Toddler Activities: When You’re Stuck at Home

We’re going into our third full week of social distancing with a toddler. We’ve had many ups and many downs, but I do feel like we’re in a good groove now. Amalia has been happier than ever. Maybe it’s her age or maybe it’s the fact that she gets to spend 24/7 with her two favorite people and one favorite doggie.

She’s been relatively well-behaved and has even been saying please and thank you without prompting. I probably shouldn’t even jinx it by writing it down but her happiness and enthusiasm for life have been our motivation for staying positive during these weeks. She understands that we can’t go to school or the park or the beach or the store because we don’t want to get sick or get other people sick but she truly doesn’t care. She’ll say things like, “When the people aren’t sick anymore we can go to the library and get a new Cat in the Hat Book” and I’m like who are you!?

I’ve been making a list of all the activities that keep her happy and occupied and that we’ve loved doing together. I’m sharing it today in its entirety. I will be adding to it as the weeks pass at home.

What works for me is to take things day by day. I can’t mentally plan beyond the day that we’re in right now so I don’t. I also don’t put any pressure on myself. Every day brings its challenges. And every day brings its joys.

I also want to remind you that you don’t have to be a perfect parent right now. Screen time is ok. Breaks from your kid are ok. Crying is ok. It’s hard. But I hope that some of these ideas make it easier.

Indoor Activities:

Build a rocket ship: Anel built Amalia a rocketship out of old cardboard boxes and she decorated the inside with stickers and the outside with markers. Granted, at this point, I would only use old boxes that aren’t potentially contaminated, but he had some laying around so I figure you might as well.

Obstacle course: This was our best indoor activity yet! Use painters tape and stuff you have around the house. Amalia went through this 20+ times and we’re going to make another one this week.

Make-believe: I love that she’s old enough to play make-believe now. We have been playing “school” every morning where she’s the mommy and I’m the kid and she takes me to school. We pack our lunch, get dressed, and head to the couch for daycare. Then she leaves and “goes to work” while I play with my friends. We do it over and over until she gets sick of it. Another make-believe game we play is with her baby dolls. She’ll go through our entire bedtime routine with them and it’s so sweet to watch her go through the steps that I go through with her.

Cooking/baking: I try to have her help me cook or bake one thing every two or three days. We’ve made pizza, pasta, cookies, cupcakes, cakes, and soups. She loves getting involved in the kitchen and is much more likely to eat whatever I put out for dinner if she’s had a hand in making it.

Making instruments: We got this idea from Other Goose which we signed up for last week. We made shakers out of Tupperware with lentils, blew bubbles into water with a straw, and banged on a box for a drum. It was creative, cute, and fun. She loved this.

Forts: I’m pretty sure every parent has been making forts lately, but we’ve taken it up a notch and come up with elaborate stories about why we have to hide in it then pop back out. Some examples from the mind of my toddler are that there are pink bears trying to eat us, there is a goblin in the tree outside (no idea), and that it’s our snuggle castle.

Puzzles: Every morning for “school” we do this letter puzzle and this number one together. She sings her ABCs and we talk about how she’ll turn 3 then 4 then 5 etc for counting practice.

FlashcardsAmalia loves flashcards. I hope this means she’ll be a good student one day! We practice our letters daily and she knows almost all of them now. If she sees a magazine or sign with a letter she recognizes she’ll shout out “B is for Bootsie!” or whatever it is. I always feel so proud when she does it. We haven’t gotten to lowercase yet but that will be next.

Playdough: You can make your own but we haven’t been able to find Cream of Tartar in stock anywhere to do this yet. So we’ve been using up our Christmas gift reserves mostly for “making cookies” with cookie cutters then eating them at tea parties.

Dance parties: They always cheer us up when we’re feeling a little down.

Cleaning up: No joke, Amalia loves to mop. She sprays the floor cleaner and I mop after her. We have been doing this every other day during the quarantine. We also make a game of cleaning up her toys when she’s done playing them.

Quiet time with books: Every day after lunch we go up to her bed or my bed and read books together. Sometimes she wants to “read” to herself and sometimes she wants me to read to her. Either way, it’s one of my favorite parts of the day and one of the few constants in our schedule.

Cleaning out her closet: This only took about an hour one day but we went through all of her clothes and put the ones that didn’t fit anymore into storage and made a donation pile for everything that she refuses to wear. I’ve learned that with my opinionated child, I have to ask before I buy her anything now!

Arts & Crafts

I should preface this with the fact that I am the least crafty person out there. I can color inside the lines and that is about as advanced as I can go. So my arts & crafts list is pretty short. Feel free to add craft

Nature art: A fun activity we’ve done a few times now is to go outside and collect pinecones, sticks, rocks, leaves, and flowers to make a little collage on cardboard from old boxes at home. It is a great indoor/outdoor/artsy activity.

Cards for loved ones: I don’t know if it’s even safe to send mail so we’ve been making pictures and cards for Amalia’s grandparents, friends, and teachers and then sending a picture of her holding the art to the people we love. She gets excited about making something for someone else and everyone on the receiving end seems to love it. I plan to send them out when this is all over.

Binoculars: I made Amalia a set of “binoculars” by cutting an old paper towel roll in half and taping the halves together. I let her decorate them with markers then we went around the house and she told me what she saw.

Coloring print-outs: There are a ton of great coloring print-outs online right now

Outdoor Activities

Chalk art: Amalia’s favorite chalk activity is to do outlines of our feet and then color them in. I don’t know why this gets her so jazzed but she loves it and I’m here for it. It’s hard to find chalk online right now (Target and Amazon are sold out) but we have and love this unicorn chalk and it’s available here.

Hopscotch: Speaking of chalk activities, we’ve been doing quite a bit of hopscotch lately which gives me all of the nostalgia. Anel and I have gotten into more than one hopscotch challenge…

Obstacle course: I saw this on one of our walks the other day, and we’re going to try it this week but a family basically strung together a bunch of hopscotch “courses” and added lines and instructions like “jump in this circle” and “hop on one foot” into an outdoor obstacle course made with chalk.

Daily walks: Every morning and evening we take a family walk with the dog. Amalia sits in her stroller or walks or bikes and we go for at least a mile. It changes up our scenery and gives us fresh air.

Scooting/biking: Amalia has been practicing her bike pedaling and scooting and has really improved over the last few weeks. She gets so excited and giggles the whole time.

Family bike rides: We inherited this bike attachment for Amalia from a friend and I’ve been pulling her behind me when we go on family bike rides. It doesn’t attach to Anel’s bike which is quiteeeee convenient if you ask me. But seriously it’s a great workout, especially on the hills. We play her music with a Bluetooth speaker in her little pod and she loves it. We bike about 4 miles to the beach and then turn around and come back which makes for a nice little ride.

Soccer: One of my favorite parts of our day is playing soccer as a family before dinner every night. We all run out to the driveway and kick the ball around. Amalia has gotten pretty good at kicking and blocking but getting it into the goal (we have this one ) is still an area… for improvement 🙂

Races: As silly as it sounds, racing with her is a great way to burn that toddler energy and ends up being fun for all of us. Even Boots gets excited and runs around with us. We’ll race from the garage to the end of the driveway or from a tree to another tree in the backyard.

Bubbles: We’ve been blowing a lot of bubbles lately. Not much more to say on the subject but if you don’t have any bubbles, you can make them yourself which would be another fun lesson/activity.

I spy: Sometimes we just sit on the grass and point to things and play I spy. It’s a great way to unplug and notice the beauty of nature.

MVP Toys

We’ve been playing with all of her toys but I wanted to highlight a few that have been true MVPs, meaning they’ve gotten a lot of use and she can play them for an extended period of time.

Aqua Magic MatThis is essentially a giant Water Works pad. You fill the pens with water and color on the white mat. When you use the water pens, the mat turns into the color below. There are stencils for shapes and letters. We’ve spent hours coloring on it and the fact that it’s totally mess-free is my favorite part.

Stacking blocksI don’t even know what to call this toy but it was a random Amazon purchase and has brought us hours of fun.

Monkey Around: Amalia got this toddler board game for Christmas and we play it all the time. It always gets her in stitches. You play by picking a card and then acting out what it says on the card. Some examples are to jump backward or hop around the room on one foot. Some cards require two players like a see-saw or high-fiving. It’s fun and silly and can snap her out of any sort of mood.

More Ideas from My Mom Friends
Isn’t That Charming
Danielle Moss
Olivia Jeanette

Let’s hear from you!

Comment below with the activities and toys that have been keeping your kiddos occupied while you’re self-isolating.

Note: My brain is in a really weird place right now and I am literally having trouble re-reading this post to check for typos. From the typo queen herself, I apologize for any mistakes made here. 

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  1. Great list and adorable photo! To add to the outdoor list, even little kids can help with chores outside. My kids spent time yesterday pulling weeds and collecting large sticks . Fresh air, good exercise, and working towards a goal as a family. Stay safe! <3

    4.6.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Good call! We will have Amalia help Anel clean up sticks today. She’ll love it!

      4.6.20 · Reply
  2. Amanda said:

    Love this helpful list! I will refer to it! We’ve been doing a lot of scooter rides, bike rides, dancing, singing, puzzles, painting, Play-Doh! My 4 year old loves to ask me what we are doing for a craft & I unfortunately have been terrible about planning crafts! My 1 year old can’t quite do them though… 🙂 We’re trying! One day at a time!!

    4.6.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      One day at a time. That is our motto and it works!

      4.6.20 · Reply
  3. Britta said:

    Some great ideas to pass time. We also started zooming with my mom, who lives out of state, for reading! My kids will gather around the computer screen and my mom will read them a book she has at her place. I figured if Levar Burton could do it on TV my mom can do it and entertain my kids for an hour!

    4.6.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      That is so sweet! Our parents would all love that too. Will add this to our repertoire. Keeps everyone happy!

      4.6.20 · Reply
  4. Kristin said:

    I’ve been letting my little spend more time in the tub. An impromptu noon time bubble party in the bath never fails to get her out of a bad mood. It can be a little annoying to do the bath routine at offtimes, but she is contained, happy, and clean at the end of it.

    I’m going to order some of those bathtub crayons this week, but she has also been getting a kick out of being “allowed” to select a random kitchen tool to bring in the tub (a spatula, pasta strainer, plastic drinking cup, etc.). Obviously the item goes in the dishwasher when we’re done but the silliness of it makes her so happy.

    4.6.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      I’ve tried to do the daytime bath situation but Amalia won’t have it! Such a cute way to pass the time though.

      4.6.20 · Reply
  5. Laura said:

    Great ideas! You can make playdoh with these simple ingredients too. 🙂 You can also add food coloring or extracts to the water to make fun variations. One of my favorites is peppermint playdoh.

    1 cup flour
    1/2 cup salt
    1-2 tablespoons oil
    1/2 cup water

    4.6.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      We’re going to try it this week, thank you!

      4.6.20 · Reply
  6. Telf AG said:

    Great idea))) Now I have more chances for a fun ride

    4.7.20 · Reply
  7. kristin said:

    Isn’t the Monica and Andy pizza dress simply the best?! My daughter has the same one and gets compliments every single time she wears it! It’s her fave dress and I have it in the next few sizes up! 😉

    4.7.20 · Reply