toddler

How I Keep My Toddler Busy for Hours

It’s hard to catch 5 min when you’ve got kids running around the house.
And we have SO MUCH to do; Laundry, cleaning, making dinner, helping older kids with homework, cleaning up the mess the dog made, paying bills… I could go on and on but you know, mama, you know.. We’re so busy and how often do we resort to the TV to keep our kids occupied? Probably too often… It’s easy, it’s right there, and the kids actually stay quiet for a sufficient amount of time so we can finish at least 50% of the task at hand. Like how do people not use the TV?

The TV is *Right There*

Listen, I use the TV plenty. I am not judging *at all*. If you’re happy with your electronic babysitter, I’m happy with you, But I know some moms worry about the amount of screen time their kiddo is getting. You see so much talk about limiting screen time, how it can affect development, you feel the judgement. I know you read the posts on FB in the mom’s groups where their 3 year old has never seen a minute of television (insert eyeroll) and I know it makes you feel inadequate because it makes me feel that way too!

But, I’ve Got Alternatives

So, I’ve put together a list of 25 activities you can use instead of the TV to keep your kids quiet for 15 minutes. Maybe 20.., if you’re lucky. I mean these are fun activities but they’re not magic.

Honestly though, the more I’ve used these activities with my own toddler, the better she gets at independent play without the TV. It’s all about adjustments and consistency. When we break the habit of screen time, it’s easy to come up with enjoyable alternatives.

Travel Options

These options can go anywhere! Keep some in the car just in case you’re out to eat or at the doctor’s office so you can keep your kids quiet and busy while you’re on the go.

Color/Number/Shape Match Game (felt & velcro)

This is a great learning tool as well! If you’re toddler isn’t working on numbers or letters yet, you can use animals, shapes, or pictures of their favorite foods.

Aqua Doodle

I loooove the Aqua Doodle. It’s a great option for coloring without the mess. All you need is water. This is a fun way to keep kids busy on road trips, or let them color at home without worrying about them getting marker on the furniture or walls.

Magna Doodle

Another great alternative to standard coloring books! My toddler loves her Magna Doodle. Some of them come colored or with stamp. Endless fun!

Color Wonder Mess Free Coloring Books

These are a big favorite in my house. When I discovered these amazing coloring books, I bought like 10, mostly because my daughter colors fast but also because she gets to feel like she’s using markers and being treated like a “big girl” but I don’t have to hold my breath when she colors off the page.

Sticker Activity Book

So I’m not going to lie- stickers can be kind of a pain. My daughter likes to try and stick the stickers to as many surfaces as possible before she moves on to the next one. This is not one of my favorite activities but when she is contained in a car seat or high chair, it’s a great option to keep her quiet!

Quiet/Busy books for toddlers

This might be my all-time favorite activity because it creates the least noise, least mess, and is full of fun things. You can make your own so it can be customized to exactly what your child likes to do!

In-Home Options

Here are some great options to keep your kids busy at home while you’re making dinner, doing laundry, or just trying to take 5 minutes to yourself! (Which you do deserve, btw.)

Magnatiles

These are *super* fun! Magnetic tiles that your child can build shapes with. They don’t require any pressure or placement so really easy for a younger toddler to play with.

Large Cardboard Box to play in

Luckily my husband works somewhere that we can get boxes any time we want but I am also an avid Amazon shopper so we have at least one cardboard box inside the house at all times. If your box is big enough, stick them inside with some crayons, if not, you can always pull the box apart and it can be a huge coloring pad!

Jumbo puzzles

My father-in-law bought a jumbo United States puzzle for my daughter. At first, I was like, “she’s not going to know what to do with this…” but to my surprise, she did! Another fun puzzle came on her Minnie Mouse easel, it was magnetic with a few large pieces. She’s only 2 but she loves her puzzles.

Race Tracks & Matchbox Cars

Setting up a race track is a fun activity for kids to do with their parents. Plus, it’s always a good idea to get your kids into collection-types early so you have at least one gift idea for birthdays and holidays!

Legos/Duplos

I’m not going to lie, I hate legos. My daughter doesn’t actually own any. I felt like she was always asking for my help building something or taking something apart so it wasn’t a great independent-play activity for her. But, I have heard other moms swear by them!

Reusable Window Stickers

These are my daughter’s absolute favorite! She’s not great with traditional stickers because she always wants to put them somewhere and then move them… so reusable window stickers are perfect. If you don’t have a window low enough for your kiddo to get to, a dry erase board works well.

Balls/Potatoes to Sort

I always have a bag of brown potatoes in the cupboard so sometimes I’ll pull it out and give my daughter two bowls so she can sort ‘long ones’ and ‘short ones’. She doesn’t totally get the activity yet, but it keeps her busy and quiet.

Lincoln Logs

I used to *love* playing with Lincoln Logs when I was little! My mother-in-law kept my husbands old set so I was really excited to introduce these to my daughter, sometimes she builds with them, sometimes she plays music with them, they’re multi-use, apparently.

Abacus

This is the doctor’s office toy, if you didn’t know what they were called (because I didn’t!). There are so many different kids but I prefer the ones with multiple surfaces to keep my kid busy for longer.

Ball Pit

So these are super fun, but they can also be a huge mess! I am always finding these balls all over my house, under the couch, in the dining room. They roll everywhere. You’ve been warned! But it keeps my daughter busy for so long that it’s totally worth it.

Mess-free Finger Painting

I am always worried about this project breaking open and my daughter getting paint everywhere so this is more of a dining-room-table-while-I-prep-dinner activity. But it is really cool and she loves it.

VTech Touch and Learn Activity Desk

One of my daughter’s favorite toys! There are buttons, a music option, a learning options, plus when you lift the desk there is a clip to hang paper for coloring which also works as a chalkboard.

Laundry to Fold

Another chore masked as a fun activity, my favorite! Like I said, my daughter loves helping so giving her her own pile to fold while I fold is a fun way to include her in what I’m doing and keep her busy. Plus, she will need to learn to fold towels the *right* way at some point, the earlier, the better!

Help clean a room with spray bottle of water and washcloth

This is great for ‘helpers’! My daughter is such a helper so it’s fun to give her her own cleaning supplies and she can follow me around the house. I typically have her do the floors so I can avoid water streaks on the windows.

Kid’s “Sewing” Kit

A great toy to help develop fine motor skills! And they come in so many different shapes, animals, colors. There are even some specifically to help kids learn to tie their shoes. It’s a great learning activity.

Shine A Light books

These are way more fun than regular books because you can shine a light behind the page and see more details.

Flashlight

Obviously you can use any kind of flashlight but I like this one because it’s specifically made for children so I don’t have to worry about my daughter getting the batteries out, plus there are colors, numbers, animals, etc. so it keeps her busier than a normal flashlight would.

Train Set

I like this  magnetic train set because it doesn’t require setting up any tracks, but if you have carpet a train set with tracks would probably work better.

Bowls/Spoons to Make Music

Good old spoons and bowls right out of your kitchen cabinets! I’m always amazed with how long simple things can keep toddlers busy. But, this is a great option because it’s free and we all have at least one bowl and one wooden spoon on hand, right?

May Your Toddlers Stay Quiet & Busy!


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