Spring has arrived! All the pretty bird songs we have missed are ringing through the air, beautiful blossoms are popping up all over and winter is but a memory. With all of that comes spring break for many schools and preschools. If you don’t have travel plans, you may be stuck in the house with your toddlers for the next week or so.
If you are tired of hearing the same repetitive electronic toys going off or reading the same books over and over again, here are a few ideas to keep your child engaged.
Toddlers play with everything. There are “toys” around your house you might not have thought of. Cotton balls are a hit for toddlers. They stuff them in their ears, rip them apart and put them in their pockets. Some will probably try to eat them as well.
Big cardboard boxes are great forts, while small ones make ideal containers for play cars, dolls or other small toys. Add crayons to the mix, along with some old magazines or newspapers, and you will provide lasting creative activities.
Pots and Pans
Get out the pots and pans! You won’t even need to show your toddler what to do. They will instinctively smash them together in no time. Watch out — they might scare themselves at first. However, you will get sick of the noise before they will!
Make your own colorful dough to play with. Enlist the “help” of your toddler as best as he or she can participate. It’s inexpensive and made of ingredients you should have readily available in your home.
Provide your toddler with plastic spoons and knives or cookie cutters to make interesting shapes or animals. Your toddler shouldn’t eat it, but if they do, the only bad result will be the salty taste in their mouth. That should keep them from doing it again. Purchase commercially made dough in advance if this isn’t your thing.
Paint in a Bag
This is fun! Put paint inside clear, sealable, gallon-sized bags. Seal and secure with tape and then tape them to a slide-by door or wall. Your toddler can manipulate and spread around the paint without getting any on her clothes or body. Watch them mix colors together, make shapes with their fingers, or just squeeze the bag looking for results. Monitor this activity for accidents.
Pack and Play
If you need to make a phone call or you are at your wit’s end and need a break, the Pack and Play is a great source of relief. Make sure you throw in some of your toddler’s favorite stuffed animals, books or toys to play with. If they’re ready for puzzles, those will buy you some time as well. This will keep your toddler occupied for quite a while and may even lull them to sleep.
Spring weather can go either way, but if it’s nice out, get yourself and your toddler some fresh air while enjoying any number of these activities.
Get a clear plastic bag for you and your toddler. Walk around the yard and pick up interesting things revealed by the spring melt such as coins, hardware or winter play toys. Discover new items such as fresh blossoms, old pine cones and leaves or interesting rocks. You can get a bigger bag for yourself and do a little spring cleaning while you are at it.
Head to the Park
If your toddler is old enough, go to the park and see what new challenges he or she can find. Offer your child some free play inasmuch as you think he or she can handle it safely. Free play is scientifically proven to help your child develop neuron connections in the brain associated with problem solving, planning skills and emotional balance.
Free play also provides a great deal of physical activity with jumping, climbing and running, depending on your toddler’s limits. Without even trying, your child will develop strength, balance, agility and fine motor skills.
Show your toddler a box of colorful sidewalk chalk. Invite him or her outside and see what creative things you can make. Your toddler might be tempted to eat the chalk at first, so show him or her its proper use. After a while, you will simply be monitoring your child’s work. They’ll end up covered in chalk dust, so dress accordingly.
See, there are many ways to keep your toddler busy and yourself less overwhelmed with their care. Your home offers many fun activities and toys you may not appreciate as an adult, and the outdoors is full of wonder and healthy physical activities.
The trick is to engage your toddler in the world around them, no matter where you are. Let your child discover things on their own — as long as it’s not the electrical outlet or hot stove! Enjoy your spring, even though it may not be a break for you.