Toddlers are true innovators who think outside the box, and they work quickly. By that, I mean, you can’t leave them alone for a second or they will bathe themselves in Vaseline or eat food from the dog’s bowl. Once, when I was trying to write an email, my toddler found a pair of scissors and decided to give herself bangs. The problem was that the bangs were on the side of her head and not the front, which was not a great look for her.
Here are some foolproof ways to keep your toddler entertained at least long enough so you can take that shower and feel like a human being again:
1. Let them play with YOUR stuff
There is nothing more fun for a toddler than playing with something that they don’t think they should be playing with. Give them a purse filled with things like an old phone, a ring of keys, and expired credit cards. This activity will hopefully buy you enough time to throw in a load of laundry or do any of the other super-exciting things that you have on your to-do list.
2. Give them different-sized cups of water
Put a towel underneath your toddler, and let them go to town, pouring, splashing, and making a huge, huge mess that you will eventually have to mop up. But, just think: Your floor will be sparkling clean, and your child will be so entertained that they will have forgotten all about their plans to put crushed-up crackers in your shoes.
3. This amazing Touch and Learn Activity Desk™ Deluxe from VTech
A way to keep my toddler busy and help them interactively learn too? Yes, please. This thing is like magic. It’s not only a desk with activity cards that focus on nursery rhymes, animals, and reading, but it also transforms into an easel and a chalkboard. What?! And toddlers are so tech-savvy these days that they will love the LED lights that help with tracing numbers and letters. They will be having so much fun that they won’t even realize they are learning. Mom level: Expert.
4. Golf balls and pipe cleaners
Use practice golf balls with holes in them and show your toddler how to push the pipe cleaners through the holes. My daughter loved this. I could even pat myself on the back about the fact that she was working on hand-eye coordination at the same time.
5. Have them play dress-up
Throw a bunch of hats and colorful scarfs and costume clothes in the middle of the room and sit back and relax. Just kidding, toddlers only love dressing themselves when you are late for something, so they will totally want your help. This is probably a bad idea.
I don’t know why toddlers love forts so much, but they do. Pull all your chairs together, drape some blankets over the top and — voila! — instant toddler paradise. Add some stuffies and blankets, and they will be happy until at least second breakfast.
7. Stringing things, any things
Felt strips, large (non-choking) buttons and beads, tube pasta, Cheerios, wooden blocks — there are a million things to string and so little time. Give your toddler some string and something to put on it, and they will sit in one place for at least the amount of time it takes you to have a few thoughts of your own. Totally worth it.
8. The Ring and Learn Cash Register™ from VTech
This thing has saved my life. In fact, my son loves playing with it so much that I’ve had visions of him becoming a banker one day. Toddlers simply love pretending to shop, and this cash register has fun features on it like light-up numbers and real cash register sounds. They will be working on motor skills and role-play and language development. It’s also fun to watch them practice being social by interacting with stuffed animal customers and then pretending to like vegetables enough to buy them.
9. Make an obstacle course
Use pillows, chairs, hula-hoops. This is a great activity for when you are in the room, but just need to be working on something else besides reading Llama Llama for the millionth time. They will love challenging their gross motor skills by jumping onto soft pillows and crawling under chairs. But toddlers have been known to be very uncoordinated, and they often get stuck, so make sure you’re close by.
10. And finally, let them draw on paper plates
Again, toddlers like the forbidden or the unusual, so they will think this is cool for maybe three minutes. You might want to add something else like dried pasta and a funnel to the situation, and then you’ll have just enough time to text your partner to tell them they need to come home right away.
So, good luck out there parents. Toddlerhood is just a small moment in time, but I know we can all survive it and add a little fun and learning in the meantime.