top of page

22 Little to No-Prep Indoor Activities for 1-2 year-Olds

We often want to be with our kids and to play with them. After all, they are only so small for so long. But, unfortunately, as the adults in the house we have to do a little bit more than play all day. Dishes need to be washed, clothes need to be put away, and food needs to be made.

I had to start thinking of things for Charlie to do when she became mobile and her attention span got shorter.

I hate sticking her in front of the TV too much. We definitely utilize it a couple times throughout the day when we can see she needs a small break to just chill (a blog post about positive technology programs coming soon). But it’s not something we want her getting used to, so we started coming up with activities to not only keep her busy but allow her to play and learn all at once. Also, a couple of these I found on my beloved Pinterest feed. Check out my Kids board here:

I’d read that kids her age learn best by doing, by being immersed in the world and exploring the things around them. At this age, they are learning motor skills, language, and basic knowledge (numbers, animals, and everyday objects). It’s never too early to introduce these ideas! Even before they can speak they can still grasp an idea and recognize patterns.

And really, patterns are how we learn!

So here’s some things we did that would pass the time and help Charlie have fun while still catching those developmental milestones.

(Under certain ideas I will put more ideas. Typically, I’d start giving Charlie just one or two things to do. When she would start looking bored, I’d just add new objects to the mix to make things more interesting.)

**I am not paid for advertisements—any products I suggest are ones that I actually approve of from my own purchases and experiences.**

None of these entail zero supervision. I always suggest keeping at least one eye on the these little buggers! So some of these might need you to step in once in awhile.

1) Foil Balls:

-I roll up a bunch of little balls of foil (careful, plenty go in the mouth) and put in a Ziploc baggie or cup (the more objects to hold them the better).

-Save paper towel rolls and tape to walls, so they can drop the foil balls through them and into cups.

-Objects to add: spoons, latels, basket to hold the balls, If you don’t have time for constant supervision, replace the foil balls with cotton balls.

***If you’re also trying to watch your plastic use, I went on Amazon and purchased some earth-friendly, re-usable, washable, zip-bags. Careful of any toxins that may be in them!***

2) Anything stackable:

Tupperware, books, jenga blocks, pillows, empty soup cans.

3) Make music:

Find things to make lots of noise. Kids love making a racket. This is where the good ol’ pots and pans come in.

Related Post: "21 At-Home Outdoor Activities for 1-2 year-olds"

4) Build a fort out of sheets:

-I’ll drape a king size blanket over the dining table.

-On the inside I’ll progressively add in her baby chair, a blanket, a flashlight, her favorite toys, some snacks, and some coloring. But I’ll bring these objects in one at a time to make this little adventure last.


As tempting as the TV can be, it must be off for the majority of the day. Although we also need our quiet play time, sometimes you just need a little noise. I’ll play some of the oldies that you can’t help but dance to. I’ll belt out the words and dance with Charlie or just have it on in the background as she does independent play.

6) Cheerio necklace:

-Here’s a healthy version of those delicious candy necklaces. I’d give her a cup of Cheerios and some string for her to weave through the Cheerios. Fun way to snack while learning mottos skills!

-You can do the same with dried pasta.

7) Matching:

Find things in your house that have pairs. Shoes, socks, etc. Play a game of matching!

8) Indoor soccer:

-Charlie loves to play with a ball! I’ll grab some hand towels in wrap them in seran wrap to form different size balls. We play around with them, just kicking and throwing.

-OR: grab some blue tape and make a rectangle on a wall for the goal. Teach your baby to throw or kick it in!

-Also: arrange the balls from smallest to largest to teach your little one size concepts.

Related Post: "14 Small Purchases for Indoor Learning Activities"

9) Wrestle:

Okay, this one sounds intense, but I swear Charlie loves it! We will go to our room and I will chase her around the bed, playfully “wrestling” and tickling. Charlie laughs so hard she can barely breathe!

10) Tag:

-One of Charlie’s favorite things is to run. But what she loves even more is to be chased. We honestly spend so much time just running and giggling throughout the house! If that gets boring, we will add things to spice it up.

-I’ll run around the house just straightening up. Darting from the family room to hallway to put away clean towels while yelling, “Go, go go!” This is one of my favorite ways to spend time with my children while still tending to the house.

11) Scavenger hunts:

-Depending on your child, anywhere from 12-20 months they start really understanding colors, shapes, animals, and the alphabet. Some even start a little bit later, but don’t worry, every child has their own timing for everything.

-One way we like to play and learn is to do scavenger hunts! This can really work for any category of learning.

-For example, if we want to learn about animals, I’ll hide animal toys all throughout the house. I’ll get Charlie all excited by saying things like, “Oh my goodness!” “or “let’s go find the scary lion—ROARRRR!!!” I will start running and pointing “Look, Charlie! It’s the lion!” And then we will pretend to be one. Repeating words, phrases, and noises is the best way they catch onto things. Remember—PATTERNS! That’s how we learn. Especially kids.

-Or maybe you want to learn colors: Grab something blue and say,” Let’s go find blue things!” Go around the house putting blue things into the bin repeating that it’s blue.

12) Color and draw!

-Coloring books are always great.

-Or I would let her play with a pen on paper (she loves putting on and taking off caps, too) and we would practice the alphabet and numbers.

***Before they are two, they really still love putting things in their mouths, so be prepared!***

13) Toilet paper rolls:

-Save all these as well as your paper towel rolls!

-Tape them to walls and drop objects through.

-Check out my “Indoor Activities for the Low-Budget Crafty Mama” post for another, more crafty idea!

14) Bottles:

Something about water bottles Charlie just loves! Once, Conrad’s dad brought a case of water bottles and for about 30 minutes to an hour she played with them. Now, we are trying to lower our plastic use, but really any kind of container that looks/feels different than their usually sippy. Just put them (empty or full) into a larger container (box, bucket, basket, etc.).

15) Flashlight:

I had a cheap, little one lying around. She loved it! Fun for her to play with while also learning what “On and Off” mean.

16) Play pretend:

-Show your little one how to do daily adult tasks. When your little, all you want to do is be a grown up. Show them how to cook, clean, drive, and then let them pretend by providing some things to play with.

-Put a plastic spoon into tupperware and show them you are pretending to eat. Introducing pretend at a young age gets their imagination firing early on, while also giving them a sense of independence and accomplishment.

17) Play dress up:

Charlie loved to put on my headbands. Although kids don’t really get into the full-blown dress-up games until later, go ahead and introduce fun things for them to wear and put on.

18) Q-tips:

-Before I say anything, be careful of these! They tend to go right up the nose. Teach them how to play with them gently. You may even have to sit and watch them.

-I let Charlie dump out a full container of Q-tips. She loved being able to make a mess and I loved how easy it was to clean!

-Also, she got to practice her motor skills putting them back into the box and into other objects.

-Other things you can use are: an empty parmesan cheese container, a strainer, toilet/paper towel rolls, ziploc bags, or really any kind of container!

Related Post: "15 Indoor Activities for the Low-Budget, Crafty Mama"

19) Smallest to biggest:

-I find a bunch of toddler friendly objects and put them all into a basket. I let Charlie hold it and then I pick out the smallest one and place it on the ground. From left to right, I place them smallest to largest.

-This helps them learn size, as well as getting them into the habit of going left to right to prepare them for reading.

20) Pasta clean-up:

-I dumped out about half a box of big noodles onto the ground.

-Then I gave Charlie several tools to play with (a mini brush and dust pan to sweep them with; kid cups; tupperware; big spoons; and zip-bags).

-Baby gets to make a mess and learn motor skills.

-Check out my “Indoor Activities for the Low-Budget Crafty Mama” post to see how I take it to the next level!

21) Wipe Windows:

Spray glass doors/windows with water and let them wipe it with a towel! Or let them finger paint with the water.

22) BOOKS!

-Reading is so important, no matter what age your love bug is. Make it fun, turning it into a show rather than a chore. Get up and go full Shakespearian!

-We would also put these all over the house, making them extra visible and accessible. The more books she sees, the more normal they feel in her life.

31 views0 comments