As a working mom that made that choice, I have never truly realized how challenging it can be to entertain your toddler until recently. I have a deeper respect for our educators and stay-at-home moms more than ever for their patience and creativity! You all deserve a medal, seriously.
I will be honest, I am not the most crafty, Pinterest-worthy mom in the world, but I try and that’s all that matters.
What I have learned is that it’s more important to pick out one activity or craft at a time than to try to do it all at once. I do think my toddler is more focused and stays engaged when he only has one toy or activity to play with versus it being a free-for-all! Don’t get me wrong, that sometimes is necessary, too.
Another important thing to remember is you don’t have to frantically order random crafts and toys to come up with fun activities. Seriously, most of the time I look around our house to see what we already have that can keep our toddler entertained for the day.
Here are a few activities to try at home with your toddler or young kids:
Rock art: Spend time outside collecting rocks from your yard or while on a walk around the neighborhood and once you have a handful, take them home to paint and add inspirational messages to. I love this activity because it’s two-fold, including time outdoors and doing something creative. It will require paint and brushes, but you don’t need anything fancy to paint rocks! You can display the finished rocks in your yard.
Create a photo book or display: Kids love to see pictures of themselves or their favorite family members and friends, so this is a fun time to create a photo book or display for them to look at. I created a hanging photo banner in my son’s playroom using a piece of wire, lights and paper clips to hang the pictures - so simple! Let your littles pick out the photos to display, ask them who is in the picture and tell a story about each photo.
Color matching game: If you are working on speech or thinking skills, I love this activity! Simply find random toys and household items in similar colors and let your toddler sort the objects together. I like to use baskets or cups (depending on the object's size) for him to sort while working on color recognition.
Create a sensory set-up: There is something magical about a sensory bin set-up...toddlers seem to go crazy for this! Find a plastic bin or use a water table and add your filler (rocks, pasta, dried beans, water, kinetic sand, water beads, etc.) and then items that can scoop or pour (cups, kitchen utensils, etc.) and random toys or objects. You can make it a theme or keep it random! Switch out the sensory items every week to keep it entertaining and different.
Bath time play: Sometimes afternoon bath time play is necessary! Switch up the toys for daytime play to make it feel fun and exciting compared to the more relaxing baths they experience at night. If you previously did swim lessons, you can also try to recreate the lesson activities during this time. Another option is to make a play area in the shower by filling up a plastic container with water and letting them play with toys in the shower, without the water running of course.
Cleaning toys/sink activity: My toddler loves to play by our kitchen sink. One fun and productive task is to give him toys to clean in the sink. While he stands on a step stool, I fill up the sink and let him clean his toys. He thinks this is a game but is actually something productive. Beware: clothes and nearby objects can get wet!
Toilet paper tube games: Save your empty toilet paper tubes to reuse the cardboard in a variety of ways. You can let your little one tape them onto a window and watch as they drop random objects, like softballs or felt shapes down the tubes. You can also tape the rolls to the floor and use them as tunnels to play with cars.
Online classes: Many places are offering free or discounted virtual classes that are fun from music and dance to storytime and even arts and crafts. Check with your local library, toy stores and search on social media for ideas!
Just a reminder to my fellow moms that are feeling overwhelmed...screen time is sometimes necessary! I have definitely had to plop my son in front of the TV a time or two in order to take a conference call. That is life and we are all doing our best here. If you must turn on the TV, there are ways to make it fun and educational. We love watching Zoo Tours on YouTube and seeing the different animals or listening and dancing along to his favorite songs. We also love doing a weekly FaceTime call with grandparents - not sure if that counts as screen time, but we are into it.
The point is, you don’t have to come up with elaborate crafts in order to create fun experiences for your toddler! I challenge you to look around your house or dig in the toy box to see what creative idea you can come up!
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