30 Fun Indoor Crafts and Activities for Toddlers
What Are Fun Crafts and Activities Toddlers Can Do?
It's important for toddlers to enjoy crafts and activities. The United Nations High Commission for Human Rights has found play is so important optimizing child development that it's recognized as a basic human right. K.R. Ginsburg also wrote a well-cited report on the importance of play for toddlers.
I believe that the first few years of a toddler's life are critical to forming strong sensory and motor skills. Take advantage of these crafts and activities that I know the kids will love. My own children enjoyed these ideas, and I hope you'll try them out!
1. The Color Dance - Cut and place shapes of different colors on the floor and suggest which color your toddler should stomp on next. Works with numbers, shapes or colors. Participate in the dance with your toddler, take turns, let them pick colors for you to stomp on too!
2. Follow Your Path - Using a string or tape place a line on the floor and have it curve and zig-zag. See if your toddler can follow their path frontward, backward etc. Encouraging words are helpful. I prefer using string because you can toss it up and let it fall however it falls.
3. Make a Streamer on a Stick - Colorful yarn taped to the end of a stick works great. Wave the stick around to create shapes in the air with the string. My kids usually took off running with it in hand. When they were younger we traced shapes on the ground with the string.
4. Paper Plate Frisbees - Fingerpaint some paper plates and practice tossing them at a target, such as onto the carpet from a non-carpeted area or onto a nearby chair. Use quick drying paint of course. My kids found trying to make the plates land on my head to be fun!
5. Wearable Crafts - Make and have your toddler help decorate paper wearables. My daughter loved wearable butterfly wings and my son preferred simple hats. Pretend to be a butterfly afterward, or act like whatever the wearable represents.
6. The Simple Sun-catcher - Kids feel good when they can display their creations and a sun-catcher in the window is great. You can take the time to create more intricate patterns with the kids and put their motor skills to work. This is a great toddler activity to teach patience and that what the end result looks like doesn't really matter.
7. Paper Plate Masks - Pretending is fun. You'll need some paper plates, scissors, paint or markers and a Popsicle stick to create a plate mask. Have the toddler draw a face, help with the cutting, then hold it over your face and act silly. My son loved ghost faces when I would say "oooOOOoooo" behind them. He'd pretend to be scared, use your imagination with these.
8. Bottle of Oil, Water, and Color - Clear plastic bottles work great for this. Add equal amounts of oil and water and add food coloring or paint and shake the bottle. Watch in amazement as the colors dance. Shake, shake, shake!
9. Painted Pasta - Different shapes of pasta noodles and different colors allow kids to enjoy fun finger painting the noodles. When these dry you can use them with glue in painting activities. My kids loved saying "it's noodle making time!" when we ran out.
10. Cars in a box - Another fun activity that works with colors or numbers. Use a box lid or cut the bottom from a box and draw parking spaces on it. Have your toddler "drive" the car into the appropriate space based on color or number. While colors work best for younger kids at first, numbers can also be used to match car colors to parking spaces.
11. Coloring Books - Basic coloring books, or simple image outlines that you can download from the internet, are great at promoting fine motor skills. At first my kids paid little attention to the lines and that's OK too.
12. Jars with Lids - This child activity provided countless hours of fun for my toddlers. Placing cotton inside a jar and putting the lid on, then taking it out, over and over was great for giggles. "I did it!". Try using different colored cotton balls with clear baby jars.
13. Stacking Blocks - Stacking anything provides hours of fun for kids and helps develop fine motor skills. Blocks, books, plastic cups, it doesn't matter the item is. Stacking items, and knocking them down to start over, is simple fun at it's best and great for young toddlers.
14. Sorting Items - I found that an empty egg carton worked well for sorting small items. Just make sure you choose items that can't easily be swallowed. This activity gets really fun when you sneak a different item into the mix and your toddler notices. "Hey, how did that get there?"
15. Foam and Water - Small foam shapes that hold water until your toddler squeezes them is a sensory activity that my kids enjoyed and yours might too. They followed this up by trying to paint our front window with water.
16. Finger Painting - This is a classic kids activity and it feels great to get your hands dirty. My kids' eyes would light up when they saw different shapes and hand-prints appear on the paper, to them each was unique!
17. Finger Painting 2.0 - Place tape in random directions on the paper before your child paints it. Afterwards peel the tape off to reveal different designs. Painters tape on paper of the same color worked well for me because it's wide enough to cut small shapes out of it in advance. Let the toddler help find and peel the tape afterwards, "Wow that's a pretty one!"
18. Balloon Catch and Toss - Playing catch using a balloon with a toddler is great fun too. The random movements of the balloon make it unpredictable. My kids loved to see how many times we could tap a balloon back and forth without letting it hit the floor.
19. Simon Says - Another classic. Give your child simple directions such as to touch their nose or toes but start off by saying "Simon Says". Occasionally give directions without saying "Simon Says" first and let the toddler know only to do it when Simon says. "Gotcha!"
20. Create a Game - The goal of an activity doesn't have to be preset. I found it fun to present several random items to play with and let my toddlers decide which to play with, and how to play with them. We came up with some creative games this way. Example: A block and a car, my toddler would push the block around with the car. Try different items and see what fun comes of it.
21. Hot and Cold - Just because you can't see something doesn't mean it isn't there. Hide a small item in an easy to reach location in the room and tell the toddler they are getting warmer(closer) or colder(further) as they roam around trying to find it. Take turns, let them give you directions too!
22. Food Necklace - Another favorite, use dental floss and cheerios to make some wearable jewelry. Let the toddler add cheerios to the length of floss one at a time to work fine motor skills, and maybe take a bite if they get hungry. "Did you eat my necklace? Help me fix it!"
23. Compare Pictures - Using different pictures and asking your toddler what is the same about them gives some surprising results sometimes. Perhaps the color is the same, or a shape, or maybe just the season or setting. It doesn't matter what you think is similar, let them find similarities(or differences between pictures of the same item). Family pictures work well too. "Who's older" or "who is happier" or "who is smiling" helps the toddler draw conclusions after evaluating things.
24. Push and Pull - Tie a string to a toy and let them pull it around. It does not need to be a car, the act of pushing and pulling helps toddlers learn to control gross motor skills. Depending on the toddler's age, you can make this game more complex by providing a target or finish line to where the item needs to be pulled or a box to push the item into, for example.
25. Songs and Rhymes - Repeating the nursery rhymes a toddler learns from books you read as you perform other activities can be fun. Singing twinkle twinkle little star as you finger paint the sky, for example, turns a sensory activity into a memory activity at the same time. A favorite song, or simply being silly and making up a song about the toddler or activity works too.
26. Pretend Play - Letting the youngster decide which roles you will each play and letting them decide the rules can be rewarding. If this is something you both enjoy you can even dress up a little. I think I've done 1,000 laps of my dining room table while pretending to be a train as I pulled my little conductors around! "Choo Choo!"
27. Helping with Chores - Grown-ups have to complete tasks like washing the car, preparing dinner and gardening, why not occasionally include the toddlers? You have a car, but I bet the toddler does too, have them wash their car at the same time? Have them make pretend tea while you prepare a real meal? Let them help plant a seed in the garden? Be safety conscious but include youngsters while you perform daily chores.
28. Bugs - See a spider or other bug? Catch it in a glass and have fun looking at it. Tell each other about what you see. Cats, birds, dogs, rabbits and other wildlife present an opportunity to examine and talk about them when you see them too. Appreciation for life around you starts young, especially if you have a pet the toddler needs to learn to interact with.
29. Musical Play - My son's absolute favorite was the harmonica. Introducing the idea of creating music with an instrument can be as simple as leaving a pot and pan on the floor. Learning about rhythm, different sounds and making up songs is great fun for toddlers and can become a lifelong passion as the child ages and refines their skills.
30. Books, lots of books - A book a day keeps the imagination at play! Start by reading to the toddler, the toddler will eventually be reading to you. If you're not sure which books your toddler likes most let them choose a book or three at your local library when they are able to. You can start reading to them well before then too. Books aren't just what you do when it's bedtime, they can be what you do before drawing time too so the toddler can draw the story. Use your imagination!
A Few Tips for Parents
Your role is to help the toddler learn, not to make sure they "get it right." So, follow their lead and make sure the activities remain safe and under control.
- It's okay if the toddler changes the game, just try not to take over or tell the toddler what to do if they do something unexpected. Instead, see if you can encourage them to want to do things. It helps if you talk about what the toddler is doing as the toddler does it and it can be helpful to ask questions. Example: "that car sure is lucky you helped it get there, where does it want to go next?"
- Be patient and allow plenty of time for the toddler to work out an activity, they might surprise you or might take days or weeks to "figure it out". Learning is the goal, not results. Experimentation and mistakes are expected at this age. I know this sounds like basic advice, and it is, but have fun letting the toddler be in charge.
- Try not to compete with the toddler, if they feel like they are competing with you they may stop wanting to play. Appreciating your toddler's efforts with words of praise or by displaying their artwork helps build self-esteem at the same time.
- Ask your pediatrician for good sources of information on behavioral topics and don't be afraid to ask questions about any concerns.
- Different crafts and activities help kids more at different stages in their development. Simply being involved in their activities is already a step in the right direction and I hope some of my game suggestions for toddlers and preschoolers help you find fun and new ways to interact with each other. Enjoy the process!
What Say You?
Share your favorite childhood crafts in the comments!
© 2018 Jean Harris