If you live in New England or any other part of the country where temperatures dip to freezing and below, you know how tempting it can be to stay inside for the season. With a baby or toddler in tow, just getting ready to go out in the cold can feel like a fulltime job. When it comes to staying warm outside on a winter’s day, there are no shortcuts. Hats, mittens, parkas, and boots are just some of the garments we all must wear to protect ourselves from winter’s biting elements.

Sure, you want to take advantage of Old Man Winter when a fresh blanket of snow descends. There’s nothing quite like making angels in a fresh bed of undisturbed snow, building your very own Frosty, and hearing the squeals of delight from your pull sled passenger. While winter events and activities like sledding and skating and skiing lend themselves quite well to family fun, there are oh so many things to do indoors as well.

10 Ideas for Indoor Play

These 10 ideas will just get the party started. Once your creative juices begin to flow, there’s no telling what you and your munchkins will come with on your own. Keep it light and fun, the sillier the better! Not only will you keep everyone occupied on a cold or dreary day, they’ll be amazed and entertained, too!

  1. Cook up a storm – indoors, of course. A meal as simple as pancakes can be quite entertaining for your budding sous chef. Perched from a highchair, let her stir the batter, smell the vanilla, or pop few blueberries into the mixing bowl, and most importantly, let her be the taste tester! When kids are involved in creating family meals, they just may be more apt to try new foods.
  2. Let’s play house. No matter how many toys are in the room, chances are your toddler will prefer to play with a broom. Don’t miss this opportunity! Toddlers love to help and will feel proud of their ‘cleaning accomplishments’. Starting at an early age with putting away their toys for instance, will help them feel like an important part of a smooth-running household. Give your pint-sized partner a pint-sized broom and let the housekeeping begin.
  3. Bring the snow inside. Yes, you read that correctly. Fill a bin with snow for a new twist on snow day entertainment. Sand toys work just as well in the snow for raking, scooping and building snow castles. Mix a little food coloring with water, arm the kiddos with paint brushes or spray bottles and watch a masterpiece be created right before your very eyes. Snowsuits not required.
  4. Make sensory bags. Start with a zip lock bag filled with hair gel and then fill it with all sorts of fun things for your baby or toddler to explore. Marshmallows, pasta, glitter, buttons and beads; the choices are as endless as the sky. Create sensory bags with themes to sneak in some learning, too. Think about creating bags to introduce colors, the seasons, the alphabet, numbers or nature.
  5. Build a fort. The best part about building an indoor fort is that you have all the essentials ready at hand: furniture, blankets and pillows. It’s the perfect backdrop for cozy story time, watching a movie and may even prompt an unexpected nap!
  6. Develop your baby’s fine motor skills. Give your little one pipe cleaners to thread through the holes of a colander, to thread cheerios on them, through cut up straws or to bend into different shapes. Another idea is to make holes in the lid of a plastic container and give your little buddy a stash of poms poms to push through the holes. Using a clothes pin to pick up and drop the pom poms in the holes will kick up the fine motor challenge an extra notch.
  7. Cut a rug. Crank up the tunes and have a dance party! This may be your ace in the hole when moods dip, crankiness is about to arrive, or you need to re-direct toddler energy. The hidden bonuses of dancing include improving physical fitness, reducing stress, boosting mood and self-esteem. Win, win.
  8. Give the toys a bath. And put your toddler in charge. She will take great pride in cleaning all her playthings and have fun splashing in the water. While you’re at it, put your toddler in the tub, too. Who says bath time needs to be in the evening before bedtime? No one here.
  9. Create an obstacle course. This is the perfect activity for your tiny energizer bunny. Cardboard boxes to crawl through, jump over or run around are all you need for hours of fun. Spruce it up with other toys you may already have like a mini slide, trampoline or pylons. Re-arrange the course with each use to keep the play challenging, increasing the difficulty as your child grows. On your mark, get set, go!
  10. Simon Says. This oldie but goodie is a great way for your youngins’ to improve gross motor skills and learn how to follow directions. Start with simple commands like ‘Simon Says touch your nose’, and gradually add in some complex directions like ‘Simon Says hop on your right foot three times’. Don’t forget, Simon doesn’t give every command.

It may be daunting to be the indoor entertainment director day-in and day-out when the weather outside is frightful, but the rewards are many. Not only are you providing enjoyment and activity for your child, but you are promoting her development as well. Disguised as play, there’s a lot of learning happening with very simple ideas and concepts. Best of all, the silly games and snuggle time are the stuff of memories.