20 no-toy indoor activities for toddlers – with little to no prep

If you are looking for some quick and easy indoor activities for your toddler, then you’ve come to the right place. These 20 activities are both fun and have been approved by my toddler – and best of all? They require no toys and little to no preparation.

I have days where I just stare at Eva’s ever growing stack of toys and wonder how it happened. She’s 2 years old and already has more toys that she can find the time to play with. We try not to buy her toys unless it’s her birthday or Christmas (but I must admit I do enjoy making her little games and activities)- and then we try to buy her the “boring” soft presents like a duvet or clothes. But we do have a large family which means a lot of presents for her birthday and Christmas which usually means toys. It’s not that I find toys to be bad, not at all – it’s just that that they are taking over our living room (and kitchen… and bedroom… and storage room), which would be fine if she played with all of this stuff. But most of the time when I find myself staring at the stack of toys, it’s because she is busy playing with anything but her toys. It turns out that besides a few special toys she prefers to play with our kitchen equipment, her socks or the occasional cardboard box mixed with her imagination.

Below I’ve gathered 20 ideas for small activities that take almost no time to set up and which don’t require any toys. 

20 ideas for no-toy indoor toddler activites that requires little or no preperation

All of these activities are some Eva has enjoyed during the last six to 10 months (she is now 2,5 years ). The length of the activities varies from a few minutes to an hour plus. Many of the activities Eva can and will do on her own while others require that Mom, Dad or another playful person joins in.

  1. Washing dishes. Eva loves doing the dishes – or well, at least getting them wet and scrubbing them with the dish brush. Maybe sometimes adding soap or the occasional dirty water. But nonetheless, she loves doing this. And if we’re in a hurry to get food on the table or the meal we’re preparing is not quite suited for the help of a toddler, then this is a great way to keep her occupied and happy. If we’re not in the kitchen I however prefer her to clean some of her plastic containers (that can handle water without being ruined and being dropped without breaking) in either her bathtub or a big bucket. I usually hand her a washcloth for this. 

  2. Cleaning and doing chores. One of the most amazing things about toddlers are their desire to be included and helping out. Vacuuming, cleaning or tidying up are therefore chores that Eva will gladly help with if invited. Eva’s favourite – other than doing the dishes – is by far vacuuming, but she can easily be persuaded into helping with pretty much any other task like sorting the socks when folding the laundry, cleaning the table with a wet cloth, sweeping the floor with a small broom or re-organizing her plates (okay, the last one is probably more her idea of helping rather than actually helping).

  3. Stacking. You really don’t need special stacking toys for your toddler to learn how to stack (though I believe a lot of toy manufacturs would like you to believe so – and yes, we do own a set of stacking blocks which only purpose is stacking). Instead you can build towers with plastic cups (or any other lightweight and safe-if-they-brake/hard-to-break items you have lying around like old tissue boxes, toilet paper rolls etc.).

  4. Pretend cooking and eating. You don’t need a play kitchen or wooden play fruits and cakes (though they are awesome) for your toddler to have a blast pretending to cook and eat. Eva loves our silicone push up popsicle molds and our muffins cups, but our salad spinner, colander and our different plates and spoons are also items that often find their way out of the kitchen and into the living room where Eva will play with them for ages. Currently making us coffee and feeding us cake is a favourite of hers, though during the summer making us all popsicles and getting us to pretend lick them was the thing to do according to Eva.

  5. Playing dressup. Mom and dad’s shoes and cloths are a big hit at our home, but so are Eva’s own hats, her tiger costume and her dancing dresses (which are just dresses that twirls really well when spinning around). She is still a bit young for this activity, but the older she’s gotten, the more she has played around with different clothes, so I can only imagine that this activity will become an even bigger hit, the older she gets.

  6. Playing with socks. So simple and yet it can entertain for hours (I’m not exaggerating). Socks can be used for so many small activities like folding and unfolding, practicing taken them on and off, putting them in muffin shapes and pretend they are muffins and many more. Check out this earlier post for more ideas on what your toddler can do with socks.

  7. Drumming on containers or cardboard boxes. Either with kitchen utensils like chop sticks or a spatula or simply let your toddler use his or her hands. This activity however comes with a warning. When you have allowed your toddler to drum away on a pot just once, it can be hard to explain to them, why they aren’t allowed to do it another time, so think twice before you  let them use steel pots and steel utensils.

  8. Singing and dancing. It’s an obvious one. I mean which toddler doesn’t like to sing and/or dance? I’m still adding it to the list though, as sometimes we forget the obvious ideas despite them staring us right in the face. So pop on some music, find a youtube playlist or just start singing or romping around. I bet your toddler would love to join in.

  9. Talking on the phone. Eva loves calling her grandparents or her aunt and cousins on the phone and having a chat with them. Both for real and pretend. It’s a guarantied yes, if we ask her if she wants to call her grandma.

  10. Taking a bath. I know, many of you won’t consider this an activity, but more something that their child needs to do. But if your toddler is like Eva, then they love taking a shower – especially if they get to take different containers, a colander or simply a washcloth with them. You of course need to supervise your toddler when they take a shower, but it’s a great way to keep him or her entertained for a while. And as an added bonus: you get a clean child out of this activity! 

  11. Playing with a lock and key. Eva likes locks. Especially the ones that seperate her from something she wants and which we don’t want here to get. Taking that into account this might seem like a counterproductive idea, but if we forget that for a moment, then this is a fun little activity that is very fast to set up and – depending on your toddler of course – can keep your little one entertained for a good 15 minutes (where you in turn can think about a new way to keep things out of your toddler’s reach).

  12. Putting straws, Q-tips or ribbons into a bottle or a similar container. A simple, but suprisingly entertaining game for young toddlers. Just open a clean bottle and hand them some straws/ribbons and show them have to get them in and out of the bottle, and tada, you’ve just created 15 minutes to tidy up (read: sit very quietly in the sofa with your feet up while you enjoy a cup of coffee).

  13. Drawing and colouring – especially on different things. You don’t need special markers or pens for this. Eva will be more than happy to be allowed to draw with a regular pencil or pen but of course colours are more fun. Just make sure that you keep an eye out for your toddlers if you hand them something that can’t be washed off. And then let them draw on whatever you have. Like toilet paper roll, news paper, magasin or the old classic: pop them into a huge cardboard box. And if you don’t have anything but paper, then make a quick drawing of something your toddler likes and invite them to colour it – that’s always a success with Eva.

  14. Looking at new and old photos and taking photos together.  Eva especially loves looking at photos of herself with her family and the other children from her daycare, but generally looking at photos of herself and talking about the photos is something she is always up to. She is also really interested in taking photos. When ever she sees us photographing something with our phones she’ll either dictate what to take a photo of next or insists that she takes the next photo. Usually it will be of photo of whatever she’s just been playing with or 12 identical selfies.

  15. Helping mom or dad cook or bake. All toddlers just want to be part of the family, so instead of trying to occupy them with an activity of their own while you try to get supper ready, why not invite them to participate? Hand them a peeler and let them work with a carrot, let them pour the flour into the bowl or simply ask them to get you stuff. If you don’t do this already I’m sure you’ll be suprised by your little one’s eagerness to join in. Eva’s favourite is adding ingredients and pushing the button for the blender when making smoothies.

  16. Playing animals with mom or dad. These days Eva loves doing this more than anything else I can think of. Especially when Dad plays a monkey and throws her in the air or when she plays a cat and demands cuddles. It can sometimes be a challenge to brush her teeth when she is a cat though.

  17. Doing gymnastics and wrestling with mom or dad. Mostly dad these days, but I can be persuaded. It’s a great way to burn of some energy – especially if it’s raining outside. Ben and I are also trying to introduce some yoga to her (not that we are very good at it ourselves) and she is suprisingly into it – and way more flexible than us.

  18. Matching lids and containers. Just grab a random number of containers with different sized lids and open them. Hand them to your toddler and ask them to put the lids on. To make it easy find lids and containers that are very different, and to make it harder, find some that are very similar, but still not identical.
  19. Exploring mom or dads wallet. Or if you don’t have the nerves,  hand them their own wallet with all expired cards or gift cards, some coins and old receipt etc. This is especially fun for younger toddlers.
  20. Looking for items inside containers. Put some fun or interesting things into different kinds of containers – preferable with different locking mechanisms, but not a necessity – and let your toddler open and discover what’s inside. Use a glass container, a jewlery box, a plastic container and/or a lunch box and hide little things like a spying glass, a small book, a set of gloves or whatever random thing you think they’ll find fun or interesting.


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