Every season has weather that makes outdoor play impossible. The winter ushers in freezing cold temperatures and icy sidewalks, the spring and fall bring rainy spells that can last for days, and summer’s heat and humidity are sometimes unsafe for little ones. Days when everyone is stuck indoors can drag on and on, with children’s pent-up energy often leading to tantrums or bad behavior.
While it’s tempting to sit the kids down in front of a movie, or let them binge on computer or tablet games, there are plenty of analog ways to entertain and stimulate toddlers. Here are five fun games to help the hours pass on bad weather days.
Stuffed Animal Parade
Gather every stuffed animal, doll and action figure in the house and line them up for an epic parade. Help your toddler arrange them by size, color, theme or another kind of group, and use this as a way to talk about descriptive categories. Raid your craft or party decorations box and festoon the parade with balloons, streamers, confetti and pom-poms. Cut construction paper to make little flags or banners for the toys to hold, and use trucks, trains or other toy vehicles as floats for the smaller animals to ride on. Once everything is set up, cue up some marching band music on your phone, and enjoy the parade!
Chutes & Ladders
This simple board game has been a toddler favorite since its release by Milton Bradley in 1943! The easy-to-follow rules and logic are perfect for a younger child’s developmental grasp on games, and its lessons about cause and effect create good learning opportunities. Relying on a spinner or a roll of the die, the game relies on luck, which means each player has an equal chance of winning regardless of age or skill level. A full round through the game takes about 30 minutes, which is just about the limit of a toddler’s attention span.
This retro party game is a great way to get little ones moving. The board can be set up on a carpeted floor for padding, and each player can get a chance to spin the big spinner. The straightforward rules of Twister will be understood by even small children, and each turn will provide an occasion to teach them about colors, parts of the body and left versus right. Children are strong and flexible, and may be able to get into twisted configurations that most adults could not hold. Plus, falling out of a pose is always an occasion to get some giggles out.
A classic game that has endured for centuries, this game requires no setup, clean-up or equipment. Even the smallest apartments have little nooks and crannies where children can squeeze, and the little ones genuinely delight at finding and being found. Hide-and-seek is also ideal for a cooped-up bunch because it has built in mini timeouts, with adults and children being able to have a few moments of alone quiet time as part of the game. There’s also something very sweet and nostalgic about hearing your child shout “Ready or not, here I come!” as you’re crouching behind a door or under the dining room table.
This is a great activity for two or more toddlers, and really helps them expend energy. Fire up a kid-friendly tune and turn the volume up (moderately) loud. Encourage the kids to bust out their best dance moves, and every 15 seconds or so, pause the music. When the music stops, everyone dancing has to freeze in place and hold still, no matter what funny position he or she may be in. Then, unpause the music and let the dancing resume. Take song requests and keep the game going for as long as you wish. You can designate the person who stays the stillest as the winner for each round, but it’s just fun to play in a noncompetitive way.
How do you keep toddlers entertained without screen time? Let us know in the comments!