Indoor Activities to Release Energy and Build Imagination

By: Occupational Therapist, Laura Van Zandt, MS, OTR/L,

Container Play Activity

By using simple materials and exploring your child’s natural interests, you can ‘sneak’ in some various fine motor or speech and language development for toddlers. Remember, get down on the floor and see where they take you in play – play is the work of the child, but it shouldn’t be hard. 

Work together to put some of your child’s favorite small toys in different containers. Containers can be found all over your house or after meals. Use a (cleaned) yogurt cup, oatmeal container, cereal or pasta box, delivery package, etc. 

Watch this video for the overview, or scroll down below for more information.

For my three-year-old, I had him pick out the toys, but you can do this ahead of time to keep it more of a surprise. You can easily incorporate different developmental skills into this simple task but remember to keep it fun and easy for you both. If it is too hard (or easy), here are some other ways to update:

  • Decrease or add language skills by sorting toys into different sizes or colors of containers
  • Use simple words that match the action and the emotional experience paired with affect in your voice to keep your child present and engaged (e.g., hard – stuck – pull –wow – etc.)
  • Explore pretend play (the options are limitless) – go to a store, have a party, have a snack, greet guests in different ‘houses,’ put bad guys into time out or jail, and more!
  • Work on fine motor skills by opening different containers or using different household materials to practice wrapping them) adjust the type of container based on your child’s abilities and base how you decorate on your child’s age.
    • If your child is between 15-20 months, you may only want to have them work on removing the tape and having the lids pre-opened, so they only have to focus on pinching and pulling. You can add simple things like markers or stickers to decorate if you desire.
    • If your child is closer to 24 months, you can sneak in scissors (supervised) to snip the tape before you wrap up the container. You can also include markers and stickers but add large shapes to scribble so you can color.
    • If your child is closer to 36 months, you can do all the same things above, but you can add more of a challenge by drawing lines or circles together to decorate.

Simple Sensory Play Ideas: Dump Truck Game

Ask any specialist working with kids, and they will tell you play is the work of the child. It’s through play that a child’s life becomes alive and enriched with endless life lessons. It is through play that boundless learning opportunities unfold.

The good thing about play is it doesn’t have to be complicated or even expensive. Play should be about you connecting with your child and following their lead. A toddler’s mind is like an unread book full of adventures just waiting to be experienced if we just let it unfold. The most essential component of play is being one with your child. If you allow them to express their interest, unlimited possibilities will present themselves.

In this video, I use my son’s interests in construction vehicles to provide him with some sensory input. When the seasons start to change, and winter is upon us, most parents find themselves all going a little stir crazy being stuck inside. Kids need movement just as adults need movement. However, kids especially need an outlet for all the fun imagination developing inside their little bodies.

Materials needed for this activity:

  1. You
  2. Your child
  3. Lots of pillows or you can use your bed for a soft landing cushion

Let your child lead you, however, here are some ideas to expand this play.

  1. Count to a specific number or use a particular word that your toddler needs to listen to before he can be dumped
  2. Have your child take an object with them to hide under the pillows / within the bedsheets to bring to the junkyard if pretending to be a dump truck
  3. Hide people/animals under the pillows / within the bedsheets to be a rescue hero flying and going to save the people/animals -> can expand the steps of play to bringing the people/animals to their homes once safely found
  4. Depending on where your child is at with his or her unique development, use less language and highlight only the key words paired with the actions (up, go)
  5. Wait for your child to do something to tell you he or she wants to play (e.g., comes back to you, lifts arms up, leans closer to the pillow to fall, etc.)
  6. The benefits of sensory play are endless and certainly can be enjoyed by all ages!

Make it Fun!

Remember, this is your time with your child. This activity can be as long or as short as you need it to be based on your available time. There are many ways to expand to work on speech sounds, language skills, movement, and fine motor. Sit back and
enjoy the process while the play unfolds. Have fun!

Ending Notes

For more play activities for all ages, search our blog at eastersealsdfvr.wordpress.com. If you are curious about how your child is doing or have concerns about his/or her development, we have a free screening available at askeasterseals.org. This tool looks at
key developmental areas: communication, gross motor, fine motor, problem-solving, and personal-social skills. Based on your responses, the results will help you see if your child’s progress is on track and alert you to any potential concerns.

If delays are identified, Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley can offer the support needed to be school-ready and build a foundation for a lifetime of learning. Research proves that when children receive the right treatment and therapy they need before age five, they are more prepared to learn alongside their peers, build lifelong skills and achieve their dreams.

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