Today I have some winter-themed play ideas for your toddler!
Okay, so I am not a huge fan of Winter. Which honestly isn’t the best since we live in Canada and have pretty brutal Winters. However, I do love a good winter-themed activity! There is just something about the pretty blues and being able to include penguins in everything that just makes me happy!
Winter is long. Or at least it feels long where I live. We get outdoors as much as we can, but it gets dark so early, and it is just a whole different vibe than Summer. Snowpants, boots, hats, mittens! The whole ordeal takes longer sometimes than the amount of time we are actually outside!
If you are a person who lives in a place that has warmer winters and no snow, I envy you. I really do! But for those who do not, you may relate when I say the days can feel long and cold. And while getting outside is almost always worth it, it is sometimes just too cold and, if I’m being honest, sometimes I just don’t want to!
Even if we do get outside, it is usually for no longer than 60 minutes. So, one thing that gets me through the rest of those long, cold days is having easy, low prep activities that I can throw together in a pinch. It breaks up the day for both my child and for me.
So, this year I have decided to pull together some of our favourite winter-themed activities! There are lots of different options and I tried to include a wide variety so that hopefully there is something for every age and stage!
1 | PENGUIN PLAY DOUGH TRAY
My toddler loves penguins ever since she saw them up close and personal at our local zoo. She loved seeing them dive in the water and splash and swim around. She also loves playdough! So when I combined the two into this cute little play dough tray, she was thrilled! I love using our divided tray for playdough invitations as adding some loose parts and play dough tools extends the amount of time she will sit and play.
We used our homemade playdough recipe to get the icy blue coloured playdough. You can find our homemade playdough recipe here: The Easiest Way to Make Home Made Play Dough
2 | SNOWFLAKE SOUP
It doesn’t get much easier than this! I did a dollar store run and grabbed some foam snowflakes, pom poms, and I even found the little snowflake silicone mould you see in the photo. I put everything in small containers and added one large container with water (and a small amount of food colouring). I told her she could use all her “ingredients” to make snowflake soup.
She loves pouring all the snowflakes and pom-poms into the water, mixing it all up, scooping and pouring into bowls, etc.
Water is your best friend if you need a quick and easy activity! Don’t love the mess? Put everything in the bathtub! It will capture all the spills and splashes so that your floor stays clean and dry! A large towel or tablecloth also works well!
3 | WINTER LETTER MATCHING
I have done this activity in so many different varieties, and no matter how many times we have done it, it is still always a winner. This is the perfect example of learning through play. Most toddlers love stickers, so this letter match activity is great.
All you need is some dot stickers, paper, and some markers. I actually used paint markers in this situation, but typically I just use regular markers. In this specific activity, we did a winter theme and the dot sticker would create the snow in the sky. However, I have done this with a Christmas tree and the dot stickers were ornaments, with flowers and the dot stickers were the center of the flower and many more. The possibilities are endless!
You can easily modify it to fit the stage and development of your child as well. You could do numbers, shapes, colours etc.
Or you could just leave the stickers blank and the activity can simply be sticking the dot stickers in the sky to create snow. The peeling and sticking is a perfect fine motor activity, so that alone is a great option!
4 | SKATING PENGUINS
This activity is such a classic and one I recommend if you have not tried it yet! We tried it for the first time this year after seeing it so many times on Instagram, and my 3.5-year-old absolutely loved it.
All you need is an ice cube tray and some winter animals. We used our Safari Ltd. Penguins for this one but I know they are a bit hard to get now. I know there are lots of similar penguins on Amazon as well such as these and these.
Place your penguins in the tray with water and freeze. Once frozen, pop them out and your toddler can slide them around in a large container or the tub!
5 | SNOWFLAKE DECORATING
This is a super easy activity if you need something quick! We used painters tape to make snowflakes, however, you could also just draw snowflakes. Next, you just have to gather up some loose parts. Whatever we have on hand is usually what I would use. In this case, we had little buttons, pom-poms, some glass gems, and little snowflake confetti.
6 | POLAR BEAR SMALL WORLD
We love small world play. I love setting them up (is that weird?) and my 3.5-year-old loves pretend / imaginative play, so small world style play is always a win! For this winter setup, we used cotton balls, rocks, our glass gems, and some other odds and ends. We also used our Polar Bear family as the main characters in our little winter wonderland.
Small world play is so open-ended and you can basically use anything you have at home. It doesn’t need to be complicated. Even if all you have is some cotton balls and some artic animals, throw them in a bin and watch your child’s imagination take off!
I will say our little wooden house in the photo above is our most used small world object! We use it in almost all of our setups! The funny thing is, it is actually just a rodent house I found on Amazon! You can find it HERE.
7 | WINTER OOBLECK
Have you ever tried Oobleck? I feel like people either love it or hate it. I think it gets a bit of a bad name because it is quite messy. However, while I will not deny Oobleck can be very messy, it is actually very easy to clean up!
For instructions on making Oobleck as well as some helpful tips on clean up, you can check out this post: How to Make Oobleck: An Easy 2 Ingredient Recipe
The Oobleck post also has the instructions for creating the kind of tie-dye colour look you see above.
8 | WINTER WATER BEADS
Another sensory favourite of ours is water beads! Also super easy in a pinch, you just add water and they grow. You will need a few hours (or just leave them overnight) before they are full size.
For this winter-themed activity, we used wite and clear water beads, our polar bears, and then I just added in some spoons and containers to scoop and pour. Water beads are such a fun and relaxing sensory experience that my toddler always ends up playing for a good stretch of time. She loves just running her hands through them, and honestly, I don’t blame her because it feels really cool.
9 | PENGUIN LETTER MARCH
This activity was thrown together quickly when I needed a quick distraction for Mia, but I wanted to share it because it turned out to be a great little activity! We just used our magnetic tiles, our penguins and some white dot stickers. I put the letters from the word “Penguin” and stuck them to the magnetic tiles and then also to the penguin figures. The goal was to match the penguin with the corresponding letter on the tile.
10 | WATER BEADS + SHAVING CREAM
Want to know our favourite thing to do with leftover water beads? Add shaving cream! This is such a fun sensory experience and while messy, it is totally worth it if your child loves messy play. This held my toddler’s attention for a full hour. I laid a towel down under her table, and honestly, not a whole lot ended up on the floor.
There were a few stray water beads that I needed to pick up, but overall not too bad. Once she was finished playing, I simply put everything in a colander and rinsed it all. For the bins and larger containers, I just throw them in our tub and rinse them out. And lastly, our table I just wiped down with a cloth and it was fine!
11 | WINTER THEMED SENSORY BOTTLES
In the first bottle, we have some dyed chickpeas + some odds and ends we had on hand (buttons, pom poms, gems, etc.). In the second bottle is just water with a splash of blue food colouring, some gems, silver glitter, and lots of snowflake confetti.
If you want to know how to dye your own sensory bases, you can check out this post: How to Dye Your Own Sensory Bases
So, there you have it! A few winter-themed play ideas for your toddler to enjoy! I hope you found at least one to try and I hope it provides you with a little break to drink your coffee hot!