How to Keep Your Toddler Busy During the Winter!
Ah, winter time in Montana. We can go from a comfortable 40 degrees on Tuesday to a bone chilling -20 by Thursday, and that’s fairly mild! So when you are at home with little ones who are used to running off all their energy outside, how do you keep them busy and yourself from going crazy? I am a stay-at-home mom with a VERY busy and energetic three and half year old son. Since we moved back to Montana almost two years ago, I’ve had to get very creative with ideas not just to keep Macs busy, but also physically active!
- Hide and Seek
Yes, this old standby is as wonderful as it is timeless. Now, this game has several positive components. When we first started teaching Macs to count, this was fun and easy practice for counting to 20. (To him, the louder the better, this gives me a lot of time to find a good place to hide.) Also, if we designate a spot as home base, we can race back there after the hider is found, thus incorporating small bursts of exercise. Now, Macs almost always hides in the same spot, so I have to take my time looking for him and I name off all the places he isn’t, “No, he’s not under the bed. Nope, he isn’t hiding behind the door”, which is really my trying to give him hints of NEW places to hide! Lastly, this is a game we can play with just the two of us or altogether when Dad gets home, which means free family fun for all!
Yet another timeless activity. Thankfully we have several different things that we can use for these activities: Legos, Mega Blocks, wooden blocks, and any dishes, containers, pots and/or pans from the kitchen Macs can get his hands on. We’ve often used this activity as more practice for counting, such as who can build the tallest tower and let’s count the blocks to make sure, as well as letting his creative juices flow. If your child tires of building the exact same tower again and again, try sorting by color, shape and size. Macs enjoys grouping all the bread pans by size, then arranges them in order. I have no idea why as I never told him to do any such thing, but it’s a lot of fun to watch him! Although I am a proponent of games that incorporate movement, any building activity is lovely at the end of the day when we can sit on the living room floor and relax.
Just the name of this activity screams desperation. Not long ago, we had a chunk of FOUR straight days that it was too cold for Macs to leave the house. That’s over 12 hours of time to fill each day in a confined space with a child who has enough energy to fuel a small car. So, we play chase. This can look like anything. Usually we each pick a toy vehicle, whether it’s a car, helicopter or tractor, and we run in circles. Literally. We are blessed with a space big enough that takes us from the living room, to a bedroom, through the laundry room and kitchen and back to the living room. If you don’t have a circular layout, sometimes a few trips around a coffee table or down a hallway and back are quite enough. Macs could play this for hours; my personal best is a straight 20 minutes, (with a couple of water breaks). The most wonderful bonus of this game is that it usually results in a nap later that afternoon. Sometimes Macs even sleeps!!
- Hide the Bird (or whatever)
There is a chunk of time on cold, dark winter nights, the time between after dinner and before bed, that seem to drag on for a while when you can’t go play outside. This is our go-to game for such times. So this game is a bit of a take on hide and seek and Easter egg hunting. But instead of hiding ourselves, or eggs, we hide an object. During a trip to a discount store, my husband, who is NOT an impulse shopper, decided to buy these plastic birds that chirp really loudly. Why? Because they were in the 50 cent basket, of course. Anyways, when the novelty wore off, we decided to have Macs hide the birds and we’d all search for them. Once again, this turned into more of an exercise activity than anything else as we’d scurry around the house to try and find the bird so it would be quiet!! But you don’t have to have a fancy, fifty cent bird to play this. Just about anything larger than your fist will work (this size because anything smaller when hidden by a little one is likely to be lost forever). Also, we haven’t done this yet but most of you probably remember playing “Hot or Cold”, this is basically the same idea.
- Go Fish/Matching
Go Fish- This was always one of my favorite games as a kid. Now, it is very difficult for a three year old to hold cards by themselves, so teaming up with a parent or older sibling helps a lot. This is an excellent game for learning to take turns, and the cards we got have numbers, which is helpful when learning to count and recognize numbers. There’s no need to run out and by some. If you have any old deck of cards, that will work. Although I recommend only using numbers up through 7 or so, just to make it manageable. Matching- Last year, it was in the first part of December I think, it was dark by 4:30 and both Macs and I were going nuts. My husband asked if we had any card games we could play, which we didn’t at that time, so I grabbed some construction paper and cut out a bunch of squares. Using a marker, I drew matching pairs of shapes such as squares, circles, triangles, and rectangles and presto, a homemade matching game! Since I was just starting to teach Macs the names of shapes, this was fun practice, a good use of our time, and best of all, free!
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