I’ve got a secret to tell you. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit but….I’m not very good at playing. There I said it. When past me, pictured future me playing with my future children, I imagined us sat round a lovely big table. Rain pouring, hot chocolates steaming, colouring books strewn around ready for a quiet creative afternoon. As it turns out, past me was an idiot.
It feels like a ridiculous thing to admit, who isn’t good at playing?? However, my natural tendency to be neat and tidy, and my fairly ‘get stuff done’ attitude, does not lend itself very well to playing with an energetic toddler. (What do you mean you don’t want to sit quietly and listen to my Harry Potter Audiobook with me for 30 minutes). My Mum and Husband seem to be able to effortlessly make everything into a fun game. It does not come that naturally to me. It’s only January – but it already seems like there’s an endless expanse of winter left ahead of us. After a week of rain and storm Brendan knocking at our door, Arlo and I have a serious case of Cabin fever.
So in the interests of not going completely mad in February, and flexing my playing muscles, I’ve compiled a list of things to do inside with my toddler. One for each day of the month. I thought I’d share it with you (in case you’re also running out of ideas). Most are free or only cost a couple of pounds to do. Most also don’t need any specialist equipment, and can be done with everyday household items. Have fun!
1. Pasta and Cereal threading
This kept Arlo (and me) entertained for ages this week. Quite honestly, he preferred to un-thread everything, but still fun.
2. Sensory Bath
Did you have one of those star projectors when your toddler was a baby? It’s time to get it back out. Run a bath, and turn the lights out, get the stars going, along with some music. If you don’t have a projector, candles (placed out of reach of little hands) work just as well.
3. Kitchen Utensils Bath
Fed up of all your usual bath toys? You don’t need to buy more. We love playing with kitchen bits in the bath. Our favourites are the whisk, funnel and egg beater. Have a rummage in your cupboard, I’m sure you’ll find something fun.
4. Colour Sorting
You could use all sorts of things to sort into colours, draw coloured rings on some paper, or use a muffin tin and get sorting. We’ve been using unicorn cheerios. (Who doesn’t like an activity you can snack on).
I definitely took some persuading to try this one, it looks so messy, but I’m so glad I did. It’s amazing to play with and an absolute breeze to clear up as it goes solid when you touch it. You just need to mix cornflower and water until you get to the desired consistency.
6. Shadow Puppets
I am definitely not the only one whose toddler is wide awake at 2am, ready to start the day. We’ve found the best way to keep him lying down and eventually get him back to sleep, is to play shadow puppets on the ceiling. He absolutely loves it (and I love watching him try to do it). Probably not sleep trainer recommended, but definitely sweet and even more fun when it’s not 2am.
This idea is borrowed from my friend’s little boy, who, 10 minutes into my recent visit announced we were done having coffee and we were going to have a disco as it was more fun. And we did, and it was. Time for the star projector again and some great music. If you get really into it, you can even make tickets.
8. Make a race track / ramp
Time to dig through your recycling bin, a nice big piece of cardboard propped up against your coffee table will do the trick. If you have an extra few minutes; you can use loo roll tubes and small boxes to make tunnels, and draw or tape road markings on it. Arlo rolled balls and cars down it for at least 20 minutes. (Which is a miracle).
Arlo got these cute little skittles as a Christmas present. If you don’t have any – empty loo rolls work just as well. That’s what we used before we had this set. Arlo will stand them all up and knock them down over and over.
10. Shaving Foam
This is messy play I can get behind. We play with shaving foam in the (empty) bath tub. Arlo loves squishing it between his fingers. When we’ve finished playing, I can just hose Arlo down and all the mess is kept contained.
Get your toddler to help you as you bake, biscuits are a good option as they can help stir, roll out the dough, cut out the shapes and ice them. If you can’t face actual baking, Arlo is just as happy being given a bowl of rice krispies to stir with a wooden spoon.
12. Water Painting
Time for another big bit of cardboard, we haven’t done this at ours yet, but I’m going to give Arlo a cup of water and a paintbrush to play with on an opened out cardboard box.
13. Make Shakers and Play Bands
You can make great shakers out of so many things, yogurt pots, plastic bottles, loo roll tubes, all sorts. Add some rice or dried lentils and you’re good to go. We put music videos on the telly and dance around making lots of noise.
We don’t have any designated fancy dress clothes at the moment. I’m sure we will in time, but we don’t feel we need them right now. It doesn’t matter anyway, apparently, there is nothing more hilarious than careering around the house wearing Daddy’s coat as a cape, and Mummy’s fluffy slippers. I’m sure your toddler will have lots of fun just trying on your clothes.
Now bear with me on this one but there is nothing my little boy likes more than ‘helping’ Mummy. He’ll happily follow me round with a mop, or help me hang out the washing. Best of all, all you need is a clean cloth and off they go. If you do want something more bespoke though – we bought this sweet little set from Aldi. They don’t have it in stock any more, but this one is similar. It’s literally Arlo’s most played with toy. It also keeps him occupied while I get housework done, win win.
Arlo and I have got into a bit of a rut with his food. He has healthy meals and a good variety of things, but I tend to repeat things I know he likes. In February I’m going to get him tasting new things. I thought I’d hold a little tasting session so he can get stuck in with new flavours and textures. Current things on the list are Lychees, Honey, different cheeses, Cauliflower rice, rice pudding, I’m still thinking of other bits…I’d love any of your tips.
17. Tape Tunnels
I saw this idea on Pinterest, I’m going to tape a load of tunnels, made from scrap paper to our hallway floor and get Arlo to drive his cars through them. Easy and cheap.
18. Balance Beam
If you’ve got a long piece of wood, or a spare floorboard kicking around somewhere, this is good entertainment. Alternatively, you could just use masking tape to tape a straight line on the floor and challenge your toddler to walk along it.
19. Posting Tubes
I saw another great idea on Pinterest, I’m going to tape a selection off loo roll tubes to the wall in different configurations for Arlo to post pom poms down and see where they land.
20. Cereal Sensory Box
This is one we’ve done before in classes, but I’m going to fill a box with cereal and hide some of Arlo’s toys in it for him to find. I’ll give him a wooden spoon to dig with, he’ll love it.
21. Play Dough
I found this recipe for play dough – I haven’t tried it yet, but it’s definitely on the agenda for February.
22. Muffin Pan & Balls
Put them in, take them out. Put them in, take them out. You get the idea.
23. Post Box
Cut a slot in an old cardboard box, and give your toddler a stack of things to post. Junk mail or a deck of cards work just fine.
I don’t know what we’d do without our local library, we go at least once a week. It always surprises me which books Arlo likes so I’m glad I don’t waste money buying ones he doesn’t read. If he’s not particularly interested in a book, it just goes back again. It also means that on occasion I can treat him to the ones he really loves, so they become part of our permanent collection. I’ve just ordered this one.
Pro Tip: always take out the same number of books (for us it’s 5) so when you’re leaving the house in a rush, 100 things on your mind; you know how many you have to lay your hands on to return.
25. Sock Puppets
I know Arlo is going to love this one. He loves having conversations with his teddies, I keep finding him chatting to them. I’m literally just going to stick some eyes made of scraps of felt I’ve got lying around to some old socks and away we go.
Balloon is Arlo’s newest word. We have to stop and look at any balloon we see. So I’m going to get some to play with in February. I’ll probably get these, as they’re 100% biodegradable.
27. Bubble Wrap
I’m going to lay down some bubble wrap I’ve got for Arlo to play with. I’m sure he’ll enjoy dancing on it or driving his cars over it, making it pop.
Again, this one goes against my nature. Pull all the cushions and blankets onto the floor, say what now? BUT, how hard really is it to fold up a few blankets, and this one is such good fun. We use our drying rack, but under the stairs, under the dining room table and in the wardrobe are all good places to make a den. Extra points if you put up fairy lights to make it really cosy.
29. Zipped Up Pouches
Arlo wants to explore absolutely everything at the moment. He wants to know what’s in every cupboard and inside every bag. He loves trying to do the zips and taking everything out, one thing at a time. I feel like I’m constantly telling him no. So in February I’m going to fill a load of zipped bags I’ve got lying around the house with toddler friendly things for him to explore.
And there you have it, a very long list of thing to do in February. I’d love to know if you try any of them or if you have any suggestions to add!
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