You and Me and These Same Four Walls: Dealing with Bedrest, Sickness or Bad Weather with a Toddler

Recently I saw a blog post on my facebook news feed.  The topic caught my eye.  It was a post about how to deal with a toddler while on bedrest.  I read it, excited to hit "share" as soon as I was done since I have a friend who very well may be in this situation in the near future.  The post was short.  It included 3 or so products to purchase to entertain or help the toddler play indoors.
The post was followed by a list of negative comments from readers.  I didn't hit share.
Instead I took on the challenge of writing a post of the same kind.  This post is chock-full of ideas for any parent or caregiver *with a toddler* who is on bedrest, sick or trapped inside due to weather.
To start I want to give credit to the friends who helped me come up with some of the ideas I am including here. I posted a question on facebook about this topic and got some awesome ideas.  Thanks so much to everyone who had a hand in helping with these ideas!  I've tried to give credit where credit is due through out the post!
On a side note: a friend that has actually been through bedrest with a toddler said "Keep a huge pitcher of water near the couch for you and to refill sippys and a selection of snacks.  Cuts down on the trips to the kitchen." Thanks for that tip KY!

I am dividing the ideas up into categories for easy reference.
  • Stuff you can do with NO props
  • Free resources
  • Fun, easy and NO mess activities
  • Fun, easy and LOW mess activities
  • Websites for kids
  • Great products for indoor fun
  • Other great resources
So here we go...

Stuff you can do with NO props:

  1. Tell each other stories (made-up or true).  My older daughter loves hearing stories about when I was little.
  2. Play the listening game.  Both of you close your eyes and listen for as many things as you can hear.  Then open your eyes after a minute or so and recall to each other all of the things you heard (a bird, someone driving by, the cat purring, the heater turning on).  If your child is too young to "recall" just close your eyes and each of you say the sounds as you hear them.  I used to play this with my dad a lot when I was little.
  3. Play "I spy."  Take turns finding something you see and saying "I spy with my little eye something [say the color]" and then have the other one look around a guess what it is.
  4. Take turns using a finger to draw simple things on each others back or hand and then have the person guess what was drawn.
  5. Play "voice charades."  You can say something that a favorite character would say and the other can guess who it is.
  6. Massage time: pat each other's backs.
  7. Sing songs together.  Ones with hand motions are particularly fun!
Free Resources:
  1. Ask your doc. if you can have the old Highlights magazines or other kid magazines from their office waiting room.  Also, some libraries bundle old magazines and sell a whole year's worth for a buck or so.  Highlights and other kids magazines have some great little stories to read and games to play in each issues.  Another great little magazine (personal fave aside from Highlights) for very little kids is Wild Animal Baby.  Thanks KY!
  2. Go to your children's library (or send another adult if you are already on bedrest) and take out books, books on CD, movies and sometimes even music CD's so that your child has something new to listen to, read or watch.  Also, some children's libraries make bagged sets of books on favorite topics (like dinosaurs or dogs and cats) so look for those too!
  3. Here are some online coloring pages to print:
    1. Easy Coloring Pages for Toddlers
    2. Free Toddler Coloring Pages
*** An idea for the Free items above and for any newly bought items: wrap each one in wrapping paper and let your child open one each day... yes even the library books. ***

Fun, Easy, NO Mess:
  1. reading books together
  2. cardboard tube car track
  3. sensory bottles (ahh my favorite thing in the whole world!!!) - Here is what I wrote about them on my "Fun Ideas" page on my blog: Sensory Bottles are one of my very favorite things to make with/for kids.  Not only are they fun to look at and play with but they can also teach science concepts.  You can use many different kinds of plastic bottles when making them but my personal favorite are the Archer Farms water bottles from Target.  They are the smoothest bottles I could find (although now that I am looking at them - it looks like they've added some curves) and you can buy a whole flat of them for making a big set of sensory bottles.  Duct taping the caps on or using a hot glue gun (adults only) are a good way to get the caps to stay on but anything can happen so don't leave your baby/child alone with these bottle in case they do get the caps off.  Also, the caps on smaller mouth bottles become choking hazards if taken off of the bottle.  Here are some GREAT links for sensory bottles: Sensory Bottles 1 and Sensory Bottles 2.  Please note that many things that are suggested to put in sensory bottles are not safe for babies.  Sensory bottles are lots of fun but please make sure your baby/child does not break into them.
  4. learn to sign together or learn to speak a new language (or a song in a different language) Thanks CH!
  5. make a box fort or one of these fun box creations
  6. Make a Paper Fortune Teller and use colored dots instead of the written color words for little kids.  Write some fun things on the inside and have fun seeing what they pick.  When I made one with my daughter we put picture stickers on the inside instead of fortunes so she could say "You won a bunny!" or "You won a pink heart!"
  7. finger paint in a bag: A great way to learn about color mixing (start with 2 primary colors in a bag). 2 examples here and here.  Thanks KY!
  8. Do puzzles together.
  9. Play music for your tot to dance to.  Thanks CH!
  10. Play freeze dance: music goes on and they dance - music stops and they have to freeze.
  11. Create a play together (better with older kids but this could be done with little kids if you keep it very simple).  You can be the story teller and they can act out the scenes.  Use books or make up the story together.
  12. Fort/Movie Time: Make a fort or tent of some sort and let them watch a movie on a laptop or portable DVD player IN the tent or fort.  Give them some blankets and pillows and a snack in there too!
Fun, Easy, LOW Mess:
  1. paper bag puppets
  2. coloring
  3. Write a story together.  You can write the story down for your child (as they tell it) and they can illustrate it.  This Mead journal is one that I've used with my daughter.
  4. Let them make a collage with pre-cut pictures on framed contact paper (or use double sided tape on paper)
    1. one example here
    2. another example here
    3. this example shows it with a cardboard frame (the way I've seen it done)
  5. Felt boards (another fave of mine!!).  Adult makes it- kids play with it.  This first link is for the Got Kiddos? felt and magnet board DIY... here are some others below:
    1. Easy directions to make one here.
    2. A cute way to make them with handles.
    3. an example of a basic set of shapes for a felt board
    4. cute monster face felt board pieces
    5. a much more involved felt board set (if you're feeling crafty)
  6. Blow bubbles and let your toddler pop them.
  7. Let your child be a builder with styrofoam chunks and golf tees... just be aware that golf tees are pointy and small (safety and choking hazard).  You can cover the styrofoam with a laundry net that zips closed to (somewhat) keep it from coming off in pieces (choking hazard).
  8. Sensory table: Ok you need to be very careful of small parts with toddlers and this isn't technically a "low mess" activity but it is so fun that I just had to include it.  A sensory table can be made out of a medium size bin, a baby bath tub, dish pan or a cookie sheet with edges.  Put items in it (the sky is the limit) that revolve around a theme or that are fun to feel.  Typically a teacher would put in things like water (be aware that this is a drowning hazard) or sand, dried beans or gravel and put in some cups and shovels to play with.  The problem here is that this blog post is suppose to be for toddlers, and toddlers put everything in their mouth of course.  So, you know your child; do what works for you.  If you put a towel under the bin on the floor it makes it easier to clean up, depending on what items you use in the bin.  Here are some fun ones that are relatively easy to clean up and for the most part, toddler safe... modify as needed:
    1. Monster Fun Sensory Bin
    2. Farm and Rocks Sensory Bin
    3. Construction Trucks and Rocks Sensory Bin
    4. 4 Fun Sensory Bins for Little Kids / Toddlers
  9. Chalkboard paint:  A friend suggested painting a section of wall or the back of a door in the room that you'll be in the most with chalkboard paint so that your tot can busy themselves making art on the wall with chalk.  Also, look for "duestless" chalk if you want to avoid a cloud of chalk dust.  Thanks DFL!
  10. Paint each other's nails... here is a tot friendly fingernail polish called "Piggy Paint." Just don't let them get into it when you are not looking!  Thanks DFL!
  11. Have construction truck fun with balls of newspaper.
  12. Dress-Up:  Give your child some old adult size clothes to play dress-up with.
  13. Indoor Basketball
  14. Roll out giant paper on the floor and color (only if your tot is one who can stay on the paper while coloring).
  15. Easy Origami for Kids Good to do with young kids (about 5 and up) but not with toddlers... too much fine motor.  Thanks AF!
  16. Make a town on the floor: Ok, there might be a debate about this being "LOW Mess," but it is worth including as it is tons of fun and keeps kids busy for a long time.  All you need is Duct tape (or road tape) and an old sheet... and cars etc. 

Websites For Kids:
disclaimer: Don't forget this is the INTERNET.  Watch your child while they are on ANY website!
When choosing a computer game for a little kid make sure that they don't need to "drag" items with the mouse.  Choose games that they can click to pick up an item and then click to put it down.  This is motorically easier for young children than holding the mouse button down and moving the mouse at the same time.  The games that I've highlighted are all ones that the child only has to click, not drag.
Great products for indoor fun:
  1. Aquadoodle
  2. Snail Race Game: basic counting and color skills needed (dice choking hazard)
  3. Cranium Fort: We own this.  It is an amazing toy!   Looks like it may not be made anymore though.  Look for it used.
  4. foam blocks: (beware your child will probably try to bite off pieces of the foam which could be a choking hazard).  I let my toddler play with them but I watch her to make sure she doesn't bite off a chunk.  FYI: These can go in the bathtub too!  They stick together and to the wall of the tub when wet!
  5. Playmobil 1.2.3 which is "little kid" Playmobil with no tiny parts or things that can be pulled off.  Expensive yes, but well made and a great toy for imaginative play.
  6. Duplo Legos Duplos are made for little kids but I personally think some of the parts are not as toddler safe as others, check all parts for choking size before giving them to your tot.
*** An idea for the Free items above and for any newly bought items: wrap each one in wrapping paper and let your child open one each day... yes even the library books. ***
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OTHER GREAT RESOURCES !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  1. Baby Center's "40 Ways to Entertain Your Kids While Lying Down" *A MUST READ list* Aside from about 2 or 3 ideas, this list is amazing!!!  Thanks SDH!
  2. 6 Indoor Physical Activities for Preschoolers
  3. Just came across this blog post that is very similar and has some awesome ideas: Learning Through Play - Indoor Toddler Activities via "Hellobee"
  4. Found another collection that is related to this post: 13 Quiet Time Activities (some have choking hazards) by "Kids Activities Blog."

Have you been through bedrest with a toddler??  You don't need to sign up or sign in to post a comment!!  Please add your suggestions below and thanks!!


  1. Once again, RCMom, I loved your post perhaps for just slightly different reasons than you intended. In this age of computers, Ipads, smart phones, and even a busy work schedule, you remind me of the value of play. I particularly liked Stuff You Can Do with No Props. Even with a pre-toddler in our household, I see the delight that lights up both the child and the adult in simple play. Of course, bedrest is a HUGE challenge and is the main thrust of this blog post. But even us healthy parents and adults should never forget the value of simple one-on-one play---a reason among many that I am glad J is living with us.

    Coda: Bedrest or serious illness can remind us of the love others can give us as they step up to the plate and help out. We can realize that we are not alone and should be mindful to return the love and thanks.

    1. So glad you enjoyed this post! Thanks for your thoughts and kind words David.