Wednesday, March 1, 2017

10 Toddler Activities to Keep Them Busy

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Short attention span + inexhaustible curiosity = TODDLER. So how do you handle this situation so your little sweetie pie isn't getting into things that will hurt them or cause a massive amount of work for you? This seems to be a regular challenge here at our home. 

We home school our oldest three children so that leaves the three year old on his own to entertain himself. He isn't really on his own but in his eyes when he sees his older siblings working and not playing with him he feels left out and bored. We all know the next step - he will start to get into everything. His curiosity is just so big and hard to control he just can't help but get into anything and everything in his path.

Lip gloss from big sis - check, Lego creation from older brother - check, guitar - check, fish food - check, the list is endless! He just can't help himself. 

You're probably asking what his mommy is doing while he is exploring? More than likely the two minutes I turned around to load some dirty dishes into the dishwasher, or do a little laundry or help one of the other kids with school he saw his chance and made a beeline for trouble. 

So how do I keep him engaged and busy while other activities and school is happening all around him? It isn't easy but I have some tricks in my bag that have helped provide him with some great activities and a chance to learn something either on his own or with me (or a sibling). He feels included and special since these activities are just for him and I make it a point to tell him that these little activities are "just his". It's tough being the fourth child - everything is handed down and not much is just yours. 

Here is a list of 10 activities I use with my toddler to keep him busy and I hope there is something here that will give you a little inspiration and help provide your toddler with an activity that promotes fine motor skills, learning and fun:

#1 Felt Fishing Game
via: Sapucha on Etsy
So this felt fishing game is something I made for my kids to help spur on their imagination, improve their fine motor skills and help them identify colors. I had seen lots of different versions of this game but that all had magnets and my kids were notorious for putting EVERYTHING in their mouths. I was worried they would swallow the magnets so I came up with my own version of this game with Velcro. The Velcro on the "hook" sticks to any spot on the felt fish making the challenge a little less frustrating for a new angler. My kids love to stand on a big pillow boat with the fish scattered around the floor and try to catch them. Lots of fun!

#2 Pom Pom Push
via: engaging toddler activities
Simple supplies easily turn into a fun and challenging activity for toddlers. Not only can they do this at home but you can bring this fun activity along in the car, church, doctor appointments or wherever you may need to keep a toddler quiet and busy. I've used yogurt containers too as well as a variety of different size and colored pom poms. Just be sure to trim away any jagged edges on the holes you cut into the lid. The best part is after they are done playing you just gather up the pom pom balls, put them into the container and snap on the lid. 

#3 Beaded Pipe Cleaners

via: childhood
This activity is something that should be done under supervision as it does contain small pieces. My little one loves doing this activity! The texture of the pipe cleaners along with a variety of colorful beads gives him something exciting to explore with his hands. As he has gotten older I have asked him to start matching the beads to the color of the pipe cleaners or creating a pattern. Recently, we have started twisting his finished creations into jewelry for him to give as gifts to grandmothers, sister and of course him momma! Lots of fun with little to no pre-planning on the part of you.

#3 Rubberband Soup Can

via: hands on as we grow
A pile of colorful rubber bands and a soup can is all you need for little hands to get busy. As you child gets older you can add sorting the rubber bands by color and using a bigger can to keep them interested. I also taught my little one how to snap the bands once they are on the can so that the sound becomes part of the fun. He thinks he has his own tin can instrument.

#4 Lock and Key

via: No Time For
Like me I'm sure you have a few locks and keys sitting around in a cupboard somewhere. I had a bunch of small luggage locks with keys stashed in a suitcase as well as some larger padlocks in our hardware bin. All of my kids love to play with these! It is hard for them to let their little brother have this activity all to himself since this isn't something most kids get to play with. He loves to put the lock around something and then figure out how to unlock it with the key. Again, supervision is required since there are small parts.

#5 Muffin Tin Color Sorting
via: play to learn preschool
Using colorful objects you have on hand like pom pom balls, beads or even making your own colored pasta is a great tool to teach kids colors and keep them busy sorting these objects into the muffin tins. Recently we read a book about kings and queens and how they usually had all sorts of jewels that came in many different colors. I happen to find some "jewels" (colored plastic gems) at the dollar store and we played this fun sorting game with them. My little guy loved playing with the gems dividing them into the tin sections, pretending he was giving his riches to his siblings. This created a lot of imaginative play along with the fun of sorting by color or size.

#6 Painting in a Ziploc Bag

via: feeling love some
Mushy, colorful and just plain fun is how I would describe this activity. You can pour the paint directly into the bag or what I do is pour small drops onto a piece of tinfoil or wax paper and then insert it into the bag. To keep the bag in one spot I usually tape two sides of it down to the table - the Ziploc side is a good side to tape (wink, wink). My son is working on learning his letters so I encourage him to use his fingers and practice writing the alphabet. Mixing the colors is a fun part of this activity too! If you put primary colors into the bag and ask your child to mix certain colors (yellow + red or blue + yellow or red + blue) they are amazed at the new colors they just made all by themselves. Clean up is a breeze too - just peel up the tape and toss out the bag of paint. No messy hands, brushes or wet painted paper. 

#7 Coloring in a BIG Box
via: I Heart Arts n Crafts
Don't throw away that big box you have taking up space somewhere in your house, not yet at least! This could be just the thing you need to keep your child engaged and busy. Grab that big box and a handful of crayons and stickers and put your little one inside the box so that can get busy creating their own house/space ship/car....possibilities are endless. Sometimes I like to tip the box on its side so the child can crawl in/out by themselves. If their box becomes a house you can cut a window out of one of the sides but just cut three sides so they can open and close the window. Maybe your child thinks they are making a space can get really creative for them and poke holes in the top of their space ship and stick a strand of Christmas lights through the holes. Plug them in and watch their faces light up, literally!

#8 Styrofoam Construction Blocks

via: teachingmama
For this activity you need a block or two of Styrofoam, a plastic toy hammer and a bunch of golf tees. Since the Styrofoam is so easily punctured your child can start the golf tee nail by pushing it into the Styrofoam block then use their toy hammer to pound it the rest of the way down. The golf tees have a pointy end so please watch your child (and your feet when you walk) so no one gets injured. This is a great hand-eye coordination activity that can really do a good job keeping your child busy. It can be a little noise too but noisy is fun, right?

#9 Pool Noodle Marble Run
via: apartment therapy
We have a pool so we have a TON of pool noodles and if you have ever had pool noodles you know they don't last very long. Many times they get broken in half since they are not made out of sturdy, high quality materials. They are also inexpensive and can even be found at the dollar store! This activity requires a pool noodle that you slice in half (just use a sharp serrated knife), empty box or plastic container and some small marbles. *if your child puts toys in their mouths please supervise this activity or wait until they are older. Rest one side of the pool noodle on an elevated surface like steps, furniture or bed so your child can put a marble down the center groove. Place the box or plastic bin at the end to catch the marbles. What a fun activity to play with your child or let them play by themselves. 

#10 Baking Soda and Vinegar "Experiment"

via: buggy and buddy
This activity lets your child play and learn at the same time. A simple chemical reaction between the baking soda and vinegar is exciting to watch and hear - lots of great sensory stuff here momma! I fill up the spaces in a muffin tin with regular vinegar and add a drop or two of food coloring to each. Then I put a good amount of baking soda into a disposable metal pan (you can even use a large plastic container) and spread it into an even layer. With a small squeezable medicine dropper teach the child how to squeeze the end so the vinegar gets sucked up into the dropper. Then let the child drip the colored vinegar into the pan of baking soda. Watch and hear it fizz! Mixing the colors is fun to see as well. The chemical reaction just keeps going and going each time they drop more vinegar into the pan. We really love this one!

I hope you get a chance to try out some of these fun ideas. I know your kids will love them just as much as mine do! If you have other ideas to add I'd love to hear from you so please leave a comment with your ideas

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