15 Fantastic Winter Activities for Toddlers
Whether you love or hate the cold that comes with it, one of the greatest gifts of the winter season is the time that families get to spend with one another. While the abundance of holidays and end-of-year get togethers are often a source of nice moments and memories, it’s also easy to feel a little bit cooped up—particularly with little ones running around.
Whether you are a parent or an educator, the winter months can inspire both excitement and a bit of dread. If you’re spending most of your time indoors and away from the elements, you might be running short on ideas for entertaining—and educating—the toddlers in your care.
Well, take comfort! The blogosphere is packed with brilliant winter activities for toddlers to help make this season as active, stimulating and joyful as possible—and we’ve highlighted several of our favorite options below.
Winter exploration activities for toddlers:
1. Pine needle discovery bottles
Nature-lovers tend to mourn the shortage of outdoor learning opportunities in the winter. If you love helping your toddlers encounter the natural world, try this discovery bottle activity from Teach Preschool. Snip a small branch from an evergreen and let your kids build the discovery bottle, adding water and maybe some glitter for extra whimsy. The rounded sides of the bottle emphasize the contours in the evergreen needles.
2. Frozen bubbles
Housing a Forest introduces this science activity for some fresh outdoor air. If the weather is cold enough, blowing bubbles to freeze on the cold sidewalk can be a fascinating lesson in liquids-to-solids. The activity even includes a recipe for a homemade bubble mixture in case the summer toys are packed away.
3. Melt ice with salt & watercolors
Engage their inner scientists with this gorgeous experiment-turned-art-project. A block of ice, some coarse salt and liquid color are all you need for an activity that will absorb your toddlers’ attention as they learn how salt and water melt ice. The good folks of Happy Hooligans got a whole hour of playtime out of their first try.
4. Feed the penguin
The idea behind this easy-to-create penguin game from Little Family Fun is shapes, numbers and letter identification. You can label the little paper fish with whatever you want your toddlers to work on. Then, when you say “feed the penguin a square fish,” they have the satisfaction of dropping it into the adorable penguin’s open mouth.
Sensory winter activities for toddlers
5. Winter scent lab
This activity is all about engaging the sense of smell. Babble Dabble Do offers step-by-step instructions for a matching game involving smelling bottles and free printable templates to match them to. Go ahead and double the entertainment and educational value when your toddlers get to help you make the smelling bottles.
6. Holiday bell tota
Babble Dabble Do created this activity to engage the sense of sound. The beautiful (and paintable) bird template is available for download on the blog. With a few craft supplies and your toddlers’ imaginations, these hanging bell totas could make an attractive, musical and homemade gift.
7. Christmas lights activity
Check out this color-matching and early counting holiday activity from The Preschool Toolbox Blog. Stringing colored breads to match the cutout Christmas lights in a numerical progression will help develop your preschoolers’ fine-motor skills and familiarity with numbers. The blog also offers customization ideas to adapt the activity for extra learning.
8. Sparkly snow sensory writing tray
A good early-literacy activity is worth its weight in gold. This sparkly snow writing tray from The Imagination Tree will delight the educator in you, while simultaneously delighting your little one’s attention. Help them write letters or words, or just let them enjoy drawing shapes in the glittering salt. Drawing still counts as a stepping stone to literacy.
9. Frozen®-inspired play dough
What could make a better winter activity than one based on your toddler’s favorite movie? This homemade play dough from Paging Fun Mums is loaded with sparkle and entertainment potential. Even better, the ingredients to make it could already be in your cupboard.
10. Gingerbread ornament
The exciting part about this ornament craft from Growing a Jeweled Rose is its sensory engagement. A simple painting activity becomes more novel when you add cinnamon to the paint. That holiday spice smell will activate more of your toddlers’ senses and remain linked to positive memories for a long time to come.
Snow themed activities for toddlers
11. Paint & masking tape snowflake
This idea from Inner Child Fun involves taping a snowflake shape (or any shape you’d like) over a canvas. Then toddlers can sloppily paint all over the whole thing, like toddlers do best. When the paint dries, and you remove the tape, you are left with a piece of art from your little one that truly looks nice enough to hang on the wall.
12. Bubble wrap snowman
Wintertime and building a snowman are two things that go hand-in-hand. The blog Teaching 2 and 3 Year Olds offers this really unique craft that involves a common holiday leftover that would otherwise go to waste: bubble wrap! This craft aids in recycling some of the would-be trash for an activity that is sure to delight your toddler.
13. Snow puffy paint recipe
Playing with ice and snow is terrific fun, but the herding process of bundling a group of toddlers (or even one) in winter gear isn’t always a viable option. The Imagination Tree has found a way around this dilemma with a homemade, puffy snow paint that makes any art project 3-dimensional. Think “snow meets soap bubbles” and you’ll have the right idea.
14. Magic foaming snowman
Remember the baking soda and vinegar volcano found at your average science fair? Well, Fun At Home With Kids has revamped the chemical reaction into a dynamic winter snowman activity. This exceedingly tactile (read potentially messy) experiment has all the right parts to introduce your preschooler to the exciting world of science.
15. Snow window
Taping clear contact paper to a window becomes a winter canvas for preschoolers supplied with cotton balls and cotton swabs. No Time for Flash Cards recommends this activity for some independent storytelling and motor skill development. Watch those little hands turn cotton balls into snowmen and cotton swabs into snowflakes over the backdrop of the great outdoors.
Ready to have some winter fun?
Planning fun and educational time for young ones isn’t a talent everyone possesses. If the thought of implementing these holiday activities for toddlers brings a smile to your face, you might be uniquely suited to a career in preschool education.
Check out this post to see if the profession matches your personality, “9 Signs You Should Be Teaching Preschool.”
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2015 and has since been updated.
Frozen is a registered trademark of Disney Enterprises, Inc.
Graduates of Early Childhood Education programs at Rasmussen University are not eligible for licensure as a teacher in an elementary or secondary school. A Bachelor’s degree and a state teaching license are typically required to work as a teacher in a public school and some private school settings. States, municipalities, districts or individual schools may have more stringent licensing requirements. Students must determine the licensure requirements in the state and school in which they intend to work.
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