I have been really looking forward to the arrival of Spring, as my almost 18 month old son now just wants to go outside all the time. He doesn't seem to care if the wind is howling and the rain beating down, so long as he gets to run about & splash in puddles and take me with him. Of course the fresh air is great for them and us, but how do you keep toddlers entertained when you can't brave the bad weather any more & need to stay indoors?
1) Soft Play Areas
These places have been a bit of a life saver for us during the cold winter months, although they aren't exactly cheap & so going every day isn't really an option. Some places now offer memberships which proves to be much more cost effective if you are going at least once a week. My son is looked after by his grandparents 4 days a week and they too would take him and make use of the membership. Warning: Be sure to wear suitable clothing as you will soon be sweating as you chase your toddler around to stop them jumping/falling off something when they decide the toddler area is too tame.
2) Parents & Tots
I have to admit I haven't been to that many of these, as I only have Tuesdays off with Rowan & they don't tend to run at weekends. However, Rowan has attended a few different ones with his grandparents and really seems to enjoy them. As well as lots of toys they also offer craft activities, socialising with other children, snacks and coffee for the parents. Warning: My first visit resulted in Rowan catching hand, food and mouth disease soon after as there are lots of children in close proximity sharing toys. However, we can't keep them wrapped up in cotton wool and can only do our best to keep their hands clean and stuff out of their mouths.
3) Toddler Classes
There are usually lots of local classes on during term times designed especially for babies and toddlers, such as baby yoga, swimming, music and dancing/gymnastics. Warning: You usually have to book ahead in blocks and so may miss some classes due to illness, explosive nappies or simply not making it out of the house on time.
As a baby Rowan used to love going shopping, as he'd more than likely nod off in his pram for part of the time or spend the whole time smiling at other people & looking around in amazement. This was all well & good until he learned to walk and just wanted out of that now boring old pram. Now, if I were to dare stop & look at something it is greeted by a shout of displeasure. So when I say shopping, it isn't really proper shopping but more visiting specific type of stores that they will enjoy - toy shops, libraries, pet shops, garden centres and IKEA. Warning: This type of activity can result in toddler tantrums when attempting to leave, should your toddler decide they need to bring that bike, bunny rabbit or spinning chair home with them.
5) Games In The House
Of course getting out and about is all very well and good, but this can be expensive and not always viable. So what about activities to do when at home? There are so many options available that this blog is really about more than 5 activities, but oh well!
Playing With Toys/Games
If you toddler is anything like mine then he or she will have endless amounts of toys to choose from, yet each one only seems to hold their attention for a matter on minutes. They are still too young to actually understand most games and instead just like to build and then wreck things! Rowan's favourite toys to play with are stacking cups, shape sorters and building blocks. Our living room normally resembles a pigsty as Rowan discards one toy after another, but I follow behind and return everything to his toy box (best buy ever!) His older cousins have also been trying to teach Rowan to play hide & seek, although he doesn't really like to stay still for any length of time & usually comes out of hiding after a few seconds. Kids love building forts, dens, huts, tunnels or simply crawling under the covers. Dig out some old bed sheets & blankets and set about creating your dream home! With a toddler around it may not last long, but you'll have great fun in the process.
Warning: Although you will do your best to keep the 'toys' they play with to be actual toys, they tend to prefer things they aren't meant to have. Although you will have hidden ornaments and locked cupboards there are still plenty of other goodies around - remote controls, toilet roll, keys, phone etc
Arts & Crafts/Baking
Another fun thing to try, although this won't work so well for younger toddlers who prefer to simply eat the paint/crayons. You can make pictures & cards, paint your hands or simply colour in. Baking buns and adding sprinkles is also guaranteed fun. Warning: Any activity involving making things means that you, your child and your house are going to get messy!
Rowan has always loved a good book & we read during the day as well as at bedtime. From his 1st soft baby books, to peekaboo story books to my first words books. We get books from the library for him and he also has his own extensive collection. Warning: They tend to be quite hard on books & rip flaps out, bite the corners and bend them but at least they are well read.
Being Mummy's Little Helper
Rowan's favourite item of all however is not one of his toys, but a household item. Any guesses? The brush. He just loves to sweep up, or should I say loves to wield the brush around the house while I follow him & hope he doesn't break anything! I bought him his own pint size brush in the hope he would leave the big one alone, but instead he now carries both around. No matter where we stow the brush he seems to locate it. He also loves when we vacuum and followers the hoover around the house, giving it hugs. Maybe something to do with its friendly face??
My mother-in-law also recommended letting them help you "with the dishes", as apparently my husband also loved this game when he was little. Although of course they would quickly break something or injure themselves so it's not so much "doing the dishes" as "playing in the sink". Warning: Everything is about to get VERY wet! Yes that's right you, your child, your floor, your entire kitchen/bathroom. You may wonder how one little person can create so much mess until you see them in action. They have no consideration of mess at this age and instead just have fun flinging water all around themselves. However, you can limit the mess with the use of aprons, towels and careful toy selection (.i.e cups mean you are supplying them with the ability to through even more water!)
'Sorting' the Tupperware drawer or tub is also another great game. We get to see just how many lids we have, but hardly any containers and they get to mess about with non-toys that aren't breakable. 'Sorting' the washing is another cracker. You neatly fold away the clothes only to discover your little friend is pulling everything out of the basket/drawers behind you!
Bring The Outdoors Indoors
For Christmas we had bought Rowan his first slide, a tunnel, a ride on tractor and ball pit. All of which are bulky and probably designed to go outside and therefore not much use in December. As they were all fairly little and still shiny new we decided to use them indoors until the weather improved. Warning: This doesn't work so well once the toys get bigger and dirtier!
A controversial one perhaps but sometimes the TV or an App is a lifesaver if you need to get something done quickly or maybe need a little break from the chaos. Rowan was a big fan of 'In The Night Garden' and has now moved onto Postman Pat, Timmy Time and Baby Jake! A little screen time surely can't cause too much harm, unless like Rowan they like to watch the TV up VERY close! Warning: Invest in a protective cover to stop any damage from sticky little fingers, dribbles and dropping.
So what do you think of these indoor entertainment ideas for toddles? Have you any to add that work well for your kids?