As promised, here is my list of indoor, hands-on activities for toddlers and preschoolers. There are almost 40 activities, so they will come in 4 installments!
Each activity can be adapted to suit the learning level of the child. They are all inexpensive and some can be assembled at zero cost. Some require close adult supervision, others just a little, and others not at all – freeing me up to teach an older child, attend to chores, other work, or nap!
We have used every single one of these activities. They have been indispensable, keeping our home atmosphere sane, happy and productive for everyone. It pays to spend a few days building up a good resource. Combine them with a few reading slots everyday, and the hours will fly by.
The best part for me has not been trying to fill up the time, or getting the Bunnies out of my way, or pushing them to do what they’re not ready to do. It’s discovering where they’re at, watching them explore and learn, and most importantly: building a close parent-child relationship.
Whether you’re a stay-at-home parent or working outside the home, I hope you and your kids enjoy this list. You might be surprised that you don’t need the TV that often!
As with all toys – train your kids to put back each activity before moving on to the next. Build up a habit with daily reminders and praise for neatness. It helps me to keep everything organised for quick pick-ups. Some are in drawers, labelled according to each activity. Others go into clear boxes, arranged on open shelves – toddlers/preschoolers can view and access them easily.
1) Colouring/drawing/doodling. Provide crayons, colour pencils, marker pens and blank paper. Let them draw freely and ask them about their creations. For variety, use crayons on sandpaper or other textured paper. Display their work on a display board for others to see. If you’re zany like me, date their drawings and keep a folder to store their work.
2) 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!
3) Finger drawing. Squeeze out shaving cream on a baking tray and let them draw with their fingers. You could use sand, rice or flour, but be prepared for a mess ….
4) Driveway drawing. This is a good gross motor activity that strengthens the upper back muscles. Dish out chalks and let your kids draw on the the driveway/cement porch. Draw long lines, big circles and shapes. Or whatever they like! Use an easel if you don’t have a driveway.
5) Paint with water. My kids just love painting, and this is the simplest, neatest painting activity ever! Provide water in a plastic cup, paint brush and paint-with-water book. Minimal supervision needed.
6) Paint with paint. Do finger painting, painting with sponges, potato painting. Close supervision needed. Teach kids to wipe their hands on a damp cloth, and make them wear “painting clothes” – old ones reserved only for painting gigs. For some fun (and easier clean-ups), let them paint outside or in a wet indoor area like an air well.
7) Books. Board books, lift-the-flap books or any other book can occupy kids for a little while, depending on their interest level and reading ability. Some lift-the-flaps require reinforcement with cellotape to make them last longer.
8 ) Activity books. Sticker books, mazes and colouring books are popular. My Bunnies dislike ones with letter or number tracing, and so do I – they are soooo boring! Adult supervision needed for toddlers and non-readers. (Remember not to leave your little one unsupervised when there are pencils around – they are sharp objects.)
9) Cutting games. Draw straight lines on paper and get your toddler to cut along the line. Before beginning, teach the proper way to handle scissors. As she improves, progress to squiggly lines and shapes. She can colour the shapes and stick them in her scrapbook to make a collage. Make different creations.
10) Audio-CDs. I sometimes put on classical music when I am doing table work with my preschooler. My toddler listens while doodling in his scrapbook. The music keeps them at peace as they work. When I have to leave them for awhile, or move onto a different activity, I change the music to something that will suit the mood. This helps them transition happily.
Have fun! Look out for the next installment soon.
Update on related posts: Fun indoor activities for toddlers and preschoolers (Part 2); (Part 3); (Part 4); Fun ways to learn writing the alphabet; Learning the alphabet and honing glueing skills; Keeping a toddler occupied while a preschooler learns (17 ideas); Sensory play.