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Winter Blues: Mixing Up Playtime

So, the holiday season has now passed, which means your kids are already bored with their brand new toys they received in December. Yeah, your heart was in the right place, thinking they would continue to play with those toys for the next 6 months at least, but reality has hit and they are bored! Which means you’re starting to lose your mind as well. I have come up with a few ways to make the upcoming weeks and/or months of cold Indiana weather.

Midwest winters are no joke. You go from a windchill of -10 to a 50-degree day the next day. As a newly [temporary] stay at home mom, I have learned how some days can drag on because of the little ones just can’t keep their focus on one activity for more than 2 minutes, and you have run out of ideas. Since Indiana winters are unpredictable, we may be stuck inside for a bit longer (insert facepalm).  

And let’s be real, who has time and energy to drag an infant and toddler out in the cold or snow to run to the store to buy everything you need for the Pinterest-worthy project. But, I have come up with a few, low maintenance, activities based on age that should not require too many things that you don’t already have laying around your house. If not, make your “to buy” list now so you can run to the dollar store to stock up on materials when the time presents itself.  

Below are ideas categorized by age. Now, depending on your child’s interests and ability level, they may be able to do things in the category below or above. Please just make sure you watch your child closely. If you know your toddler is not ready to play with small items, such as beans, because they will put them in their mouth, then please use your best judgment for safety reasons. Obviously, these are suggestions, you know your child best, so please monitor them closely.  

Babies:

  • Get straws and allow them to put them in a container (like a Pringles can)
  • Blow up a balloon and bounce it
  • Play music on pots and pans
  • Find different sensory materials to let them feel, touch, or even taste
  • Give them a bath
  • Play peek and boo
  • Put colored lids/other objects in different containers
  • Fill water bottles up with dyed water, glitter, or other objects of interest (make sure you seal and tape it to prevent leaking)
  • Stack cups and knock them down
  • Laundry basket rides around the room
  • Pick a current developmental milestone and target those skills
  • Fill a plastic baby pool with plastic balls, pillows, or fabric “snowballs”
  • Build a tower with blocks and knock it down
  • If old enough, push your child around inside in his/her Little Tykes car or something similar
  • Put toys in and take them out of a bin
  • Dance party
  • Tummy time while looking in a mirror
  • Paint (squirt paint on paper and slide into a plastic bag). Allow your baby to hit it to create artwork
  • Look at books and point at new words to build vocabulary

Toddlers:

  • Build a fort with pillows and blankets
  • Put out a blanket and have a picnic for lunch or snack time
  • Bring in your water table and fill it with beans or dried pasta. Add dinosaurs, kitchen items, or vehicles for added fun
  • Finger paint
  • Race “pull and push” cars
  • Dance party
  • Get cookie cutters and make shapes with play-doh
  • Put contact paper up on a window and allow them to put small pieces of paper, stickers, etc. to make a picture
  • Pipe cleaners in a colander
  • Grab a basket and let them play a homemade version of “basket” ball
  • Sit on a bed and pretend to be on a boat hiding from sharks 
  • Play dress up (with their pretend clothes or let them borrow yours)
  • Cook or bake a favorite snack/treat
  • Play music on pots and pans
  • Take a bubble bath
  • Build a tower, building, etc. with blocks or Legos
  • Puzzles
  • Pretend play (doctor, chef, hairstylist, zookeeper, teacher, farmer, etc.)
  • Water pant (Allow toddlers to paint with water on colored construction paper)
  • Write and play in shaving cream (watch closely so they don’t eat it!)
  • Fill a plastic baby pool with plastic balls, pillows, or fabric “snowballs”
  • Play animal charades 
  • Make slime or “moon dough”

School-Aged:

  • Build a fort with blankets and pillows
  • Have a fashion show
  • Look out the window and paint/draw what you see
  • Give them a bunch of recycled material and let them create something new
  • Cook or bake a favorite snack/treat
  • Dance party
  • Karaoke
  • Give dolls/cars a bath/car wash
  • Use an old shoebox and create an animal habitat
  • Create an obstacle course (use furniture, tape, pillows, etc.)
  • Rediscover old books and read in a special spot in your house
  • Create a story/book with blank paper (call a loved one to share it, when finished)
  • Puzzles
  • Look in a mirror and draw yourself
  • Make slime
  • Pampering time (nails, hair, make-up, etc.)
  • Board games
  • Print coloring sheets from the internet to color
  • Paint a birdhouse 
  • Make picture frames from Popsicle sticks 
  • Write a letter (or email) to a family member or friend
  • Puffy paint shirts, hats, etc. 
  • Use labels to create DIY stickers
  • Chores (Ha, kidding! Just seeing if you were still reading)
  • Sew (or learn to sew)
  • Play charades
  • Have marble races down pool noodles (you can even cut them in half lengthwise)
  • Build a Lego or block city
  • Write, draw, play with shaving cream
  • Create your own puzzles with cereal boxes or coloring sheets

I hope this helps mix up your playtime and help you beat the winter blues. Soon enough, the hot Indiana sunshine will be in full force and many (not me!) will be wishing for wintertime weather again. 

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