10 Easy Indoor Toddler Crafts and Activities
By Paige Goodwin, Contributor
Maybe you just had a baby or maybe it’s starting to get cold outside, but nothing seems more daunting than having to keep a toddler inside — and entertained — especially if your child seems to move between games and activities quickly. Even as a seasoned nanny, I was constantly trying to figure out how to keep the kids busy when I couldn’t take them outdoors. Here are some of my favorite crafts that you can make at home:
1. Toddler-Safe Play-Dough
Sometimes even the parents and caregivers with lighting reflexes can’t stop a toddler from putting things in their mouth. Making your own play dough out of ingredients in your cupboard ensures that even if your little one gets a bite of this fun dough, all you have to worry about is a salty aftertaste. Kidspot has a great No-Cook Playdough Recipe that is reusable and has 5 ingredients you already have in your pantry.
– 1 cup water
– 3 cups flour
– 1 cup salt
– 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
– food coloring
1. Mix together the salt and flour. Add in oil and mix.
2. Mix together food coloring and water.
3. Add in water slowly, mixing until you get the right consistency.
4. Have your toddler knead the dough while you’re mixing.
5. Store in an airtight bag or container.
2. Shaving Cream Sensory Buckets
There’s something about sensory activities that toddlers love, and shaving cream attracts small kids like magnets. Especially on cold, wintry days, your toddler will love playing with fake “snow”, and all you need is a can of shaving cream sitting around. If your child is unsure of playing with it, include a few waterproof toys in a large plastic mixing bowl or storage tub. The best part? Clean-up requires just a quick rinse with water and both yours and your toddler’s hands will smell great and be silky smooth!
3. Bathtub Painting
Toddlers and paint normally means nightmarish clean-ups, but bathtub painting is a great alternative. If you have bath tub paint laying around, you can put it to good use (and if you don’t, try Kojo Design’s Make Your Own Bath Paint that requires 4 common household ingredients). If you’re worried about getting food coloring out of clothing, you can always do bathtub painting while your child is already in the tub, or get a few more uses out of the bathing suits that won’t fit next season. The paint requires just a spray down with water for clean-up!
Supplies for a baby-food jar of paint:
– 1/4 cup of shampoo/body wash
– 1/4 cup corn starch
– 1-2 tablespoons of water
– 3-4 drops food coloring
1. Mix together the shampoo, corn starch and food coloring (one color only).
2. Add in the water a little at a time until you reach the right consistency. It should be thin enough to easily pick up with a paintbrush, but not too runny.
4. Cloud Dough
I know, I know, I put play-dough at the top of this list, but cloud dough is its own magical experience. PBS Parents has a two-ingredient Cloud Dough Exploration recipe that takes about five minutes to whip up and is easy enough for older toddlers to help make. Cloud dough is super fun to put into molds, and is a great way to put those beach toys to use in the off-season. You may want to double the recipe so you can play alongside your toddler!
– 4 cups flour
– 1/2 cup oil (if your child tends to put things in their mouth, use vegetable oil. If not, using baby oil makes the dough smell wonderful!)
1. Mix together using your hands until it holds together when squeezed. This should take a few minutes.
5. Paint with Pudding
Adding food coloring to pudding was an old trick I learned from a mom with a toddler and a little one in a high chair. By mixing together vanilla pudding and a few drops of food coloring, her toddler was able to paint a plastic place mat while the baby painted the high chair tray. Little ones can snack away while they make their creations!
6. Popsicle Stick Family Dolls
This activity is especially fun for children who enjoy drawing pictures of family members, or it could even help a child get more used to a new little family member, be it a sibling or cousin. For small hands, you can buy wooden craft spoons from Michael’s that allow for more room to draw on faces. Wrap the popsicle stick with fabric or felt and glue it on for outfits, and glue on yarn for hair. This is especially fun around the holidays, when your toddler is thinking about seeing relatives (and, for extra fun moments, you can show grandparents, aunts, uncles and even your neighbor down the street the doll your child made of them!).
7. Snowy “Cosmic” Sun Catchers
I don’t know about you, but I am constantly amassing plastic containers with lids. If your family goes through large containers of yogurt, hummus or even baby food, you can use the leftover lid to make gorgeous art to cheer up your windows. The neat thing about this sun catcher is that it has a milky look to it — perfect for a winter window sill.
– a plastic container lid (think yogurt, hummus, cool whip, etc.)
– Elmer’s glue
– Food coloring
– Hole Punch
1. Fill your selected lid with elmer’s glue so that it touches all the surfaces. Make sure to pour enough that the sun catcher will be thick — you’ll be peeling it from the lid when it’s dry so the thicker, the sturdier.
2. Drop a single drop of food coloring into the glue for smaller lids, two of each color for larger ones. Space the drops apart so they’ll have space to bleed into the glue as they dry.
3. Have your little one drag a toothpick to swirl the colors together. Remember, the colors will bleed as they dry, so less is more here.
4. Let the lid dry (it may take a few days depending on how the thick the layer of glue was, but it’ll start to peel from the edges when it’s ready). Peel it from the lid and punch a hole at the top. Tie string and hang it up near a window.
For the original post, check out Babble Dabble Do.
8. Glitter Bottle
A big trend online is the “Calm-Down Jar”, a jar filled with glitter that moms use as a timer for when kids need a moment alone, or even a tool to help small children meditate. The truth is, the bottles are beautiful and mesmerizing — I made one this past summer with the girl I nannied and when it wasn’t in use, she kept it on the kitchen windowsill (and when sunlight would stream through the glitter, it made the countertops sparkle!).
– an empty, clean water bottle, preferably with smooth sides (bumpy sides distort the effect a little)
– a tube of glitter glue, which can be found in the kids’ section of art stores
– fine glitter (you can also add in sequins, thick glitter, pony beads or any other little trinkets that can float)
– hot water
– super glue or hot glue
1. Put enough hot water in a bowl to fill the bottle with about a half inch left at the top.
2. Dump the entire bottle of glitter glue into the water and stir until the glue and water are mixed (if the water is cold, the glue will stay clumpy).
3. Let the water mixture cool a bit before having your toddler help you mix the fine glitter and optional sequins, thick glitter, etc., into the bowl. The more you add, the more glittery (and fun!) the bottle will be. Also, the thicker the mixture, the longer the bottle takes to “settle” after you shake it. The girl I made this with enjoyed watching the larger sequins flutter through the thin glitter.
4. Pour the glitter liquid through the funnel into your bottle and super/hot glue the lid on.
5. Let your toddler give the bottle a good shake.
9. Apple and Grape Cars
If you have a toddler, you know that as much as you try to get them to stop playing with their food, there’s only so much you can do. If you indulge them a little and make toy cars out of their lunch, you might get them to sit down long enough at the table for you to eat a little something, too.
– Apple slices
– grapes cut in half
– fruit leather
1. Use a toothpick as an axle and attach grapes to the flat side of an apple slice to make cars.
2. Let your toddler drive them around on strips of fruit leather ‘roads’. You can also draw a road on a paper plate or even a large sheet of paper and let them drive their snack around!
10. Ocean Bottle
If your toddler enjoyed the glitter bottle, this bottle actually shows colors mixing and is gorgeous to boot! An ocean bottle will bring a little bit of summer to you, even in the cold winter. It takes less than five minutes to make and requires only things in your pantry.
– yellow cooking oil (think light olive oil, vegetable, canola)
– blue food coloring
– a plastic bottle with a lid
– hot glue
1. Fill your bottle with water until it’s about a third of the way full.
2. Add a few drops of blue food coloring. Put the lid on the bottle temporarily and let your toddler shake it to mix the color.
3. Open the bottle back up, and fill the rest of the way with the cooking oil. If you are worried about the seal of the bottle’s lid, go ahead and glue it on now.
4. Have your toddler flip the bottle upside down and watch the oil rise to the top. It’ll mix with the blue food coloring and give a gorgeous greenish hue.
For the original post, check out Happy Hooligans