Rainy days are great for splashing in puddles but eventually, you'll have to come back inside. If you find yourself looking at several hours to fill inside with a toddler, don't panic. When this happens I have a go-to list of activities that are always a hit. These ideas don't require a lot of planning and make use of things I already have around the house. Keep this list handy for when a rainy day cancels your plans and keeps you indoors.
Go Swimming: For most parents, the goal is to stay dry on rainy days. Why not do the opposite and go swimming in the bathtub? Throw a swimsuit on your toddler, promise that no one's hair will be washed, and allow some splashing in the tub.
Air Balloon: Keep a few balloons around for a rainy day. When your toddler starts climbing the walls, help them get their energy out by blowing one up and working with them to keep the balloon in the air for as long as possible. If you want to plan ahead, make things easy on yourself and try a Zuru Bunch O Balloons that are self-sealing and come with a small air pump for under $25.
Build a Fort: Rain or shine toddlers love forts! Grab a blanket or take the cushions off the couch and build a fort. Crawl inside to read a book or have a secret snack. A Big Blanket that is really big at 10' by 10' makes epic forts in seconds but any blanket or sheet can work!
Reuse the Recycling: Dig into the recycling bin and pull out anything usable to create a cardboard box and bubble-wrap masterpiece.
Handy Handprints: Those toddler hands and feet get so big so quickly! Use your rainy day at home to make some hand-and-foot prints. As a bonus, you can save these to give to grandparents the next time they visit. To add more interest, turn the handprints into dinos, birds, or trees.
Make Tracks: Grab a little flour or rice from the pantry and let your toddler drive their Hot Wheels through the "snow" to create some tracks.
Shaving Cream Shenanigans: For an inexpensive activity that will keep your little one busy for a long time, break out the shaving cream. Paint with shaving cream on a cookie sheet or on the shower wall. If you are feeling brave, add a few drops of food coloring.
Colander Capers: Work on fine motor skills while passing the time on a rainy day. Grab your colander and whatever you have on hand that fits through the holes. Toddlers love watching spaghetti fall through. Pipe cleaners are great for weaving in and out if your toddler is up for a challenge.
Lovely Lava: Homemade volcanos never cease to amaze kids. Grab a cup and throw in some baking soda, squirt in a little dish soap, add in some vinegar, and watch the magic unfold! If you have some food coloring on hand, add some red dye to make your volcano even more realistic. Cover your table with newspaper or put your volcano on a baking sheet for easy clean-up.
Pots and Pans: This one isn't for the faint of heart, but banging on pots and pans always brings toddlers a special kind of joy. Grab some wooden spoons and start a marching band around the living room
Launch a Raspberry Attack: Surprise your child by sitting quietly then launching into back-to-back raspberries on their cheeks, feet, and belly. Lots of laughter will ensue!
Have a Dance Party: Grab some hairbrushes and queue up the tunes while you and your sidekick sing and dance your hearts out. This is a good one to try just before nap time to tire your little one out.
Box Building: Chances are you have a cardboard box sitting around somewhere. Whether it's a shoebox or an Amazon box or a refrigerator box, it can be turned into something fabulous. Cut out a couple of flaps and make it into an instant garage for your toddler's car collection. Or, glue some cut-out triangles on top and make an instant castle.
Resist Drawing: Creating a resist drawing is simple but will take some elbow grease. Take any piece of paper and help your toddler cover it with scribbles using every color in the crayon box except black. Then, take the black crayon and completely cover your colorful scribbles. Finally, supervise your child while they use something like a paper clip or sharpened pencil to go over the piece of paper. Only the black crayon on top will disappear revealing the color underneath.
Give Their Babies a Bath: It's possible that your toddler's dolls and action figures have never had a bath. Fill a large Tupperware container or the sink with warm water and a few drops of dish soap. Then, help your toddler bathe their dolls or action figures. This may keep your tot busy for a surprisingly long amount of time and their toys will sparkle at the end!
Have a Picnic: Rainy days aren't the obvious time to have a picnic but your children will be delighted to spread out a blanket on the living room floor for a picnic lunch.
Reading Marathon: Does your kiddo always ask for one more book? A rainy day trapped inside is the perfect time to say yes to all the books. Grab all of the favorite books and hunker down on the sofa for as long as it takes to get through them all.
Hide and Seek: Hide and Seek is a toddler classic. When it's their turn to hide, add to the fun by making a big deal of not being able to find them. Make sure your hider is within earshot and say things like "Oh no! Grandma is going to be so sad she will never see Jane again!" or "I'm going to have to call Daddy to tell him I lost Sam so he can come home and help me look." Chances are your toddler will start laughing so hard you will then be able to "find" them.
Time to Do the Laundry: Grab the laundry basket and put your toddler inside covered with clothes. Grab a big handful of clothes along with your toddler and pretend to walk to the washing machine to do the laundry. Never put your toddler in the washing machine but you can get close before you realize your mistake in almost washing your toddler with a bunch of dirty socks.
Toddler-on-the-Go: Just because it's raining doesn't mean your toddler has any less energy than on a sunny day. Ask them to run down the hallway and back while you time them. Then, challenge them to go faster. This is a good activity to try just before naptime to ensure you get a nice, long rainy day break.
Crayon sorting: Challenge your little buddy to a color sorting race by taking each color crayon and putting them in a corresponding cup. This is a great opportunity to teach colors and matching while getting your crayon collection organized.
Freeze Dance: A spontaneous dance party can be even sillier if you stop the music and make the kids freeze. For even more silliness suggest that your toddler try to stand on one leg or freeze mid-hop.
Scavenger Hunt: Hide one of your toddler's stuffed animals and go on a search throughout the house together. Give clues along the way. Make it a bear hunt or a quest to find a tiger that went missing from the zoo to add a little more interest.
Shadow Tracing: Set up a figure like a dinosaur on a white piece of paper and ask your kids to trace its shadow. If there is any sunlight this can easily be done by setting up near a window. If it's a very gray and dreary rainy day you can create a shadow by placing a flashlight just behind the toy.
Stupendous Socks: A pair of balled-up socks can be used for a surprising number of toddler-friendly games. They are safe to use to play catch in the house. Or, use them to play basketball with a plastic cup or laundry basket hoop. Another fun way to use balled-up socks is to roll them down a hallway and try to knock down superheroes or other small toys. If you find that one pair of socks isn't working, add another pair or two to the ball.
How High Can You Go?: Grab all of your blocks, Magna-Tiles, and anything else that can be stacked up. Start building a tower. Then grab a chair for your tot to stand on and keep going. Build as tall a tower as you can, trying to make it all the way up to the ceiling.
Write a Book: Ask your toddler to tell you a story. Write no more than one or two sentences on each page then ask your storyteller to illustrate their work. Once you are done, staple the pages together and give the book a place of pride on your bookshelf.
Take a Walk Down Memory Lane: Toddlers usually think they are the center of the universe (and they are probably right)! A rainy day is a perfect time to go through baby pictures and the baby book and tell all the stories about when they were born, relive their first steps, and answer any questions about their first two (or three) years. Once that is over show them other family albums, like a wedding album or family reunions from before they were born, and ask them to try to spot important people like Grandma and their cousins.
Create a New World: Whether your child is into dinosaurs, princesses, or superheroes, their imaginary world could probably use an upgrade. Grab some construction paper and crayons and draw a prehistoric scene, a castle or superhero HQ. Tape it to the wall and you have an instant new storyline ready for your toddler to explore. If you have an empty box laying around go a step farther and make a diorama.
—Jamie Davis Smith