5 Everyday Items That Foster Creative Indoor Play

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Image via Flickr/ Justin Henry

As winter weather that limits outdoor play rolls in, many parents wonder just how they’re going to keep their toddler or preschooler occupied inside all day. While kids are usually pretty good at coming up with games of their own, those games aren’t always the safest, cleanest or quietest. Instead of leaving your kiddos to their own devices (or letting them watch more TV than you're comfortable with) try laying out a few everyday items that foster independent, creative play!

1. Blankets

If your little one has never built a play-fort or tent from blankets, they’re in for a real treat! Show your baby the basics of fort building and then, once they’ve gotten the hang of it, step away and watch their creativity unfold. Many kids enjoy building, disassembling, and rebuilding their fort until they get it just right and then, once it’s perfect, snuggling up inside to play. Somehow the toys they refused to play with yesterday take on a new life when they're being played with in a fort. Bonus points if you have a flashlight your little one can take inside! 

2. Blank paper

Most kids love to create art. You don’t have to be an artist yourself or have any sort of special supplies to help them have a blast creating masterpieces they’ll be proud of. Lay out ordinary white paper and some crayons or colored pencils and watch them get creative. If your little one gets stuck or doesn’t know what to draw, try prompting them with items or places in your everyday life. For example, you might suggest they draw their preschool teacher or their favorite toy. If you have a little one who is motivated by giving, let them know you’ll mail their artwork to friends and family once they’ve finished.

3. Plastic cups and bowls

Nothing says “toddler” like an obsession with stacking. Instead of using your little one’s usual blocks or toys, give them a challenge by setting out some of your plastic bowls and cups and asking them to build the tallest tower they can. Once they’re finished playing, engage their desire to complete grown-up tasks by inviting them to help you return the cups and bowls to their usual spot. 

4. A suitcase 

Kids have great imaginations. Let them pack for an imaginary trip by getting out a suitcase and telling them where you would go if you could go anywhere in the world. Remind them of the sort of things you might need on your vacation and watch them pack and unpack all afternoon.

5. Rice

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If you have an area of your home that has a hard-surfaced floor, consider situating this activity there as it may require just a bit of sweeping up when you're done. Grab a few large bowls, some spoons or scoops, and a bag of regular, uncooked rice. Pour the rice into one bowl and task your tot with moving it to the next by using the different utensils you provide. Little ones will love the challenge and the way the tiny grains of rice feel between their fingers!

What's your favorite creative indoor play activity?

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5 Everyday Items That Foster Creative Indoor Play

Julia Pelly has a master's degree in public health and works full time in the field of positive youth development. Julia loves hiking after work, swimming during the summer and taking long, cuddly afternoon naps with her two sons on the weekends. Julia lives in North Carolina, with her husband and two young boys. You can find more of her work at JuliaPelly.com ... More

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