We all know that being at home all day every day with a toddler can be tough! It is easy to get stuck in a rut with the same activities day in and day out. This is especially true when the weather isn’t nice enough to play outside and you need some indoor activities.
Here are 5 inexpensive and easy ideas to spice up your week days at home with your small kiddos. My speech therapist side always tries to incorporate some sort of learning into our fun activities, so that is an added bonus. I hope you are able to give them a try. Let me know how it goes!
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1. Sensory bins
Sensory bins are super easy to make and can definitely be done without spending much money on them. They provide learning experiences for your child, while they play independently or with you by their side. I always keep 3-4 in my child’s play closet that I can pull out as needed. He loves them! I try to rotate them and only pull them out occasionally to keep things more interesting and fun.
Here are a few that we have tried at home. I also sometimes borrow these bins on the days I work to use in my speech therapy sessions with kiddos.
Water beads with sea creatures:
My son loves swimming his hands through the water beads and finding all of the different sea creatures. After only a few times playing in this bin, he was able to label different sharks and whales as well as a variety of other ocean animals.
Here is a complete sensory ocean animal kit that comes with the water beads as well as 24 sea creatures. This bin is probably my son’s favorite so far.
This one is super easy to create! I just filled the bin about half full with rice, and then it was ready for a number of activities. Since my son loves animals so much, I started with burying zoo animals in it for him to find. Again, this activities really improved his animal vocabulary. We name the animals and talk about their characteristics on his level. For example, we point out different colors, which animals have spots or stripes, and which ones can swim or fly.
Dried beans and/or noodles:
I filled one of his bins with dried beans and different dried noodles. I put different gardening type items in it for him to play with that I mostly found around the house. For example, I put a shovel, plastic flowers, gardening glove, plastic snake, spoon, craft sticks, cups, etc. inside. You can fill any of these bins up with whatever items interest your child!
2. Dinosaur Dig
My son LOVES dinosaurs! He has a sandbox outside, so I took some sand from this and mixed it with some water. Then, I let him dig in the wet sand for little plastic dinosaurs. After he found them all, I filled one plastic container with soapy water and one plastic container with plain water. I gave him an old tooth brush and rag. He gave all of his dinosaurs a “bath” and dried them off. This one was a ton of fun for my dinosaur-loving two year old.
3. Simple Games (Modify as needed)
For Christmas, my husband and I decided our son was old enough to start learning to play some simple games. We bought him Hungry, Hungry, Hippos and Let’s Go Fishing. Although we don’t really play by the rules or keep score, he loves pulling these out to play for about 20 minutes. These games are great for hand eye coordination and fine motor skills. You can also incorporate learning of colors and counting.
One of my favorites to do with him right now is Matching games. Although he isn’t quite ready for a real Memory Match Game, we have another way to use the cards. Before playing the matching game he must learn the concept of finding 2 things that match. In order to teach this we simply lay the cards out one at a time on the table. If we come to one that is already on the table, we find the match and put it on top of it. It sounds simple, but he loves to do this! We have animal cards and dinosaur cards that we do this with. But you could use anything from colors to shapes to anything else you can find.
4. Stickers! Stickers! Stickers!
We also love sticker books! We have done theses Melissa and Doug reusable sticker books over and over again. This activity not only teaches vocabulary but also categories such as animals (farm, jungle, ocean, etc.) and vehicles (construction, water, road, etc.). When your child is old enough, you can lay multiple scenes out and have them place the animals or vehicles on the correct scene by category. Again, the speech therapist in me is always coming out at home too!
5. Finger paint crafts
I always keep finger paint in the house for an easy activity! In the fall, we used it to paint pumpkins. At Christmas, we used it to make fun crafts for grandparents, aunt, uncles, etc. On random days, we pull it out to make handprints to show his daddy when he gets home, paint rocks, or paint a picture from a coloring book. Sometimes I have him use his hand and other times I give him a paint brush. You can also use q-tips, sponges, cotton balls…the ideas are limitless!
Bonus Idea: Let’s Be a Good Helper
This activity really just happened by accident one day! I was cleaning the house, and my son decided he wanted to help his momma clean. Although he may not have been much help, he sure felt proud of himself and it kept him entertained!
Now, I let him do simple cleaning activities such as using the duster in his playroom to wipe his shelves, push the swiffer sweeper around the house (you would actually be surprised how much dust he picked up), and wiping down his bathroom counter with a rag. I don’t put a lot of pressure on him to do these things and don’t judge how well he does them, but he seems to enjoy it! He is also learning to clean and help out.
I hope you are able to try some of these ideas. Please, let me know how it goes! Check out this post for my 5 favorite toys to increase language development.