When I decided to become a stay at home mom to an almost two-year-old back in 2017 I immediately started to browse the web for “busy toddler” ideas that would encourage independent play for my little guy. Here is a list of 15 ideas I’ve saved over the years – some of them I’ve tried and ended up being a huge hit! The clean up is minimal and the fun endless!
Indoor Scavenger Hunt
Everyone loves a good ole fashion scavenger hunt – even little ones! Make a list of items your preschooler or toddler can find around the house, print your own list, or use a pre-made one off of the web.
Straw Rocket Ships
3…2…1…BLAST OFF! This is a fun idea for young kiddos. You may have to help with the assembly but once these little rocket ships are put together, let the fun begin! Siblings can have a friendly competition to see whose rocket ship can go the highest!
Shadow Puppet Show
You don’t need a whole lot to put on your own puppet show, and this easy to cut out template will help you get started. Just find a flashlight and a backdrop, and you’re all set!
Sensory + Activity Bins
Parents are finding that sensory and activity bins are a unique and creative way to keep little ones busy. The bins are easy to put a lid on and store away for another day – making them reusable and easy to clean up. Using sensory bins has been a great way to encourage independent play for little ones!
My now three-year-old son and I recently made volcanos using this recipe and idea! He had a blast putting his dinosaurs into the lava and making them stomp around. Make sure to use the baking sheet to keep lava contained!
Bug Hunt (but make it indoor if the weather isn’t nice)
Whether it’s an egg hunt, bug hunt, dinosaur hunt – you name it…having to go and find little creatures around the yard or house is a great way to get your kids moving and having fun.
Make Edible Mud
This recipe takes three ingredients flour, cocoa, water! That’s it! Let your kids drive cars, trucks, or stomp animals through it. A little more on the messy side, but put down an old towel and let them enjoy!
Indoor Obstacle Course
If you’re cooped up indoors it can be hard to burn that energy that every busy little toddler or preschooler contains. Creating an indoor obstacle course is a great way to challenge little ones in their abilities and also burn some energy! Set a timer and have them see how fast they can make it through!
What kid doesn’t like playing with balloons? This post is full of fun ideas on how to use balloons to create Olympic type challenges. It keeps busy kids moving, jumping, and laughing (caution – fun for adults too)!
Hallway Laser Maze
This may make more sense to slightly older preschool-aged kiddos! A fun way to encourage critical thinking and problem solving as they snake their way through a maze of tape.
Pretend Indoor Campfire + Make S’mores in the Oven
Who said s’mores just had to be an outdoor summertime thing? You can easily make s’mores indoors and create a pretend firepit too! Roll out sleeping bags and pretend to “camp out” – pop in a great movie and it’s the perfect family evening.
This is another great idea for older preschool-aged kids, but could be fun for littler kiddos too! Create a catapult and let them test their abilities in launching items. A great project for STEM development and creative thinking.
Easy Homemade Playdoh
There is nothing like homemade playdoh! My grandma used to make it for me all the time when I was younger. My favorite thing to do was play bakery or restaurant and pretend to take orders and then make food with it for pretend customers. My son likes me to roll snakes and make snake eggs!
Don’t Touch the Lava!
Another movement game that is fun for kids. Pillows, blankets, placemats, are easy things to find around the house to use. Make the path stretch from one end of the house to the other!
Life-Size Sticky Spider Web Activity
Some easy to peel off painters tape is all you need and some bunched up newspaper or similar lightweight paper. Kids have a blast trying to get their pieces of balled up paper as high up on the web as they possibly can!
Need some more ideas? Check out others from Rochester Mom: At Home Sanity Savers: Make a Boring Day Extraordinary, 5 Everyday Items to Keep Your Kids Busy