If you’re anything like me, you’re possibly a little wary of allowing your kids to spend too much time in front of screens. In our household, the TV is a last resort for when Mummy is unwell, or used for watching the nightly news after kids are in bed. Kid’s programmes (quite deliberately) are not on our radar.
However, if your house is as devoid of toys as ours, there will be times when you feel either guilty for depriving your children, or at your wits end as you try to work out how to engage an inquisitive toddler. Although there are a lot of activity lists online, I’ve found that most target children over about 2. Below are some of my favourite ‘go-to’ activities that are suitable from the start of crawling and rely on recycled materials or those available in the natural environment.
- Musical instruments. Make your own instruments using saucepans, bowls, wooden spoons, milk bottles or whatever else you have to hand. Then simply pop in your ear plugs, position yourself on the floor and join your toddler as they gleefully bash away. Who knows, you may be inadvertently training the next Mozart.
- Ten Pin Bowling. Pull some empty milk bottles out of the recycling, grab a soft ball (or some balled up socks if you don’t have a ball), line the bottles up at the end of the hall and let the games begin! This one is really ideal for older toddlers who can understand the object of the game but even littlies will have fun.
- Get out in the garden. If you are lucky enough to have a garden that is suitable for children, make the most out of it. Weeding, planting and raking are all activities that your toddler will love to help with and if you need to tackle tasks that are unsuitable for them, simply set them up with some leaves, sticks and rocks and let them entertain themselves. (Word of caution – if your child is the kind who eats everything, do not leave unsupervised!)
- Sock puppets. This takes a tiny amount of artistry on your part but is a great way to use lonely socks and engage your child’s imagination. All it takes is some old socks, some buttons and a needle / thread!
- Mummy’s Helper. Even young toddlers can be amazingly helpful around the house. My daughter started cleaning cupboard doors when she was 11 months and now helps to load / unload the washing machine, hands me wet clothes to hang out and assists with sweeping up. Some of these tasks take a little longer because of her ‘help’, but she takes great joy in working with Mummy and we have a lot of laughs!
- Reading. Reading is a daily activity in our house and our daughter is often to be found curled up on the floor, nose buried in a book. Visit your local op-shop (thrift shop) to pick up board books suitable for babies and toddlers for less than $1.
- Get your boogie on. Even babies’ in utero love music and your toddler is probably no exception. Dancing with your toddler is great fun; it gives you a work out and an instant mood boost and helps to develop their coordination.
- Rhyme Time! If you have a spare 15minutes, sit down with your toddler and teach them the words and actions to a number of nursery rhymes. ‘Open, Shut Them’, ‘Hickory Dickory Dock’, ‘The Grand Old Duke of York’ and ‘Incy Wincy Spider’ are hits in our house. If you can’t remember any nursery rhymes from your own childhood, visit your local library for inspiration.
- Play a game. Tailor old favourites such as ‘Hide & Seek’ or ‘Chasey’ to suit the age and ability of your child. If you have the time, perhaps even build an obstacle course either inside or outside for the two of you to complete together.
- Cooking. Kids of all ages (including the little ones), absolutely love cooking. Get your young toddler involved by sitting them on the bench, encouraging them to hand you ingredients, letting them do some mixing, and of course, allowing them to lick the spoon! This can get very messy, but is a great way to connect your child with the joy of cooking.
I’d love to know how you keep your little ones entertained. Share your top tips in the comments below!