Man am I thankful for the interwebs!! Shoutout to all the moms who were homeschooling with little whirlwinds underfoot before the age of Pinterest. I salute you.
This year will be my busiest homeschooling year yet – my middle guy is 5 and this is his kinder-homing year, while my oldest is – gulp – 13. But the mini-est of the bunch is now a rip-roaring toddler who laughs in the face of baby gates. Pack and play? High chair? You must be out of your mind, mom. Nope.
So while I work on getting the school year organized for my two older students, one of my big priorities is combing the trusty interwebs to beef up my arsenal of toddler activities. Sure, I can always count on Daniel Tiger in a pinch, but I’m really trying not to have to pay PBS as my official nanny this year!
Every week I’ll be sharing my top picks for toddler-friendly activities that keep my pre-threen entertained so that maybe, just maybe, I can get in some productive time with my other kids too. Some activities are old favorites that my older kiddos tested and approved, and some are new-to-me things I’m excited to try.
HOLY MESS BATMAN!! Toddlers can find a way to make a mess with anything, but some of these are particularly **sloppy**. As always, I STRONGLY recommend having a stash of waterproof, disposable tablecloths for the table or floor, and plastic trays to keep the activities somewhat contained. It really makes cleanup a snap.
–1– The Trusty Old Rip & Glue Trick
One tried and true, low prep pick is the trusty old rip & glue collage – take a piece of construction paper and draw a big outline of something on it. An animal or a house, or even just a circle or a triangle. Give the mini-me some construction or tissue paper and show her how to rip little pieces off – whoa. Officially sanctioned destruction! Once she’s in the ripping groove I spread a little school glue around the shape & let her stick her ripped bits of paper to it. Once she’s got that down you can take it a step further by giving her her own glue stick or introducing kid scissors. Really easy one to throw together when you need a distraction fast.
Once she’s in the ripping groove spread a little glue around the shape & let her stick her ripped bits of paper to it. Once she’s got that down you can take it a step further by giving her her own glue stick or introducing kid scissors. Really easy activity to throw together when you need a distraction fast.
–2– Homemade Moon Sand (Cloud Dough)
This was a big hit with my older boys (it still is, actually). My sister passed the idea to me, and we’ve kept making it for a couple of years now. A mixture of flour and baby oil, it holds its shape and can be molded, then smushed, then molded again. You can hang onto it in a lidded container for a few weeks – it doesn’t dry out and it’s great to put it out of sight for a couple of days then bring it back with new props for a fresh take.
Some days I put mini construction vehicles in, other days a couple measuring spoons & cups, some days some small animal toys – this stuff gets some mileage.
**It’s super duper messy – this stuff will get everywhere! Throw down a tablecloth or sheet or better yet, take it outside! On the bright side, when you vacuum it up the whole room gets that fab baby oil smell!**
There are a whole lot of recipes for this out there – we use 6 cups unbleached flour & one cup baby oil. Mix it up with your hands and go!
–3– Homemade Play Dough in a Variety of Colors/Scents
This recipe from Imagination Tree is by far and away the best play dough recipe in the known universe. THAT IS NO EXAGERRATION! Yes, I have literally tried them all 😉 Seriously though, this stuff is great. Buy the glycerin! The recipe says it’s optional, but I say nope – it’s what puts this recipe ahead of the pack for me. You can get an inexpensive bottle on Amazon that lasts a long time since you’re only using a couple drops. And it makes a huge difference – this dough has a silky smooth texture that can’t be beaten. I scent my doughs by throwing a few tea bags into the boiling water before throwing the recipe together — apple or pumpkin for fall, cinnamon or peppermint in winter, lavender in spring – you get the idea 🙂
–4– Crayon Resist Painting
Get more bang for your coloring buck. Give your toddler some paper and crayons, and when that’s run it’s course trade the crayons for a box of watercolor paints and let her paint right over her drawing. The waxy crayon will resist the paint – neat trick! For a fresh spin for the toddler who’s on to
this game, try magical resist painting – similar to #1 except this time give your toddler a piece of paper that you’ve drawn a picture on with a white crayon. Let him paint over the page to reveal the hidden picture (or if yours are like mine, let them paint like 3 inches and then just ask you to tell them what it is. You can see why I put so much effort into finding quality distractions.
Stay Tuned for More Toddler-y fun next week!
What’s your go-to activity when you need to keep your toddler entertained? What works and what doesn’t? Share your best (or worst) toddler distraction techniques in the comments!
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