Share your best indoor toddler games!

Last week, I wrote about the three things that help me to be a better mother: patience, focus and faith. The first comment I received on that post struck a chord with me when I read:

I’m not the best at sustained “baby playing” . . .

I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about my mothering skills; I’m absolutely not the best at sustained baby play either! I can tickle him and chase him for a little while, but it’s never long before I’m wondering what’s on television and he’s climbing over the back of the couch again.

On that note, I’m a bit worried about the coming cold weather. I’m sure we’ll somehow manage to fill our days, but lately I’ve been resorting to 30-75 minute walks just to occupy our time.

So, for those of you who are great at baby play, what are your favorite games and activities to play with babies and toddlers?

Celebrate backwards WFMW and ask your question today!

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22 thoughts on “Share your best indoor toddler games!

  1. Four words – The Toddler’s Busy Book. It’s by Trish Kuffner (she’s got one for preschoolers and older kids too).

  2. Homemade Play dough!!! Andrew LOVES it and could play for hours with it!! He also is very much in love with elephants, so we play lots of elephant games. He’s actually quite good at coming up with games to play on his own. His current favorites are either putting “on” my hair or wearing anything long over his head to pretend having long hair. He also loves running around me on the floor and I have a stuffed dinosaur chasing him, kissing him, eating his toes, etc. He also loves waterplay, so now that he’s tall enough he can stand at the sink and play with water or I’ll just pop him in the tub with bubbles. And books-we have tons of books that he loves to flip through and make me come up with fast stories in lieu of whats actually written! He also likes to “trick”: making the wrong animal sounds for the animal he’s pretending to be then runs around devilishly laughing no no no!

    Sometimes, the best thing to do is take your cues from your kids! Their imaginations really can amaze you!

  3. We have a great one called “Watch Mommy Surf the Web”, and then there’s also the Night-Night Game, where mommy “pretends” to sleep on the couch and I tell my toddler to draw pictures of what mommy’s dreaming about. (Kidding. OK, well, I may have tried those but they only kept the kids’ interest for about ten seconds). :)

    But seriously:

    My son LOVES to just play at the sink. He stands on a chair and pretends to “make coffee” with an old coffee maker and “wash dishes”, etc. One day he did this happily for two hours! He wouldn’t let me take him away.

    The other thing is we just got him a little Home Depot kids tool bench. He spent just about all weekend “fixing” things with his little tools, hanging stuff on the bench, etc.

    My one-year-old likes to pretend to clean the floor with a little wash cloth. Odd, but she really enjoys it.

    I look forward to reading others’ responses!

  4. Ooh, great comments already. I too have the Toddler’s Busy Book. I’ve been thinking of giving away my copy since I’ve already mined it for everything it’s worth. I too love watching toddlers mesmerized by scooping and pouring water. It’s mostly a tub or outside thing for us now since I’ve got Pergo floors in the kitchen; I’m not quite so laid back about all the drips and spills these days. Rice or dried beans are also good indoor scooping and pouring mediums. My toddler boy would use his mini dump trucks and backhoes to scoop and pour rice last winter. Also, messy. We used a plastic tablecloth underneath to contain the rice granules. I love watching them paint. Also, messy. But so fun! We usually go straight to the tub afterwards. Most things toddlers love seem to be messy! But as someone above mentioned they also love cleaning and wiping at this age, so definitely take advantage. Just don’t try to wear any nice clothes til they’re 3!!!

  5. Hmmm…..
    We make playdough, finger paint on posterboard, build huts out of couch cushions and blankets, play hide and seek, play tickle monster, bake, make art with glue and glitter and beads and googly eyes and pom poms and such. That’s all I can think of right now.

  6. My little guy has always loved cooking. We make a LOT of cookies and such when the weather is bad. :) If you don’t have time to supervise a whole cooking session, letting them play with various ingredients such as flour or water is just as fun.

    Another favorite is getting big sheets of newsprint or butcher paper and tracing our body parts. He’ll do that forever and gets such a kick out of it.

    What great ideas you all have–I’m excited for more.

  7. sometimes i just let him do the things i normally don’t let him do, which occupies him endlessly. example: take all the tupperware out of the cabinet. or all the sippy cups. or mess around with all the newspapers waiting to be recycled. it gives him something totally new to do and entertains! so it means more washing or cleaning up but sometimes it’s worth it! the other one we play is hide and go seek…but with a blanket over the head. where’s mommy? where’s sammy? endless giggles. works even better when big brother “hides.”

  8. We used to put one end of cloth napkins in our mouth and have them hold onto the other end. Then we would shake our head and growl and bark like a dog. Whenever we watch an old video with some of that in it, they always make us do it again.

  9. Slow and Steady, Get me Ready by June Oberlander is another good book. There are weekly activities and most involve regular household items. Someone else mentioned beans and rice which are really great and they enhance motor skill development. If curious, you do need to watch that the beans are not swallowed that why rice is often better. Creating a little playstation that has things readily available to him like crayons & paper, it may get messy by allowing him to have “making” time does wonders with the creativity. Instead of going on and on, check out Paula’s Archives for lots of great ideas.

  10. Let’s see, indoor activities we play with our son (2 1/2 years old):

    – cooking in his Little Tykes kitchen, using Playdough as the food

    – coloring using a cookie sheet to hold the paper and crayons in one place

    – coloring with his Elmo Aqua Doodle

    – “washing” dishes (playing in the sink water)

    – playing with his train table

    – doing crafts that I find online at various sites

  11. My Grandfather (80yrs old going on 3) watches is Great Gradndaughter a few days a week (with his younger and more mature wife) and they play badmiton with ballons. They call it indoor tennis. I think the rackets are cardboard cutouts. Anyway, the two of them have fun!

  12. We play alot of dolls, as in wrap the dolls (me) unwrap the dolls (them) and rewrap the dolls again..and again…and again. Usually I tire of that one first.

    We have some books of butchers paper and crayons which they love (well, one of them likes to draw and the other likes to make a meal out of the crayons).

    Reading, they’re always up for that.

    Haven’t tried the playdough yet must admit.

    Now that it is getting warmer here we have alot of time outside in the garden. It seems to be where they and I are happiest.

  13. A tarp is your friend. :) You can spread out a tarp (either the heavy-duty camping kind or the plastic painting drop-cloth kind–just make sure it’s waterproof) and have all sorts of fun.

    • Splash in the kiddie pool
    • Finger paint
    • Sculpt with play dough
    • “Cook” with water-filled pots and wooden spoons
    • Bathe washable dolls
    • Wash dishes (real or pretend)
    • Blow bubbles
    • Just about anything that you could do in your yard, but is generally too messy for the house.

  14. These are all great ideas. One caution/tip about play-doh … you have to let go of the fact that all the colors will remain the same in each container. (If you buy it like I did).

    That, and painting (use sponges or big brushes or fingers) are both pretty messy, but entertain my TWO toddlers for longer than just about any other activity besides the tearing up the house one. is an awesome site with lots of unique, fun ideas. I also just read about another book that I can’t recall the name of right now so when I find it, I’ll return with it.

    Building forts will be a big deal in our house this winter. With 2 toddlers, my creativity will be in keeping them calm, and not hurting each other. I plan to get a refrigerator box from a local hardware store and let them decorate it (as long as our house isn’t for sale still).

    Ditto the washing dishes and playing at the sink. I’m going to attempt baking this winter with them. They’ll just be turning 2, though, so I’m not going to give it much pressure.

    We’ll host some play dates, too, because we can’t sit in our houses alone all winter. No amount of activities or toys could keep that amount of time sane.

  15. The best thing I ever learned about entertaining a young child or any child at home all day was rhythm and schedule. It’s not so much trying to figure out what to do in at the spur of the moment as it is having a plan in advance. With younger children it’s easier since…they actually tend to follow the plan as opposed to whining about how they don’t want to do that now… It’s amazing what a difference it makes.

    We follow the inhale-exhale rule at our house. A quiet activity followed by a moving activity over and over again. So, morning, quiet activity…reading anything learning oriented (not Baby Einstein); then a chase game. Next a stacking game; then dancing to a favorite tune; then telling a story with play figures and silks. Next…well you get the point. At least one outing a day works great for me- two hours at an indoor mall playground, a museum…(great kids rooms in many museums), story time at the library even the toy section at Target or an independent toy store works. You can get lots of ideas by joining a Waldorf playgroup or a music class for toddlers and it gets you out of the house!

  16. When I am doing an activity with a group of kids, I pretend to be asleep and the kids will try to wake me up. I will then go “Boo” and the kids giggle really hard.

  17. Jennifer f. My toddler is exactly the same. He hates the Night Night game and he loves the sink. Thanks for sharing that. They are so funny!

  18. I have a 3 year old and an 18 month old. Both are super active, curious and are not big on playing by themselvs. My 3 year old loves to draw and paint but cannot be trusted for long on her own since the temptation to make a mess is just too aluring. We bought a small white board for the refrigerator and she loves drawing on it and erasing her work with a cloth over and over (we usually bring it to the table). Playdough works well, with a little rolling pin, plastic knifes and forks and shape moulds. both my kids love to help me clean so we chopped the top of a regular broom to transform it to toddler size. small wet wash cloths and a mission to clean a part of the kitchen (or a furniture)usually makes them happy too.My daughter of 3yrs helps me fold the laundry. She finds it challenging to fold her little pants properly, roll hand towls into decorative rolls and finding which socks fit together. A few noisy metallic mixing bowl or pots and several wooden spoons keeps my little one happy for a short while and so is playing with water and bubbles at the sink (messy). He love openning and closing things so I find him pens with snap-on caps(that don’t work) and small containers he can open and close. My daughter begins to enjoy simple puzzle and we also like to creat necklaces with a string and cheerios. I tape the one end of the string to the table so that it doesn’t move.
    Covering the coffee table or a kiddie table with a blanket to creat a tent is fun for them to crawl in and out of. I admit to removing the cushions off the sofa and placing them on the floor so that they could jump from one to another and onto the naked sofa. That kept them happy and active for a while.

    Great ideas everyone! thank you!

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