During lockdown 3.0 aka January 2021, while nurseries were still open my husband and I decided not to send our (then) two year old back right after Christmas. In fact we kept her off for a whole month, as we were worried that coronavirus rates were very high, and with one of us in a more vulnerable category we didn’t want to take the risk. But keeping a toddler entertained when both parents are working full time as well is not easy!
We managed for three months last year when nurseries were shut, but it seemed easier somehow perhaps because the weather was good for most of it and we spent a lot of time playing in the garden. This time around as it was January, the mini moo didn’t often want to go outside, and I wasn’t inclined to insist, at least not during the week when I also need to work. We did go for a walk each weekend (and played in the garden a few times in between) so at least that’s something!
I wanted to share a few ideas for things you can do at home if you are looking after or entertaining a toddler on a rainy day (hopefully there won’t be any more lockdowns), or simply when they are bored! This list is far from exhaustive and but I’m hoping there will be a few things on here that you may not have come across or thought of (aside from the obvious things like reading or playing with their toys). And please do let me know your favourite rainy day activities with toddlers in the comments!
Free printables for toddlers
Lots of websites have activity sheets you can download that are suitable for even young children – ranging from colouring sheets to crafts, games and activities. We really liked the ones from Orchard Toys, which had a free daily download every day during lockdown. The first one we did involved drawing a line between animals and their homes, where the order was mixed up – e.g. the cow lives on the farm. My two year old got them all right so they aren’t exactly hard but it was also good practice for her to draw straight lines!
Book publisher Scholastic also has some free printables based on some of the popular Julia Donaldson books, many of which (the worksheets that is, not the books) I thought were more suitable for slightly older children, but we still did some of them anyway:
Sometimes it’s hard to remember games you played as a child but there were some that I loved when I was a kid, which seem a bit old fashioned now, but in a good way. For example ‘hunt the thimble’ – though as thimbles are a bit small for a two year old to find, we changed it to hiding a particular toy. As my daughter got closer to where it was hidden I said she was getting warmer, and as she moved further away I said she was getting colder, which helped her pinpoint the hiding spot. She thought it brilliant fun!
Another game that was really popular was a treasure hunt. You can use any toy as treasure, or a treat of some kind. I drew a little map of our living room showing the different pieces of furniture and of course ‘X marks the spot’. So that she wouldn’t run straight to the X I drew a line on the map winding around the furniture which helped my daughter follow the map to where I had put the X. She was really disappointed though that there wasn’t an actual X on the floor, so I had to quickly grab some washi tape and make one!
Gathering items of the same colour or texture is a fun activity that also gets your toddler thinking. We used a red fireman’s hat as a container and gathered up lots of red items- just make sure you put them back if they have raided your kitchen! For slightly older children you can ask them to collect items that begin with a particular letter of the alphabet.
When I was a child I loved to play buses, sitting on the stairs with the person on the bottom step as the bus driver, or using dining chairs. My daughter loves this too and often lines up our dining chairs to make a bus! It’s a bonus if you have a steering wheel toy of some kind, and you can even make bus tickets.
What’s the time, Mr Wolf? Is another childhood favourite that my daughter loves to play. Simon Says is another one I will play with her at some point!
“It’s shopping time!” my daughter often announces. She has a play kitchen with play food, which is against the wall but it has a section where the back is open. So if we pull the kitchen forwards, one person can go behind it as if they are looking through the window of a cashier. We also sometimes play shops in the living room where my daughter lines up the toys she has for sale and gets out her play till.
Playing shops is great for teaching counting, about money, and also for what you do in an actual shop!
Ever since my daughter watched an episode of Bluey where the children copy everything their dad does, she has thought it funny to play copycat. This game can last as long as you have the patience – you can get your child to copy silly facial expressions, movements or even activities. If you are feeling particularly mean, get them to ‘copy’ you tidying up their toys or cleaning the windows!
Also one from Bluey, this game involves keeping a balloon in the air as long as possible, by hitting it every time it starts to drift down. You can play this on your own but it’s more fun with more than one person as you can deliberately hit the balloon away from the other player and they have to scramble to keep it off the ground! Unlike in Bluey most UK houses don’t have a ceiling fan which would definitely take the game up a notch!
Other games you can play with balloons includes partially inflating a balloon and letting it go so it flies across the room – my daughter found this hilarious – or trying to walk with a blown-up balloon between your legs.
Crafts are always a good way to pass the time but sometimes are a bit of a faff to set up unless you buy a kit. One really easy craft is making a card to send someone, either by drawing a picture or using stickers or stamps. A pack of card blanks (i.e. not blank cards that have no message inside – actual blank cards for you to decorate yourself) can be easily picked up for under a fiver (for 20 cards) and you don’t need any specialist equipment. Though if you are interested in card making check out my other blog Caroline Makes! My daughter loves stickers of all varieties and also really liked these unicorn stamps that were only £2.
Another really easy one that we did was making a sheep – draw an outline of a sheep’s body (or a cloud) on a piece of card or sugar paper (construction paper), and glue cotton wool balls all over it! If you are making a sheep you can also draw on the head and legs.
Another fun rainy day activity and you don’t need many ingredients for these easy sugar cookies – or buy a packet mix where you only need to add an egg and a little oil to make anything from cookies to unicorn or Paw Patrol cupcakes!
Children love to build dens, or tents, or forts – call it what you want, with a few chairs and a bedsheet, you are away! You can get kits to build dens like this one from The Works – it’s a little flimsy but very good value. But we also manage just as well with dining chairs, a sheet, some cushions and whatever else my daughter decides to add in!
And finally, if it is a rainy day, why not get outside anyway and pop on a pair of wellies – what toddler doesn’t love jumping in puddles?!