Need a break, Mama? Whether you need a few minutes to fold the laundry or just time to sit down and relax, these 10 activities—tested in the trenches—should offer you a little breather. (Well, at least 10 minutes!)
Toddlers love to sort things. From dolls to blocks to crayons, they group items by size or color. For a toddler who enjoys organizing (and we’re not talking about your closet, Mom), secure her in a high chair and provide a few handfuls of Fruit Loops and a muffin pan. With a little direction, she'll sort the cereal by color into the muffin tin cups. Or how about sorting veggies? Some may wind up in her mouth as a healthy snack. Genius!
Finally, another use for toilet paper other than the usual (we won’t go there) and TP-ing houses. BabyZone mom Rebecca Balcarcel gave her twin toddlers a roll of toilet paper to keep them entertained. She claims it occupied her kids for 15 minutes at a time—and the cost of the toilet paper was less than the price of a sitter. We love this idea!
Time to rotate, Mama! Rotating toys keeps toddlers interested in their playthings. A bin filled with toys can be stashed away for months in a closet or cabinet. When the forgotten fire truck, building set, or wooden puzzle that you did more than your child are reintroduced, your toddler will be delighted at all of the "new" things.
Nope, we don't mean a protein shake, though with this activity you may have time to whip one up. Place toys or treats inside clear containers with the lids attached. Children love to shake and rattle things, and when your toddler realizes something special is inside, the activity will seem even more appealing. Just be cautious none of the items are choking hazards.
Mary Byers, author of The Mother Load, adds a drop of blue food coloring to her kids' bath water and gives them sea creature toys to play with. While you should never leave your child unattended in the water, you can make grocery lists, talk on the phone, or even clean the bathroom while he plays. Will your toddler come out of the tub blue or green? Hmm, let us know…
A bowl of diced fruit with a little peanut butter and some graham crackers is great for an entertaining, edible art project. First, thinly spread peanut butter on the graham cracker canvas. Then press fruit chunks into the peanut butter to create a nutritious work of art (though refrain from putting this one on your fridge door!). Your toddler could be the next Picasso.
Balcarcel suggests providing a collection of lids for creative play. Her twins loved to make music with the lids, or dump them out and gather them up. Present your toddler with a tub of plastic containers and their detached lids. Children can find and affix the matching lids to each container.
The pantry held the key to Jennifer Purdy's golden moments of freedom. She allowed her son to play with canned and boxed goods while she worked in the kitchen. "He loved stacking them and looking at all the pictures," she says. "He did this for at least an hour at a time." Purdy kept her son occupied at Grandma's house with this activity, too. That’s a purdy good idea...
Speaking of grandmothers—these women are gurus of toddler entertainment. One traditional idea used by many grandmothers is a low cupboard filled with plastic bowls, wooden spoons, and measuring cups. Toddlers feel special knowing they have their own cupboard in the kitchen. They can pretend to cook, make a one-man-band, or build architectural works of art with their kid-proof collection of goodies. Go, Grandma!
Has Shelley Johnson lost her noodle? This creative mom came up with an unconventional solution to keep her toddler occupied. "I would cook several packages of spaghetti, add olive oil, let it cool, then put it on the floor in a very large Tupperware bowl. My son would eat it and put it on his head. This was always good for a picture as well as an hour or more of fun time."