The temperatures may be dropping, but your toddlers' energy most certainly is not. Keeping your toddler entertained all winter long can feel rather challenging. When the cabin fever kicks in, and trust us it will, you can create a world of fun with these 5 indoor/outdoor winter themed activities. The best part is that you probably already have the materials needed around the house! Whether you’re looking for ways to keep your little ones entertained on a snowy day or simply want to help them appreciate the beauty of winter, these five activities and crafts are sure to help your toddlers get their wiggles out while having fun!
Arctic Animal Ice Rescue
Ice play is fun no matter the season, but this simple invitation gets a great winter twist when you freeze arctic animals in the water! This science based sensory play also teaches toddlers and preschoolers about melting and the change of temperatures.
- Muffin Pan or Tray of Choice
- Arctic Animal Figurines
- Food Coloring
- Salt (Optional)
- Spray Bottles/Droppers
- Plastic Tweezers
- Blue and White Pom Poms
- To prep this activity, begin by placing arctic figurines inside each muffin tin. Fill the muffin pan with water and mix in blue food coloring. Your kids can help you with this process. Food coloring is optional but toddlers love seeing the brightly colored ice! Place the tray in the freezer overnight or for as long as needed.
- Once frozen, add the arctic animal ice cubes to your bin of choice. We like to add in blue and white pom poms for extra sensory fun.
- Supply your child with salt, water bottles and/or droppers, and child friendly digging tools (ie. plastic tweezers, plastic knives …) to help break the ice.
Adding salt to the ice will help melt the ice faster. The salt on the surface of the ice prevents re-freezing by lowering the freezing point of water. This is called freezing point depression.
Tell your child that the animals are stuck inside the ice and need to be rescued. Challenge them to get the animals out of the ice with the materials you supplied them with.
Your kids will have fun rescuing the arctic animals from the ice all while working on their fine motor skills and learning about science! Once all the animals are rescued the fun doesn’t have to end. The bin will be filled with blue water, pom poms and arctic animals for some fun sensory water play!
Easy 2-Ingredient Moldable Snow
If you look up how to make DIY snow for sensory play online, you may find a few different recipes. This recipe is one of our favorites because it uses inexpensive ingredients you likely already have in your house and is super moldable, just like real snow!
- Shaving Cream (not gel)
- Half the fun of this recipe is making it! So if you are ready to get messy, invite your toddler to come create this DIY snow with you!
- Start by pouring about 1.5 cups of cornstarch into a bowl. Then, slowly mix in equal parts shaving cream until it reaches a perfect snowy consistency. If you want to make a lot of snow, add more ingredients. The key is using equal parts.
- It is best to mix with your hands because the more you knead the snow, the more it will stick together. You will notice that the more shaving cream you mix in, the more moldable the mixture becomes. If you do however want the snow to be more crumbly, then add more cornstarch. We prefer using equal amounts of cornstarch and shaving cream in order to make snow that is dense and moldable.
Once your snow is prepared you can do anything you want with it! We enjoy using it to make pretend snowmen and create winter themed small world sensory bins. Add in some themed toys or use cutters and molds to create fun shapes!
Have you ever taken your toddler outside on a snowy day only to find that they are disappointed with the amount of snow fallen? There's hardly enough for snow balls and there's definitely not enough for sledding or making snowmen. So what now? Try painting the snow!
- Food Coloring
- Spray Bottles/Squirt Bottles
- Making snow paint is so easy! It only requires two ingredients, water and food coloring! Grab some spray bottles to fill with water.
- Have your toddlers help mix in the food coloring and create the colors they want. They will love helping mix the paint almost as much as they will love using it!
- Once you have your snow paint, take the bottles outside and start creating designs in the snow.
If you have enough snow to build a snowman try painting it different colors!
There is a whole blank canvas of snow outside to create on! After you're done, don’t forget to grab a bin of snow to bring inside and freeze. This activity is just as fun to do inside in a sensory bin as it is outside!
Tape Resist Snowflakes
Toddlers will be amazed with how fun tape resist painting is. If you’ve never heard of tape resist art, it is a process art project that uses tape to create a border and shapes out of negative space. For some winter themed art, try using the tape resist concept of painting to make snowflakes!
- Watercolor Paper or Canvas
- Painters Tape
- Watercolor Paints
- Tear or cut off strips of painters tape and press it onto the paper. First on the edges to create a border and then in the pattern of snowflakes. You will want to do this part for your toddler. Press the edges of the tape down as securely as possible. This will prevent the watercolors from seeping under the edges of the tape and distorting the image.
- Instruct your child to paint over the entire canvas. You can have a discussion about what the sky might look like when it's snowing. Your toddler may still choose to paint the sky any color they want and that's okay! Let them use their imaginations!
- Let the paint dry. Once dry, it's time for the big reveal! I guarantee your toddler will be so excited about this part! Have your toddler help you peel off the tape, it’s a great way to practice their fine motor skills. Once peeled off, the image of the snowflake will be visible and surrounded by the beautiful colors your toddler painted.
Hot Chocolate Sensory Bin
What’s the first thing kids want to drink when they come inside from playing with the snow? Hot Chocolate! This fun Hot Cocoa themed sensory bin is sure to delight your toddlers and ignite their imagination! If you are like us, you probably even have some stale chocolate flavored cereal (that your child once begged for) and stale marshmallows in your pantry. (If you don’t have marshmallows, cotton balls make great pretend marshmallows.)
- Chocolate Cereal
- Marshmallows or Cotton Balls
- Bin of Choice
- Mugs (paper or pretend)
- Any Other Pretend Utensils of Choice
This sensory bin is so easy to put together. Just set up all the above materials in the bin and invite your toddler to play. You can pick and choose what to add into the bin based on the materials you have available. It doesn’t need to be fancy to be fun!
You may even get to drink a real cup of hot cocoa (or coffee) yourself while your child is busy playing independently! If that’s not your cup of tea, we’re sure your toddler will offer you a pretend one!
Written by Amanda L.
Amanda is the mom behind the blog A Balanced Childhood. As a former art major, elementary school teacher, and now stay at home mom of three, she uses her blog and instagram account @abalancedchildhood to showcase her love of learning through play. She focuses on activities that aim to help develop language, motor skills, creativity, and social/emotional learning, while practicing mathematics, science, and literacy.