10 Toddler-friendly play ideas for when you're stuck at home

10 toddler friendly inside ideas

Being stuck at home with a busy toddler does not have to feel overwhelming. In this parenting chat with early childhood teacher and Mum of 3 Tammy Morris, we share 10 toddler-friendly play ideas using everyday materials that you have at home.

 These toys are great for fostering imaginative play and creativity

1. Treasure hunt 

Hide toys in the house for your child to find. For younger children you could make up clues by drawing pictures and using arrows.

2. Building

Who doesn't love a fort? Use sheets, blankets, pillows, large boxes and other items to create an amazing fort. Have a story and a picnic with your child in their fort. It's like a camping trip just way easier.

Build towers and other 3D sculptures with cardboard boxes. This could be made from cardboard boxes from the pantry ie collected cereal boxes, baking paper tubes, masking tape. 

3. Dance parties

Getting kids moving is so important to burn off some “steam”! Instead of using a screen why not make up a playlist together and have some dance time as a family. It's great fun to pick them up and do some spinning too… That is great for their vestibular development.

4. Baking

Baking has the bonus of having something yummy at the end. For younger kids it is a great way to reinforce turn taking and colour recognition (icing or m&ms). For older kids its a great way for them to get some extra maths in by helping with the quantities and measuring. 

Here is a flop proof vanilla cupcake recipe:

¾ cup White Sugar
125g  Butter
2 eggs
1 tsp Vanilla Essence
⅔ cup Milk
1¾ cup Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder

Preheat oven to 200⁰C & prepare 12 paper cupcake cases in patty pans.
Cream Butter and White Sugar.
Add eggs and mix well. Add vanilla essence.
Add Milk alternatively with Flour and Baking Powder.
Spoon evenly into paper cases and bake at 200⁰C for 15 - 20 minutes.

5. Wiggly balloons 

This is great for burning a bit of energy. It's also great to use up all the old balloons from birthday parties that you have no use for. Simply put one balloon inside another. Fill the inside balloon up with about 200ml of water (or less for younger children) and then tie it. Once that is done, blow up the second balloon and tie it. This creates a wiggly balloon that is heaps of fun for soccer or throwing/ kicking.

6. Imaginative play

Kids love using their imagination and for parents it can be a bit of a drag. It's such an easy way to use up time and to fill your kids tanks really easily. Easy games to play are: hairdressers, shops, hospital/doctors, dress up or vet. Encourage your child to take the lead, you just follow along. 

7. Shampoo in a bag

Great for fine motor development. All you need is a ziplock packet, some clear shampoo and some small objects (dinosaurs/ animals work well). Buttons work really well too. Pop the objects and shampoo in the bag and let them separate them out. For older children you can do coloured circles on the outside of the packet and get them to move the objects to fit into the circle.

8. Hallway play

If you have a hallway it makes for a great “playground” on a rainy day. Games like three legged races, obstacle courses and gymnastics are heaps of fun. Close all the doors and put pillows on the floor to make lily pads to jump on like frogs. 

9. Crafts

If you aren't too scared of a bit of mess then this is for you! Finger painting is heaps of fun and it's easy to make some cards or creations for loved ones (this could even go along with your baking as a gift which is a great way to teach your kids about giving)

Here is a recipe for finger paint:

⅓ cup flour

2 Tbs sugar

2 cups water 

Food colouring

Small containers 

Pop all the ingredients in a pot ( leave out the food colouring) and heat on a low heat stirring continuously until it thickens. Divide it between the containers and allow to cool. Once cool add in some food colouring and get painting.

For smaller children a great activity is to tear up paper and then make some pictures by sticking the torn pieces on another piece of paper making an awesome creation. 

10. Sensory play

Sensory play is a great way for younger children to learn. Cooking up some spaghetti and then making it colourful is such fun for children (and safe to eat). Other fun sensory things are jelly, rice, bird seed and flour. They do make a bit of a mess but it is such fun and an added bonus is they are learning to! 

Coloured Spaghetti:

To start, you are going to cook the spaghetti just like you would cook it if you were planning on eating it. The difference here is that you are going to remove it before the spaghetti is fully cooked. Keeping some firmness to the noodles will prevent them from just turning to mush. After they are cooked you will want to rinse them out very well in cold water to remove excess starch. If you skip rinsing the noodles they will be sticky, but you can still play with them. After I have rinsed the noodles I lay a towel down on my table and set out the crafting trays. I use the towel to protect my table from the heat and the gel food dye. On the crafting trays, I portion out the noodles for each color I plan on making and then I let them sit until they cool down enough to touch. Pop them into a ziplock bag with the colouring, close the bag up and mix it around until the colour is set. STORE IN THE FRIDGE.

Coloured Rice:

  • In a Ziplock cover add some rice based on your requirement.
  • Add a few drops say 2 to 3 drops of food colour (choice of colour is upto you)
  • Add a few drops of vinegar.
  • Close the ziplock cover and mix all the three ingredients really well.
  • You will notice the colour change but don’t use it immediately, keep it aside for a few hours 5 to 6 hours or overnight and it will be ready for play the next morning.
  • If you keep it dry and clean it can last for up to a year.