Dec 17

101 Cheap or Free Activities to do with a Toddler in the Winter

by Hannah Holt »

one comment

My son turned ten last week.

Asleep Logan running

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:


  1. Make paper chains
  2. Finger paint
  3. Roll out clay snakes
  4. 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.
  5. Collect a few large cardboard boxes and cut out doors and windows. You have a play house! Ta da!
  6. Make animal masks out of paper plates and string
  7. Cut out paper snowflakes
  8. Glue cotton balls on paper to make snowmen

10 day of xmas

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

Logan reading

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

1 day of xmas

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

robot craft1

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.

Billy goat Ethan

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!

Bundled 2

  1. Tina Cho

    Wow, Hannah! This is a great list. Mommies around the world are going to love you!