How to Make Safe Indoor Play Equipment for Toddlers

It’s crazy to think that just a short time ago, your 1-year-old was a tiny, sleepy bundle. Now she’s likely creeping on the furniture, or maybe even walking! One thing’s for sure: she’s on the move and has energy to burn. Distract your growing tot from all the “no-nos” of the house — the remote, the cabinets, the doors — by providing fun indoor play equipment. She’ll have a blast test-driving her rapidly developing gross-motor skills.

Play Tents

Your little explorer will get a kick out of crawling, creeping or walking in and out of a play tent. When shopping for one, be sure to check that it’s designed with the young toddler in mind, as there are several on the market for ages 3 and up that may contain small parts. Also, check that the doors and windows are made of a breathable mesh material, and that there are no openings between 3 and 9 inches that your precious tot could get stuck in. The best part of a play tent is that it’s a special little place just for her. Hmmm, sounds pretty good, doesn’t it, mommy? You’ll have curl up in there when she goes to bed.

Play Yards

A play yard is a fabulous win-win situation. Your curious 1-year-old will love playing with her toys or the mirrors, music or textural walls that may come with certain play yards — and you can actually get something done, knowing that she’s safely contained and not busy toilet-papering the cat. While scrutinizing the various models you’re bound to come across at your local toy store, be sure to choose one with sturdy sides to prevent toppling, and hinges and joints that are covered to prevent teeny fingers from getting caught or pinched.

Educational Mats

A nifty educational mat is the perfect place for your toddler to crawl, roll, stand or take her first step. Look for one that’s thick and squishy enough to cushion her little knees and wobbly falls, and has a wipe-able, durable surface for easy cleanup. Also be sure to check the manufacturer’s recommended age when you’re picking out a mat, as some made for ages 3 and up may have removable shapes that are too small and present a choking hazard to younger tots.


From your toddler’s close-to-the-floor perspective, there may be nothing more fun than crawling through a tunnel. She’ll be exhilarated by the endless suspense of finding out what’s waiting on the other side — Mommy? A toy? The doggy? — and exercising her need for speed. When choosing a tunnel for your toddler, be sure to select one made with flame-resistant material for worry-free play, and a length of less than four feet or so — any longer and your tot may feel anxious if the end is too far away. Another nice feature is the ability to fold the tunnel up after play is finished, making it perfect for stuffing in the closet when you’re cleaning like a madwoman before the in-laws come to visit.

Indoor Slides

Indoor slides are brilliant because your 1-year-old will feel strong and special as he climbs up and glides down on his own, while you can rest easy knowing he’s got a safely short ride down. Appropriately sized for a young toddler, these slides are a far cry from those kinda-scary slides on the playground you’re just not ready to let your tot on yet. You’ll want the one you buy to have a sturdy base to keep it from tipping, rounded corners along the side bed to buffer little legs, and sturdy handles for climbing. Get out the camera and capture all those giant grins as your daredevil slides and glides to his heart’s content.

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