Indoor Activities for Young Toddlers (No TV!)

by Lara on February 17, 2014

It’s been a long, rainy winter in Seattle.  It’s important to me (for his sanity and my own), that Gray has opportunities to explore, learn, and get his wiggles out without making a mess or watching TV.

Here are some of the things we’ve been up to these last few months (13-18 months) to have fun (note that none of these are sponsored but the Amazon links are affiliate links):


We first joined Gymboree around Gray’s first birthday, and although it’s a little spendy, it has been so worth it.  In addition to the “play and learn” classes once a week where we gently work on things like following directions, imitation, and interacting with others, we have taken advantage of “open play” hours as much as we can.  Every couple of weeks, the equipment orientation changes (so the kids are always challenged!), and a new age-appropriate theme is introduced (e.g. high/low, big/little).  I’m kind of a germaphobe but this place is kept really clean.  We have met some great new friends and spent many rainy days at Gymboree.  If you have a location in your area, I can’t recommend it enough!

Indoor Activities for Toddlers

Library storytime

Many libraries and bookstores offer free storytimes, and we have definitely taken advantage of these since Gray was about nine months old.  I like to rotate and go to libraries in different neighborhoods because each one has a different style.

Community center classes and drop-in playgyms

This is a biggie but it takes a little sleuthing.  We probably utilize five or so various community center-type places in the Seattle area.  Many of these have designated drop-in gym times, where you can pay a couple bucks to play with different toys and equipment (note: germaphobes beware).  Others offer classes that are pre-preschool in nature.  We go to one once a week now that is an hour and a half combination of free play among activity stations (PlayDoh, craft table, sensory table) and circle/song/bubble/parachute time.  It’s pretty affordable and really fun.

Museum and zoo memberships

If you do the math for a one-day admission, it really makes sense to buy a membership if you are going to return more than once or twice.  We have memberships at the children’s museum and zoo right now.  This summer might consider an aquarium membership.  Check the organization’s facebook page for coupons or promotions.

Fun at home

We still love Gray’s homemade toddler busy book and of course books in general are read all throughout the day.  But when I need him to play more independently, Pinterest comes is handy (check out my board for more Kiddo Activities).  I can’t take credit for any of these ideas, but of the ones we have tried, here are our favorites:

Craft Pom Pom Balls!

These are the best and cheapest “toy” investment we have made in the last several months.  Buy a huge bag on amazon here, which will probably last you for your kid’s entire craft career.

These activities can be a good way to encourage fine motor skills, counting, color recognition, and concepts like out, in, under, and around.  I have also observed that they help lengthen his focus, patience, and problem solving.

Drop through re-purposed toilet paper, paper towel, and wrapping paper rolls:

Indoor Toddler Activities

Load into vehicles and dump:
Indoor Toddler Activities

Spin in a salad spinner, stir in a pot, or sort into an egg carton:

Indoor Toddler Activities


Q-tips in a bottle (also good for fine motor skills, or so I am told):

Indoor Toddler Activities

Learning Tower involvement

We bought a used Learning Tower a few months ago and it has been great for getting G involved with everyday activities.  Doing dishes and meal prep, for example, are things that need to get done and are also great opportunities for learning.  Just be careful about the large openings in the Learning Tower with young kids.  They need constant supervision at this age!

I would love to hear more ideas for toddler fun if you have any to share! 

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrea@WellnessNotes February 17, 2014 at 8:58 am

Such a fun age! And you are such a fun mom keeping him busy with great activities! I love the Q-tips in bottle activity! So simple, but I can totally see how it would entertain him for a long time… 🙂


Lara February 18, 2014 at 12:52 pm

I was skeptical of that one too, but he was pretty into it for a while (toddler time, that is)!


Heather @ fit mama real food February 17, 2014 at 10:31 pm

G is such a cutie! I love how active you keep him, keeps those brain cells growing constantly.

I so need to do the fuzzy balls with tp rolls taped to the wall with hunter! I have everything on hand and am always looking for play ideas.

Hunter’s been super into building so blocks are big now, and of course cars. He just learned how to climb onto the dining room chairs by himself so he likes to sit at the table and do puzzles, which I love. I’ve been lacking in homemade activities lately but will definitely be checking out your Pinterest board for inspiration!


Lara February 18, 2014 at 12:54 pm

Thanks Heather. He is actually the one that keeps me active! I am sure you know all about that 😉

With the pom poms through the tubes, make sure to tape them really well, or the activity will just become “remove the tubes from the wall.” Ha!

You inspire me to cook more with all of your delicious eats on facebook and Instagram!


Kellie February 20, 2014 at 2:29 am

I’ll be pinning this for Barrett! Great ideas! And something you might already know, but lots of fine motor skill activity improves handwriting. Learned this by “mistake” when my youngest was in third grade…he had/has “doctor” handwriting :/
His teacher told us that play dough, stringing beads, and working with manipulatives would/could improve it (in general, boys are more into and encouraged in gross motor activity )


Lara February 20, 2014 at 8:35 am

I did not know that, but it totally makes sense! Thanks for sharing!

Reply March 16, 2014 at 9:53 pm

I like the idea of Toddler Busy Book. I usually buy those ready made busy books and now I’m thinking maybe I can make one for my kids. This post is very useful in such a way that I have more ideas to organize my kids’ indoor activities. Thanks for sharing 😀


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