Classic outdoor activities like scavenger hunts provide so many benefits to your child: they help develop language, enhance sensory development, and improve gross and fine motor skills. The good news is, you don’t absolutely have to do these activities outside. On days when the weather is bad and you’re stuck indoors, a living room picnic can be just as fun.
We’ve collected 6 of our favorite outdoor classics to play inside:
You can use a real tent if you have the space, a kids’ indoor tent, or even blankets draped over tables and chairs (clothespins and snack bag clips are effective for securing the blankets). Once you’ve set up your tent, make the inside of the space cozy with pillows, blankets, stuffed animals, and even sleeping bags. Don’t forget books and flashlights too.
Pretend to cook dinner, read a book by flashlight, and sing songs. If your toddler is up for it, you can even spend the night in the tent. Bonus: if they wake up and want to go back to their bed, you won’t have to pack up and drive all the way home 😉
Living room picnic
Replace the grass with a rug, shine a lamp to stand in for the sun, and have an indoor picnic. Invite your toddler to be the host and let them choose their guests, serve the food, and run the show. Pouring water strengthens eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills, conversing with their dolls and stuffed animals improves language skills, and pretending deepens creativity and social skills.
Spread a blanket that can tolerate some spills on a floor in your home and let your toddler help you set up by carrying spoons, napkins, and a pitcher of water. Serve crackers, pieces of fruit, toast, cheese, and whatever else you have on hand. Your toddler may love putting the snacks in a basket to bring to the picnic.
As long as you’re enjoying your picnic, pitch a tent and stay the night ❤️
Moldable and easier to clean up than real sand, moon sand is the perfect base for sensory and imagination play. Add toy trucks and cars to make a construction site or cooking utensils to make a kitchen—or simply let your child sculpt and explore on their own. This recipe uses two common household ingredients:
- Pour 4 cups of flour into a large bowl.
- Make a hole in the center of the flour and pour in ½ of a cup of vegetable oil or a similar oil (the ratio is 8 parts flour to 1 part oil if you want to increase or decrease the amount).
- Gently mix the flour and oil with a spoon. That’s it—it’s ready!
- While your child plays, keep the moon sand contained by putting it in a plastic bin with high enough sides to prevent spilling and by spreading a sheet or towel underneath.
- Store your moon sand in an airtight container. It will stay fresh for a month.
Hopscotch is a great way to practice balance, gross motor skills, and early math concepts—and tire out your toddler at the same time 😉 With a roll of duct or painter’s tape and an object to throw, you are all set to bring this classic chalk and sidewalk game inside.
Your child may be able to jump 8-14 inches between 24 and 30 months old, and hopping on one foot typically happens soon after that—between 30 and 36 months. There are several ways to adapt hopscotch to your child’s emerging skills.
- Pick a room (or hallway) in your home with some open floor space and mark out a hopscotch grid with tape.
- If your child is not yet able to hop on one foot (or land with one foot in each of two squares), consider making a column of 4-6 single squares. You can also make a grid of 6-8 squares in pairs of two. A traditional hopscotch grid—alternating one square with two side by side—may be more of a challenge than your child is ready for at first.
- You can use tape to write a number inside each square, or write the numbers on post-its or construction paper circles taped to the floor. Get an object to throw: a small rock, beanbag, stuffed animal, or anything your toddler can toss will work.
- For a challenge, try playing using traditional hopscotch rules: toss the object into the first square and hop (or jump) over it; progress all the way to ten, hopping each time over the square that contains the object.
A scavenger hunt boosts your child’s problem-solving skills and gets them moving, too. An easy modification: use pieces of colored construction paper as clues.
Cut out squares from different colored pieces of construction paper and spread them out on the floor. Ask your child to name each color, then find items around the house to match it. They can either collect the items as they go, or put them one by one on or near the corresponding piece of paper.
An obstacle course allows your toddler to to practice jumping, crawling, balancing, and more. You can set one up to fit almost any space with materials you already have, then easily modify or enhance it to focus on any subset of gross motor skills.
Choose a variety of components to keep the course fun, like something to jump into (hoops or chalk circles), something to crawl under (a table or chair), and something to climb over (pillows or large stuffed animals). For more about creating an obstacle course, see our blog post.
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