It's only just over a month until Christmas and the weather is already turning wintry, with chilly winds biting our fingertips and frosts glittering the lawns when we wake up.
For mums and dads with babies and younger toddlers, this time of year can prove difficult when it comes to playtime. You can't get out to the park or garden as much because there aren't enough hours of daylight, while winter walks can take up a lot of time, once you've factored in wrestling the little ones into thick coats and socks.
And let's face it - sometimes you just don't want to leave the nice, warm house if you can possibly avoid it. So what games can be played with babies and toddlers to keep them occupied, tire them out and ensure nobody (including you) gets cabin fever?
Don't worry - we've got plenty of ideas that you can use and adapt to suit your own requirements this winter. Some are for quiet time and others will encourage physical activity to make sure your child is getting every kind of play they need.
Let's play ball
It might sound simplistic, but never underestimate the power of a ball to mesmerise a baby. Just sit opposite each other (once the little one can sit up unaided) and roll the ball between you. If he or she does seem to be losing interest, introduce some little extra props from around the house. For example, try something to roll the ball down for extra speed, or obstacles to knock over. It'll boost motor skills and pass more time than you think.
If your baby is never happier than when they're in the bath, don't feel you have to keep it as a practical activity. Put plenty of warm water and bubbles in there, get your baby in a swimming costume for variety and add some toys, then have lots of fun splashing about during the day. You could even make some food colouring ice cubes to float on the surface - although letting the tot catch hold of them might provoke a bit of a startle reaction on a really chilly day!
Forever blowing bubbles
Connected with the above activity, blowing bubbles is another popular activity that can either be done in the bath or on dry land. It's easy to make your own with washing up liquid, or just purchase inexpensive pots of shop-bought formula. Youngsters love seeing how big a bubble they can blow - just be sure to have top-ups ready for when they bend down to watch them descend and pour the liquid all over the floor.
When you want something quieter to do or need to get on with household tasks while your baby plays, you can't go wrong with magnets on a board. You can buy sets from stationery stores and other high street outlets, while it's also simple to make bigger boards with a splash of magnetic paint. Either way, the baby will love sliding the pieces around and marvelling when they are pulled onto the board like magic. When they get a bit older, you can aim for constructing real pictures and words with letter sets, aiding cognitive development as well as motor skills.
Where's the baby?
It's fair to say that mirrors keep babies surprisingly entertained, so capitalise on this by taking him or her from room to room and seeing if they can spot the baby in the mirror. You might want to try some silly hats or other props for extra giggles - and some great photo opportunities. Should they seem to be disinterested, change the game a little by using each room as a counting game, which is likely to be better for older children who'll be starting to recognise the numbers.
Make a den
When you're fed up of looking at the same rooms each day, you could try altering them a little by making a fun den for babies and toddlers. It doesn't have to be anything complicated - pillows, sturdy sofa cushions and blankets are all you need. If you like, you can add a pop-up hide and seek tunnel for tots to crawl along to access different sections.
Any of these activities should allow you to keep warm and happy together, whether it's freezing outside or not - and they might succeed in tiring out your toddlers almost as effectively as garden play.