It may be Spring, but here in the Pacific Northwest, the weather is still mostly cool and gray and rainy. To keep us from going crazy, we have to get creative about how to have fun indoors when the wind is whipping and it’s too cold to bundle up for the park (or I’m too tired of bundling up). Here are six indoor activities that Theo loves.
Google “sensory bins for toddlers” and you will see hundreds of different variations on this theme of hands-on play that offers your toddler a chance for imaginative play and a fun way to develop motor skills, language skills and more. I’ve kept it really simple (and easy to clean up) by setting a Gathre mat on the kitchen floor (you can also use a shower curtain) and giving Theo non-breakable bowls filled with rice and oat cereal with scoops, spoons, funnels, measuring cups and other similar items. I will start out playing on the floor with him, and then I’ll slip away to give him some independent play time while I load the dishwasher or fold laundry. You can also use rice, flour, sand or other scoop able filler that doesn’t pose a choking hazard. But because Theo still likes to put things in his mouth, I use the cereal, and that way I don’t have to worry.
Similar to the sensory bin, above, I place a mat on the floor and then place old towels on top of the mat. I strip Theo down to his diaper and place large bowls of warm water next to him. I give him other smaller bowls, scoops, spoons, funnels and measuring cups, and I let him splash and play. He usually ends up spilling the water, but because he’s setting on towels, it doesn’t make a mess.
Water Play with Food Coloring
Similar to the water play above, but I use this food-based coloring to color three containers of water red, blue and yellow. Then we have fun making different colored water. I can see this one getting even more fun as he gets older and starts to recognize colors.
Homemade Shakers and Bubble Water
I took a bunch of my old Medela milk storage bottles and re-purposed them as shakers and containers for colored bubble water. These are some of Theo’s favorite toys. I filled the bottles with lentils, popcorn, quinoa and rice, all which make different sounds when you shake them (and they have different shapes and colors, obviously). I filled others with water and then added dish soap and food coloring, to make colored bubble water. Theo loves to carry these around and shake them. They sit in his kitchen cabinet (see below).
I have one cabinet in the kitchen that Theo can open and explore. If I ask, “Theo, what’s in your cabinet?” he will walk over and open the door and start pulling everything out to show me. It’s great for building language and vocabulary, for learning colors and counting, for gross motor skills and fine motor skills. I keep it filled with a lot of the supplies for the sensory bins and water play (measuring cups, funnels, non-breakable bowls, wooden spoons, colored spatulas, scoops, ice cube trays) and the homemade shakers. I switch out the contents every now and then, to keep it interesting for him. I also have an old make-up bag that he can unzip and unload the contents (a mask with velcro, and old medicine organizer (the kind that has days of the week that you can snap and unsnap), and an old make-up brush). He loves to zip and un-zip the bag and snap and un-snap the container sections. We use the brush for tickling.
Theo loves eating anything that’s we’re eating. Even if he has a pancake on his highchair tray, our pancake is more delicious. Having an indoor picnic is a fun and (a little) less messy way to eat together, because we can eat off each other’s plates and Theo can practice using a spoon (which he loves). I put our Gathre mat on the floor and then we sit down and eat together, usually laughing and playing games, too.
I hope some of these ideas are helpful. If you have other ways to keep your little one occupied on rainy days, I would love to hear! Please share in the comments.