Parents and caregivers, I know things are stressful and uncertain at the moment. Some of us might be feeling a bit restless as well. It can certainly be hard to keep our little ones entertained and busy while staying at home all the time! We’re all doing the best we can, make sure to cut yourself some slack and not compare yourself to others. Remember, you are your child’s safe place, and if you can try your best to stay calm and positive, it will help them as well. If you are looking for some new or different activities to keep your infant/toddler/child busy, here are some ideas:
Colouring. Even babies can practice banging and making marks on paper. Make sure you encourage them to use both their right and left hands. To help keep the paper in place, you can tape it to the table or their highchair tray. Sometimes [washable] markers are actually a better first colouring tool than crayons because they can’t bite chunks out and you don’t have to press very hard! Feel free to strip them to diapers and do it before bath time if you’re worried about the mess.
Stickers. Toddlers love peeling stickers off the sheet and sticking them to anything and everything. So great for fine motor skills. Make a little booklet out of paper and have them fill the pages with their stickers.
Playdough! You can make homemade playdough together. Even young toddlers can help pour in ingredients and mix. Here is a link to a great recipe if you’d like one. Playdough helps with those hand muscles needed for all kinds of life skills. You can also practice rolling it, making shapes, and giving them items to poke into the dough. I love letting older toddlers and preschoolers practice cutting with playdough. You can use kids safety scissors and plastic knives or butter knives.
Towers. Build a tower out of anything! Blocks, tissue boxes, couch cushions. Count them, knock them down, balance toys on top. See if your child can wait until 1-2-3 GO before knocking them over. Older kids can throw a soft ball or rolled up socks at their tower to try to topple it over.
Baths. Baths and playing in water is very fun and relaxing for most kids. Having fun in a small amount of bath water, or by playing in a small basin, can also help kids overcome fear of water. Water play is a great sensory experience and you can do all kinds of things to make baths more fun. Add in animal toys like sea creatures or turtles or frogs if you have them. Have the kids ‘catch’ them by scooping them into cups. Put ice cubes in the tub, or add in plastic balls! You could put reusable palstic easter eggs for an Easter bath. Putting cars in the water for them to ‘wash’ is fun as well. Another idea is adding a baby doll or barbie who needs a bath. Give them a washcloth and talk about body parts (wash baby’s ear, wash baby’s toe). Always supervise, even with only an inch of water.
Do a scavenger hunt around the house. You can help the little ones, and give less guidance to older preschoolers. Find something soft, find something scratchy, find something hard, find something red, find something shiny, find something with a tail, find something round, find something pointy, find something with a heart on it, find something you can wear etc
On a nice day give your child paintbrushes and water in a bucket and let them paint the exterior of the house with the water! You might be surprised at how long they can sustain this activity.
Dance party. You can turn off the lights and use glowsticks or flashlights if you have some too. You can add balloons to try and keep up in the air. Sing along and groove, even tiny babies love being danced with and moving with them to the beat is great for brain development!
Put some water in different big bowls/basins with a touch of food colouring in each. Give them measuring cups and spoons and let them splash and pour and mix. You can do this outside, or in the empty tub, or in the kitchen with towels laid down.
Freeze little toys in ice cube trays and have them "hammer" them out. You can use toy hammers or safe kitchen gadgets. Alternatively, let older kids try a hair dryer to melt the ice!
Sidewalk chalk and bubbles! Babies LOVE bubbles. You can write their name in chalk and talk about the letters and colours. Make some shapes and point out which is the circle. Ask them to ‘water’ the heart with a watering can or cup of water.
Blanket forts and flashlights! Very young babies and big kids all love forts. Bring in some stuffed animals, puppets or stories for extra fun.
Finger painting. Yes, even tiny babies. You can use pudding or baby food even, and there are many great edible non toxic recipes online. Again, if stripping them down and strapping them in the highchair makes this easier, go ahead. You can even put paper and ‘fingerpaint’ under baby’s feet in a jolly-jumper or exersacuer and let them experience it with their little piggies!
Hide a teddy bear and play going on a bear hunt! You can read the book and sing the song if you’d like as well. With younger babies you’ll let them watch you hide the bear (easy, like behind a toy/pillow) and ask “Where is the bear?” and then “You found it!”. With toddlers just help them search then celebrate finding it and hide it again until they ‘get’ the idea of the game. With older preschoolers you can give ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ clues to help them find it.
‘Bean bag toss’. You don’t need bean bags, you can use rolled up socks too. Throwing overhand is a milestone we look for around 9 months, and encouraging them to ‘throw’ the beanbag into your lap is a fun way to start. With older toddlers they can try tossing it in the laundry basket, and older kids can see how far back they can stand and still be successful.
In the yard you can work on sorting and teach toddlers same vs different: make piles of sticks vs piles of leaves vs piles of stones vs piles of pine cones etc. Bonus is it helps clean up your yard! For littler ones, just let them touch and explore the different items. They might try putting it in their mouth, but you’ll be right there. Outside time and playing with nature is really important!
Hide photos of family members and play “Find Daddy!” then “find Gramma!” and so on. With little babies, just lay out two photos farther apart and see if they’ll look to the photo of the person you name. Older babies/young toddlers you can put out two or three and ask “Give me Daddy’s photo”.
For older toddlers and preschoolers, you can fill spray bottles with water (and a bit of vinegar) and give them a cloth. Then, have them wipe your baseboards while pretending to be Cinderella! Younger ones can just have a damp cloth and some items that mommy and daddy need help to clean “wipe, wipe, wipe”. They might not do a great job, but it will help keep them busy.
Make ramps out of cardboard and race balls or cars down them (off the couch, off the coffee table, down some steps, etc).Toddlers love rolling something down something else, even pompoms down paper towel tubes!
Practice scooping pompoms or dry beans (anything something small, but I prefer pompoms for littles who may place items in their mouths) from one bowl into another. Use a big spoon, small spoon, try scopping into muffin tins or tall cups, whatever you have. For older babies/younger toddlers this works on hand eye coordination, control, and their general spoon skills. For older toddlers and preschoolers and you can make it harder by having them separate and sort the items into various containers with their scoops.
Have a parade. Dress up and then march through the house with musical toys, ‘singing’ along. Feel free to send us a cute video of you doing so! This is fun for all ages
Relatedly, pull out the pots and pans and tupperwear, give them some wooden spoons and let them go to town banging and making ‘music’. Babies also love banging toys against a metal mixing bowl.
Make a square on the floor out of painters tape or masking tape and practice jumping into it off a couch cushion or large pillow. We don’t look for jumping skills until around age two, but its still fun and good for younger ones to practice, even just to have them step up onto the cushion then back down.
String pasta onto yarn or pipe cleaners. For toddlers you can stick a raw/uncooked spaghetti noodle into a clump of playdough on the table (to hold it straight up) and slide rigatoni noodles onto it, or cheerios.
Stick toys or popsicle sticks to the table or wall with painters tape, and have them use their fine motor sticks to ‘free’ the toys. Sticking and peeling tape is something little ones seem to love!
Don’t forget to try to find time to read a story or sing a song...but if you don’t get to it or just can’t manage today, forgive yourself and know that you’re still doing a great job!
Please check out our Pinterest page at CLKD Infant & Child Development to see more idea as well as book, article, and product suggestions.
Do you have a great activity idea you can do with babies, toddlers, and preschoolers? We’d love to hear it!