Entertaining an active toddler is a new challenge with each season, as the sunny days in the park are no longer possible, you must look for new things to do that will delight your little one and keep them stimulated.
I’ve made a list of things you can do with your toddler(s) to keep them entertained and enjoy the new season both in and outside of the home.
Go for a walk in the woods
You never live too far away from woodland in the UK, so get your walking boots and wellies on and go and find a forest to roam! We recently had a lovely morning walk in Leigh Woods near our home and it was amazing. Zac walked and ran for well over an hour, collected sticks, hugged trees and rummaged around in piles of autumn leaves.
Find some puddles to jump in
Wellies and an all in one puddle suit is a must for your toddler when the weather gets wetter. I bought Zac this puddle suit from Amazon and we love it. You zip it right up and it keeps him and his clothes dry while he splashes about in the mud.
Once your toddler is dressed and shod accordingly, take them outside to find some puddles in the park and just let them jump around and splash. You won’t hear a laughter so contagious in your life when you let them do this for the first time.
Collect leaves and make a leaf collage
When you’re out on your walk, find some dry leaves you can collect and take home. Then when you’re warmed up, you can sit down with paper and glue and stick the leaves on a few sheets of paper, making a pretty autumn collage. They will love doing this- though it might get a bit messy (that’s why dry leaves are better, wet ones won’t stick and will make way more mess) don’t worry.
Go out and forage what you need to make an autumn treasure basket
Sensory/treasure baskets are always a win. They will keep your smalls entertained for hours on end and it’s an activity that will bring you both joy. Going on a walk with a purpose is a lot of fun too.
Get a cheap basket from a supermarket and take it with you on your next woodland walk. Tell them what you’re doing and show them what you’re looking for. Get them to collect pine cones, leaves, conkers, twigs, acorns, and maybe even any berries you find. Teach them the names of these things, get them to feel them and smell them. They will learn about colours, textures and smells. Take your basket home and put it somewhere safe so the contents can dry out. The next day, get the basket out and go through it with them again, touching each treasure, telling them about it and reminding them of your walk.
If it’s pouring with rain outside and your toddler needs to burn off some energy, then soft play is always a good option. Brace yourself, it’ll be horrendously busy and the place will smell like feet and wee but you can sit down for a bit and let them charge around and knacker themselves out somewhere safe that’s not your home.
Take them out for a hot chocolate & warm pie
This can be a fun treat for just you and them. Again, if they’re toddler age they will understand a fair bit of what you say so tell them where you’re going and explain what you’re doing as you go. Make them understand this is a special treat.
Somewhere like Starbucks, Costa or Pret a Manger will do nicely, but also maybe a local independent cafe if they’re geared up for small people. You won’t be there long, but it’s a nice treat.
Do some baking
Now, making anything in the kitchen with a toddler results in a mess. If I’m honest, I haven’t yet attempted to bake anything with Zac because he would destroy the kitchen and possibly burn us both to the ground so I’m going to wait a while longer. But I do like to sit him in his chair while I bake or cook and throw him snacks and talk him through everything I’m doing. I show him when I’m beating the eggs and say stuff like ‘ now where’s the milk?’ and get him to point at the fridge, so he’s a part of the process (just at a safe distance). Teaching them young about creating food in the kitchen can never be wrong.
Arts and crafts at home on a rainy day is always a winner, but prepare yourself for a little mess.
If you have a toddler table & chair set, then so much the better. Put newspaper down to collect any splashes and spills. It’s fun to watch them get creative! Sit with them and show them how to paint, paint your own tree and let them stick paper leaves on it. Hold the brush in their hand and help them paint their own tree. You will probably end up with a big splodge of paint and lots of little dots around it but that’s OK. It’s the idea that counts and it’s teaching them about making things and being creative.
Visit a local farm or garden centre
These are always winners in all seasons but work particularly nicely in autumn as there are both indoor and outdoor bits at both so you can easily dash inside if it rains. Let them meet all the animals, tell them what they are, get them to practise their farm animal noises and have a giggle with them. Let them touch the plants at the garden centre, sniff the leaves and flowers and practise naming colours. Perfect opportunity to buy a plant to take home as well. They will enjoy watching you water it and keep it fresh and well.
Watch a Disney film under a blanket
Perfect for chilly weekend mornings when you’ve got nowhere to be and it’s miserable outside. Tell them what you’re doing and make a big deal out of it, like it’s a treat. I don’t know why, but this seems to work a treat in getting them to actually sit down and cuddle up for a bit, rather than just sticking the dvd on and sitting on the sofa and hoping for the best.
Favourites in our house include Moana, Brave, Lady and the Tramp, Sword in the Stone and Ratatouille!
Make a blanket fort
Whilst you’ve got the blankets out, might as well make a fort. If they start to get bored sitting still, this is a good solution.
Get dining chairs, sofa pouffes, blankets, cushions, pillows and whatever you can involved in the fort making. Once you’ve made it and it holds, get inside and giggle with them and maybe sing along to the Disney songs in the background.
Here’s a good post on blanket fort building.
Make an obstacle course in your living room
If you’re short on room or your child tends to charge without thinking, then make an obstacle course for one of their toy cars or dolls or animals. You can make a really elaborate one if the toy is small enough and they will love watching you put it together. They might start handing you things, without a clue what you’re even doing at first. Once the obstacle course is in place, and you’ve shown them how to push/pull their toy around it for the first time, their eyes will light up in delight and they will repeat it approximately 48 times. Time for you to sit back down on the sofa for a minute and maybe even have a hot cup of coffee.
Put some music on and have a dance together
This works for any rainy day. Stick on some music that’s fun to dance to and just get dancing, they should follow you. Variations on this is pausing the music every so often, shout stop and freeze your dance move. They will do it too, if they’re old enough to understand this kind of game.
If you need to get them out of the house for some energy dispensing, then heading to your local pool is always a good idea. I have a swimming bag packed at all times in preparation for a sudden ‘right come on, we’re going swimming’ decision once I’ve exhausted all other avenues and Zac won’t nap/cheer up/stop tantrumming.
Put all the sofa cushions on the floor and play trampoline
This is a pretty fun game if you have sofa cushions that detach and that you don’t mind chucking your giggling toddler on to.
I do this to break a tantrum or simply to get him moving about if he needs to burn off steam and it’s raining outdoors.
Obviously make sure there’s nothing immediately around that they can bounce off and hurt themselves on or break.
Go to a museum or art gallery
Look up local exhibition spaces in your area and just go along. Describe each picture/installation, talk to them about colours and shapes and ask them questions. I always find having Zac in a sling on my back is the easiest way to take him round a museum or gallery.
Go for a ride on a train or bus
My son is mad about any kind of vehicles so this is always a win for us. If you’re stuck for something to do, just jump on a bus or walk to your nearest train station and buy a return ticket to somewhere reasonably close by. Sit with them looking out the window and talk to them about what you’re seeing. Ask them what they can see too.
Go and visit a local church or cathedral
I’m not of any faith but have always enjoyed the architecture and atmosphere of old churches and cathedrals. If you have a few minutes between activities or time to kill before going home, then hop into a church or cathedral nearby and show them around. Keep them in a sling or in arms if poss- it’s not great to let them run riot in a place of worship I would imagine.
Make Halloween decorations
Halloween’s just around the corner, so if you’re looking to introduce crafting to your home activities and want to keep them busy for a bit, make some decorations!
I will be trying this for the first time this year so will report back at a later date, but until then, here are some decent resources I’ll be using myself:
- DIY Halloween Decorations (Country Living)
- Toddler Halloween Crafts (Pinterest)
- Halloween Ideas for Toddlers (Rainy Day Mum)
- 21 Easy Halloween Crafts Toddlers will Love (Happy Hooligans)
- Halloween crafts (Activity Village)
Visit your local library
This is the most fail safe rainy day activity of them all. Get down to your local library (or register with a new one!) and visit the children’s books section. Most libraries will have small people chairs and a comfortable area for you to sit with them and peruse the books. Read one together, rent out a few and spend some time just enjoying the books together.
You might even stumble upon a baby group or toddler read & rhyme session so get involved in that too.
Do some gardening with them
If you’re lucky enough to have a garden and your toddler likes being outside, then consider making a little corner of the garden the ‘toddler patch’! Dress them appropriately, look for some toddler gardening sets (not an ad by the way, I just did a quick search and thought these looks lovely!) and let them loose!
You can show them how to dig, how to plant or make little stone circles. This will be messy and they’ll need a bath afterwards so a good one to start late afternoon or early in the morning so you can throw them in the shower afterwards.
Easy, cheap and makes funny popping sounds. And they get to eat it afterwards. What’s not to like?
Visit a local old people’s home if you’re allowed to do this
This is something I’d love to do with Zac because he’s so friendly, funny and sociable I know that he would bring a lot of cheeriness to older people who are feeling a bit lonely or poorly. There have been many stories lately about nurseries being set up within old people’s homes and I think it’s just a marvellous idea that brings a tear to my eye. I feel sad that my granny would never know Zac, as I’m sure she would have absolutely loved him. Just not the whole, single mother thing.
Anyway, it’s worth asking a few of your local homes and seeing if they would allow you and your toddler to visit. Ask if it would cheer them up or enjoy having a small one around. Take some books with you, they could sit and read with them perhaps.
Visit a National Trust property
Getting my national trust membership (not long before I found out I was pregnant actually) was a turning point in my adult life- when I realised this is how I wanted to spend my weekends, instead of lying in bed hanging out of my arse, eating cold Dominos and watching reruns of Red Dwarf.
There is an incredible wealth of stunning stately houses, landscaped gardens and protected woodland spots across the country. Supporting the national trust means investing in this heritage and helping them conserve this history. It’s only £5 a month for single membership too, so if you plan on visiting a few places it’s worth it. Many of these sites have wonderful children’s areas too, as I discovered at Dyrham Park.
Taking your little one to explore these places is a wonderful thing, as they will grow up loving beautiful gardens and learning about historical houses and times gone by – like I did. This is a passion that has never gone away for me, and I hope to instil the same in my son.
Go to a farm shop and buy the ingredients to make an autumn stew!
Farm shops are fantastic places to go to – they are packed full of fresh, homegrown produce and the people there are passionate about their produce and what you can do with it. If you ask a few questions, you’ll find yourself learning absolutely loads about local agriculture and farming practices.
When your toddler is old enough to understand about food, then take them to a good farm shop and talk them through all the different vegetables, meats, cheeses and chutneys. Buy a few bits and pieces and tell them you’re going to cook something yummy with them and that they can help. When you get home, cook up a feast (either with or without their ‘help’) and eat it together, whilst telling them about the ingredients again.
Go to an aquarium
A good option for a miserably wet day (after payday preferably as these places tend to be pretty pricey due to high maintenance costs). Aquariums are places of wonderment for small children; they will delight in the tropical blue and the exotic fishes and sea creatures dancing around through the glass. Another good opportunity to teach them about colours and wildlife names.
Play dress up
Every home should have a dressing up box. Mine, as a child, was epic. It was the envy of all my school girl friends. It was filled with long dresses, petticoats, capes, glittery coats, beads and bags and heeled shoes and all manner of fun things to wear around the house.
I have started putting together Zac’s dressing up box as I think that every child should have the option to go and do the food shop wearing a superhero cape or ballet tutu should they wish.
This is a good one to play with them (have your own dressing up box – collect strange attire from charity shops and keep it all for days like these). You can dress up together and invent characters to be. My son’s a little young for this still, but I cannot wait until we can play it!
So these are just a few ideas to keep you lot busy during the colder, wetter weekends – there’s plenty to do!
What would you add to the list?