This school year, it has been a challenge to keep Jonathan busy! He is currently 21 months old, and does NOT want to play with toys while we do school. He wants to be right in the middle of the action! Jonathan loves to empty out the pencil sharpener onto the carpet, unload all of the crayons out of the box, scribble on school books, and get on top of the school table. It’s crazy. Lately I’ve been on a quest to find some constructive ways to keep him busy!
Here are 10+ tried and tested ideas for keeping toddlers busy. Keep in mind, though, that no toddler is going to stick with anything for very long! I consider 10-15 min. to be a successful activity.
Also, the first thing that I did to help (somewhat) restore order to our school day was to buy Jonathan a booster seat for the school table. Now he can be at the table with us – but he’s buckled in. 🙂
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1. Straws and an empty water bottle. I gave Jonathan a cup full of straws cut into long segments and an empty water bottle. He knew what to do! He loved dropping the straws through the mouth of the water bottle, and it’s good fine motor practice too.
It was fun to pour the straws out and then load them in again! I had to pick the straws up off the floor a few times, but this kept Jonathan happily engaged for a near record-breaking 15 minutes.
2. Playdough at the high chair. We have an island in our kitchen, and I can do spelling or math with Gresham (7) at the island while Owen (4) plays with playdough and Jonathan does playdough in his high chair. At this age, Jonathan really enjoys the wooden playdough stamps that came with the Melissa & Doug Shape, Model, and Mold set.
3. Connect Four game. Jonathan loves to drop the Connect Four pieces into the game board and listen to the sound they make. He also loves to watch them fall out the bottom when he opens it up.
4. A muffin tin and something to put in it. We did this the other day with math cubes, but Jonathan also really loves to play with pom poms.
5. Board books. Rotate them, or check out new ones from the library. A basket with different books in it each week is fun for toddlers!
6. Velcro blocks. I saw this idea on No Twiddle Twaddle, and I knew we had to try it! I stuck strips of sticky-back velcro to some blocks that rarely get played with at our house, and Jonathan loves sticking them together and listening to the noise they make when he pulls them apart. You don’t need a lot of blocks for this – I did 8.
7. Scooping and pouring with water, spoons, and containers. If the weather is nice, this is great to do outdoors. You can read out loud to older children while the younger ones play!
8. Play with real cooking spoons and plastic bowls. This was a big hit in the toddler class at VBS last summer!
9. Sticky Letters. I bought this large oil change pan at Walmart for playing with magnets, but it’s also fun to use with contact paper (taped down sticky side out). Jonathan can stick on our foam bathtub letters, and then I can work with Owen (4) on letters and letter sounds at the same time – score!
10. Watercolor Painting. Like the playdough, if we do this in the high chair, the mess is limited enough that I can work on another school subject with another child. And Jonathan loves to paint!
12. Duplo Legos. I can usually count on Duplos to actually hold Jonathan’s attention! He’ll even play with them in the living room by himself while we’re nearby at the school table. Investing in a good basic set of Duplos is definitely worth it if you have kids ages 5 and under!
A good set to start with is the Duplo basic bricks tub (set 5506).
Now, I’m not promising you a totally easy day with your toddler, but it does help to have a few tricks up your sleeve! What ideas can you add? What are your favorite ways to keep toddlers busy?