33 Winter Activities for Toddlers
When my kids were little, and I was staying home full time, the winter days could feel SO long. If we weren’t able to go outside, then it was pretty easy to feel like we were all losing our minds by 4pm. And if we left the house to go somewhere, it always seemed like my kids would get sick immediately from indoor playgrounds and playgroups. So what are parents of toddlers supposed to do all winter long?
Here are 33 activities that I did with my kids as toddlers to have more fun and stay sane all winter long.
Winter Activities for Toddlers
JUST SAY YES
This is one of the greatest mothering tips that I’ve ever received – and something that I need to constantly remind myself. I can say no to my kids’ requests over and over again. Until I stop myself and think – WHY is the answer no? Is it because it’s dangerous or inappropriate?
Or is it because I don’t feel like getting something out or making a mess or actually playing with my kids?
Just Say Yes!
Yes – we can stay in our pajamas until noon or drive the car (without keys), or help me unload the groceries… Just a few Yes’s can make a huge difference in our day.
HAVE A SURPRISE PARTY
With little kids, it doesn’t take much to have a party. Some streamers, a few signs, and some type of special treat, and you have a celebration. Bonus if you have candles.
It’s not your birthday? It’s not anyone’s birthday?
Yes it is.
It’s dolly’s birthday. Or the dog’s birthday. Or stuffed McBear’s birthday. Last month, it was our minivan’s birthday.
You don’t need a good reason to celebrate – you just need to celebrate. And nothing gets my kids more excited than assembling all of their “stuffed” guests, helping me decorate, surprising the birthday “thing”, blowing out candles and singing Happy Birthday.
Every now and then we wrap up a present of some sort. On days when I’m really not feeling festive, I tell them it’s my birthday.
I always get into the celebrating mood when we’re singing to ME and giving ME presents. I’ve turned 25 at least a dozen times just in the past year.
MAKE FARTING NOISES
This is my all-time favorite party trick. And my kids love it, too.
Stick a drinking straw in your armpit and start blowing.
It takes a few tries to get the hang of it (and it works best if you’re a little sweaty), but the results are so worth it.
My kids LOVE to play with my old digital camera, and I always say “no” or “just one picture” or “not today.” But from time to time, I say yes.
Give your kids some supervised time with your old digital camera. Teach them how to hold the camera, give them a special “photographer” hat to wear (completely optional), and let them loose.
After everyone has had a turn, watch the pictures as a slideshow on your computer. The only thing my kids love more than taking pictures is seeing the pictures they took – and hearing how great they are.
If you can’t trust them with your camera, pick up a couple disposable cameras and then actually develop the film. It could be a fun activity and a history lesson all at the same time.
PLAY IN THE SINK
It doesn’t have to be a hot summer day to play in the water. I keep old bottles, funnels and eye droppers in the kitchen so that we can play in the sink all winter long. This is a great activity to keep one child occupied while you do something special with the other kids (or do laundry, chat on the phone, blog, whatever…)
One Saturday morning, I had the rare opportunity to sleep in. As I woke up, I could hear the yelling, fighting and shrieking coming from downstairs.
I did not want to go downstairs and face any of that. It was not how I wanted to start my day.
So I got out of bed, tossed on an old prom dress, waltzed down the stairs and introduced myself as Princess Anna. I held a magic wand and worked my magic on them for better behavior. It worked.
The next hour was spent playing with dress-up clothes and taking pictures of ourselves. They didn’t care that I hadn’t brushed my hair yet or put on makeup. They loved Princess Anna – and it changed our day before it even got started.
CELEBRATE THE HOLIDAYS
Sometimes I think holidays were created just for stay-at-home moms to keep their kids occupied. Holidays provide tons of opportunities for holiday-related crafts, decorations, baking and fun.
- Create a 10-day countdown for every holiday with activities to do on each day.
- Make paper rings to tear off as you count down to St. Patrick’s Day.
- Serve heart-shaped pancakes.
- Turn your milk green.
- You get the idea… celebrate!
HAVE A DAY
It doesn’t matter what kind of day you have – just declare it a DAY – and it’s automatically special. A few of my favorites:
Everyone gets a chance to do something over if they make a mistake – Moms included!
Make cozy beds on the floor, pop some popcorn, ignore everything you’re ever read about limiting screen time and watch movie after movie after movie. This ties in well with “Mommy is Tired Day.”
Shut Up Day
All credit for this day goes to my friend Beth, but I love it. When she was growing up, they’d have SHUT UP day, where they were allowed to say Shut Up all day long – as many times as they wanted. Whatever your forbidden word is, let your kids have a day to use it. Expect lots of giggles at this one!
Wake up in the morning and put on your pajamas, serve dinner for breakfast – do everything in backwards order all day long.
Nothing but snacks – all day long. Also goes well with “Mommy Doesn’t Want to Cook Day.”
When it’s freezing cold, and you just can’t wait for spring – have a beach day. Crank up the heat (or light a fire in the fireplace, or plug in your space heater) and put on your bathing suits. Spread beach towels on the floor, blow up your wading pool and play tropical music. Serve snacks and drinks with little umbrellas – and don’t forget your sunglasses!
You don’t have to have snow to declare a snow day. Put on your hats, scarves and mittens and serve hot chocolate and cookies. Use marshmallows to build snowmen on the table – and don’t forget to listen to your favorite holiday music to get you in the spirit!
CREATE A CRAFT BAG
I use my craft bag more than any other activity. I keep it stocked with the usual craft items – colorful paper, scissors, glue sticks, markers and stickers.
I also added in Bingo Dotters – perfect for painting when you don’t feel like getting messy, old magazines and a few of my husband’s button down shirts to use as smocks.
We keep our craft bag tucked away so the kids can’t get into it themselves, so it’s always exciting when we bring it out and get creative.
PUT YOUR KIDS TO WORK
Little kids LOVE to help you around the house. All you have to do is ask – and be super patient while they’re helping. Things tend to take longer when you have little helpers. And I certainly don’t ask for help every time I’m doing something around the house, but I always feel like a good mom when I take the time to let my children help me.
Here are a few ways my kids love to help around the house:
My four year old has loved to vacuum ever since he was a toddler. Once he was strong enough to hold the vacuum himself, I’ve let him go for it. He will pick up the toys in any room if there’s the promise of vacuuming it.
My 18-month-old could spend an hour happily dusting the coffee table. Sometimes it’s as simple as giving him a baby wipe. Other times I give him a microfiber cloth.
Wash the Windows
We have a large sliding-glass door in our family room. My 3 and 4 year old are window washing champs. They have their own squeegees, dish towels and a spray bottle filled with water and dish soap. (This especially works well if you keep your expectations very low. I usually have to go back and wash the windows when they’re finished.)
Little Laundry Helpers
Kids can do all sorts of things to help with the laundry. They can sort by color or by owner. They can move the clothes from the washer to the dryer or the dryer into a basket. They can find matching socks. With your help, they can put the detergent into the washer and press the buttons on the washer or the dryer. And my baby LOVES to put our dirty clothes (and everything else he can find) down the laundry chute.
Take Out the Trash
Depending on where your trash can is, this might be a great first chore for your child. My 4-year-old is admittedly obsessed with trash, but it’s a chore that he looks forward to every day. He goes to each trash can and collects the trash, and then takes it to the outside trash can.
Put Away Groceries
I keep some of my dry goods on the lowest shelf in the pantry so my younger kids can help me put them away after we go grocery shopping.
The kids take turns adding scoops of coffee grounds, helping me pour the water and pressing all the right buttons.
BAKE BAKE BAKE
My kids LOVE to help me in the kitchen.
Whether we’re making a box mix of brownies or whipping something up from scratch, it’s a very popular activity at our house!
If you have more than one child, it’s easy to split the recipe so everyone has their own bowl to stir.
When my kids are heading for meltdowns, I know I can make things better with just a little time in the kitchen.
HAVE A PICNIC
A picnic doesn’t have to be a perfect tablecloth outside with the perfect lunch basket packed with lovely food.
A picnic can be a vinyl tablecloth on the family room floor. Or a meal served UNDER the table. Picnics are fun – especially when your kids get to decide where the picnic happens.
My mom used to rearrange our furniture every month. I can remember coming home from school, anticipating where our couch would end up next. It was like we lived in a whole new house.
Now that I’m in charge of the house, I really like my couch where it is. But I bring the same sense of excitement to the kids rooms.
They LOVE to have their furniture rearranged. Sometimes I surprise them when they’re at grandma’s house. Other times, I let them help me.
There’s just something special about deciding where you want your bed (even if it makes absolutely no sense in the adult world.) The kids love their “new” rooms, and I get to do a little deep cleaning while we’re rearranging.
I’m not ready to take three kids this young on a real camping trip, but in the meantime, there’s a lot to be said for pretend camping.
When we’re inside, we roll out the sleeping bags, bring our flashlights, turn on a sound machine for nature music and bring our favorite books to read by our fake fire.
You may think it’s a motherhood cliché, but it works wonders. The right song can put every single one of us in a better frame of mind – and a little dancing can set the day on the right track.
This is especially great when you don’t have the energy to do a single thing with your kids. Choose the right song, and you’ll have that energy you’re looking for.
An oldie but a goodie.
Everyone’s using them because they really do work. Fill a container with whatever you want. You can make your sensory tray messy (think cold pasta noodles or shaving cream) or a little easier to manage – mine are full of rice, small pasta shells and popcorn.
Each child has their own sensory tray – and you can get creative with your container. Mine are in old cake pans, shoeboxes would work – whatever you have on hand.
Give your kids cars, foam shapes and other things to find in the sensory trays and let them go to work.