With Little To No Effort (And No Screen Time!)
Do you have a list of things to do but your kids constantly demand your attention? It can be hard as parents to keep on top of our responsibilities, especially around the house, while the kids are running a muck. Sometimes you just need to find something for them to do that will keep them occupied long enough, so you find yourself reaching for the TV remote for the second time that day.
Well reach no more! I have 5 tried and true activities that my toddlers love and can do on their own with minimal set-up or clean-up from me. In my book, that’s major victory if there ever was one.
1.) Playdoh & Pipe Cleaners
My kids both love baking with me, but if I’m being realistic, it takes a lot of my time and attention and it gets really messy really quick. Playdoh is a good alternative to baking with my children. I can set them up at the dining table while I am in the kitchen, still able to see them. They love their Playdoh color of choice, some cookie cutters, the rolling pin of course, and I actually found that pipe cleaners work really well with Playdoh and keeps them fairly entertained. They can stick the pipe cleaners in Playdoh balls and make flowers or wings for a bumble bee. There’s just so much more they can make with this simple addition. I also sometimes add a spaghetti strainer upside down that they can use the pipe cleaners on as well. It adds to the fun, enhances fine motor skills and you get your work done! It’s a win win!
2.) Cheerios & A Mixing Bowl
Alright, I know this one sounds strange but I swear, my kids LOVE it. All you do is grab a large (plastic or metal) mixing bowl, pour in a cup of their favorite cereal or snack, we use Cheerios, and give them a large spoon. I sometimes throw in some colorful measuring cups I found at Target. My kids keep themselves occupied by stirring, scooping and pouring the cereal for at LEAST a half hour to forty-five minutes which, for a mom, is enough time to start cooking lunches, unload the dishwasher and get back to saving the world, reuniting lost socks one load of laundry at a time.
Pro Tip: Set this activity up in the hard surface floor for swift, easy clean-up.
3.) Bubble Machine & Bubble Solution
Okay so this one may be a tad obvious since it’s pretty universally known that toddlers love bubbles. But I have to imagine that when most of us think of bubbles and kids, we picture tedious bubble-blowing for the amusement of tiny, screeching unsteadily swift creatures. A bubble machine is the “eureka!” solution to that problem. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably picturing an expensive, intricate bubble machine used at weddings or graduation ceremonies, but I did some browsing online and in stores and found this lovely model for just $10.99 that I dare say works just as well as my friend’s much pricier one. It actually works even better when paired with this bubble solution I had left over from a huge party.
This has brought my kids HOURS of endless joy. We use this in our back yard and at the park, but the reason it’s on this particular list is because I usually set it up on our screened-in back porch which also has their trikes and my DIY sand box. I can watch them play from the glass door in my kitchen while I am cooking or doing the dishes, or even just catching a break sitting up at the bar top.
4.) Butcher Paper & Crayons
Coloring with toddlers can sometimes be difficult if you’re trying to get them to keep their coloring confined to an 8”x11” rectangle, and my kids are certainly no exception. If I turn my back for even five seconds, my kids start coloring the tables and any longer than that, they’d redecorate the walls. Ugh, it was always my least favorite activity for them to do until I had the brilliant idea to use a roll of butcher paper.
We had some butcher-like paper we got from Walmart leftover from our minimalist Christmas wrapping, so I grabbed it, some low-residue tape and covered my entire table with it. Then I brought out the crayons and these stickers, too, for good measure. This gave them so much more coloring space than the average sheet of paper or coloring book page. Between the crayons and the stickers, they were so occupied, that I was able to sweep and vacuum around and beneath them without incident or distraction (and no running through my swept-up dirt piles, either! Score one for Mommy!)
5.) Magnetic Alphabet Letters & Baking Sheet
This is probably my favorite one on this list, and not just because it keeps my kids occupied the longest. It is an activity that my son actually learns and retains information from. Having children 13 ½ months apart means that finding something that a 16 month old and a 2 ½ year old can do together, nicely, without Mommy is like finding buried treasure, and this one is like finding the Holy Grail. I ordered some magnetic letters on Amazon and I chose the ones we got in particular because they come with numbers and basic math symbols as well. So this set will grow with my kids as their knowledge and skill level does.
Now when I first got these letters, I let them play with them on the fridge and let me admit, that activity is not my favorite because they were constantly dropping the letters under the fridge and we’d have to move the fridge to get the letter before meltdowns ensued. Not to mention if I was trying to keep him entertained so that I could cook his lunch, it was very inconvenient to have them right under my feet and in the way.
This got me brainstorming and soon enough I remembered that my old baking sheet that I no longer use would be the perfect solution. Since then, I’ve swapped the baking sheet for an old metal serving tray that I “upgraded” with my handy dandy stone gray spray paint and hung on my son’s wall. So now, I just open their letters up, spell out both of their names on the sheet and let them play with the rest. The best part, and the part that warms my Mommy Heart the most is watching my oldest teach his little sister the letters he knows from when we would play it together.
It’s not always easy to keep children entertained so that we can accomplish our daily duties. I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes my children get more screen time than I’d like. But with these new parenting hacks, I can get my tasks done guilt-free, and even join in on the fun once I’m done with everything. After all, using these activities to keep my children entertained helps me get my own work done ten times faster than normal, and you can’t help but feel accomplished when it’s all said and done.
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