Pinterest is a blessing and a curse.
On the one hand, it’s a treasure trove of ideas with a built in, beautiful system for saving those ideas so they’re not lost to the internet-ether. On the other hand, it can really bring a mama down to see pin after pin of perfectly crafted kid’s entertainment that looks like a work of art while also developing skills and cognitive processes that haven’t even been discovered yet.
Yeah, that’s a lot to live up to when you’re just a tired mama looking for a way to keep your active toddler occupied and engaged without handing over the iPad.
For the blogger moms who create museum quality masterpieces, we salute you. For the rest of us, here’s a list of 10 realistic activities to captivate your toddler:
Contact Paper Artist
Simply cut and attach a sheet of contact paper, sticky side out, to a safe, low surface. The side of the fridge or a cabinet, or a kid’s easel if you already have one. Let your toddler go to town filling it up with bits of construction paper, cotton balls or pom poms. Once the sheet is full, just switch it out for a new piece. Rinse and repeat.
Stained Glass Art
No, don’t give your kiddo glass to play with. Instead, get a multi-colored pack of tissue paper and some kid-safe glue. Let your kid go to town tearing up tissue paper and gluing it down. They’ll get a kick out of watching the colors overlap and create new shades.
Who says you need to wait until your toddler is a teen to start helping out around the house? My daughter loves helping with the laundry. Toddlers love to pull the warm clothes fresh from the dryer, place them in the laundry hamper, and help put the damp clothes from the wash into the dryer. It may not be hours of fun, but it will help you get things done AND have a good time with your little one.
Simple Sensory Bags
Sensory bags can be complicated masterpieces, but the simple versions work just as well.
Rainbow sensory bags are super fun and not too complicated! You could also just fill a ziplock bag with small items like dried beans or broken up packing peanuts. Or fill a bag with hair gel and toss in a few tiny toys. Tape the bag shut. Kids can move small items around in gel, trace designs through peanut parts or simply enjoy shaking and rattled dried beans around.
Little kids love looking at pictures, especially pictures of beloved family, friends or pets. Give your munchkin a cheap photo album filled with individual pictures of their favorite people (and pets!). They can have fun looking it over alone or you can look at it together and practice naming family members.
Grab an old cupcake tin and multi-colored collection of craft pom poms in different sizes. Have your toddler sort the poms between the tin cups by color or size.
You don’t need to make any purchases for this activity. Don’t have pom poms? Use old buttons, leftover uncooked pasta or freshly washed socks! Ditch the tin and make piles on the floor or a table.
Pipe Cleaner Bottles
Now that they’ve mastered throwing your jewelry into the toilet, give them a real challenge: a collection of pipe cleaners an empty water bottle. Let them figure out how to get the cleaners in and out of the small opening. For an extra challenge, have them sort the pipe cleaners into multiple bottles by color.
Pipe Cleaner Boxes
Similar to the challenge above, for this all you need is a handful of pipe cleaners and an empty box. Like one of the dozen empty diaper boxes waiting for trash day.
Poke holes in the box with a pencil and encourage them to make the box look like pipe cleaner porcupine.
Scoop and Sort
It’s exactly what it sounds like. All you need are large containers (plastic bowls, empty shoeboxes), makeshift scoops (spoons or ladles, plastic cups) and scoopable items (sprinkles, seeds, dry pasta).
Have kids scoop items from one bowl to the next. Don’t be afraid to sit back and let them create their own objective. It’s amazing how focused they can become on completing a task of their own invention.
DIY Latch Board
You can go the extra mile and paint or stain your latch board, but all you really need is a kid friendly—well sanded and not too heavy—board, assorted latches and screws.
You can find tons of different latches and bolts at your local hardware store. Just avoid including medicine cabinet latches or other items you don’t want them to spend hours figuring out how to break into.
All day crafting sessions are great, but don’t be afraid to give yourself a day off from being super mom. I promise, your kids will be well entertained and safely stimulated with these simple activities.