6 activities to keep toddlers engaged on a rainy day

It's wise to have a few tricks up your sleeve when the weather keeps you indoors.

boy coloring in living room

Generally speaking, rainy days and toddlers don't mix very well. It's not so much that we must go outside, but simply that, on a rainy day, it's probably not an option. After surviving the winter months, I just expect to start spending more and more time outside with my toddler (or in between naps at least). It's hard to wake up on a rainy day and have to be the bearer of bad news: No splash pad today. No picnic for lunch. No playground with friends.

For days such as these, I like to have a few tricks up my sleeve—special, engaging activities my toddler loves that I only pull out on days when the disappointment is high and we're all bound to go a little stir crazy. They're simple enough that you don't have to pull your hair out over setup or clean up, but they are bound to get your kiddos' imaginations revving. (Plus, you don't have to feel guilty for putting Frozen II on for the sixth time this week.)

Here are my top 6 cabin fever busters. May they save you this spring when it's too yucky to go out.


Make homemade play dough

toddler playing with playdough

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My kiddos have a container of regular PlayDoh, but just like paints, it's not a go-to activity for us. When I really want to brighten up a rainy day, we make our own. There are dozens of homemade playdough recipes floating around Pinterest, and it's fun to try several to experiment with different textures. Family Education has six recipes to choose from, which is good because you're bound to have the ingredients for at least one of them!

Build a fort

toddlers building fort in living room

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Now tent building is something we do regularly in our house. My girls love a good nest for reading books and watching movies. But on a rainy day, when you're surely going to leave the fort up all day, we like to jazz things up. It's not a regular fort, it's a cool fort. Trust me: be the mom who crawls into the storage space to retrieve the Christmas lights and string them inside the tent. The reaction is totally worth it.

Get out your paint and paint brush

toddler painting window

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I don't love a toddler art project, to be honest. Watercolors I can deal with, okay; acrylic paint and toddlers just don't always mesh well together. So if I break out the fun poster paints, I'm already winning. But what I've discovered is that switching up the canvas from the paper-covered easel goes a long way to increasing the fun. We've painted rocks, old t-shirts, popsicle sticks, a broken down cardboard box, and other nonsense items that are easy to find tucked in the dark corners of closets and basements.

Make an inside beach

toddler on floor with blanket

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I think I have Daniel Tiger to blame for this one, but my girls almost like an inside beach better than the real one (we're still working on our relationship with sand). We clear out the living room, make one blanket sand and one blanket water, then add accordingly: the toy fish and sharks on the water blanket; buckets, shovels, and the seashell collection on the sand blanket. Surround the whole scene with every plant in the house for an island feel, turn on the reggae, and everyone changes into swimsuits. You'll instantly forget it's actually raining outside.

Bake "no-bake" cookies

toddler baking cookies

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Baking is a great stay-at-home activity, but with toddler "assistance", it needs to be an easy project. We love to make no-bake cookies. You can make them free of processed sugar, and when the kids ask to eat the dough, you can actually say yes! Here is an easy-peasy no-bake cookie recipe that we love (please note it does contain peanut butter in case there are any nut allergies in your family).

Conduct a science experiment

coloring celery science experiment

reinasierra/Twenty20

I love finding activities that are fun for my kids, while also making me feel like I am invested in their learning. For us, that thing is science experiments. We've had the most fun filling up afternoons where we didn't know what else to do, just googling science experiments to try. Our recent favorites? An amazing baking soda volcano from Preschool Inspirations and Tinkerlab's coloring celery experiment (which, by the way, won me 3rd place in the 2nd grade science fair, so...).

The great thing about these activities is that they're appropriate for a wide variety of ages; and they really tap into the kind of imagination that will keep you busy and happy for a whole day. What do you do with your kids on a rainy day inside?