15 Easy & Free Indoor Activities for Toddlers and Pre-schoolers
I have been a work at home mom for two years now and as such have had my fair share of miserable indoor days with my little Bean and recently, baby K. For some reason, I am never really prepared for these (even though I watch the weather) and I always end up having to think of spontaneous and easy indoor activities to entertain my toddler (soon-to-be-pre-schooler) with everyday things we have at home.
I have now built up quite the arsenal of indoor activities and things to do with kids which are also developmentally stimulating. Here are our favourites:
Indoor Activities You Can Do Right Now
Cut various shapes out of differently coloured paper and sort these in a muffin tin according to shape and colour.
This activity has almost endless possibilities from threading noodles onto pipe cleaners to threading toothpicks through a colander.
Spooning and Tonging
Place some rice, noodles or flour into a bowl and let your child spoon it from one bowl to another. For something a little trickier, use tongs to move pieces of apple, pom poms, toys or anything that can be grabbed with a pair of tongs (or even pegs),
This can get a bit messy, so place some newspaper under your work area.
Drawing and Colouring
Children love to draw using different mediums as every medium looks and feel different. So, draw using crayons vs pencils or oil pastels, draw on a chalkboard and draw on a whiteboard.
This is great for fine motor development. Take differently coloured crepes paper and let your child tear small pieces off. Then, draw the outline of a picture (something easy like a flower or a shape), smear glue onto the picture and allow your child to stick the pieces of paper onto the picture. I often make birthday cards for family with this activity.
Pour some finger paint into a large sealable plastic freezer bag, seal it and stick it to a window using masking tape. The children will love ‘painting’ lines and circles through the paint. Another fun way of doing this is to pour small blobs of paint onto a piece of paper which is then placed in a sealable plastic bag. Seal the bag and let the kids go wild.
This is more of an ongoing project for a school holiday or similar but it provides the kids with a chance to develop their curiosity for nature. Place a damp piece of cotton wool onto a saucer, pull it apart slightly and nestle a few seeds into the top of the cotton wool, spaced about 20-40mm apart. Place the saucer into an area which gets a lot of direct sunlight and mist the cotton wool daily. Once the seeds start to germinate, transplant them into a pot.
Cooking and Baking
My Bean helps me to cook supper every day and he loves helping me by cutting mushrooms with a blunt plastic knife or by mixing and stirring for example. Baking and decorating biscuits with icing sugar and sprinkles is another firm favourite.
Create a Science Experiment
Make your own Playdough
I am yet to meet a child who does not love playing with playdough. We use cookie cutters and a roller to create fun shapes, or we cut pieces off using blunt, rounded scissors. Bean also loves rolling little worms between his two hands. Here is a fantastic Essential Oil Playdough Recipe.
Race Track & Cars
Using an old cardboard box, create a race track using masking tape and crayons for your child to play cars on.
Build a Doll House
My husband is very creative when it comes to building things out of old cardboard boxes and one of Bean’s favourite creations is a house with a really big garage where he can park his various toy cars and trucks.
Build an Obstacle Course
Using pillows, your couch, hoops, old boxes as tunnels (basically anything that is safe to use), create an obstacle course and complete it with your child. It is great for gross motor development and gives you some exercise.
Build a Blanket Fort & Have a Tea Party
I loved doing this as a child. My sister and I would raid every cupboard and bedroom for every possible blanket to create our fort with. We would spend hours having tea parties using playdough or whatever we could get our hands onto.
This is such a fun twist on the game ‘Twister’. Create two dice using cardboard and draw various shapes on the one dice and various body parts on the second. Now, using masking tape or pieces of paper, place the same shapes as on the dice, on the floor. Your child should roll both dice and then place his or her chosen body part onto the chosen shape. Add more fun and gross motor skill development into the mix by rolling or jumping between shapes.
There are many more options for fun indoor activities, including making your own musical instruments, board games for older kids, reading, taking out a strategically stored new toy and building puzzles, all of which promote quality family time. So, in future, when faced with a seemingly impossible indoor day, have a look at this list, get creative and most importantly, have fun.
For even more inspiration, read our list of Free Family Fun Activities.