sandbox. It’s also a great sensory activity for babies/toddlers too. They love to feel the different textures of the ‘sand’.

Christi of My Tempered Tantrum (@mytempered)

  • I would simply blow up a balloon and we would try to keep it in the air as long as possible. They can hit it, kick it, head butt it, and so on. Since it’s just a balloon, it won’t break any valuables, although with a toddler, you would be foolish to have the valuables out anyway!

Germaine of Kiddothings (@kiddothings)

  • House chores . Give him a damp cloth and get him to wipe chairs, tables or anything in sight. Give him a broom and he’ll be sweeping till kingdom come.
  • Pretend play. Have a tea party or picnic with his toy ‘friends’.
  • Painting. If you can take the mess, that is. Let them do it outside (in your case, the balcony) or even in the bathroom just before bath time. Think places where clean-up is easier.
  • Water play in the bathroom . If you’re not the kind to waste water (and it’s good to educate kids to conserve water at an early age), fill up a tub (baby tub works just fine) and make a bubble bath for him. Give him some small bottles, cups or small buckets and he’ll be at it for some time.
  • Clothes pegs. Get a box and a bunch of clothes pegs and teach him how to clip them onto the box. Helps improve motor skills. You have to tread this very carefully, as he can get frustrated if he can’t get it right.

Angela of Tiaras and Trucks (@tiaras_trucks)

  • Finger paint with shaving cream. Spray all over a table (cover with a plastic cloth to make clean-up even easier) and let him go to town.
  • Play ‘follow the leader’ to work on motor skills. Climb up and down chairs, hop, crawl, somersaults, use music to make it fun.
  • Take a field trip to the ‘zoo’. Set up stuffed animals or animal pictures around your place, go to each animal, make the animal noises, talk about them a little
  • Slate and chalk.  These are a refreshing change from the usual crayon and paper variety. Provide white and coloured chalk, a little damp cloth so they can erase and start over. Or use chalk on dark construction paper. I never stress about accidental table drawings or wall drawings when chalk’s involved!
  • Sewing/lacing. A great way to learn shapes (aren’t flashcards boring?). Make cardboard shapes with holes punched on the edges and provide a yarn tipped with tape. Laminate the shapes to make them last longer. Later, they can sew alphabets. A good fine motor activity.
  • Obstacle course. I used to do this A LOT on rainy days. I would take random objects, chairs, tables and make our own little course. The kids would have to follow a path, climb under the table, run around a chair.  Age appropriate for older/younger kids, of course.
  • Sink/Float. It’s more of a science activity rather than a burning off energy one, but I would take a bucket or large bowl of water and let them choose objects to see which ones would sink or float. Curiosity usually took over their minds and kept them paying attention for a while.
  • Kitchen utensils will occupy them for ever. Seriously. I give my little ones a few of the large spoons or whisks or spatulas and bowls, pots, and pans. It gets noisy, but they love it.
  • My son had a Little Tykes basketball goal we kept in the dining room portion of the living/dining area.  He’d play basketball while I cooked supper, and my husband would even join in, trying to make half-court shots from the sofa, which Aaron found hilarious.
  • He also loved his red wagon, an old-fashioned Radio Flyer wagon with the wood sides.  He’d load it up with stuffed animals and pull it room to room until he wore himself out, then climb into it to look at picture books or watch cartoons. Don’t be afraid of the big toys, the outdoor toys. Just consider them part of the decor and think of the gross motor skills your toddler is honing!
Thank you all so much for contributing! They are fantastic bloggers, so do follow their blog and on Twitter!

Next week’s question comes from Melissa of A Wide Line….., a new mother of adorable 6 month old Quinn. Melissa asks:

How do I get Quinn to nap at home in the afternoons? He will nap in the morning, and sleep at night in his crib, but refuses to do so in the afternoon. We follow the same routine, have blackout curtains, the room is cool, I nurse and rock him until he’s drowsy, but he still does not sleep. The only way he will sleep is if we take him out in the stroller or car. I’m at my wit’s end and am tired of driving around aimlessly to get him to sleep! Please help!

Experienced mothers, I’m sure you have all encountered this at some stage in our child’s life. If you have any tips to offer, other than what Melissa is already doing, do email me with your advice and ideas! Melissa, Quinn and I thank you.

Please email your tips, ideas and advice, or question/ topic you want me to highlight, by Friday, September 16, 10.00 p.m. (EST) to: mamawantsthis{@}gmail{.}com

Do you do these indoor activities with your toddler? Do you have any other ideas? Share in the comments! 




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  • September 13, 2011 Leighann

    Loving all of these ideas, especially the oatmeal and sand as play for sensory!!
    Leighann recently wrote…Magical Moments and Fond MemoriesMy Profile

    • September 15, 2011 Alison

      Bloggy ladies are ingenious!

  • September 13, 2011 Kimberly

    I love all the tips you highlighted here! I’ll definitely be trying some of these with my little ones too.

    Getting the little ones to sleep when they don’t want to is tricky, but I’ll be sure to email anything tips I can think of.
    Kimberly recently wrote…I Am Making ChangesMy Profile

    • September 15, 2011 Alison

      Please do!

  • September 13, 2011 Lindsey

    Homemade “sand” – that’s a cool one! I’ll have to try some of these out, especially now that the weather’s getting colder.
    Lindsey recently wrote…A lifestyle in your fridge.My Profile

    • September 15, 2011 Alison

      Perfect timing then!

  • September 13, 2011 Ann

    These are GREAT ideas! I don’t have any wee ones at home, so I’m always stumped for ideas….but I do love to play with the grand babies and – when they’re here – it comes naturally. Sorry I didn’t have any ideas for you last week!
    Ann recently wrote…Healthy Food In the Midst of IndulgenceMy Profile

    • September 15, 2011 Alison

      No worries, Ann!

  • September 13, 2011 Rach (DonutsMama)

    My favorite is the house chores. You can bet I’ll be using that when Donut is older, lol!
    Rach (DonutsMama) recently wrote…Changes: My First Year as a MomMy Profile

    • September 15, 2011 Alison

      Haha! The thing is, they LOVE doing them!

  • September 13, 2011 Julie

    Boooookmaaaarked for later! Whoop! Gonna need this list when winter hits. Darn snow.
    Julie recently wrote…Getting back out thereMy Profile

    • September 15, 2011 Alison

      Yay, excellent!

  • September 13, 2011 RoryBore

    Love the pudding art and shaving cream ideas. anything out of the ordinary, or a change up from same ole, same ole is great! The “zoo” trip would be great for my 23 month old. she loves animals.
    RoryBore recently wrote…Tuesday Coffee Chat – Back to SchoolMy Profile

    • September 15, 2011 Alison

      Sharing is caring, it’s wonderful!

  • September 13, 2011 Kiddothings

    Great ideas! There are quite a few here I haven’t tried. Thanks for this Alison!
    Kiddothings recently wrote…My First Requested Guest PostMy Profile

    • September 15, 2011 Alison

      You’re welcome!

  • September 13, 2011 Melissa

    Thanks for featuring my question, Alison! Can’t wait to tune in next week and read everyone’s advice. Congrats on the responses to your first question! Yay!
    Melissa recently wrote…Quinn’s Weekend Adventures: A Dusty TrailMy Profile

    • September 15, 2011 Alison

      Thanks Melissa, there should be some useful advice for you next week!

  • September 13, 2011 My Inner Chick

    —It doesn’t take much to keep children HAPPY. These ideas are unbelievably creative & educational, too. Love the indoor sandbox with dried beans. x
    My Inner Chick recently wrote…My Inner Chick’s First Givaway!My Profile

    • September 15, 2011 Alison

      Blogging ladies are really creative!

  • September 13, 2011 Bruna

    I love all of the ideas! Great minds. What a great idea for a meme Alison. I love reading other people’s advice and tips for stuff. Very helpful.
    Bruna recently wrote…Me ~ unpluggedMy Profile

    • September 15, 2011 Alison

      Thanks Bruna!

  • September 13, 2011 Kim

    Yay, another page bookmarked on ideas for activities!! Thank you so much Alison. I love so many of these. I think building forts is one of my daughters’ favorite activities. They even build a wall around their fort so our puppy can pounce on the fort and destroy it.

    I can’t wait to read the responses to next week’s question, because I struggled with that same problem with my first daughter and it never got resolved. I’m hoping I’ll learn some tricks so that when my baby arrives I’ll have some up my sleeve just in case.
    Kim recently wrote…Will You Marry Me?My Profile

    • September 15, 2011 Alison

      Yay for shared tips! I do hope we get some good ones for the sleep issue next week.

  • September 13, 2011 Practical Parenting

    We love treasure hunts and scavenger hunts! I use clip art to make clues or scavenger hunt lists (too young to read!).
    Practical Parenting recently wrote…Tragic Talk (5 Tips for talking to kids about tragedies)My Profile

    • September 15, 2011 Alison

      That’s a great idea, clip art!

  • September 13, 2011 Lady Jennie

    These are all great tips and would have come in so handy when my kids were still at home.

    As for napping, I have no advice because if my kids are/were anything – it’s good sleepers. Thank goodness. I hope she can find a way (to keep the sanity).
    Lady Jennie recently wrote…Sorrow & Red Pepper MousseMy Profile

    • September 15, 2011 Alison

      Thanks Jennie, and if only you knew the secret to how all your kids were such good sleepers 🙂

  • September 13, 2011 Barbara

    The pudding art is such a great idea! I will have to keep this in mind for when we are stuck at home for a long period of time!
    Barbara recently wrote…Then & NowMy Profile

    • September 15, 2011 Alison

      Glad you got something out of this post 🙂

  • September 13, 2011 Galit Breen

    Just look at all of these fabulous tips and ideas! A Mama haven! 🙂
    Galit Breen recently wrote…A Modern Love StoryMy Profile

    • September 15, 2011 Alison

      That’s the idea! 🙂

  • September 13, 2011 Christi

    These are some wonderful suggestions! I love the idea of setting up an obstacle course!

    • September 15, 2011 Alison

      There should be fun times ahead with the little one!

  • September 13, 2011 Tatter Scoops

    These are some seriously awesome ideas! Will have to borrow a few since we live in a house without any backyard or front yard. Sigh. Thanks for sharing!
    Tatter Scoops recently wrote…Keep on WritingMy Profile

    • September 15, 2011 Alison

      You’re welcome and thanks for reading!

  • September 13, 2011 Shell

    such fun ideas!
    Shell recently wrote…Soccer OopsMy Profile

    • September 15, 2011 Alison

      They are, these ladies are so creative.

  • September 13, 2011 Mrs. Weber

    I am totally bookmarking this in my future use folder. Great ideas here! Man, bloggy ladies are creative 🙂
    Mrs. Weber recently wrote…What I’d Change About My House – VlogTalkMy Profile

    • September 15, 2011 Alison

      Yes, they are!

  • How about a little TV? That’s what I do…how else do you think I have time read blogs and tweet?

    In all seriousness….these ideas are SUPER cute. Maybe I should hire a nanny to do these activities with my kids.
    Rachel {at} Mommy Needs a Vacation recently wrote…The Handy ManMy Profile

    • September 15, 2011 Alison

      Haha, TV aside (which I think we do resort to at times), some of these activities do leave Mama free (like sorting stuff, they can do that on their own)!

  • September 14, 2011 Robin

    Alison, I love you. This is fabulous – some of these ideas are things I haven’t tried so I’m totally stealing them. Yay! Happy dance.

    As for Melissa, I feel for you. I had the same trouble and never figured it out, so I’ll be reading those tips too. Maybe I’ll figure out what I was doing wrong. 😉
    Robin recently wrote…First Day of PreschoolMy Profile

    • September 15, 2011 Alison

      Yay, glad to be of service 🙂 I hope I get some good ideas for the sleep topic!

  • September 14, 2011 Dumb Mom

    I don’t have a toddler. But, I have a 3 year old and a puppy who are always in need of bad weather entertainment. Topic of today’s post actually!
    Dumb Mom recently wrote…Dumb Mom’s Guide. DC Hurricane-DC Earthquake-DC Crazy 2011.My Profile

    • September 15, 2011 Alison

      I should go check that out!

  • September 14, 2011 Jessica

    I can’t believe my tip didn’t make it in the post. Okay, well actually I can since my advice was terrible.

    I’m also going to be terrible at advice for this question since we all know my toddler rarely takes naps. My only advice is to keep the gas tank full.
    Jessica recently wrote…VlogTalk: Dance CompetitionMy Profile

    • September 15, 2011 Alison

      Haha, you funny assy lady.

  • September 14, 2011 Kir

    I emailed this to a few of my girlfriends who don’t blog and are stay at home moms…I liked reading about all these activities (the indoor Zoo being one of my favorite) and with winter only a few months away I might use some of them for snowy saturdays. I don’t have any contributions since they do most of this stuff at school/daycare and at home I let them decompress , they love pretend these days…dressing up and saying their favorite lines from movies, singing their favorite songs etc. What a great idea this is….love it Alison
    Kir recently wrote…RemebeRED: ConnectedMy Profile

    • September 15, 2011 Alison

      Thank you Kir, I do hope your friends find this list useful!

  • September 14, 2011 Elena

    Great tips! I love the shaving cream paint from Angela. Going to have to try that. With the plastic sheet, of course. 😉
    Elena recently wrote…Thriller at the Detroit ZooMy Profile

    • September 15, 2011 Alison

      I have yet to try it but I will soon! (with a plastic sheet, yes)

  • September 14, 2011 elizabeth-flourishinprogress

    Wow. What a comprehensive list. I have several friends in the LA area who don’t have a lot of outdoor space. I’ll have to forward this to them before they lose their minds. Which may have already happened.
    elizabeth-flourishinprogress recently wrote…Monday Dare: I was raised by a pack of wolvesMy Profile

    • September 15, 2011 Alison

      Awesome, thanks for sharing with them!

  • September 14, 2011 Jessica

    Great activity ideas. My best advice for getting little ones to sleep is to read the book Healthy Sleep Happy Child. Even when I thought I was doing everything right, this book helped me figure out where I was going wrong and get my kids started with great sleep habits.
    Jessica recently wrote…Moving ForwardMy Profile

    • September 15, 2011 Alison

      Thanks for the tip, Jessica. I’ve heard a lot about this book!

  • September 14, 2011 Leslie

    Fantastic ideas! The husband will be out of the house a lot during weekends this winter, so this list will be so incredibly helpful!

    • September 15, 2011 Alison

      I’m so glad!

  • September 15, 2011 Mama, Hear Me Roar

    What a great compilation! This is going to go out to all my mama friends.

    I especially love the idea about homemade sand.

    And thanks for linking up! xoxo
    Mama, Hear Me Roar recently wrote…ChangeMy Profile

    • September 15, 2011 Alison

      Thank you for your wonderful contribution!

  • September 17, 2011 Jackie

    These are all great!! My son would’ve loved the obstacle course. I never thought if that! It’s perfect especially for boys since they’re jumping and climbing all over the place.
    Jackie recently wrote…You’d be much more attractive if you…..My Profile

    • September 18, 2011 Alison

      Yes, it’s really fun!

  • September 18, 2011 Tina

    OMG I love these ideas, I will be trying them!
    Tina recently wrote…Join the Aetna Healthy Food Fight #SSFoodFightMy Profile

  • September 18, 2011 Alison

    They are certainly good ideas, bloggy ladies are so creative 🙂 Have fun with them!

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