Summertime in Atlanta means afternoon heat, unexpected thunderstorms, and tantrums from my toddler when he hears he can’t go outside right now. Fortunately, we’re prepared–and so are you! Here are 5 activities for toddlers that are easy, require very little prep or clean-up, and free because they use what you already have at home. We’ve done them all in the past several weeks when it was just too hot to go out, or when that pop-up thunderstorm canceled our afternoon trip to the park.
If you have…
Gather up your tupperware and lids of all sizes–even better if they nest or if the lids click together. Practice nesting, stacking, and pulling the lids apart. Build towers. Match the lids to the correct container. Pile up some random small objects and have your toddler practice packing them into the containers.
Play a game of “I Spy” with one or a few of your child’s favorite books. Look through the pictures and name the objects you find (then close the book and ask your child to find those same objects on their own). Find all of the books on the shelf that have pictures of dogs (or elephants or trucks) in them. Choose a book with lots of different objects or animals in it and go on a scavenger hunt around the house to find the “real ones” in your home.
Sort small objects, such as dried beans, pasta shapes, or snacks by type, color, shape, size, etc. Work on counting by placing one in the first space, two in the second, and so on. Create a matching game by gathering pairs of objects (cars, small balls, crayons, legos, etc.). Place one of each in a row of the muffin pan. Scramble the remaining objects and ask your toddler to fill the empty row with the matching object.
Hide them around the room, sort by color, practice opening and closing them, or search for objects that can fit inside. If you have a broom or a small shovel-and-pail and a room without carpet, this is our favorite rainy-day activity: just hand your toddler the broom and show her how to “sweep” (and chase) the eggs. Gather the eggs into a pile and “go bowling” with a ball, car, or her own two feet. For older kids, have them use their brooms and dustpans or shovels and pails (or plastic cups and spoons) to race to be the first to scoop up their assigned colors.
A bunch of small game pieces:
We use Rummikub tiles, but you could also use checkers, chess pieces, dice, dominoes, or Scrabble/Bananagram tiles. Practice scooping with a small shovel or a spoon. Have your child put them into different containers (water bottles and travel coffee cups work great for this because the openings are small and they make a lot of noise). For older toddlers, you could also practice sorting, counting, or matching the pieces that look the same.
If you make it through these 5 activities and it’s still raining outside, use your favorite music streaming service to play songs by the Laurie Berkner Band–she’s our current favorite to sing and dance to.
One more tip:
Rainy days are the best days for bubbles. They’re more durable, float low to the ground, and stick to puddles. Happy playing!