As a stay at home mama to 2 energetic little girls, sometimes my internal battle is: should I just let the kids binge watch Netflix all day? Or should we actually do something productive to stimulate their little minds? I can proudly say that we save those Netflix binge days for sick days or “mental health” recharge days for mama. Haha
Sometimes being at home with young kids all day, who need that sensory stimulation, can be exhausting. And sometimes you run out of ideas to keep them entertained for longer than 5 minutes. So I thought I’d make a list of some of the indoor play activities that we use on a daily basis to maybe make the life of a fellow mama who’s looking for some ideas a tad bit easier.
My littles are 2 and 5 years old. They are at the age where sensory play is not only fun for them but necessary for them. It allows them to explore their world and make connections about it in different ways. Some things that we like to play with to encourage sensory play are:
Kinetic Sand- this stuff is so awesome and mess free! I would recommend going with a high quality, name brand kinetic sand. Because not all kinetic sands are created equal. Obviously if you have really young children, it would be a good idea to watch them the whole time they are playing with it because you know how curiosity goes. One minute it’s in their hands the next minute it’s in their mouths! But hey, that’s what sensory play is all about!
Play Doh- my kids absolutely love playing with Play Doh. They love squishing it, rolling it, patting it, etc. They love playing tea party and making me sandwiches and cookies with it. They got this little Play Doh popcorn machine for one of their birthdays and they can’t get enough of it! Play Doh is also good for their creativity. My 5 year old is learning that she can make different animals, people, cars, buildings, etc. out of Play Doh. Sometimes it can be messy and hard to keep them from mixing it. But i try not to be too strict when it comes to playing with it since Play Doh is pretty affordable anyway!
Water- Water is a great, inexpensive way to introduce sensory play to your children. My kids enjoy bathing their little toys in a container with water and soap, figuring out which things sink and which things float, or pouring water into different containers then doing it all over again! They never get tired of playing with water. I will usually put a few towels underneath their playing area, take their shirts off and let them have at it! If we are outside, it’s even easier!
Rice, beans, flour, coffee- you don’t have to buy fancy or expensive things for sensory play. Sometimes, the simplest things already found in your pantry can do the trick. My two year old loves playing with her dry beans and rice. She scoops ‘em up, pours ‘em out and does it all over again. We’ve also attended play and learn groups that have dried coffee beans ground up and they let the kids play with it like dirt! It’s really cool and probably more hygienic.
Hide and Seek
One of the girls favorite indoor games to play is hide and seek with daddy. Our 2 year old is just learning the concept although she sometimes still says “I’m over here Cam!” If she’s hiding with daddy while big sister is looking for them. They really enjoy this time and it’s something my husband plays quite often with them when he gets home from work. Hide and Seek is such a childhood pastime for me. I remember the countless games played with my cousins at my grandmas house, and the glory I’d feel if I was the best hider for that game. It brings me joy knowing that simple games like hide and seek will be a part of our daughters’ childhoods. And I can only hope that they will remember it as fondly as i do.
When our oldest daughter turned 3, it was as if a switch went off in her brain and suddenly she was able to sit down longer than 5 minutes to color a picture. Before that age, she would get bored very quickly with coloring! These days, at almost 5 years old, it seems that she could sit for hours quietly coloring. And she’s gotten quite good at it. She loves it and I love the pictures that she colors for me or free draws for me. It’s incredible seeing her little mind work. It’s like watching the little wheels turn as she is drawing a picture.
My 2 year old enjoys coloring for about 5 minutes and then is on to the next thing. However, if i want something that will keep both of my kids occupied, we paint. What kid doesn’t love to get messy? My 2 year old is definitely one who embraces the mess. She loves the texture of paint, the colors, the water (sometimes i think she likes this best haha).
I love seeing my kids express their creativity. I love looking at their pieces of art and knowing that their little hands created this beautiful picture. I love when they do something specifically for me: “Mama, here is a picture I colored for you.” “Mama, look i drew you and daddy holding hands.” “Mama, I made this for daddy so that he could take to work.” It’s truly a wonderful feeling.
Sometimes trying to get my kids to play with blocks when their room is filled with other toys is like pulling teeth. But sometimes it is magic. Sometimes they will play for over an hour by themselves, both building something unique. Those days are incredible.
And I feel building blocks like chunky legos, small legos, wood blocks, foam blocks, magnetic tiles, etc. are so important for shaping a young child’s brain. Especially, young girls. I don’t want my girls to fall into that stereotype of “Oh boys play with legos and girls play with dolls.” And that’s just the way it is. No I want my girls to have strong STEM minds. I want them to be well rounded and know that they can do anything they want. And if they don’t want to go into a STEM profession, so be it. But I want them to know that they could if they wanted to. So that is why even though it is like pulling teeth sometimes, I pull out the blocks of all kinds and attempt to build with them too!
Building a fort/ free play
And if all else fails, build a fort. Building a fort never fails, you can quote me on that! If I need some time to get things done around the house and the girls just don’t seem to want to leave my side, I’ll help them build a fort and let them pick some toys and books to play inside it. They can’t get enough of this! They absolutely love the coziness a homemade fort brings. They take their little dollies in there and play house. They read books in there. They put pillows and blankets and giggle together in there. I don’t know what it is, but I’m convinced that forts have some kind of hidden magic. Because I remember feeling the same way about them when i was little. Even now as an adult, i sometimes find myself getting giddy whenever I’m making one with the kids.
I hope these 5 ideas can spark your own imagination and creativity with your children. I also hope they can give you a few free minutes to catch up on your own self care throughout the day as they keep the kids entertained!