Saturday, July 7, 2012
Naturally, toddlers are infinitely curious about the world around them. It can be a challenge sometimes to keep them busy and interested in an activity. But once you find something they love, it is fun to watch them and a relief to get a few minutes to get things done around the house (or to read a book in peace until the first scream). Since all children are so different, you really have to go by trial and error when it comes to any activity. We should be careful not to push them to do something they aren't interested in and likewise not to discourage them from something they are genuinely into. For example, I am not thrilled when my toddler plays in the mud and dirt, but it is one of her favorite things to do! I try not to interfere. The best of course is when your ideas and your kids' enthusiasm collide and everyone wins. Here are some fun activities that are simple, age appropriate for toddlers, and [relatively] mess-free for your peace of mind.
Water Painting: I get nervous when I see my toddler with paint! Tell me I'm not the only one! I found a great alternative for everyday play - water! Take out some colored construction paper, brushes, and a cup with water, let them go wild! This activity is perfect for doing outdoors, that way you don't care where they spill it. On a hot day my toddler loves to water paint. We have also successfully used larger brushes to paint on asphalt and our front step. Best of all, the canvas dries and they can do it all over again. Go ahead, ask them to 'paint' your wooden fence with water all day long!
Bead Lacing: Granted not every toddler may have the patience, but many will love this activity. You could have them string macaroni on thread, grapes onto skewers, or other household items you may find (just make sure there are no infants grabbing things to put into their mouth and that the toddler is past the 'choke on tiny things' stage) . The Plan Toys Lacing Beads are ready to go if you don't want to come up with your own threading toy. Great to keep on hold and pull out when you need just those extra ten minutes to finish something or get dinner on the table.
Sorting: My three year old has a mild case of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), or at least that's what my husband and I call it. She likes to sort things. I even got her a divided stainless plate so that she can keep her food separate, she doesn't like to mix things. I use this to my advantage! Have the toddlers sort laundry - socks, shirts, pants, etc. They will do half the work for you. Sorting the mess they have made? Great idea! Blocks in one pile, cars in another, clothing in the third, books, etc. Just for fun, like when you need to take a shower, you can put a package of pasta shells and package of macaroni mixed into one bowl and have them sort the two! (Just thought of that, so doing it!)
Dress Up: I admit we do not nearly play enough dress up, that's my fault. I think a big box of dress up clothes should be easily accessible to the kids - especially girls, just seems to come naturally to them! You could hang a bag (like the Bummis Tote Bag) somewhere they can reach it and stuff it with old glasses, shoes, hats, purses, legwarmers, skirts, etc. My toddler's doll carrier has become part of her dress up arsenal as well!
Picture Books: I am raising a little bookworm, she has officially told me she would rather 'read' than help me make pie - which used to be her favorite thing. Of course toddlers can't read yet, but if you have an in-home library of picture books and access to a public library, there is a never ending resource of imagination stretching for your little ones. Of course this didn't happen overnight, I didn't suddenly decide that she should spend a lot of time looking at her books. We've been reading at bed time since she was 6 months old, now it is just second nature. Somehow it makes me feel warm and fuzzy when she is sitting there 'reading' a book, not exactly how I feel when she is playing with the computer or tablet. Books have saved me in terms of keeping my toddler busy while I nurse her baby brother, change him, or carry him around while he cries in teething pain!
What are your favorite mess-free toddler occupying activities?
*Photo of my daughter originally taken by me for my Eco-Babyz blog