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Stage of Play and Indoor Activities to Match


After a long few months of being stuck inside with the kids, it’s understandable if playtime is a getting a little thin on the ground. The playdough collection has turned into a brown splodge, the paints all dried up, and don’t even bother looking for the crayons. If that sounds all too familiar, our introduction to indoor activities for your child’s stage of play will give you a few new ideas to try out.        

Remember that like everything baby, these ages are a rough guide. They can happen faster, slower, or not at all and there won’t be anything to stress about. If you’re worried, you can trust your gut an speak to your Health Visitor for reassurance, but annoyingly, all kids develop differently. 

Baby Sized Smiles (Unoccupied Stage of Play – 0-12 Months)

The first 3 months of your little darling’s life are all about figuring out the body they’ve been dropped in. They go through the unoccupied play stage with lot of chubby little arms and legs flailing as they get to grips with the basics. If you want to mix things up a bit and get away from the standard baby toys, give these ideas a try

Freezer Bag Painting:

Fill a freezer bag with a different coloured paint and close the bag. We recommend no more than 3 colours and adding some duct tape to the top of the bag to prevent accidental explosions. During supervised tummy time you can let your little gently squeeze and press the bag and watch the colours swirl.

Homemade Light Show:

Order a few small torches and place them inside coloured bottles, tubs, or simple attach some colour tissue paper using elastic bands. Take baby and everything to a dark room and have your own colourful light show. This is a superb sensory activity and simple to achieve results your baby will love. This is a super sensory indoor activity for this stage of play that your baby will love.

Recommended Shopping for unoccupied play:

Glow.co.uk – https://www.myvouchercodes.co.uk/the-glow-company

Wilko – https://www.myvouchercodes.co.uk/wilkinson-plus

Hobbycraft – https://www.myvouchercodes.co.uk/hobbycraft

Big smiles for mother and baby activities during the Unoccupied stage of play.

Ain’t No Party Like a Solo Party (Solitary Stage of Play – 2-3 years)

The next play stage is ‘Solitary Play’ and if your child isn’t there yet, you’ve got something to look forward to. This is when you start to see your child come into their and you can watch them create their own little games. You won’t understand half of the games but seeing them enjoying themselves is enough to make any heart melt.

Solitary play gives parents the chance to sit back and watch your little one go, but if you want to help keep your child interested, here’s a few fun activities that will help continue their development.

Bury and Find:

Pour rice and/or dry pasta into a large container or tray and place onto a sheet on the floor. The sheet isn’t essential, but we recommend it to limit the amount of mess you’ll need to clean up. You can then add and bury your little one’s favourite toys. You can tell your toddler your toddler that the toys have got lost and need rescuing. This will enable them to use pretend play and interact with their toys in a different way.

Box Robots:

If you’ve got lots of baby wipe boxes lying around you can put them to good use and help your child turn them into a brand-new robot. The best thing about this is there are multiple activities in one. You’ll need to use the scissors and cello tape, but the kids can draw, decorate and paint their bots before playing with them later. They can wear them or play with them like a regular toy and because they are big and bold, they should hold their interest for longer.

Suggested Shopping for Solo Play

Baker Ross – https://www.myvouchercodes.co.uk/baker-ross

Early Learning Centre – https://www.myvouchercodes.co.uk/early-learning-centre-elc

Father and son playing with cardboard box activity during the olo stage of play.

Watching is the New Playing (Onlooker Stage of Play – 2.5-3 Years)

For a brief spell before your child turns 3, you might notice that go a little shy around other kids. They may take a step back to watch the action and this means they have entered the ‘Onlooker’ stage.

This has nothing with personality type, and it doesn’t mean they’re not developing well socially. In fact, this stage is all about learning those essential social skills to help with later interactions. Let them watch for as long as they want and don’t push them to get involved. They will, after they’ve soaked up all they need.

When they start to watch siblings or friends play, leave them to it and try to encourage interaction between the other kids. Play games that involve talking and bouncing off one another to make it easy for your little onlooker to take in everything they need.

Parallel Play is Easier than Parking ( 3–4 Years)

You could be forgiven for thinking the kids are ignoring each other once ‘Parallel Play’ begins. They’ll be side by side, playing with blocks, without overtly interacting with each other. Don’t worry though, there’s no toddler beef. This is the start of your child wanting to socialise with other children and they’re learning everything the need to become a social butterfly.

To encourage this kind of play, you want to start games that require 2 or more children to be near each other. If you’re stuck for inspiration, you can try these easy activities.

The Parachute:

This is a play time classic and it’s simple to create at home. All you need is a bedsheet or a throw and you’re good to go. Get the kids to grab an edge of the sheet and let them shake and jump ‘til their hearts content. Once it gets going, you can add balls and toys to the mix. The kids will love watching them bounce around and they will be learning to co-operate with one another.

Let’s Get Messy:

Let’s be honest, as a parent we spend half our time trying to limit the amount of mess our little whirlwinds create. But sometimes you’ve just got to lean into it. Set up various stations with everything messy you can find. Paint, shaving foam, pasta, and jelly can all go in their own trays for little hands to get stuck in with. The kids will love it and play alongside each other for ages.

Suggested Shopping for Parallel Play

The Entertainer – https://www.myvouchercodes.co.uk/the-entertainer

WH Smiths – https://www.myvouchercodes.co.uk/whsmith

Group of children and teacher take part in building activity during Parallel stage of play.

Kids That Build Together…Throw Blocks at Each Other ( 4+ Years)

The last stage of play is Co-Operative, and that means they’re ready to be kind, gentle, and loving to everyone they play with. Yeah, right, they’re still going to lob blocks at heads and bite and slap because kids, and I can’t stress this enough, are little demons at times. But in between the Lord of Flies carnage, your little angels will happily play with their friends and work towards common goals.

Obviously, this isn’t going to happen overnight and if you want to encourage play nice time at home, here are a few fun games you can try.

Build a Story:

Aske each child to come up with an aspect to the story. It can be anything they want, the sillier the better. The group then tries to draw the scene and create their very own story book. This is a fantastic way to encourage you kids to be creative. You could even be the designated drawer, if you don’t have siblings to help come up with ideas.

Indoor Camping:

Get your living room ready for a camping trip by letting the kids create their own tent, campfire, snacks. Give them a sheet and discuss how to make a tent, where it should go and what goes inside. A campfire can be made using empty toilet rolls, sticks and coloured tissue paper. They get to be creative and it builds on their co-operation

Suggested Shopping for Co-Operative Play

Staples – https://www.myvouchercodes.co.uk/staples

Toucan Box – https://www.myvouchercodes.co.uk/toucan-box

Group of school friends smiling for the camera.
Ashley Bird

Ever since the birth of his first child, Ashley has been trying to squeeze a little more out of every penny. Three years and another child later, he's a dab hand at finding a deal and getting things done for less. Whether you need help planning a budget friendly family day out, or saving on all things home, he can help you out.


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