Trish Hunt knows something about the chaos-creating potential of cooped-up toddlers. As program coordinator at the South Riverdale Child-Parent Centre in Toronto, she starts any given morning with about a dozen one- to two-year-olds zipping around her.
Because toddlers’ gross-motor skills are developing quickly, as they learn to walk, climb, run, jump and lift, physical activity is a must even when bad weather doesn’t allow for outdoor play. “Physical activity and play support toddlers’ development in many ways,” says Hunt. “They’re learning about what they can do, about their environment and about communication and social relationships. They’re also burning off some excess energy, so that they can enjoy quiet activities, like puzzles, later.”
Get their motors running. Jenny Young, of Guelph, Ont., takes her cues from one-year-old Ainsley’s main interest. “All she wants to do is climb the stairs,” she says. “So we just follow up behind her. It really tires her out.” Carmen Dawson, of Dartmouth, NS, looks to two-year-old Gavin’s love of cars to keep him busy. They make cardboard-box cars and drive them around the house until he runs out of gas and goes for a nap. You could also use boxes and couch cushions to build indoor forts.
Get groovy. “The most fun I’ve had with my kids inside is dancing with them,” says Anika King of Vancouver. “All the better if everyone sings loudly off-key along with the music!” Her two-year-old son, Coho, loves to boogie to Elvis, but for kids who need more encouragement, try songs that have movement or actions built into the lyrics.
Get wet. A midday bath in a toy- and bucket-filled tub, or even some playtime at the kitchen sink, can quickly bust the stuck-in-the-house blahs. Water engages children physically and lets them experiment with pouring, splashing and spilling (while you supervise, of course!). Beth MacDonald, of Big Bras d’Or, NS, has a water baby on her hands with 16-month-old Sophia. “She loves pouring water between containers. I’m sure as she gets older, we’ll be stationed in front of the sink.”
Go wild. Combine animal sounds with movements, and you’ve got yourself a wild time. Crow and flap like roosters. Stomp and sway and trumpet like elephants. Hop like bunnies. With any luck, it’ll lead to nap time at the zoo.