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Frugal Winter Fun with Toddlers

January 19, 2012

Back in 2010, I posted about “When there’s nothing to do,” a post all about fun activities from my childhood.

Now, two years later, I’m recreating that list, specifically with toddlers in mind. With sub-zero temps outside and three toddlers stuck in the house, I need some inspiration!

As I said two years ago: “If my children and I are to spend most of our winter days car-less and indoors, what can we do to make winter a season as special as summer?”

SLIME! Mix corn starch and water in equal parts. Add more water if it dries out; more corn starch if it's too runny.

  • Homemade playd0h gak, and slime.  Skip the artificial dyes for real green (and safe) play.
  • Homemade crayons. Gather up all those stubby, broken crayons. Build SUPER (toddler-proof) crayons by melting in lined muffin tins in the oven at a low temp.
  • Artwork. It’s a favorite activity of ours. Paints, crayons, markers, chalk, construction paper masks, stickers, just about anything that involves color is artwork in our house.
  • Salt drawings. Pour salt into a baking dish and use fingers or kitchen utensils to draw.
  • Baking and cooking, real or fake. Our mantra: “Nice and slow. Keep in the bowl.”

Fresh snow: mittens and taste-testing recommended.

  • Bringing the outside in. Bowls of snow are fun and fairly clean for indoor play. Plus the snow gets wet and is very moldable; ideal for making tiny indoor snowmen and villages.
  • Boxes, laundry baskets, storage totes. For building, crashing, hiding, and driving.
  • Forts. Our easel is the current hot spot for hiding out. But the kids also like a blanket over the crib or high chair. I’m saving my elaborate fort-making energy for their post-toddler years.
  • Collage. Ainsley, at age 3, loves to take paper scraps and glue away with the handy glue stick.
  • Write a book. We stapled together some pages of scrap paper, Ainsley illustrated, and I transcribed her narration to each page. She beams with pride each time we read it.

  • Music. Turn up the music and get groovin’! So simple, so fun, so frugal.
  • Instruments. Paper plate tambourines, toilet paper roll horns, cereal box guitars, and pots and pans are simple, at-home ways to start your family band.

  • Dress up. Even with a box of dress-up stuff, the kids seem to love Mama and Daddy’s clothes best.
  • Water play and indoor pool. Fill up an under-the-bed (or other shallow) storage container with water. Toss in some unexpected play things (rocks, apples, sticks), and see what happens. (You could also try an indoor sandbox.) For those of us less inclined to mopping up water all afternoon, see below.

Splash the wintery gray away!

  • Mid-day bath time. My kids think it’s so fun to take a bath. A daytime bath gives them the extra time to (and me the energy to let them) play and splash.
  • Bubbles! Hours of fun in one little bottle.
  • Sidewalk chalk — inside! With a large roll of easel paper (or old wrapping paper??), you can make a sidewalk inside. A hallway (with hard floors) would be the perfect length to bring this summer activity to life in the harshest of winter days.
  • Books. The best way to pass the time, if you ask me. A regular trip to the library ensures we always have something fresh to read in between the daily readings of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Barnyard Dance. Don’t forget to check out some of those giant books, picture books with accompanying CD, and fun musical books (like the book/CD combos by Sandra Boynton).
Next time, I’ll be sharing how you can get FREE toys for your kids that you DON’T have to keep. Oooh…

Do you have any fun winter activities for little ones? I would love to hear from you!


This post is part of SortaCrunchy’s weekly “Your Green Resource.” 

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Gramma GG permalink
    January 19, 2012 5:52 pm

    So sweet!
    Don’t underestimate using fingerprints for leaves on trees or flowers as well as handprints for animals, etc.
    Love the pix.

  2. Gramma GG permalink
    January 19, 2012 6:08 pm

    Oh yes…Cheerio and Noodle art & necklaces!
    Note to self: Don’t intend on storing these “treasures.”


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