30 Low-key activities for toddlers

My kiddo has lots of energy. She has a lot more energy than I do.  This is especially true when I’m not feeling well or didn’t get enough sleep or whatever.  I totally admit there are times when letting her watch an extra episode of Doc McStuffins, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or Jake and the Neverland Pirates is easier because I’m tired or have things to do.

I’m not a fan of that.  I don’t have a problem with her watching some age-appropriate television.  She’s learned many things, in fact, but I certainly don’t want to just park her in front of the television on days I’m not feeling well.  Combining that thought with my love for lists and I decided to make a list for myself of low-key activities that don’t require much energy from me, would be fun for her, would maybe be educational for her and would be a great way to spend time together.  I had a few ideas.  Then I turned to some mom friends online and got some even better ideas.  These ladies are seriously creative and smart.  So, I present a good list of low-key toddler activities for times when mom is exhausted or sick or it’s just too plain hot (or later cold!) to go outside and play.  The best part is that most are cheap or free and none of them require much more from mom than to sit or lie down.  Feel free to add more ideas in the comments!

1. Coloring with crayons and coloring book pages

2. Coloring with Color Wonder markers

3. Blowing bubbles — We do bubble outside, but I also do them inside for her.

4. Playing dollhouse

5. Playing with busy bags — If you aren’t familiar with busy bags and you have a toddler, you need to be!  These are awesome and portable ideas to keeps toddlers entertained and learning.  I’ve done two exchanges of busy bags with other moms and they are some of my kiddo’s favorite things to play with.  I’ve pinned a few ideas here, but there are lots all over the Internet.

6. Doing puzzles — We’ve found our favorite puzzles at the Dollar Tree.  Right now 24-piece puzzles work best for my kiddo.

7. Having a pretend picnic — Spread out a blanket, invite stuffed animals and chow down on pretend food (plastic or imaginary)

8. Playing with the baking sheet and magnets — Before vacation, I read that a cookie sheet with magnets is good car entertainment.  My kiddo loved playing with it more once we got there.  I bought a cookie sheet at the Dollar Tree and have magnets saved back specifically for it.  An added bonus of using alphabet and number magnets is it’s teaching her as well.

9. Reading books

10. Playing with Princess Dominoes — Any dominoes work.  We happen to have the Disney Princess ones.  Sometimes we match up the princesses in a row like a domino game and every so often, we use them like building blocks.

11. Playing with Play-Doh

12. Building things with Legos — Right now this means making towers or rudimentary shapes; we’re not building fancy Lego models of any sort.

13. Drawing on her magna-doodle thing — Surprisingly, my daughter is impressed with my stick figures when she asks me to draw things like our family.  I also use it to show her what her name looks like.  She’ll often ask me to write other names.  She now knows the first two letters of her name as a result.  Of course, she also draws on it herself.

14. Cutting paper with safety scissors — Just bought some at the Dollar Tree for the kiddo along with a pad of construction paper.  She’s not super great at cutting just yet, but she loved the idea of it.  We laid on the living room floor for a good 45 minutes alternating between cutting the construction paper and drawing on it.

15. Playing under a blanket — Sometimes I sit on the floor and put a blanket over our heads.  This tickles my toddler.  It’s like we have our own clubhouse.  Sometimes it turns into peek-a-boo and sometimes we just play under there.  She loves it.  It tickles her even more when the dog joins us under the blanket.

(Pretty decent ideas so far.  The ones below are even better.  They came from my mom friends.  Thanks, Chatterbox Mamas!)

16. Fill a dishpan with dry beans and give the kiddo cupcake pans, spoons, measuring cups, plastic Easter eggs, etc., to move the beans around.  It’s not totally clean (you will have some beans on the floor), but it’s not bad and will keep the kiddo entertained for a while.

17. Playing with stickers — Buy some stickers at the dollar store, peel off the sticky part that surrounds the stickers (to make them easier for little fingers to remove) and give the kiddo a sheet of paper.

18. Playing with baby dolls

19. Having a tea party

20. Brushing the dog — The kiddo does like to help with this.  The dog isn’t quite as sure, but he loves the treat she gives him afterward!

21. Painting finger or toenails — My kiddo isn’t allowed to have paint on her fingernails until she totally stops putting her thumb in her mouth (feel free to judge me), but I’m thinking of trying her toenails this summer.

22. Playing “beauty parlor” — Let the kiddo brush your hair, put clips in it, etc.  You can do funny hairstyles for her, put makeup on her, etc.  (My curly hair is a bit nervous about the potential tangles on this one, but I already do this a bit.)

23. Make sun prints — Use sunscreen to paint on a piece of dark colored construction paper, then put in the sun to dry for a few hours.  The sunscreen will keep the paper from fading, but the areas without sunscreen will fade.

24. Playing nap for mommy — The kiddo came up with this game on her own a month or so ago.  Now a couple of times a week she will pretend to tuck me in, give me a doll or stuffed animal to sleep with and want me to be quiet.  She tells me to let her know if I need anything, so I have to pretend to need drinks of water every so often.  It’s a pretty nice gig that she actually enjoys!

25. Playing doctor with a doctor’s kit — This happens all the time around here.  If your toddler isn’t into doctor’s kits, you might let him/her watch an episode or two of Doc McStuffins.  Sitting for a checkup is pretty easy, even when you’re not feeling well.  My daughter also loves for us to hold her toys while she examines them.

26. Playing with tools — A friend lets her kids bring in a ride-on toy then they turn it upside down and sit on the floor with their play tools pretending to fix it.

27. Playing with paper or magnet dress-up dolls

28. Playing with Mr. Potato Head — I almost forgot about this toy; we so need to get one for the kiddo!

29. Playing with puppets

30. Playing with a reusable sticker pad — I’m super excited about this and plan to get one for the kiddo soon.  She loves stickers of any sort and this would be right up her alley!

Another suggestion was to hit up local teacher supply stores or learning tools store for great ideas.  One mom found wipe-off boards and books there with crayons that work like dry erase markers.  Genuis!

A final suggestion was to change the scenery and play in different rooms in the house.  For example, one of my kiddo’s favorite places to play is our long bedroom hallway.  Sometimes we go there to play and shake up our routine so we aren’t always playing in the living room.

What ideas or suggestions do you have?

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