Spring has almost sprung, but if like me you live in a country where the weather is increasingly unpredictable, spring can be a gamble in terms of plans to make with your toddler. A few times in the past couple of weeks we have planned to go feed the ducks or visit farms, go on woodland walks and a number of other outdoor activities. Sadly, between rain, hail and even snow, it wasn’t meant to be.
However, with cancelled plans comes the panic of what to do instead (in my case anyway), as I always fear my little one won’t be as stimulated with the same toys, no fresh air, too many cartoons and the like indoors. I’m probably mad, but I think it’s important to introduce new toys and activities to keep kids interested and entertained.
Here’s my top free indoor activities to keep toddlers amused and learning:
Storytelling needn’t be solely a bedtime activity – reading books can be fun at any time of day. Travis cannot get enough of books and stories, especially books where there are things to touch (aka all the “That’s Not My..” books which he loves), as the interactive experience adds a new level of enjoyment to the book. Another way to do this is to animate the stories you read. For example, if it’s a book about animals, I’ll get down on all fours and pretend I’m the animal, making the noise it makes. We also use teddies to act out the story. Of course this doesn’t have to accompany a book, you can make up stories or simply tell them from memory with props, sounds and actions.
Flash cards are a great way to add an educational element to staying indoors. Whether your toddler is young or almost at pre-school age, flash cards can be used to introduce word association, encourage speech and, as your toddler gets older, they can be used to complement any reading or spelling they may be learning at nursery or school.
Build a den
Is there anything better on a miserable, cold, grey day than diving under a fort and getting all cosy? Whilst it may not be the relaxing, quiet blanket-fort you’d envisage for an adult, you can create a den for the kids and transport them out of the living room/bedroom for a little while. Bigger toddlers can help building the fort, whilst smaller ones will enjoy exploring inside. Why not pretend you’re camping in the woods and the teddy bears are coming for a picnic? Or maybe you’re in the jungle and the tigers and lions are just outside? You can even combine activities, like reading inside the den, just to mix things up a bit.
As your toddler develops, you may want to introduce reading and writing activities. Word tracers are ideal for this. What’s a word tracer I hear you say? Well they are exactly as they suggest – practical sheets which allow toddlers to explore and create words that the sheet outlines. Want to print one for yourself? Here’s one with action words.
Toddlers are always on the move, so this action words word tracer is perfect for them. Word tracers are a fun way for little ones to gain practice with their fine motor skills and beginning letter recognition. They can even act out the words as they trace. For even more fun educational resources, check out Education.com.
Make and pretend
It’s time to get out the cardboard boxes and dig out some of the recycling material and get ready to make and pretend. Rice or lentils in a plastic bottle becomes a musical instrument, as does elastic bands over an empty tissue box. Bigger boxes can be cars, planes or rocket ships that fly around the room. If you’re more crafty, why not use some of the old toilet roll tubes, empty egg cartons and yoghurt pots to make your own space ships or princess castles or whatever your imagination chooses!