Keeping a toddler entertained while parents are trying to get things done around the house might seem like a daunting task. And for so many parents who try to multi-task by doing several things at once, they know the feeling all too well. How else are they supposed to get dinner done while a 3-year-old is constantly asking if you can play games with her? Or worse, clean up the mess the dog made while the baby chases after him? It almost seems like every little kid with two arms, two feet, and an overactive imagination just can’t stay still for a moment. And that’s why moms are always looking for ways and ideas to keep them busy, without having to entertain them on their own.
Luckily, there are plenty of different and very easy ways that you can keep a toddler entertained while you sort through your laundry, organize your pantry or better yet, just chill and relax for 20 (or more) minutes. After all, being a parent is a full-time job and yes, everyone needs a moment to check out if you know what we mean. With that being said, check out our list below and let us know what you think!
20 Sensory Finger Painting In Bags
Yes, this might seem like a messy activity at first, and that’s why we are emphasizing to keep the finger painting inside a bag, and definitely not outside of it (unless you are willing to clean up the huge mess that will surely be left behind). But playing with paint in a bag is not only a great sensation, but it will also keep your little tyke well entertained from anywhere of 30 minutes to an hour. But, and we repeat, don’t let them take their hands out of the bag. Trust us! Contained art is the best kind of art, in our opinion.
19 Give 'Em Some Cotton Balls
Sure, cotton balls can get as messy as paint in a bag, but it’s not as tragic as one would think. Playing with cotton balls is another great way of keeping those little fingers active while stimulating the brain during active play. And best of all, cotton balls are cheap! You can easily buy a bag for less than two dollars. According to Teaching Mama, “Let your child play with cotton balls. They can sort them in an ice cube tray. This is also a very quiet activity. They can also have fun tearing the cotton balls apart, which can get messy!”
18 Try Contact Paper Art
Contact Paper Art is a great way to get the creative juices flowing and is versatile, no matter what you do with it or where you go. Plus, you can buy cute designs from any of your nearest art supply stores like Michael's or Hobby Lobby. There are so many different ways that a child can play with contact paper with just a few art supplies, too. The possibilities or endless, you guys (seriously!). Teaching Mama suggests, “Place a piece of clear contact paper on the table. Tape the sides down. Then give your toddler materials to stick on there.”
17 Make Up Some Color Matching Games
Here’s another great way to entertain and educate at the same time. Try a color matching game for your young toddler. Not only will he or she learn their colors, but keep their mind stimulated, too. It’s so much fun to get to see kids learn while playing and of course, feel proud of themselves when they get the colors right, too. A win for your tot is a win for mom, too. Teaching Mama writes, “This game using colorful pom poms is perfect for toddlers! You will need to introduce this game to them before just letting them play independently. My toddler plays this game ALL the time.”
16 Have A Tea Party
Calling all little princesses! A great way to entertain your daughter during a rainy afternoon is by having a tea party at home. And you can get incredibly creative with this, too. Mother-of-three Natasha says, “She loves to put on her Disney princess dress, get a table set up for just the two of us, pour me some ‘tea’ from her party tea set and then explain to me how her day has been going so far. And we also have great company. Either Minnie Mouse, Angelina Ballerina or one of her American Girl dolls always end up accompanying us. It’s great.”
15 Make A Cake Together
Your toddler will love licking the batter after the two of you bake a cake together. Ok, we don’t completely recommend licking the batter (although shhhh… it does taste good and is my favorite part of making a cake), but this is a great way to introduce baking and math at the same time. Mom Emily says, “I always read the instructions and have my child help me get a cup of oil or a cup of water. It’s never too early to learn how to bake or cook and making a cake is lots of fun. My toddler loves spreading the icing and of course, add the fun toppings.”
14 Make A Trip To The Library
If you feel the need to get out of the house, try your local library. There’s a good chance that there will be several different programs available to help entertain your toddler while you get to make some mom friends, too. Mom Noelle says again, “We would always go to Wednesday reading time every week when Dylan was younger. I got to chat with other stay-at-home moms while he would listen to stories, sing along, or enjoy free play time with the toys that were scattered around the room we were in. We both really enjoyed our reading Wednesdays with all the local moms and their kids.”
13 Go To A Splash Park
If the weather is hot enough outside, try a splash park during the summer. There’s a good chance that the entrance fee will be rather reasonable and most importantly, your toddler will have lots of fun. Mother of two Christina explains, “We would go in the early morning to avoid the hot sun, but it was a great way for my kids to get their pent up energy out before going home for nap time. And we’d always spend at least two hours at the splash park, too. It was less messy than going to the beach and having to clean up all the sand afterward.”
12 Something As Simple As Pipe Cleaner Structures
Now this is something that I haven’t thought of before, yet seems so easy! If you want to keep your child near you while you are preparing a meal in the kitchen, all you need are these two things: pipe cleaners and a colander. And you’ve got an entertained toddler for at least an hour (until the frustration mounts up, mind you). According to Teach Mama, “Have your toddler stick pipe cleaners in the holes of a colander. This is excellent for practicing fine motor skills!” This can also encourage you to reorganize your pantry, should you not be able to find your colander in the first place.
11 Introduce Them To Books
Here’s another classic idea: read a book to your child. Actually, don't just read one. Read two. Read three. Read until they fall asleep right before nap time. According to father-of-two and husband Jack, he says that one of his favorite past time memories is reading books to his toddler son while cuddling in bed before his mid-day nap, “It was the best way for us to bond, to have a little “us” time in the middle of our hectic day and to introduce him to the wonderful world of books, stories, and imaginations. He’s much older now, but I still read to him today.”
10 Take Them Outside
Unless it’s freezing cold outside, sweltering hot, or you live somewhere that is about to be hit by a snow blizzard or tropical hurricane, by all means, take your kids outside! There’s nothing better than spending a few hours at a local park, swinging on the monkey bars, playing in the sand and of course, making new friends – for both mom and child! Mother-of-one Noelle says, “Little did I know that I would end up making some of my best mom friends by meeting them at the park. Our kids were about the same age at the time and we hit it off real fast. We made it a weekly play date to meet at the park every Friday afternoon.”
9 Playdough Is A Classic
Um, who doesn’t like spending endless hours making, shaping, creating, and (hopefully not eating) using playdough all day long? Every child in this country played with playdough at least a few times during their childhood. According to Good to Know, it’s the ultimate relaxer (for both moms and dads and children, mind you) and it’s a toy that has stood the test of time. Before you know it, you’ll be giving it to your grandchildren to keep busy with as well. Keep in mind that playdough also builds strength in their hands for fine motor skills. A win-win for all!
8 Let Them Sort Some Shapes
Here’s another great activity to get your little toddler’s mind moving while keeping them quite entertained (and determined to reach their goals). All you need are small bags of shapes (cubes or cylinders) and an empty oatmeal canister. Cut out a few holes and voila! You’ve got a toddler who will be trying to fit the shapes inside the holes until he’s got them all done. Teach Mama writes, “I made our own shape sorter using soft shapes from Michaels and an oatmeal container. We get this activity out frequently and keeps my little one occupied for a long time!”
7 Set them up with some Magnets
This seems almost too easy, right? Keeping magnets on your fridge has been a classic way of keeping kids entertained for many decades now. According to Teaching Mama, “Simply have your toddler stick magnets on the fridge. We use alphabet letters and magnetic pom-poms.” Your toddler might not be spelling out any vocabulary words just yet, but it will get them to start recognizing sounds, especially when they put certain letters together. And your child can do this while you are preparing dinner only a few steps away from them. As many kids say these days, easy peasy lemon squeezy!
6 Play In The Rain
The old saying goes, if you can’t beat them, join them, right? Well, that applies to the bad weather, too. Just because it’s raining outside, it doesn’t mean that you are your kids are stuck inside. Mom-of-two Judith puts it this way, “We always put on our raincoats, our rain boots and play in the puddles after a rainstorm. It’s fun and it’s a great way for the kids to get messy and make great childhood memories. We stay outside for long enough to get their wiggles out, and they have so much fun splashing around. What I love the most is seeing the smiles on their faces.”
5 Have A Dance Off
That’s right: get up and move! Put your favorite song on, grab your toddler and have a dance off right in the middle of the living room. As a matter of fact, you can get your entire family moving by having everyone participate in a dance-off or game. “We do this every Saturday night,” explains mother-of-four Erinn. “It gets everyone moving and better yet, temporarily off their electronic screens. And the best part is that we are all laughing and having a great time. It’s a great way to keep the young ones entertained while strengthening our family bond.”
4 Dig Up Old Baby Toys
There are a lot of moms that suggest doing the same thing: diving your children’s toys into two stacks. Mom Lauraine explains, “I would divide his toys and put them into two boxes, one he would play with now and another that he would play with later. When I take out the second box, he would treat them as though they were brand new toys. But that’s only because it was several weeks until he last saw them. But it didn’t matter how old they were, for my little man it felt like Christmas all over again, even though it was the middle of July.”
3 Play 'Follow My Leader'
Now, not every mother will agree to this game, but another fun way of getting your child’s attention is to play “follow my leader.” All you need to do is have your child do the exact same things that you are doing. Sure, this might get slightly annoying, but it can teach your child to also pick up after themselves. “If they see mommy picking up the toys, chances are they will eventually learn how to pick up their own toys, too. This way I can keep them entertained and they also help me complete a chore,” says stay-at-home mom to twins, Cristen. It’s worth a shot!
2 Make A Photo Album Together
This is another great idea that not only helps create memories but gathers them in one place, too. Sure, everyone takes photos and stores them on their smartphones these days, but why not make your own photo album together? All you need is a book and some print out photos. It will be so much fun for your child to see “baby” pictures of them from just a few short years ago. “It’s funny, but my toddler loves to see pics of him that were taken six months ago. He thinks he’s a baby in all of them even though they were taken recently!” recalls mom Olivia.
1 Watch Old Home Videos Together
Another fun activity that the two of you can do together is to watch old home videos together. You can either watch them on your Apple TV or Google Photos on your television or you can simply scroll through the video clips that you have stored on your phone. “My child loves getting his hands on my iPhone and he especially loves to record videos of himself and then watch them over and over again,” says Lisa. Sure, this might technically count as “screen time” but then again, you might have a little movie director in the making! Plus, who doesn’t love making video clips, right?
Reference: Facebook survey, mommy friends.