On a Budget? Try the Ultimate Toddler’s Day In

Photo credit: Kat, CC BY 2.0.

Over here in good old Blighty (the U.K.), it rains over half the time, and that’s barely an exaggeration.

Now, if you have a toddler, you’ll know that they need to burn more energy per day than a million Energizer Bunnies on steroids — and if it’s pouring with rain, sleet or snow, you can kiss goodbye to your idyllic outdoor plans.

On many an occasion, I’ve prepared a great toddler’s day out with Sid only to have my intrepid outdoor itinerary washed down the drain, quite literally, by the kind of drizzle that doesn’t look too heavy but will soak you down to your socks if you have the audacity to face it.

When this happens and I don’t wish to venture outside, Sid looks at me blankly. Then he repays my lack of rain-based adventurism by throwing the entire contents of his toy box at the wall in an energetic frenzy. Once he even managed to stuff almost all of his Mega Bloks behind the couch in a matter of moments; it was both impressive and energy-draining (mainly because it took so long to retrieve them).

So I developed a low-cost toddler’s day in for those times when you’re cash-strapped and the rain is pounding at your window. Here it is.

Breakfast crafts

Cost: You can use what’s in your cupboard or in your fridge — but if you need to buy ingredients, they should only cost you a maximum of £5 ($6.90).

Sid loves his breakfast, perhaps more than anything in the world except for lunch, dinner, snack time. He also loves bananas.

To nurture his love for all things food-based, or “num-nums” as he likes to call it, I like to kick off my big day in with messy breakfast crafts in the kitchen. After washing our hands, of course, we mix scrambled eggs together, decorate bananas with blueberry eyeballs, or mash up pancake mix with our fingers. Then we turn whatever we’ve cooked into a smiley face. At Sid’s age, this is largely led by me but he has a lot of fun — it ends up in a colossal mess, but it’s worth it. You get to eat at the end too, and surely that can’t be bad?

Stairs stairs stairs

Cost: Free

Our place has two staircases, so there’s plenty to work with in this situation.

Closely supervised, going up and down the stairs with your toddler for an hour is lots of fun. It’s also exhausting, but in a good way. When we play the stairs game, I shout “up up up” or “down down down,” and stand in front of Sid or behind him (depending on the direction we’re heading) as he bolts up or down with all the enthusiasm you’d expect from a wide-eyed toddler. While doing this, we stop at various designated checkpoints including different pictures, paintings, toys or rooms, identifying the objects as we go. This has not only served to help Sid with his language and coordination, but it also helps to ensure he has his daytime nap — most of the time, anyway.

If you live in a flat or an apartment, climbing up and down on items like the bed and couch are equally as effective and, by labelling various items around the house with pencil and paper, you can go around your home identifying them on a mini scavenger hunt.

Building a den

Cost: Free

After Sid has his nap (if he doesn’t protest) and he’s chomped down his lunch, we usually have around half an hour of post-food play or reading time. Then we make a den.

Dens are classic, and if you’re resourceful enough, the sky’s the limit. Sometimes we just chill out under a blanket in the lounge and pull funny faces at each other, and other times I go all out, crafting an indoor haven from cardboard boxes, chairs, throws, duvets, blankets and a whole load of cushions.

Sometimes I really push the boat out and put fairy lights in there. Like most toddlers, Sid loves a classic den. The hardest part isn’t making it; it’s getting him to come out before bath time. That said, Sid’s protests are usually stopped in their tracks when the smell of his dinner wafts through the house.

Music and bubbles

Cost: A decent bubble wand costs as little as £2 ($2.80).

For that final burst of energy after dinner, music and bubble time is a real winner. Simply put on some upbeat music, grab yourself a bubble wand, and let the suds-fueled dance fest commence.

At present, Sid’s favorite tune is “Shine on Me” by Dan Auerbach, so I usually put this on repeat, get the bubbles rolling, and we both run through the house like a pair of thieves running away from a botched bank heist. It’s entertaining indeed.

All in all, this toddler’s day in costs a maximum of £7 (just under $10), if anything at all, and it will not only help to entertain, educate and stimulate your kid, but you also won’t have to get soaked doing it. When you think about it, some of the greatest memories are made at home, after all.

Do you have any ultimate toddler day in suggestions of your own? Please share them in the comments.

Dan Hughes is a writer with a penchant for oddball fiction, the bass guitar, beer, Bukowski and traveling to strange places. You can find out more about him by getting lost in his Catchy Space.

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