One of my top Pinterest searches is “creative toddler play inside”- it’s the first thing in my search menu because entertaining a toddler indoors is a challenge, y’all! I wrote about one of our activities here and thought I could expand to others that have been successful.
Let’s define what success means here.
- the time my daughter spends playing is longer than the set up
- it isn’t entirely messy
- it’s inexpensive/utilizes something we have or will use again in the future
- it doesn’t take up much space when not in use
My daughter is 3.5 years old and is fairly independent, when she wants to be. She’s an only child, so she likes when my husband and I play with her, although we tend to wait for her to ask us before we insert ourselves in her play. We are trying to foster independent play as much as we can.
While we structure our days, there are these pockets of time that range from 15 – 45 minutes where he or I need to work/get something done without Caleigh. This is when I turn to these activities. They aren’t a “go to” for us, thus the novelty doesn’t wear off quickly. I keep these ideas in my head and actually have a dedicated drawer to the supplies in my kitchen, if the activity needs things.
- visible sink
- toys that can get wet
- dish soap
As you can see, this is already successful based on the fact that it cost $0 to prep!
Creative Toddler Play Time:
On the particular day we photographed this, I was making dinner. Cal is kneeling on a frequently used stool at our kitchen sink. I had just cleaned the sink, so there weren’t remnants of anything floating around. I wanted to keep her close, so I could see her, but I needed to make sure she wasn’t near the oven.
I asked her if she wanted to play in the sink if I filled it up and as expected, she said yes! Water play is usually a strong yes for her. Instead of just splashing around, I tossed her in Little People.
This prompted us to add dish soap as bubbles to “wash” her little buddies. We went into the bathroom to add the $1 pail & shovel that we often use in the tub and one of her favorite things ever – Glo Pals Light-Up Cubes. I purchased these for Caleigh’s Christmas stocking from an amazing local children’s store called Fox & Kit, but you can find them on Amazon, too.
These come in a variety of colors. We have the purple ones. So, I initially thought that once you submerge a cube, it would only work the one time you use it. WRONG! Glo Pals Cubes work over and over again. They glow when they are in water and stop glowing once they’re removed. It’s magic. We’ve been using the same single cube since February when we opened them and have three more in the package. Definitely worth the $10!
We tossed in some additional safe-to-get-wet toys who also needed a bath. She spent over 30 minutes playing in the sink. We did stop once to wipe up some splashing that made it onto the floor, but after we talked about water staying in the sink, it wasn’t a problem.
SUCCESS! This was free because we had the toys, Glo Pals, sink, and bubbles. It took literal seconds to do (albeit the sink was pre-cleaned) and wasn’t as messy as I thought it would be. She washed her buddies over and over again and then at the end, when it was time for dinner, she used a dish towel to dry them off one at a time. And we gained clean toys in the process! Overall, a huge success.
If you have younger kiddos, a kitchen stool that is intended for them might be safer. Caleigh is particularly tall, so kneeling on a step stool works for her.
What do your babes do when you’re making dinner? We’re trying to make it a habit to cook more, especially with her when we can, but I’d love ALL the toddler play ideas!
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