My son turned ten last week.
That went quick! Around ten years ago, my boss called during my maternity leave and told me I needed to return to work full-time or find a new job. Three months earlier, we had agreed I would return to work half-time, so this was a drastically new plan. It would require me to find a different child care provider for starters. Add to this, I was hormonal and sleep deprived. Suddenly, I didn’t feel super motivated to return.
So I took a part-time, work-from-home editing job and left the world of engineering. Within a matter of weeks, I went from a go-go-go career to having my days almost completely unplanned. It was slightly terrifying for a Type A personality like myself.
It was also the middle of winter, and the weather was terrible. We needed things to do together, so I started creating “go lists.”
Fast forward ten years, now I have four kids and still work from home. I can’t remember the engineering height requirements for a bridge over a railway, but can I entertain a toddler in the winter? You betcha!
So when my sister-in-law asked me for a list of things to do with her toddler, I was like–YES! Yes, I have a list of things to do. In fact, I have many lists! And because there’s nothing worse than planning something expensive and having a toddler melt down in the middle of it, I keep everything free or cheap.
Here’s my giant list of 101 Things To DO With A Two-year-old In The Winter:
- Make paper chains
- Finger paint
- Roll out clay snakes
- Make a chunky pasta necklace (rotini is a good size for little fingers). If you want to be FANCY about it, here’s how to dye pasta.
- Collect a few large cardboard boxes and cut out doors and windows. You have a play house! Ta da!
- Make animal masks out of paper plates and string
- Cut out paper snowflakes
- Glue cotton balls on paper to make snowmen
9. Using two cups and a string, make a telephone
10. Check out the “Kid Craft” category of this blog for more ideas
11. Have a dance party
12. Splash in the bathtub
13. Jump on the bed…you know you want to
14. Build a blanket fort
15. Create an indoor obstacle course
16. Have a tickle fight
17. Ask the child twirl in a circle ten times and then have her run across the room (remove any furniture with hard edges first)
18. Sing simple action songs, like a) Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes, b) The Wheels on the Bus, c) Ring Around the Rosie, d) The Noble Duke of York, e) Baby Bumble Bee, f) The Itsy-bitsy Spider, g) Where is Thumbkin
19. Do yoga together
20. Have a strength and flexibilty competition: see who touch their toes the best, jump the highest, etc.
21. Make up a puppet show
22. Dress up like your favorite movie characters
23. Pretend to be community helpers and rescue the stuffed animals
24. Pull out a bunch of pots and pans and make a drum set
25. Get out dolls and play house
26. Write your own theatrical play and perform it
27. Go camping in your living room
28. Set up a teddy vet clinic
29. Decorate the laundry baskets like race cars and push them around the house
30. Listen to Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals and dance like you are the different animals: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBGEf4urGNo
(or just pretend to be your favorite animal)
31. Read stories
32. Listen to music
33. Play The Sleeping Lion (Mom lies on the floor with her eyes closed, and the child tries to get as close as possible before Mom grabs her)
34. Brush Daddy’s hair/Brush child’s hair
35. Watch a movie
36. Make a nest out of pillows and pretend to be birds
37. Sing gentle songs: Hush Little Baby, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, All the Pretty Little Horses
38. Hang up Christmas lights and turn off the overhead ones
39. Sip hot cocoa or herbal tea together
40. Paint each others nails and have a spa day (just be sure to put down lots of newspaper first)
41. Play I Spy
42. Become “Shape Detectives” and go on a shape hunt
43. Sing Old MacDonald to practice animal sounds. If this becomes too easy for your child, sing the sounds wrong on purpose and watch for the righteous indignation of a two-year-old correcting you!
43. As you read books together, search for specific letters or objects on each page.
44. Practice counting by placing mini pom-poms in cupcake pans
45. You can also sort mini pom-poms in a cupcake pan by color
46. Say Mother Goose poems and have your child guess the rhyming word, “Jack be nimble. Jack be quick. Jack jump over the candle____.”
47. Play the Preposition Game. Ready, set, get ON the couch. Ready, set, get UNDER the couch. Now run AROUND the couch, etc.
48. Practice the alphabet song
49. Trace the first letter of your child’s name on paper and have them try to place beans on the lines
50. Teach your child a new gymnastic move, like how to tumble, twirl, do a cartwheel, or jump on one foot
51. Make your own playdough
52. Bake cookies. Everybody likes cookies!
53. Put a little flour into a cake pan and let the child play with it while you make dinner
54. Pull out the dried rice and beans and some measuring cups to create a sensory tub
55. Fill a shallow pan with baking soda and give the child droppers fill with food coloring tinted vinegar
56. Have the child fetch items you need as you are cooking, “Can you find an egg for me?” “Where are those tomatoes?”
57. Pop some popcorn using this trick: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0mFtCDKU7As
58. Make a smiley faces in yogurt with raisins
59. Build robots out of everyday kitchen items
60. Check out the “Kid Kitchen” category of this blog for more ideas, or see this post: 20 Kitchen Ideas for a Rainy Day
61. Have the child help with simple clean up tasks like putting socks in a drawer or placing blocks back in a box
62. Hand the child a colorful feather duster and let her have at it
63. Give the child a piggy-back ride while you vacuum
64. Have the child fetch toys from under beds
65. Give the child a broom and let her “sweep” (just don’t have high expectations)
66. Give the child a cloth and let her wipe the baseboards (just don’t expect her to stay on task for too long)
67. Let the child unload the dishwasher by handing you plates and cups
68. Let the child put rinsed spoons and plates into the dishwasher when it’s time to load
69. Help the child clear the table
70. Fill up the sink with soapy water and let the child “wash” some toys
71. Pull out toy cars and make a race track with masking tape
72. Play tag
73. Play hide-and-seek
74. Play peek-a-boo
75. Try simple card games like Snap and Go Fish
76. Hide the Object (you can play Hot and Cold or just give hints)
77. Tint shaving cream with washable food coloring and paint in the bath
78. Set up ten plastic water bottles at the end of a hallway, grab a rubber ball, and go bowling
79. Build a city out of wooden blocks or Duplos
80. Blow bubbles and chase them. These no-spill containers are my favorite.
81. Cut out little construction paper hearts and hide them all over someone’s room
82. Create a crepe paper maze in the hallway
83. Place balloons over someone’s doorway, so that the balloons will fall when the door opens
84. Hide a plastic mouse in the silverware drawer
85. Draw a love note for someone on the bathroom mirror with dry erase markers
86. Put a plate of cookies on a friend’s front steps (attach a string to the plate). Ring the door bell and hide around the corner. When your friend reaches for the cookies, pull the string and make the plate move.
87. Using a toothpick, leave a message in the top of a freshly opened jar of peanut butter
88. Hide all of someone’s clothes while they are away at school or work
89. Blow up a balloon (but don’t tie it) and release it in a room when someone least expects it
90. Switch the ingredients in the sugar and salt shakers. See if your child notices a difference. 😉
91. To the library for story hour
92. To the store and let the toddler pick out the fruits and vegetables for the week
93. To the children’s museum (I think a membership to at least one museum is an investment in your sanity. I have one membership and rotate it annually so I don’t get too tired of any one place.
94. To a fast food restaurant with a play place
95. To a friend’s house
96. To city hall or a fire station (you might need to plan ahead for this)
97. To the mall to run around
98. To do some touristy thing local to you, like touring the Federal Mint in Denver or Temple Square in Salt Lake City or Powell’s Books in Portland
99. To the pet store to watch the fish and puppies
100. To a toy store with a play area
101. Bundle up and GO OUTSIDE!