For some, it’s been snowing for weeks. For us in Cincinnati, we just had our first snow stick yesterday. This is great news for kids, as they begin thinking, praying, and dancing for snow days every night. The first couple snow days at home with the kids are fun, but eventually we get tired of bearing the cold and we run out of entertaining ideas to entice them to play indoors. Since there’s only a few things worse than being stuck indoors with bored children, I’ve compiled a list of arts & crafts and games inspired from activities I’ve done with kids, I’ve seen other mothers do with kids, or activities I’ve seen online. Extensions are given for some activities to enhance the level of play, but be creative and modify the activity to better suit your child’s age and ability.
Please feel free to comment below the list and add your own ideas!
1. Dip, Shake & Paint!
- empty oatmeal container or any empty, cylindrical container
- plain, white paper
- old, broken crayons (why are there so many??)
- Wrap the white paper around the inside of the empty container.
- Dip the broken crayons into paint (use as many colors as you want)
- Place the crayons in the empty container & have the child shake the container.
- Take the paper out and let your child admire their painting!
2. No-Mess Sponge Painting
- gallon size ziplock bag
- Cut the sponge into various sizes and shapes
- Put the paper in the ziplock bag
- Dip the sponges into paint (use as many colors as you want)
- Put the painted sponges in the ziplock bag and shake.
- Take the paper out and let your child admire their painting!
3. Library Time
Children love going to the library to explore the area and see all the amazing books! But, in the winter, sometimes it’s simply too cold to go out. Create your own library at home! You and your child can make her own library card together, letting her decorate it as she wishes. Spread the books out on the floor and let her play with them as she would in a library. Bring out some stuffed animals or puppets. Make the area seem like you’re not at home. Give her a bag to put her own books in and have her use her own library card to check her books out. She will feel so grown up! The same activity can be mimicked by a pretend grocery store, pretend doctor’s office, etc. The key is to give your child their own items to use in the game, and it’s always fun for them to make these items together before the actual “game” begins.
4. Handy Bookmark
To create more ownership in your child’s reading time, help her create her own bookmark. Trace her forearm and hand on a sheet of colored paper. Cut it out and have her color or decorate it as she wishes. Laminate the bookmark if possible.
5. Handprint/Footprint T-Shirt
Paint the palms of your child’s hand or the soles of their feet and have them place them on a plain t-shirt. A fun twist on tie-dye!
6. Fruit Loop Sand
Crush fruit loop cereal with a rolling pin or a food processer with your child to create a safe, sand-like substance. Use the fruit loop sand to make sand arrangements in clear plastic containers (like traditional sand art). Or, use the fruit loop sand as a decoration by putting glue on a piece of paper and spreading the sand on the paper to make a colorful arrangement.
7. Make Sheet Day a Mini Holiday
This is one of my favorites. Make the day you change your family’s sheets a fun time for your kids. Throw all the sheets in one room and let your child’s imagination run wild by building forts, making tents, secret hideaways, etc. Engage in the fun and let your child lead.
8. Toddler Train
Watch your child enjoy filling up each car of the train with her favorite things and pull the train behind her.
- 3 or more assorted boxes
- String, ribbon, or yarn
- Plastic straws
- Use scissors or another pointed object to poke small holes in the ends of each box.
- Insert about 12 inches of string, ribbon, or yarn into the back hole of the first box & tie the end of the string around a short piece of plastic straw to prevent it from pulling through the hole.
- Put the other end of the string through the front hole of the next box, fastening it in the same way.
- Use more string to continue connecting the boxes until the train is finished.
- Use a longer length of string for the front hole of the first box.
- Tie a cylindrical wooden block or something similarly shaped to the end of this string for a handle.
9. People Puppets
Cut out faces of people in your family and glue them on the top of popsicle sticks. Have your child create outfits for the people with colorful paper and allow them to decorate the clothes. He/she can play with the popsicle figures as barbies – having them act out things these people typically do. For an extension, have the child put each family member in a cup that contains the immediate family of each member. A more elaborate extension could be to have your child identify aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. on both sides of the family. They can even practice writing last names of family members on the cups, along with exploring their family tree.
10. Balloon Exploration
At a young age, children learn about gravity from trial and error. This activity helps put these emerging concepts into visual form in a hands-on experiment. Blow up a few balloons and tie them off. Rub each one on a wool carpet, sweater, or fur until enough electricity is generated so that when they are placed on the wall, they stick like magic. The following ideas are extensions for older children: When the balloon is electrified, it can be used to attract and lift your hair. Blow up balloons of different colors and stick them to the wall in similar groupings. Inflate them so that some are larger and sort onto the wall by size.
11. Flashlight Fun
- Uninflated balloons (one red, one yellow, and one blue)
- Rubber bands
- Cut the rounded ends from the balloons.
- Stretch one balloon end over a flashlight and hold it in place with a rubber band.
- In a darkened room, have your child shine the flashlight on the ceiling or a wall to see the colorful light.
- Change colors.
- Layer balloons to see how mixing the colors creates new ones: yellow over blue to make green, red over yellow to make orange, and so on.
- If you have three flashlights, place a different color on each.
- Shine two or more colors on the same spot to create a new color.
12. Touch the Texture
- Materials of varying textures: sandpaper, old carpeting, fabric, cotton balls, fun fur, etc.
- Metal lids from frozen-juice cans
- Cut the various materials you have gathered into a round shape that will fit the frozen-juice-can lids.
- Glue the material onto the lid.
- Younger toddlers will enjoy simply feeling the textures.
- Magnets glued to the back of the juice lids will allow your child to play with them on the refrigerator or on a cookie sheet placed on the tray of her highchair.
- For older children, make two sets and have them sort the lids by matching the materials or sorting by texture (smoothest to roughest, softest to hardest, and so on).
13. Toddler Wave Bottle
Shake the soda bottle, and your toddler will be amazed by the glittery waves that are produced.
- Clean, empty 16-ounce soda bottle with cap
- Food coloring
- Glitter, sequins, or beads (optional)
- Baby oil
- Quick-bonding glue
- Fill the clean soda bottle with water to about one-third full.
- Add a few drops of food coloring and glitter, sequins, or beads (optional), then fill the rest of the bottle with baby oil.
- Glue the cap securely onto the bottle by applying the glue to the inside of the bottle cap and screwing it on.
- Your child will enjoy gently shaking the bottle to produce beautiful waves.
14. Monkey Rewards
Too often parents focus on the bad things children do, while letting the good slip by without comment. This is a simple way to reinforce and reward cooperation and kindness. To reinforce good, targeted behaviors, hang a plastic monkey on the wall in a place where you can add more monkeys to make a chain. When you catch your child being especially kind and cooperative (or demonstrating whatever target behavior you have asked for), reward her with a monkey to add to the chain. When the last monkey is hung, treat her or the whole family to a treat.
15. Musical Animals
This is an easier and more suitable (for younger children) version of the familiar musical chairs game.
- 1 stuffed animal for each player
- 1 chair for each player (optional)
- Place several chairs in a circle and put a stuffed animal on each chair, or place the animals in a circle on the floor.
- Toddlers walk around the circle and, when the music stops, each player picks up an animal and sits down.
- Players then take turns acting out that animal.
- If you don’t have enough stuffed animals, paste pictures of various animals on sheets of paper and tape them to the chairs or place them in a circle on the floor.
- If only you and your child are playing this game, try placing the stuffed animals inside a pillowcase.
- Then take turns removing an animal from the pillowcase and acting it out.
16. Beanbag Races
This is a fun game for siblings to play with one another. Place a beanbag on your child’s back while she’s in a crawling position. Have your child crawl around the room until the beanbag falls off. Two toddlers will enjoy playing this game, with one crawling and the other picking up the beanbag when it falls. Older children can play with a friend or sibling, seeing who can keep the beanbag on her back the longest.
17. Pretend Grocery Store
Toddlers have fun filling up bags and baskets with just about anything, and they love to mimic their parents doing routine things, such as grocery shopping. Save up empty food boxes and containers. Seal the boxes with tape and store all your “groceries” around the room so your child can go shopping. Give your child a paper bag or small basket so they can put their groceries in the basket. For older children, you can add prices to the items and allot fake money. Together, you can work on addition, and subtraction through paying for groceries and providing change for your customer.
18. Rock Play
- Basket with handle
Take your toddler on a walk outside, bringing along a plastic bucket or basket with handle and collect rocks as you walk.When you get home, wash off the rocks and set them out with some containers for your child to play with.She will enjoy placing them one by one in the containers, dumping them out, carrying them around with her in a basket, and putting them in her pockets or purse.She may also enjoy painting them or placing them in a covered coffee can to make a loud shaker toy. For older children, work on categorizing the rocks by size and/or color. Some kids may enjoy painting the rocks as well.
19. DIY Wrapping Paper or Stationary
With a large roll of paper, your child will love to make his/her own wrapping paper to use for birthdays and holidays. Decorate the paper with markers, stickers, glitter, and they can customize it to make it even more special. Your child can also make his/her own stationary to write notes to their friends, family members, etc.
20. Popsicle Stick Number Line
To help with numbers and counting, glue beads on popsicle sticks with your child and help him/her put them in numerical order. Work on counting backwards as well.
Some of these activities were taken from or inspired by FamilyEducationCenter.com.