You’re not really a parent to a toddler until you’ve thought:
“What the heck am I supposed to do with my kid all day?”
The easiest ways to keep a toddler busy and wear them out usually involve going outside. Going to parks, riding bikes, playing in the yard, etc.
But what if you’re stuck inside with a toddler? What are the best toddler activities you can do at home?
Good news — I’ve done a ton of research and put together what I think is a pretty dang good list of things you can do inside with a toddler on:
- rainy days
- sick days
- other bad weather days
Or when you’re killing time before other activities, or even just looking for some at-home bonding time.
I’ve broken them down into categories to make them easier to navigate. It’s not an exhaustive list, but sometimes just seeing things broken down in an organized way will help you remember some of your favorite things to do or give you new ideas;
When you’re at home with a toddler, you can entertain them and yourself with:
- Arts and crafts
- At-home science experiments
- Playtime and games
- Chores and productive tasks
- Learning activities
- And electronics
Let’s take a look at some fun ideas for each one.
Arts & Crafts
This is an easy one!
Sitting down with an art activity or a craft is great way to have some relatively quiet, focused, and fun time with your toddler. Plus, these are sometimes things they can work on independently while you get some things done around the house.
Perfect for rain and snow days, here are a few arts and crafts ideas for toddlers to get you started:
1. Free painting & coloring
The simplest way to dive into arts and crafts time is to simply pull out some paper and some crayons or paints and let your kid go nuts!
They can stay entertained for a good long while working on drawings.
You can let them just use their imagination, or help them draw certain objects or feelings. Or they can work on their numbers and letters.
I love these paint pens on Amazon for when you want to paint but don’t want the mess. They work amazingly well and dry super fast!
2. Make & build stuff with EDIBLE CHOCOLATE Play Dough
You’ve probably heard that you can make Play Dough at home with a few simple ingredients, which is already pretty cool.
But did you know you could make edible Play Dough that tastes like chocolate?!
All you have to do is look for a Borax-free recipe like this one from Little Bins for Little Hands.
You’ll just need:
- 1-14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 bar chocolate
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup cornstarch
Cook it up, let it cool, and then build/play with it to your heart’s content!
When you get tired of that, take a few bites to reward your hard work.
3. Make pretend binoculars out of construction paper
When you get tired of the toys you have in the house, why not make a new one?!
My daughter did this one with her grandma recently and absolutely loved it. Follow the directions (Pop Sugar) and make your own play binoculars out of construction paper and string.
All you’ll need:
- 2 Toilet paper or paper towel tubes
- Construction paper
- 2 colors of tempera paint
- A small container & paintbrush
When the binoculars are done, you can pretend to be a pirate with your toddler, an explorer, or on a safari. The possibilities are endless.
4. Make a hanging “stained glass window” out of an old Tupperware lid
It’s always fun to have your kids make a piece of art that can hang up somewhere in the house where they can enjoy it over and over again.
(Besides, paintings and drawings tend to get lost on the “paperwork table” in short order)
This stained glass window craft (courtesy of Pop Sugar) is really cute and looks great hanging in a window.
- A clear plastic lid
- Permanent marker
- Tissue paper (colored)
- A drinking glass
And get to work on your design.
When it’s done and dried, pop a hole in the top and use some twine or string to hang it proudly in a window.
5. Seasonal crafts!
There’s almost always a holiday coming up, which means you can almost always find a cool seasonal craft to do with your toddlers at home.
Whether it’s Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, or St. Patrick’s Day, there’s hardly a bad time to grab some colored construction paper, scissors, and glue and sit down and make something festive.
You can make cards, ornament, or just fun designs or paintings in holiday colors.
Check Pinterest and you’ll find no shortage of super easy seasonal crafts you can do with your kid right now.
And speaking of, for more arts and crafts ideas for kids and toddlers, follow my Pinterest board! I’m always adding new ideas year-round.
At-Home Science Experiments
This is one of my favorite categories of things to do at home with kids, and something I wish I did a little more often.
Writing this list should be great inspiration for that!
Last summer, I made flubber (slime) with my daughter and she thought it was the greatest thing ever. So it’s awesome to do activities that are super fun but that you also know are teaching important science and experimentation skills.
Here are a few easy science experiments for toddlers you can use for rainy days:
6. Make slime or flubber
There are a billion recipes out there for this. Why? Because it’s crazy fun!
I’ll get real for a second. Slime recipes that use borax are the best. They’re the bounciest and slimiest by far.
But if your toddler is prone to putting things in his or her mouth, better go with a non-toxic option.
Check out this really simple, no-Borax slime recipe from Steam Powered Family.
You’ll just need:
- White Elmers glue
- Baking soda
- Buffered saline solution
- And food coloring if you want it to be green (or any color!)
This is fun, quick, hands-on, and just a really great experience for everyone who participates.
7. Build your own lava lamp
OK, seriously, what kid wouldn’t love this?!
Courtesy of No Guilt Mom, this colorful and vibrant science experiment is fun, only takes a few ingredients, and produces one of the coolest keepsakes you could possibly get from a DIY science experiment.
You’ll only need:
- Food coloring
- Vegetable oil
- Alka Seltzer
- And a plastic water bottle
(Get the full instructions from No Guilt Mom)
8. Make rainbow-colored fizzy baking soda
If you can scrounge up just:
- Some baking soda
- Different kinds of food coloring
- And a little water
You can get hours of sciencey fun out of this experiment.
A little water and food coloring makes the baking soda fluff up like rainbow snow. Adding vinger makes it fizz to life!
This is perfect for toddlers because it’s colorful and hand’s-on. Try it! Get the full directions from Happily Ever Mom.
9. Whip up some homemade ice cream
Do I really need to sell you on this one?
Much like making chocolate Play Dough (see above), this one is fun to do AND you end up with a fantastically delicious end-product.
Besides, the science of how ice cream is actually made is pretty fascinating and sure to excite any kid (and adult). Plus, homemade ice cream is DELICIOUS if you’ve never tried it.
How Stuff Works breaks it down. All you need it:
- Vanilla extract
- Some Ziploc bags
That’s seriously it.
It should take about 5 minutes and you’ll be stuffing your face before you know it.
10. Make tie-dye milk
Though it sounds delicious, this one is actually not edible.
But it is a great demonstration of surface tension! Plus it looks cool.
From Cool Science, just take:
- A shallow dish
- Milk (not skim)
- Food coloring
- Liquid dish soap
- And a toothpick or straw
You simply put a few drops of food coloring on the surface of the milk and watch what happens when you add a little soap.
The end result is beautiful and fascinating!
And by the way, I’m always adding new ideas for toddler science experiments to my Pinterest board, too!
Playtime & Games
OK, OK. Enough work.
Let’s get into the silly stuff.
I’ll be honest, just goofing around with my daughter is one of the best parts of my day. I feel like we get so busy with disciplining and saying No and getting things done that it’s easy to forget that we just need to PLAY with them sometimes.
(And silly playtime is important. For both of us.)
Here are a couple of fun game ideas for your day at home:
11. Board games
Board games! I love playing board games with my toddler.
It’s great to sit down and focus on something together. Plus she learns how to take turns, how to follow directions, and how to win and lose gracefully.
My favorite board game to play with her is Chutes and Ladders (Amazon link). It’s really easy and simple for toddlers to follow, but just fun enough that you won’t hate it.
Some other games that we love:
- Silly Street
- Go Away Monster
- Any simple turn-based board race
12. Card games
In the same vein, you can get hours of fun out of a good card game set for kids.
(Here’s my favorite on Amazon that comes with 6 different card games you can play. You can also just teach them with a regular set of playing cards.)
It’s really fun to rotate through memory, Crazy Eights, Old Maid, Go Fish, Slap Jack, and more.
There’s a lot to learn for kids trying to pick up the rules of these different games, but they’re all pretty simple at their core.
And, by the way, if you ever do leave the house, these are great to take to lunch, dinner, or say, a brewery, to keep the kids entertained without screens.
My kid is absolutely obsessed with puzzles and will do them all day long if you let her.
You have two choices if you want to go the puzzle route.
One, you can sit them in front of smaller puzzles they can do independently while you get some other things done.
Or two, you can get a big, impressive floor puzzle and sit down and help them with it.
Either way, they’ll love this on a rainy day and will have a blast. There’s also a great feeling of accomplishment when they pop the last piece in.
For floor puzzles, we have this big fish-themed one from Melissa & Doug (Amazon) and it’s been a big hit in our house!
14. Hide and seek
Another favorite in our house, you can easily spent 30 minutes playing hide and seek with a toddler (or way longer) and have an absolute blast.
If you’ve forgotten the basic rules:
- One person covers their eyes and counts to 10
- The other person or people hide
- At 10, the seeker says “Ready or not, here I come!”
- The seeker looks for the hiders!
- After everyone’s been found, switch up the roles
This game cracks me up because my 3 year old will tell me where she’s hiding and still be surprised when I find her.
This is pure silliness and fun at its best.
15. Simon Says
I originally started playing this with my daughter in an effort to get her dressed and undressed faster.
(“Simon Says put on your shoes!”)
But, turns out, it’s actually just a pretty fun game to play in its own right.
And watch out. When your toddler gets to be Simon, that’s when things get really crazy.
16. Build a fort!
Some of my all-time best memories of being a kid are of building epic forts in the living room.
Bonus points if that launched into a great pretend battle or other storyline!
All you need for a great fort it:
- Some chairs
- Couch cushions
- And some books or heavy objects to hold down the blankets
Now get to building!
(P.S. Inside a fort is a great place to curl up with a few books.)
17. Freeze dance
If you want your kid to get some energy out at home, you have to try Freeze Dance.
Basically, it works like this:
- Pick a song and play it loud enough so everyone can hear
- Everyone dances!
- Hit pause.
- When the music stops, everyone has to freeze until it starts up again
Simple, fun, and guaranteed to wear your kids out.
(OK, maybe not, but at least it’s something active to do if you’re stuck inside!)
Chores & Productive Tasks
The reality is that just because you’re home with your toddler doesn’t mean the world stops turning.
There are still chores to do. Meals to prepare. Laundry to fold.
It can seem impossible to get anything done with your child hanging around. Believe me, I know!
But there are lots of chores and productive things your kid can actually help you with. (It may not be quite as efficient as doing it alone, but it’s better than not doing it at all!)
18. Load and fold the laundry
I’m not going to lie, I totally stole this idea from the Marie Kondo show on Netflix, “Tidying Up.”
In it, she shows parents how to get their little ones in on the laundry fun by teaching them to fold clothes.
Not only does it get them involved while you knock out a must-do task, it starts to instill good habits of cleanliness and contributing to the household.
And now that I’m thinking of it, my own daughter LOVES to help load up the washing machine or move things over to the dryer.
Make a game out of it, make it fun!
Again, it’d probably be faster to plop your kid in front of a screen and do the laundry yourself, but this could be a good opportunity to have some fun together and start teaching good life skills.
19. Wash the dishes or load the dishwasher
Ditto here for getting the dishes done.
(Does anything in the house pile up quite as easily and quickly as dishes? Ayayay.)
Grab a toddler kitchen stool or chair have them help you in the sink. They’ll love the warm water and the bubbles.
Or keep them down on the floor and have them be your helper for getting some (not heavy, not breakable) things into the dishwasher.
Then let them close it and hit the Start button. They’ll love it!
20. Clean the kid’s room and make their bed
At a certain age, you’ll want to start getting them involved in cleaning their own room.
And the cool thing is, that’s a pretty easy place to start when it comes to chores.
- Collect stuffed animals off the floor and put them away
- Straighten the bed
- Put dirty clothes into the laundry bin
- Throw away trash
- And do general tidying
(You can take plenty of play breaks in between if you want!)
It’s really awesome when you’re home with your toddler all day and you actually feel like you were able to get a few things accomplished.
A clean kid’s room is definitely a solid accomplishment!
21. Make breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Or help with pre-made meal planning.
In my experience, kids absolutely love to help with the cooking.
Whenever I’m making dinner, I try to think of lots of little “jobs” my daughter can help with, like:
- Throwing away trash
- Setting the table
You’ll have to be careful, because cooking often involves sharp things like knives and hot stoves.
But if you’ve got meal planning to do, or just want to make a yummy dinner, see if you can get your toddler involved as a helper with some simple tasks.
22. Organize toys, books, or play area
Every family has a playroom or corner that seems to quickly get swallowed up by toys and stuffed animals.
Being at home with your toddler is a great time to get it cleaned up and organized.
Have them help you put things back in the proper place, and better yet, ask them if there are certain things they’re ready to get rid of (and donate to kids who don’t have as many toys).
Cleaning up the play and toy area usually has a huge impact on how clean and organized the entire house looks.
23. Dust. With socks!
This is a cute idea couresty of Parents.com.
If you’re running around trying to get a few things done or cleaning up, grab a pair of old socks and put them on your toddler’s hands.
Have them go around the house dusting easy to reach areas!
They’ll think their sock-hands are absolutely hilarious. And while it may not be the most thorough dusting in the world, it’ll make them feel involved in the house cleaning process.
24. Bake cookies!
OK, so baking cookies might not necessarily be “productive.”
But it is definitely fun, delicious, and an awesome thing to do together with your toddler.
Here’s an absurdly easy, 3-ingredient sugar cookie recipe you can try.
(You’ll want to keep it simple if the kiddos are involved.)
But if you’re feeling even lazier, I’ve had great success just using simple mixes from the store where you add water, or water and eggs.
The end result isn’t that important. Just doing something together, letting them pour and mix things, that’s where the fun really happens.
Learning & Education
We’ve had enough fun. We’ve gotten some things done around the house.
Now it’s time to really learn something!
Here are some awesome educational and learning activities you can do at home when you’re with your kids.
25. Sink or float activity
This one could also be considered a science experiment, but it’s less zany and colorful and will really require them to think critically and logically.
Plus, it’s still fun.
The classic sink or float activity for toddlers is a favorite of a lot of parents.
- Take a small tub
- Fill it with water
- Grab a dozen or so small objects and toys
- Ask your child to guess if each will sink or float
- Test their hypothesis!
This will be a lot of fun, and it’s a good chance to teach them about what makes things float and how water behaves.
26. Activity books
Man, I friggin’ love these things right now.
Our daughter absolutely DEVOURS activity books like this one on Amazon.
Inside, you’ll find stuff like:
- Pre-writing skills
- Finding the differences between pictures
- Identifying shapes
- Early math
Kids have a blast working through these, and they learn a ton by doing it.
27. Word and number flashcards or puzzles
Alternatively, you could grab a set of flash cards and do some interactive quizzing and learning with your toddler.
I also really like self-correcting word and number puzzles, where one piece will have 5 shapes drawn on it, for example, and will match with a piece that shows the number 5.
They have them with words, too.
We have a version of this set of self-correcting wooden number puzzles from Amazon and love it.
28. Learn about color mixing. In the bathtub!
Oh Lord. My mom got our daughter a set of these colored bath tablets for Christmas, and I swear this <$10 purchase was the hit of the season.
You take these non-toxic, totally washable tablets and drop them in the bath to turn the water different colors.
It’s meant to just be for fun, but it can also be a great way to learn about color combinations. Drop in a red and yellow tablet and ask your kid to predict what will happen!
If your children are anything like mine, they’ll be obsessed with these.
Check out the Crayola colored bath tablets on Amazon.
29. Bird watching through the window
This is a fun thing to do if you have a backyard, or any big windows in your house you can look out of.
See if you can spot different birds outside. (The morning is usually the best time.)
Pull up a guide on your phone and try to identify the birds, and see if your toddler can remember them for next time!
You can even give them names, if you want.
30. Build shapes with popsicle sticks
If you have some popsicle sticks laying around (or even just popsicles that could become sticks after a yummy feast!), this is a great learning activity to do at home.
Arrange the sticks into different shapes and ask your toddler to identify them.
Then, it’s their turn to build the shapes!
If you attach a little velcro to the sticks, they’ll stay in place better. You can get instructions on how to make this craft and activity from For the Love of Learning.
31. Read books
This is the original rainy day activity.
There aren’t too many better things in life than snuggling up with your toddler and some good books.
One of our favorite things to do, when we can, is to start and chip away at a longer book or novel rather than churning through short stories over and over.
Settle in, grab a snack, and read a chapter or two of a good children’s novel like The Phantom Tollbooth (my personal favorite).
Electronics & Screen Time
Every parent is going to have a different philosophy on screentime.
But let’s be real. You might not survive parenting in the 21st century without using at least a little bit of it to keep your sanity.
Sometimes you just need a break from being “on”! Or you need to catch up on some emails, get dinner ready, take a shower, or do something else. By yourself!
Here are a couple ideas for how you can use screens during your day home with a toddler:
32. Watch a little TV, it won’t kill you!
Don’t do it all day, but a little low-key TV time is a great way to unwind and bring the chaos level in the house down a few levels.
If you have Netflix or any other streaming service, you should have no shortage of options.
Common Sense Media recommends Daniel Tiger, Storybots, and Sesame Street for toddlers.
33. Have a movie date
Cook up some fresh popcorn, or slice up some apples for a healthy snack, and settle in for a little movie session with your little one.
Disney movies are the absolute best for this. They’re endlessly rewatchable and, let’s face it, we adults love them too.
34. Play iPad or tablet games
The land of free kids games for the iPad is swimming with absolute garbage, but there are some solid gems out there, too.
Educational games or games that stimulate toddler’s minds aren’t something to feel guilty about in small doses.
I’ve had good success with games like digital puzzles or STEM-based learning games (early kid’s coding games and things like that).
35. Take funny photos
An old favorite of ours.
If you have a Mac, you can have a blast using the funny filters on Photo Booth. My daughter and I could sit in front of the laptop camera for an hour just making ridiculous faces.
If you only have a phone handy, you can use hilarious filters on Instagram or Snapchat, or just make silly faces! You don’t have to post them anywhere, just do it for the fun of it.
You’ll get near endless entertainment out of this.
This list is by no means exhaustive.
Not even close!
But hopefully it gave you a few ideas or at least some inspiration for what to do when you’re stuck in the house with a toddler.
I find that my best memories and most enjoyable moments are when I’m doing nothing other than goofing off with my daughter. Playing some silly game we made up, making faces at each other, wrestling, and things like that.
But I know days at home can be long! You need lots of ideas and activities to fill them (especially if your kid won’t nap, ugh).
I hope you get some use out of this list, and feel free to leave some more ideas in the comments!
Good luck, parents.
(Whew – that was a lot of work, and now you’re exhausted. Should you go right to bed? Maybe! But here’s my full list of things you can do after the kids are asleep, besides watching TV. Check it out!)