Winter can be challenging for families with infants and toddlers. The snow, rain, and cold may keep you indoors during playtimes. You can still work on early intervention outcomes when you cannot get outside to play. Your daily routines are full of moments that can encourage your child’s independence and participation. Improving self-help skills such as a child dressing and feeding oneself are common EI outcomes. Language skills are another focus for many families. Simply looking out the window and talking about the weather can build vocabulary and language skills. Your child builds receptive language vocabulary while listening to you, and she might surprise you one day by repeating what you told her.

Infants and toddlers like to move, and when they are moving, they are developing motor skills, spatial awareness, and independence. Even though winter weather may keep you indoors, you can still climb, dance, and build muscle strength and coordination. Use your couch to build pillow mountains to climb or dance to the music and practice copying each other’s movements. If you are stuck inside on a snowy day, it is a perfect time to master safe climbing up and down the stairs. Help your child practice crawling forward and backward with your help.

Look at your home space and consider all the possibilities for play and learning. Your kitchen space may be filled with safe items to discover, such as wooden spoons, measuring cups, and unbreakable bowls. Practice stacking and nesting these items with your child. This builds his spatial awareness. Pretend to cook and feed each other with older infants and toddlers. Pretend play is a natural way to develop social skills such as turn-taking and manners. Spend a little extra time in the bathtub filling and emptying containers of water when the weather keeps you inside. Add a wire whisk to whip up bubbles and enjoy a relaxed time to play with your child.

Planning for indoor play can help keep children busy and engaged. Some families like to place “treasure baskets” in different rooms. These baskets can invite your child to explore. You can add safe items from around the house for your child to explore. Having two baskets that you can swap with different objects can keep your child’s interest high.

Consider filling your basket with household items such as measuring cups, hats, scarves, or plastic mirrors. Look at the materials from which these objects are made.

See-through cups, mirrored metal surfaces, or textured surfaces are especially interesting to very young children. Hiding toys in zippered cosmetic pouches and containers can be a new way to play “peekaboo.” Even the laundry basket is full of interesting textures, colors, shapes, and sizes to talk about! Don’t miss our newest tip sheet, “Every Day EI: Do the Laundry,” in this newsletter for more ideas.

Originally written for the Illinois Early Intervention Clearinghouse Newsletter:  Winter 2020

Play and Learn Indoors