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our favorite indoor toys

Our Favorite Ways to Play Inside

Isn’t that structure amazing?  C spent a solid couple of hours constructing it the other morning. And then promptly fell asleep on the couch (something he hasn’t done in nearly a year!).  It was created using a very cool building set that was sent to us last month called Fort Magic.  And thank God it was because this time of year in Seattle the kids and I are stuck in the house more than usual and things can get a bit dicey if I’m not careful.

Is this happening to you too?  In case it is, I thought now would be a good time to look back on those super popular toy guides we put out just before Christmas to show you some of the things we bought and loved.

I also wanted to share with you guys a few of my favorite go-to activities when hanging out at home with the littles.  A quick review of my phone’s photo stream and I found I actually have plenty of shots of the things we play with most.

Three things before we get to that, though…

  • Be sure to come back here tomorrow for a chance to win a Fort Magic kit of your own!
  • Remember how I was lamenting about having trouble figuring out dinner time?  I think I’ve cracked the code, and the answer my friends has been freezer cooking.  I’ll share more later but for now here’s what you need to know – I’m teaming up with my friends at the meal planning site Relish! to put on a new POYEL eBook, this one all about freezer cooking.  It’ll be complete with 50 or so recipes, meal plans, shopping lists, and even printable sticker labels. Sign up for MPMK’s newsletter here to be the first to know when our new freezer cook book is out!


  • How do you handle bad weather with the kids?  Do you hunker down at home or bundle them up and head outside anyway?  (I’d say we’re about 50/50.  Mostly because I’m a big whimp in the cold and I’m blessed to have a part-time child care provider that doesn’t mind getting wet and to have C in outdoor preschool 7 hours a week.  This makes me feel less guilty about staying in and playing some days.)

Now onto the fun stuff, my list of the top 10 ways to tucker the kids out when stuck inside, in no particular order…


#1 Fort Magic

As I mentioned, Fort Magic, kindly sent along one of their popular fort building kits recently and, after a month of playing with it, I can see why it gets such stellar reviews on Amazon.  I was amazed to see how both C (4 yrs old) and S (2 yrs old) were able to build structures several times larger than they are completely independently. The kit is actually intended to build a whole slew of impressive structures ranging from bonafide “forts” to submarines and cars.  There’s an instruction book that shows you how to assemble the frames and then you add your own sheets/fabric to finish it off.

So far we haven’t even bothered with the sheets. The kids love building stuff even without them (they especially love one-on-one time building with Daddy).  What I really dig is that most of the time they use it to create completely unique structures of their own design (you know how much I covet open-ended play).  Finally, the biggest bonus, is that this set is perfect for play dates.  Last week we had two four-year-olds and two two-year-olds here and they all had a blast working together on it while my friend and I actually got a chance to chat – how often does that happen when you get four kids under the age of four together?


#2 Doodle Cook by Herve Tullet

I first wrote about this open-ended activity book here.  Back then I was excited about the potential but C wasn’t quite old enough to try it out.  Recently, it’s become our new routine to break out Doodle Cook for one-on-one time as soon as S goes down for a nap.  We take turns with the steps for “cooking” our art and C thinks it’s fantastic.  I’ve also been writing down the date and C’s age on every page that we complete.  My hope is to hold on to it as a really nice keepsake from these special times spent together.


#3 Mid-Day Baths

Who says baths have to be at night?  The best part of a mid-morning or afternoon bath is that the kids can play as long as they want (which is a great time killer).  This is one I use often when we’re hanging out at home or if the kids are sick.  If you look closely at this picture you can see that the kids are actually using bubble solution and wands to blow bubbles in the bath – another great trick for extending the fun.  (P.S. We also love our Boon Bath Pod for storing all our bath toys in an attractive/non-gross-and-moldy way).


#4 Magnatiles

A deluxe magnatile set was the kids’ big Christmas present this year so I had big expectations and, I must say, they’ve all been met.  Again, I was surprised that my 2 year old loves playing with these every bit as much as my 4 year old.  Their creativity is unlimited and they often bring in other toys (cars, action figures, other blocks, etc.) to support their play with these.

I was first turned on to these blocks by multiple preschool and kindergarden teacher reviews reporting that they’re the most popular toys in their classroom. Because of those glowing reviews, I was willing to invest in this set (they’re not cheap) and my ROI so far has been huge.


#5 Painting with Sponge Letters 

If you have a preschooler in the house than you know how fascinated they can be with letters.  My littles think it’s a special treat when I bypass the standard brushes and break out these sponge letters during art time.


#6 Sensory Box

I’ve been touting the benefits of sensory boxes pretty much since the moment this blog began. (Yes, they’re a little messy but really all you need is a towel underneath and clean up is minimal.) These boxes are excellent for stimulating the senses and getting in some fine motor development. Once your kiddos are used to playing with them, they also almost guaranteed to give you 30 – 60 minutes of time to get stuff done around the house.  Which is something of a miracle.


#7 Bristle Blocks

The unique spindly structure of bristle blocks makes them favorites of both my 2 and 4 year old.  C likes them because they operate differently than other types of blocks and S was hooked at an early age because these were the easiest blocks for her to manipulate.


 #8 Puzzles

I feel like we actually got turned on to puzzles a little late in the game for C.  I always thought they were a little too tough for him… and then someone gave him this box set of 8 Thomas puzzles for his third birthday and his whole world was changed.

He can lose serious chunks of time working on all sorts of puzzles independently now and this alphabet/number puzzle game from eboo (on of our favorite brands) is currently in heavy rotation. At 2 1/2, S has also recently really gotten into puzzles, especially this larger floor option.


#9 Hot Wheels Race Tracks

If you’re surprised this one is on the list, I’m right there with you.  This somewhat flimsy plastic toy is the kind of thing I usually avoid.  But a friend gave it to C a few birthday’s ago and we’ve found that these tracks are great on days stuck inside – especially if you hide them from the kids the rest of the time! (P.S. for some reason this is ridiculously overpriced on Amazon – I’m thinking maybe because it’s the old model and no longer made? – but there is a newer, much more reasonably priced version here.)


#10 Drill

This was another item from our Christmas gift guides that I bought for C but both kids really enjoy. It’s a fun dramatic play toy that also builds fine motor skills and teaches pattern recognition.  Plus is there anything cuter then a girl and her drill?

That’s our list – hope it helps the next time you find yourself stuck at home.  Is there anything you would add?

Question of the Day

How do you handle bad weather with the kids?  Do you hunker down at home or bundle them up and head outside anyway?  (I’d say we’re about 50/50.  Mostly because I’m a big whimp in the cold and I’m blessed to have a part-time child care provider that doesn’t mind getting wet and to have C in outdoor preschool 7 hours a week.  This makes me feel less guilty about staying in and playing some days.)

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