Mum reading to children

Are you trying make the most of time indoors with your little one? We’ve rustled up some creative ways to entertain them, without having to step outside.

Whether you have a baby, a toddler or both, here are some ideas to create a stimulating environment in your own home. You might also stave off cabin fever.

First of all, things might get a little bit messy. Your baby builds their experience of the world through touch and smell, as well as the more obvious sight and sound (Murray, 2014).

"Encourage them to explore different materials to stimulate their senses. They’ll learn to notice the different feels, scents, textures and noises everyday items make."

If you have a baby, you could embrace the mess with some sensory play.

Some of our favourites, which will keep toddlers entertained too, include:

Water play

If you have a non-carpeted floor somewhere, a bit of water play will go a long way in keeping babies engaged. Put your washing-up bowl on the floor with a range of plastic cups, bottles or whatever you have handy. Just make sure you have a towel (or five) to hand.

Food for thought

Raid your cupboards and you’ll find a treasure trove of sensory items just waiting to be explored by teeny hands. Rice, lentils, different shapes of pasta or even breakfast cereal are all ideal.

Try filling a plastic bottle to create a makeshift rattle. If you’re feeling intrepid, experiment with food colourings for an added sensory element. Just make sure you’re nearby to prevent your little one choking on those tiny bits of food.

Get gloopy

‘Gloop’ has a unique texture, changing from a solid feel to a liquid feel as it’s handled. You might hate it, but your baby will probably love it.

Here's how to make gloop, simply mix:

  • two cups of water
  • one cup of cornflour
  • a drop of food dye for a colour hit.

Then watch the fun unfold. Keep an eye on your baby to make sure they don’t try and gobble the gloop though…

Not so messy messy-play

Want to give your baby the opportunity to play with paint, but can’t bear the thought of it in your own home? We have the ideal solution. Simply squirt a bit of washable paint into a resealable sandwich bag. Your baby can explore the texture and squeeze to their heart’s delight, and your soft furnishings will remain intact.

Things to make and do with a toddler

1. Build a den

Kids love a den. Chairs, blankets, sheets and sofa cushions. Use whatever furniture you have to create a fun space for your little one to crawl into. For extra delight, give them a torch to take inside.

2. The Great Toddler Bake Off

Mixing ingredients, rolling out dough, cutting different shapes and exploring creativity with icing. All perfect activities for a grey day. Keep the recipe simple and let the mess take centre stage.

3. Make a bird feeder

This easy bird feeder tutorial from the RSPB is a fun way to repurpose yoghurt pots (or similar) while using up some leftovers. Be sure to hang it in good view of a window so you can watch the feasting take place. Tweet, tweet.

4. Have an indoor picnic

Who says picnics are just for outdoors? Your baby or toddler will love the change of scenery, and the novelty of eating off a rug instead of the table.

5. Keep in touch...online

It’s good for babies and toddlers to interact with others. In the time of social distancing and self-isolation, how about using FaceTime or WhatsApp to make video calls. It will be nice for you and baby to see your friends and family. 

This page was last reviewed in November 2018

Further information

Visit our local activities and meet-ups page and enter your postcode to search for your local NCT group. You can then contact your closest branch to see what's happening in your area. There are various online groups and chats available.

Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.

Murray, L. 2014. The development of children’s communication in the first two years: a research overview. Perspective. [Online]. Issue 23 15-20. Available from: https://www.nct.org.uk/sites/default/files/related_documents/Murray%20The%20development%20of%20children%c2%b9s%20communication%20in%20the%20first%20two%20years-%20a%20research%20overview%20pp%2015-20.pdf [Accessed 6 Nov 2018]

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