24 ways to keep your toddler or preschooler entertained at home
We're in the middle of winter, it's getting cold outside and it's almost school holidays, which either means you're going to have more kids at home or all the activities that you usually go to are taking a break. HELP! To keep you sane here is a list of my go-to activities for keeping my kids entertained when at home.
Minimal mess activities - great if your house is tidy for once and you don't want a huge mess to clean up
1. Hide and seek - this is a bit hard as an adult as once you've hidden behind the couch and the curtains there really aren't many places big enough for you to hide. We play a variation of this in our house where we hide pieces of a puzzle instead (it has about eight big pieces). It's good fun and we usually find them all eventually.
2. Have a dance party - put on some music and get the kids dancing. It's a great way to burn off energy and good exercise too.
3. Charades - if you don't have the game just get the kids to pretend to be an animal or print pictures that they can act out.
4. Read stories - if your kids love stories grab a big pile and get snuggled up.
5. Get the kids to read you a book - let them chose a book and get them to tell you what they see on each page and what they think is happening. This can be quite entertaining.
6. Get the kids a spoon and a small ball and get them to walk around pillows and obstacles balancing it on the spoon, this is great for hand/eye co-ordination.
Get involved activities - spend quality time with your kids, act like a kid and teach them new things
7. Build a hut or fort - use blankets, sheets and move furniture around to make a fortress. My kids love it when I pretend to be the big bad wolf and try to blow their house down.
8. Baking - kids love to be involved and help with baking. Do easy recipes that allow them to mix, stir or if they're a bit older grate, peel or even break eggs. You need to be prepared that this will get messy but kids learn so much from at the bench activities. If you need something to help the kids play safely at the bench check out the Arc Assistant. It's a great safety stool and means little ones won't fall off a chair or stool.
9. Make an obstacle course - this can be done inside or outside but challenge kids to jump over things, crawl under things, throw a ball, follow a line, jump across pillows or on chalk squares etc. Time them and see if they can do it faster each time.
10. Teach them how to do chores - this can be challenging as it can be messy and you may need to redo the chores but I firmly believe in teaching kids chores early on. Everyone in the household makes dishes and washing so give kids age appropriate responsibilities and teach them to tidy up. This will pay off in the long run. You might think that sweeping the floor or sorting the washing is boring but make a game of it, kids really enjoy playing adult. My four year old absolutely loves mopping the floor. She used to make a bit of a mess with excess water everywhere but now she does a great job, and it saves me doing it which is amazing!
11. Get constructing - whether it's duplo, lego, wooden blocks or even Jenga pieces. Get creative and build towers, buildings or a marble run.
12. Puzzles - not just for the old, puzzles help kids learn problem solving.
13. Write to a friend or family member - the days of writing a letter seem a long distance memory but kids love to receive mail. Get the kids to draw a picture and accompany it with a short letter to a friend or family member and get them to write back. My four year old has a friend that moved back to the UK to live and the pure joy on her face when she receives a letter is priceless.
14. Play restaurants - get our some non-breakable bowls, plates and cups and take turns being the customer, waiter and chef. My kids get a real kick out of pretend play like this and it's amazing how they copy what they see in the real world including giving me a menu and pretending to write down my order.
15. Card or board games - play age appropriate games for kids - matching games for younger kids and memory games for older kids. Go fish and old maid are favourites in our house.
16. Have an at home picnic - pack lunch boxes or a picnic basket and put a rug down inside or outside and make eating a meal an activity.
17. Play make believe - get your kids to pretend to be a doctor, a vet, a zoo keeper or superhero. Encourage them to use their imagination and play along.
18. Ball skills - throw a ball around, practice kicking, catching and rolling. There's lots of fun to be had with a simple toy like a ball.
Independent activities - those where you might get a moment to sit down and have a coffee to yourself for five minutes
19. Playdough - a great way for kids to be creative and use their imagination. It's easy to make yourself too. I used the following recipe and made a batch about seven months ago and it's only just starting to go a bit crusty now.
20. Make a farm, town or race track for cars - you might need to help get it set up but once done the kids will entertain themselves for a while with this.
21. Send them on a scavenger hunt - this is one of my favourites for getting a little bit of time to myself. Send the kids on a mission to find something - it could be five different shaped leaves outside or five things that are circle shaped inside. The more time you want to yourself the harder you should make it!
22. Make art with leaves, stones and other outside things - give kids a range of items and let them explore them. If you're game let them use paint and make different leaf prints and designs on old bits of cardboard.
23. Have a tea party with their animals or dolls - my girls love having tea parties and they'll spend ages pretending to pour tea and feed their friends.
24. Drawing or colouring - use what you have on hand - felts, pencils, crayons. Colouring books or stencils are helpful for younger children.
I hope this list helps you entertain the little ones. I've found the best memories we've made are when I put aside all the jobs that need doing and the distractions and just give the kids my full attention. It doesn't have to be for the whole day but put some time aside, your phone on silent and give some of these activities a go, you'll be amazed at how quickly time passes when you're having fun too.