The Best Indoor Activities for Toddlers :: Surviving Summer


There are times (usually between the months of June and September) when I’m not quite sure why I live in Phoenix…our summers are not for the faint of heart. I like to consider myself someone who is fairly mild-mannered, however, the insufferable summer heat turns me into a grouch more often than I care to admit. Add to that small children who want nothing more than to play and have fun, often outside, and it’s a potential recipe for disaster. Splash pads and pool days are certainly fun but not always an option; we all need a few ideas in our “mom tool box” for fun indoor activities for our kiddos. Here are a few of my family’s favorite easy, indoor play ideas that toddlers are sure to love!

Water Beads

I haven’t decided yet if I love or hate these but I do know that I love the ability to drink some coffee or put dishes away while they are being played with! I ordered some on Amazon (I love you, Amazon Prime!) because I thought they’d make a fun sensory activity. They come to you as tiny dehydrated balls and once you hydrate them overnight they fluff up into soft marble-sized balls. There is something strangely relaxing about the way they feel, cool and wet, and the rainbow colors are fun to look at. My kids have a blast not only burying their hands and feet in them, but scooping them into other containers. I store my beads in some water, covered until they start getting gross or mashed up, probably after a few play sessions, and then toss them. Fair warning: these bounce A LOT. We try very hard to keep our activities in our plastic play pool for easy cleanup but these don’t always cooperate. Luckily, if some escape and roll out of sight, they dehydrate and shrink, making for super easy vacuum cleanup! I would also be amiss if I didn’t say please watch your kiddos carefully around these. The size of the hydrated beads makes for a potential choking hazard for smaller children so please play carefully!

Indoor Activities Toddlers Surviving Summer


Sounds weird but it’s kind of like swimming…indoors! This isn’t so much a purposeful bath to get all cleaned up but more of an excuse to have some fun instead. My 3 year old is a huge fan of lots of bubble bath but especially loves when we can do “colored water” which is just bath water with some food coloring mixed in. This is a fun way to incorporate a little art and science into your day. Talk to your children about mixing colors depending on the desired outcome (red + yellow = orange) or even experiment with different mixtures to see what colors they make. Seeing a toddler watch red and blue turn into purple is pretty magical!

Baking…or Not?

I know turning on your oven in the middle of summer may seem like the last thing you want to do when you just want the heat to go away. Check out these No Bake Energy Bites and whip up a batch with your kiddos. It’s super toddler and preschooler-friendly and depending on their skill level they can help measure, pour, and/or mix. My girl loves having these “peanut butter balls” on hand for a quick snack and loves helping me make them even more!

Indoor Activities Toddlers Surviving Summer

Rainbow Rice

Our absolute FAVORITE. We love rainbow rice in this house and play with it frequently, for long stretches of time! This is our go-to indoor activity because the opportunities are pretty much endless.  The colors are pretty and the sounds of falling rice are incredibly relaxing. I’ve learned that small children love to scoop and transfer from one container to another and they can do that easily with piles of rice. My daughter has learned how to use funnels while playing with her rainbow rice and loves driving her dump trucks through it; she even makes “soup” with it. My 13-month-old is just getting to the point where he loves to climb in and dig his hands and feet in without trying to eat it.  Making it is super simple – waiting for it to dry is the hardest part! This is another great opportunity to work with your kiddos on their colors, mixing, and following simple directions so that they can help you color the rice. Next time you see some rice on sale, grab a bunch and keep it for when you want to try this out!

Indoor Activities Toddlers Surviving Sumer

To make the rice:

  • scoop rice (you decide the amount) into a gallon Ziploc bag
  • add a tablespoon (or two, depending on how much rice you’re using) of white vinegar
  • a few drops of food coloring
  • zip your bag closed and shake, shake, shake until the color is thoroughly distributed
  • gently empty the bag and spread out on wax paper or paper towel, wait a few hours until it’s dry
  • PLAY!

Warning: even with the best of intentions, you will somehow find rainbow rice in places you didn’t know it could reach in your home. It vacuums up nicely, just expect a little mess. I store my rice in old protein powder containers but Ziploc bags or any other airtight container would work wonderfully. 


This is my newest twist on the regular free play with the rainbow rice. My 3-year-old is very much interested in all things “treasure” and she also loves puzzles. I took her puzzle pieces from one of our Melissa & Doug animal puzzles, wrapped them quickly in tin foil, and buried all of them in the rainbow rice. She used her shovel to dig for ‘treasure’ and find the puzzle pieces. She had to unwrap each piece and then find the correct puzzle placement. When she had found all of her ‘treasure,’ she begged to do it again. This has been a fun game to play with different puzzles we have around the house and keeps her occupied for a seemingly long time! My younger son also had fun trying to find the pieces to hand to her. This is definitely an activity to try!

A few other ideas for indoor play that we use when we don’t feel like heading outdoors:
* Rainbow Pasta
* Sensory Bags
* Cloud Dough
* Stickers & Painting

I love giving my kids the opportunity to have fun through play, get their hands a little dirty, and learn while they do it and all of these activities fit the bill. It’s taken a little getting used to that even on a good day there might be a mess to clean up and that’s fine…I clean up knowing the next day will probably be a pool and popsicle day! Feel free to check out my Pinterest board for some other indoor play ideas I think would be fun to try.

What other indoor activities do you do to survive the Phoenix summer? Let me know in the comments!


  1. You and me both lady when it comes to being a grouch as the heat rises. Glad I’m not alone in that! LOL

    These ideas are great!


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