It’s arguably the most active, busy time in their little lives – and any parent knows, entertaining a toddler is a tough job!
Studio 5 “Baby Buzz” Contributor Lyndsi Frandsen offers a list of ideas. Not included? Parking them in front of the TV!
When it comes to toddler-friendly activities, if the preparation of the activity itself isn’t easy and fun, it’s not worth it. All of the ideas listed below either take 2 minutes to prepare (literally!), or the preparation is part of the fun.
Have a Dance Party
Sometimes it takes a seriously fun distraction to tear their eyes from the television. Don’t underestimate the power (or value!) of a dance party. Pump up Pandora (suggestion: the Justin Beiber station has some great jams!) and just dance. The silliness of the moment, and the energy from the movement usually leads to some other sort of game or play time.
Hold an In-House Scavenger Hunt
On a piece of paper, draw some shapes (like 5 triangles, 10 squares, 7 circles, etc.), letters of the alphabet, numbers and scribble some colors (you could do any or all of the above). Give the paper to your child and supervise as they go around the house looking for the shapes/letters/numbers. This activity is easy, fun, and contributes to their learning.
Draw portraits of each other and then put them in pile and guess who drew each picture and who the picture is of. This is obviously more fun with more kids/people. (Even adults only! It is hilarious.)
Have your child draw their own treasure map and hide some treasure (a cupcake, candy, fruits snacks or a favorite doll, stuffed animal or toy). You then use their “map” to walk around the house and find the treasure. They get a kick out of your hunt!
Nursery Rhyme Legos
Set out to build a Lego creation based on a nursery rhyme or song they are learning. For example, build a spider for “Eensy Weensy Spider,” a star for “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” a cradle for “Rock-a-bye Baby,” and so on. Then sing/recite the nursery rhyme over and over as you build it – and act it out. May I suggest Humpty Dumpty sitting on his wall? It’s extra fun because Humpty actually gets to fall off the wall and break – and you get to “put him together again!”
Host a Holiday
Who says you have to wait for Christmas? Celebrate random holidays or events (the Olympics, The Oscars, Groundhog Day, National Ice Cream Day, Grandparents Day, etc.) Simply Google “holidays” for each month, and you will be surprised at all the little known days that are on the calendar. Find some small way to celebrate! This could include a snack, hosting your own mini-event, or you could even check out a library book that relates to this subject. Click HERE to download Studio 5’s favorite little-known holidays!
The Donkey Still Needs His Tail
It is a classic childhood birthday party game that never loses its appeal. But who says you need to wait for the next neighborhood birthday party? And who says a donkey even has to be involved? A good game of “pin the _____ on the ______” never fails! Children love the silliness that comes when you blindfold their eyes, give them a few spins and challenge them to pin the tail on the donkey – or pin something on anything! You can customize this game to compliment and time of year. All you need is paper to cut out the object, and a bandanna to blind those eyes. Get creative!
This if for kids a little bit older – 3-4 years old. Give the child a magazine or catalogue and have them cut out pictures that start with a certain letter or, for younger kids, you could have them cut out items of a certain color. You can contain their cut-outs in an envelope, labeled with the corresponding letter on the front and use them as quick conversational “flash cards” later on.
ASSIGN A THEME-OF-THE-WEEK
Toddlers are naturally curious and inquisitive; child development experts confirm just talking to your toddler is a stimulating learning experience for them. Their young minds are forming, developing and absorbing the world around them. Colors, shapes, sounds – it is all entertaining! Engaging in a simple dialogue about their surroundings can be both intellectually beneficial, and entertaining. Holding a basic conversation with your 2 year old, for example, can improve their communication skills, their memory and their intellectual growth. So, rest assured, the basics have benefit!
But sometimes a little planning and structure can make us moms feel like we are doing a better job – that we are investing in our child’s development, and making the most of an otherwise empty afternoon. In other words, structure helps take away the “mom guilt!” Setting a weekly theme can give moms that piece of mind. Once you’ve identified a focus, you can base simple, daily activities around that theme. You can check out a library book that discusses the topic, plan a snack around it, take a small field trip. Don’t make it complicated! Don’t make it harder than it needs to be. Simply look for opportunities to connect the dots for them, and feel good about the extra effort you’ve put into the day.
Here are five themes and supporting activity ideas to go with them:
THEME: Under the Sea
BOOK: Raindbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
FIELD TRIP/ACTIVITY: Go to a local pet store and see the fishes. Some outdoor sporting stores have impressive aquariums, as well! At Cabella’s in Lehi you can even watch employees feed the fish in the Cabela’s Aquariums (call ahead or visit their website www.cabelas.com/stores/store_info to confirm dates and times).
MOVIE: The Little Mermaid
THEME: “My Teddy Bear”
BOOK: The Teddy Bears’ Picnic by Jimmy Kennedy and Alexandra Day
FIELD TRIP / ACTIVITY: Hold a “teddy bear” picnic of your own – give your child’s favorite bear a place at the dinner table. Or, have your toddler draw a portrait of his/her favorite stuffed friend.
MOVIE: Care Bears Movie
SNACK: Teddy Grahams
THEME: “All About Shapes”
BOOK: Curious George “Everyday Shapes” Puzzle Play Book
FIELD TRIP / ACTIVITY: Go to your local grocery store and have your child identify different shapes. Snap pictures of the child holding up the “shapes” (i.e. cereal box = square, paper plates=circle). Print the photos and have the child help you paste them onto sheets of scrapbook paper to create a “Store Shape Book.”
SNACK: Twizzlers Pull-n-Peels (you can turn these into a shape before you eat it!) or a sandwich with the bread cut out in circle, triangle, oval, etc.
THEME: On the Farm
BOOK: Click Clack Moo by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin
FIELD TRIP / ACTIVITY: Visit a farm, take a hay ride, visit a petting zoo, do a chocolate pudding finger paint on laminated paper pig cut-out (get it? Pigs in mud?), play with shaving cream on laminated paper sheep cut-out, create a barn out of a big box and they can paint it, paint picture with hay instead of paint brushes.
MOVIE: Charlotte’s Web
BOOK: The Very Hungry Caterpillar
FIELD TRIP: Nature hunt (You could make homemade insect collectors out of mason jars and put wire mesh over the top)s
SNACK: Banana Caterpillars (http://www.food.com/recipe/banana-caterpillars-218645) OR Ants on a Log (Celery with peanut butter and raisins)
MOVIE: A Bug’s Life
*Special thanks to Kim Huish and Cathi Walker for their contributions to this article.