Rainy day activities for toddlers, 4 inexpensive and effective things to do.
You know “those” winter days, it’s raining (or snowing) cold and miserable. You’re stuck indoors with your incessantly active toddlers/s. They’ve played with all of their toys, read every book they own and destroyed your house. They’ve scribbled briefly in their colouring books, and are now deafening you with their whines of boredom. I see you, noses pressed up against your windows like caged animals as your toddler requests their five hundred and thirty four thousandth snack of the day whilst simultaneously handing you fistfuls of soiled cat litter. You look outside, silently pleading for the rain/snow to stop, and mentally take yourself off to a beach in Bali. An ice cold Mojito in hand of course. I see you, and I’m here to share these great rainy day activities for toddlers with you.
We’ve had quite a few of “those” days recently. Not only are we in the thick of winter, but also the depths of the COVID19 pandemic. We (France) have already endured two full government enforced lockdowns. We were only able to leave our homes once a day, for an hour at a time and with tedious paperwork to fill out every time we did. It appears that another is inevitable very soon.
Our toddlers attention spans.
My two and a half year old is very much an outdoor girl. She’s never more content than when we’re off on adventures in the fresh air, walking, sledging, exploring, playing in nature with friends. We’ll bundle up and go out in most weathers, but sometimes you just have to give in and stay warm and dry indoors. Young children are thought to have an attention span of only two to three minutes per year of age, so it’s not surprising that keeping a two year old with an attention span of perhaps six minutes entertained all day can be challenging.
So with that in mind, here are four inexpensive rainy day activities for toddlers that I turn to on “those” days. I keep them hidden away the rest of the time so that she doesn’t become bored of them. Being able to pull them out when it feels like I’ve exhausted every other entertainment avenue, keeps my toddler happy and saves my sanity.
1. Kinetic Sand
You’ve likely heard about this through your mum-friend grapevine by now, but it really is pretty magical stuff. It feels and looks like normal sand, but you can mould and build it into shapes. It comes in a variety of colours and doesn’t dry out. I have had the same bag for over a year now, it’s regularly left out or hastily put away without having sealed the bag and has never shown any sign of deteriorating. It’s weird and wonderful texture also means that it is far less messy than real sand would be and super easy to clear up when it does inevitably escape. Best of all, kids (and if I’m honest adults) absolutely love it.
Just as with Play Doh you can buy elaborate kits for making lots of cool things with it. But for the sake of a toddler I find that setting them up with some of the sand plus a variety of tupperware, bowls, cups, spoons etc will keep them content and engrossed for a good 15-20 minutes. Just enough time for you to mix up that well earned Mojito!
Where can you get it?
You can buy a bag from most children’s toy shops and Amazon for around £10, and as I said it will last forever.
2. Water Beads
The only thing more satisfying than the kinetic sand, are these water beads. You buy them as tiny hard beads, immerse a very small amount of them in water, and wait. A couple of hours later you’ll have a vast array of brightly coloured, delightfully squishy balls that are incredibly satisfying to play with (ahem). As soon as I get them out myself and my partner are clamouring to play with them as much as our daughter.
As with the kinetic sand all you need is a few bits and bobs from the kitchen. A child that can pour and spoon is a happy child. For the sake of this article -and my own curiosity- I got them out and timed how long my daughter played with them. 25 minutes later and she finally snapped out of the hypnotic trance they seemed to have put her in.
Now a word of warning with these. Although non toxic they are technically a choking hazard. If your toddler is still inclined to put everything in their mouths don’t leave them alone whilst they’re playing with them. They’re also a bit of a pain to clear up. They end up
everywhere and defiantly bounce out of the dustpan when you try to sweep them up. But on a day when you’re stuck inside I promise you they’re totally worth it.
Where can you get them?
They are widely available in shops. You can get a tub of 50,000 off Amazon for just £11.99, which will last a very long time. A little goes a looong way.
3. Picture Card Treasure Hunt.
You will likely have picture cards in one form or another already. We have some old animal cards that Ayla mostly ignores these days. But one of her favourite games is to do a treasure hunt with them. I hide them in various spots around the house, then send her off to go and find them. As soon as she finds one *cue a delighted smile* we talk about the animal. This game engages her physically and mentally, and is very interactive between the two of us. She gets bonus points for figuring out how to reach cards that are awkwardly placed, high up or especially well hidden. It keeps her attention fiercely focused until all of the cards are found.
Where can you get them?
You can get picture cards of pretty much anything you think your toddler will love, vehicles, birds, insects for example. I use these ones from DK for £6.99 which are fantastic. They’re tactile as they have sensory areas to touch on each card, and have cues on the back to help you out with discussion points.
4. Make your own pizzas.
I am the first to admit that cooking with toddlers can be nothing short of a rage inducing nightmare. But if you can force your inner control freak to take a step back, it can be a fun and educational activity. After all what’s a little egg shell in your food?!
One of our regular cooking endeavours is homemade pizza. As soon as I say we are going to do it, my daughter toddles off in to the kitchen without a backward glance and I hear her pushing her chair up the to work top ready to stand on. Make it easy on yourself and buy ready made pizza dough, grated mozzarella cheese and tomato puree from the shop. Then all you need to do is chop up some vegetables, we like courgette, mushrooms, red peppers and sweetcorn, put them into small bowls and let your little one get stuck in. I like to go through each vegetable and explain what it is and get her to try a little taste of it raw. But mostly I stand back, bite my lip and let her artistic flair lead the way.
The added bonus!
The bonus of this activity of course is that your child has then made their own dinner. They will feel a sense of achievement that encourages them to wolf it down once it is cooked.
I find that with these four activities up my sleeve we can get through even the most gloomy of days. I’m still dreaming of that Mojito on a beach in Bali of course. But having a satisfied toddler at the end of the day makes my glass of wine in the kitchen almost as gratifying. Almost…
I’d love to keep in touch with you all and hear about the rainy day activities you do with your little ones. The more the merrier!