14 Free Activities That Burn Toddler Energy On A Cold Day


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By Alicia Barnes, liciabobesha.com

Brrrr, it’s cold outside. While the chilly temperatures make me want to curl up motionless under a blanket, they seem to energize my toddler. For my sanity and his nap’s sake, we’ve figured out these fun ways to wear him out while staying warm inside:

1. Play hide and go seek. Your toddler might not be ready to hide, but he will love looking with you. Practice counting as someone hides in the house then search! You can use this game to build your child’s vocabulary as you describe the rooms and give hints to help find the hidden person.

2. Learn a new song or fingerplay together. We love Mrs. Tracey’s version of “There was a little turtle”:

Though Halloween is long gone, we’re still doing “Five Little Pumpkins” at least once a week. Fingerplays are great because they encourage fine motor movement, strengthen the memory, and increase vocabulary.

3.  Have a dance party. Put on fun music and show your toddler your best move.  We play a mix between kids’ music and radio friendly songs to keep the party jumping. I strongly suggest you add “No more monkeys” to your regular playlist.

To make sure we’re not sitting still watching the screen, we prefer to listen to the song for free on repeat with no video while we dance until we can’t breathe.

4. Take a bubble bath with lots of toys such as cups, turkey basters, and plastic animals. You don’t have to be dirty to enjoy the suds. Your toddler will enjoy the change of routine and the waterplay early in the day.

5. March around the house calling, “Left, left, left, right left.” Teach your toddler rhythm, her right from her left, and get those legs moving. This is a good time to work on those gross motor skills like jumping or going up and down stairs.

6. Full movement call out songs. You might remember classics like “Father Abraham” but there are bunches of these songs out there like this penguin one which toddlers love:

Other options:
– A tootie ta
– Hot Potato

7. Line up your dining room chairs and go for a ride around the country on your choo choo train. Describe the terrain you’re passing. Talk about who you’re going to visit. Lean back when going uphill and forward when going down. For extra fun, break out a little Choo Choo Soul! Chugga Chugga Ah!

8. Go on a scavenger hunt. Give your toddler a bag and go collecting around your house. You can look for shapes, colors, or any category of item you know you have around. Plan ahead and make a list to use as your guide.

9. Practice yoga poses. Your toddler probably models downward dog all the time. Show him you can do it and other poses together like frog, cat, dog, and lion that are easy and a lot of fun.

10. Take a stuffed animal on a walk around the house. Develop imagination by feeding it imaginary food in an empty bowl. Show your toddler how to pet it and ask her what sounds animals make. Extend this to an art activity by making a dog house out of a cardboard box for pet to sleep. You can color, use stickers or markers, and make the house an all week activity.

11. Put the couch cushions on the floor and use them as landing pads or trampolines. Hold your toddler’s hands as he jumps up and down.

12. Host a playdate. Invite a toddler friend and let them wear each other out. Just be sure to have enough similar toys so there are no fights.

13. Crash a public space with enough room to allow running. On cold days, I’ve brought my child to the gym to play in an empty studio or racquetball court. We’ve seen other families who were racing their kids down the hallway. Besides the gym, we also go to the  student union building on campus in the mornings when students are still in bed and we’re free to be as loud as we like.

14. Find the free visit day or night at local museums especially children’s museums. Usually held on Fridays once a month, these nights give free entry. Children’s museums aren’t rooms of art on the wall, they’re buildings where kids can run, learn, have fun, and explore. Most don’t charge for children under a year old even on full price days. With all the activities and resources, they are worth it. Our small town doesn’t have one of these, but we do have a rarely visited clock museum with free entry that he loves to walk around and see all the clocks ticking and chiming.

Yes, it’s cold outside, but all is not lost. Be creative. Burn that energy, and remember, warmer days will be here soon.

How do you stay sane with your children during the winter? 

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Alicia is currently living her plan C or maybe D or F in a small college town where she divides her time between family, travel, work, and the internet. 

About Alicia B

Alicia lives and took a semester of photography in a small college town that often challenges her resolve to live as simply and as stress-free as possible. When she’s not working, rereading the same children’s books, cooking, or wondering how crunchy she’s become, she’s busy updating her site, liciabobesha.com. You can follow her on facebook.