Year Two. So far it’s been absolutely wonderful, watching these two little tiny babies turn into these two tiny little people with personalities. And it really does keep getting better and better. Each month brings new progress in their cognitive capabilities – which means new opportunities for learning and activities.
As a stay at home mom, I’ve filled my days with outings and visits and play dates and trips to Target, the park, the mall, baby gyms, music classes … everything. Everywhere. But as the weather grows colder, I’ve found myself sticking closer and closer to home. Which means coming up with some fun and easy activities for us to do inside.
It’s both overwhelming and exciting to dive into the world of toddler activities …the internet is full of imaginative ideas, from Pinterest to personal blogs to preschool lesson plans. And as very young toddlers – 14 months old – my kids are still waaaaaay too young for a lot of the more advanced activities. (Those super adorable hand print turkeys? I cant wait to do them next year!) I admit, I’ve dipped into the toddler activity world, trying lots of new things out. Yes, sometimes the ideas are a flop. But sometimes they are awesome.
Here are some of the fun – and easy – things we have done indoors this fall.
Visit the Dollar Store
This was a brilliant suggestion from my very creative mother (with a graduate degree in early childhood education!) The dollar store is incredible for toddler toys and activities, art supplies and crafting ideas. Last month I made each child their own sensory/discovery basket with all kinds of random goodies: pipe cleaners, little bells, yarn, toy animals, colorful squares of paper, feathers, etc. I also came up with a fun game with muffin tins. I purchased a bunch of fun little balls - pom poms, ping-pong balls, dried beans – and put them in the tins. The kids loved touching and exploring everything in the tins.
The dollar store also has great art supplies for dirt cheap – which is especially good at this age when you don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on crayons and paper, and since your dear son still wants to eat them at times.
My parents moved last year, and gifted my husband and I with this kind of wacky three-foot tall antique wooden cheetah that used to be in their family room. We placed it in the living room, and soon the kids were coming over to examine it. I decided to make a game out of it. He was the “kitty cat” and he lived in the living room. Each day, I ask the twins where the kitty cat is, and we go over to visit him. Sometimes we bring him another animal or puppet to visit with; sometimes we put him by the window, look outside and talk about what we see; sometimes we find he is going “night night” and we need to be quiet; sometimes we give him hugs and kisses.
Another activity along these lines is going on little exploratory walks around the house. We take a stuffed animal, doll or puppet in a little doll stroller, navigate around the house, and point out different objects. For example, the kids will take their little duck puppet to smell the flowers, look at the dining room chandelier, and wave to the dog in the yard across the street.
Mini Magnet Boards
I came across this easy idea on a toddler activity blog: instead of putting magnets on your refrigerator, use little cookie sheets. It’s a creative way for toddlers to sit and play with the magnets instead of standing up in the kitchen. The kids love taking them off and moving them around on the cookie sheets.
Since I have a legitimate addition to Amazon, I get a ton of boxes. Before we recycle them, I use them for play. I place different little objects in each box, stack them into each other, and let the kids explore. They delight in finding little treasures and pulling apart the stacks.
In general, boxes are an awesome toy in itself. Jack and Mara love to sit in them, get pulled around the house in them, and hide in them.
Trying on Hats
I think I started to do this to try and make hat wearing a “fun” thing since Jack and Mara absolutely refuse to wear a hat unless it’s tied on! We gather up hats around the house – baseball hats, an old Halloween costume wig, knit hats, ski hats, and try them on in front of the mirror. Yes, sometimes fighting will erupt when one wants the others hat, but it’s still a great little game.
Putting Objects In and Out of Baskets
I recently realized Jack and Mara liked putting the blocks back into the bag as much as they actually liked playing with the blocks themselves. So I’ve elaborated on this a bit in a bunch of different ways. We also put their stuffed animals in and out of a large storage bin, put laundry in a basket, Tupperware in and out of a drawer, bath items in and out of a basket.
Designated Book Time
I would be remiss if I didn’t include this, even though it’s not a novel idea. Several times a day I make time for reading. I grab a stack of books, plop the twins down, and read. As my fellow twin mothers know, having two toddlers sit and listen to an entire book at the same time – every time – is impossible. So, this is what I do. I sit there and read. And I keep reading. Maybe Mara will sit for the first book, then move away for the second, and come back for the third – or Jack will sit for the second but not the first, and play with some trucks for the third. It doesn’t matter if its perfect. Each day they are paying attention longer and longer, and even if they are not sitting on my lap, they are still hearing the words.
This is such a simple activity … but so much fun. My mother in law bought Jack and Mara a Beatles for Babies cd for their first birthday, and we have played it every day ever since. The kids love to listen to music,shake and sway a bit, bend their knees, and clap in appreciation when the song is over. They also love for me to dance holding one of them – or, often times, both!
Going Up and Down Stairs
After they turned a year old, Jack and Mara started going up and down the stairs by themselves (with me watching them). Since then, its become a little game for them. I let them (always close by!) climb up and down the staircase. Sometimes they like to bring a toy with them, then take it down, or linger a bit on the landing. Its helping them master this skill and giving them a little physical exercise at the same time.
Edible Finger Paint
Ideas for do-it-yourself finger paint is all over the blogosphere. I was incredibly intrigued and decided to make my own simple concoction using vanilla pudding and food coloring. In order to contain the mess as well as I could, I put the twins in their high chairs and let them go to town. Needless to say, they absolutely loved rubbing the pudding all around the trays. I think Jack may have eaten about a pound of it, but oh well. It was a success!
Which leads into the next activity, which absolutely has to go hand-in-hand with the finger paint …
Making Bath Time an Activity
My children absolutely love bath time – so I often bring them in the tub during the day with new toys and balls. Splashing around is also a great way for them to get some physical activity, too.
What are some of your favoritevindoor activities for your toddler?