As a stay-at-home mom, it’s not about filling up the day. I can keep us pretty busy, since cleaning up the house, meals, errands, baths, naps, cooking, and all of that take up enough time. But filling it up with fun things for my toddler to do? While not watching TV all day? Now that’s rather a challenge.
And especially being pregnant. The whole first half I was super sick, and since the beginning, it’s been so exhausting. Consequently, I would rather lay on the couch all day than do fun things with my little guy. But I feel bad keeping him cooped up in the house for hours. And I’m not opposed to some TV time, but I don’t want him watching it all day.
Luckily we have a few staple activities that seem to work time and time again. Furthermore, they are generally free or inexpensive. They are also not all that complicated, and you don’t have to have lots of fancy toys or complicated games.
So this is a list for the stay-at-home mom who may need a few more ideas, although I’m sure most of you are experts in this already! Some of you will shake your heads for one reason or another, thinking this is way too complicated or way too easy, and that’s okay. It’s also for someone, maybe a babysitter or family member, who is spending a day or two with a little one.
1. Visit the library. Books to read, comfy places to sit, and also usually a play area for the kids, too.
2. Run around in the backyard. Crispy leaves and sticks are just as entertaining as toys!
3. Color. Color Wonder markers are my new fave because they don’t mark on anything but the paper.
4. Head to Chik-fil-a (or another restaurant with a play place).
5. Watch airplanes take off and land at the airport. This probably sounds really strange, but my little guy just loves it. Also, it doesn’t cost anything to sit in the drop off zone.
6. Play at the Thomas the Train table at Barnes and Noble. (It probably doesn’t seem like it, but we could spend hours there.)
5. Bath time. While it is entertaining for them, it also serves a purpose!
6. Try out a sensory station. It’s rather easy even without a specific table for it – grab a bucket, fill up with water or beans or sand, add some cups and toys.
7. Head to the museum. Many museums have free admission, at least for kids, or special days or activities that are free.
8. Set up a play date with another family. It’s always fun to visit a new place, play with friends, and try out some different toys.
9. Bake something together (or almost)! Even if all they can do is dump the chocolate chips in the cookie mix. Or eat the chocolate chips.
10. Look up local story times and activities. (Think the library, bookstores, community centers, etc.)
11. Build something with blocks or boxes.
12. Give them a huge cardboard box and some crayons and let them go to town decorating it. You can maybe make it a rocket ship, car, or boat.
13. Go to the playground, and don’t be afraid to be a kid yourself.
14. Take a hike or just a walk around the neighborhood, pointing out cool things in nature along the way.
15. Pull out the broom and sweep together! My little guy loves to grab the mop and “help”.
16. Turn up some music and have a dance party!
17. Take out some sidewalk chalk and go to town. Because it washes off, we’re not worried about coloring the bricks on our house, the path leading up to the house, stairs, etc.
18. Read a story and figure out how to bring it to life! Act out a Bible store, or make green eggs and ham after reading the book, etc.
19. Practice fine motor skills and explore colors with string and fruit loops (or pasta if you have that).
20. Make your own play dough. This one is edible (and actually sounds tasty!) and only has a few ingredients.
21. Finger paint. Or take it a step further and find something fun to paint with to make different shapes or textures. You can probably think of some options – I’d say styrofoam cups, cotton balls, sponges, soda bottles, etc.
22. Bath time, except for plastic toy animals, plastic food, or other non-soft toys.
23. Dress up! Whether it’s a full-out princess dress, or a towel around the neck as a superhero’s cape, it’s fun either way.
24. Phone a friend or family member. We love video calling friends and family.
25. Create a track for trains and cars to follow. You can build one with materials you have (a few paper towel tubes would be fun!), use masking tape, or draw one out on a large sheet of paper.
26. Make a pizza together. Give them options for toppings the can choose from, and then let them help put them on the pizza.
27. Have them help with seasonal decor. This fall we have painted pumpkins, written things we’re thankful for on a foam leaf wreath, and made bats out of toilet paper tubes.
28. Read a book, and go through it interactively. Help them locate animals they know, ask them questions, point out colors or letters.
29. Try yoga or some kind of exercise together. YouTube is a great resource for this.
30. Build a fort out of pillows, blankets, using chairs and tables.
31. Have them “cook” with you or for you. While you may be able to have a whole kitchen set-up complete with pots and fake food, a real bowl and wooden spoon, maybe some measuring cups, work wonders.
32. Find a spot near a semi-busy road and identify different cars, trucks, colors, and sounds.
33. Visit the mall or store. There’s a play place, but surprisingly, my little guy is not a big fan. Instead, we walk around looking at what’s on display or the decorations.
34. Build an obstacle course for them to climb around. Again, doesn’t have to be complicated. Some pillows, cardboard boxes, blankets – all these would make for a fun short course.
35. Pick something to sort by color. Maybe it’s toy trains, dolls, food, etc.
36. Garden together. This can be a range of things, including planting flowers or seeds, or just digging and then filling up the hole again.
37. Take a trip to the pet store. There are usually dogs and cats to wave at, and fish and other animals to watch.
38. Grab a book of stickers (large ones without complicated shapes work great), and create a scene on a piece of construction paper or a coloring sheet with a basic background.
39. Make moon sand, which seems so easy and fun!
40. Blow bubbles.
41. Fill and spill, as a friend says. Give them a bucket or bin, and something to fill it with and spill out (like toys).
42. Do something repetitive, like bouncing a ball back and forth, or racing cars. It’s simple, but occupying!
43. Figure out what kinds of things around the house can be musical instruments, and make some noise!
44. Have a picnic, indoors or outdoors! Non-messy snack food is probably your best option.
45. Make some homemade washable paint, and let your kids go to town on a big glass sliding door; then teach them the fun of cleaning it up! (Window clings are a fun, easy option, too.)
46. Sing songs together. You can always look some up, but I’m sure you know more than you think – Old MacDonald, The Wheels on the Bus, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Itsy Bitsy Spider, etc.
47. Visit a farmer’s market, fair or festival.
48. Find a spot on a river or lake where you can feed ducks and watch fish.
49. These play dough activity mats are genius!
50. Do something seasonal together, like visit the pumpkin patch, go ice skating, go to the beach, etc.
So those are things that pretty much keep us going throughout the week, and changing it up everyday keeps it interesting! And now, experts, your turn: what creative ideas do you have for fun things to do together with your toddler?