(Ladeez and gents, this is the series you’ve waited for – a post on every day, for the entire month of october – I’m buried in the posts that I really shouldn’t ignore – Taking my breath, and stealing my mind – and early bedtimes are left behinddddd…)
(that was corny.)
Between being an older sister, an aunt (I know, I can’t bring myself to say it either), and a babysitter, I wind up entertaining kids almost every day. And I’m no expert. In fact, most of the advice I would give a newbie would be how not to do it. From experience.
But y’all probably aren’t beginners, and that would make for a pretty negative post. Instead of lecturing, I’m going to serve up four different tested ways to entertain toddlers (and a few tips on how to keep older kids interested in the same stuff!)
A Few Things To Note
A toddler’s attention span is shorter than the fuse on a firecracker. Don’t expect anything you do with him or her to hold him there for more than fifteen minutes. If, by some miracle, it does, don’t touch anything and let him play with it for as long as he will. And praise the Lord for the break He’s given you.
Toddlers get overstimulated very easily. Don’t bring out too much at once. They’ll either become stone-like neandrotoddlers or little ticking time bombs of energy and meltdowns. Use your tricks slowly and present them like they’re something special – even if they’re just a few things laying around your house.
Thing No. 1: Pom-Poms
There’s something about these little balls of neon fluff that are mezmerizing to a toddler. (Watch them in her mouth and make sure she know’s they’re not for eating. If you’re really worried about her choking on them, get the jumbo ones.) She’ll enjoy scooping them into a pile and chaotically spreading them around, or throwing them in the air and having them drop on her head.
Some other things you can do:
- poke them into a wide-necked bottle (like a Gatorade bottle). This was really popular with my babysitting kid.
- fill the divets of an egg carton with them. You could even sort them by color and be educational.
- If you’re watching an older kid along with a toddler, she could get involved by using a big needle and some yarn to string them together and make caterpillars.
Thing No. 2: Sensory Bottles
Firstly: these are better if you make them ahead.
Secondly: please, please, please tape the top of the bottle shut. Don’t let kids drink glitter.
Thirdly: These are so much fun to shake, roll and spin. You could fill them with glitter, colored oil, Orbeez, or sprinkles. Add a little water (or thinned clear hair gel for something a bit thicker) and tape the top closed, and you’ve got a toddler timekiller. These are especially good for quiet play on highchair trays and car rides.
A few other ideas:
- These are somewhat artsy. Try theming your bottle contents for birthdays, holidays, and seasons.
- Play with how much water you put in them. Less water = more shakable, more water = more swirlable.
- Older kids will love to put together their own bottles with your supplies. But even though they’re more mature, don’t skip the tape for them – these things are awful when they explode.
Thing No. 3: Masking Tape
This roll of semi-sticky goodness is your best friend. Never watch kids without it. There’s a ton you can do with it, but here are some ideas:
- Use it to mark starting lines for races of all sorts – hopping on one foot, crawling on hands and knees, shuffling with a sock ball in between their feet (“emperor penguin egg”). It’s also handy as the end line for Red Light, Green Light.
- Mark X’s on the floor and play The Floor Is Lava. Anyone not on an X is burnt. (This one’s fun for a big group of varied ages.)
- Use similar X’s on the floor instead of cushions for Musical Chairs.
- Tape one single line on the floor and have them walk across it. I call this the World’s Safest Balance Beam™.
Thing No. 4: Sticky Notes
This one’s super simple but surprisingly enthralling. Get a pad of sticky notes you don’t particularly like and let him peel them off and stick them to stuff. He’ll be in love with the way he can put them on everything. What’s arguably even more fun, though, is peeling them off, crumpling them up and throwing them.
You could also:
- Draw designs on them (before sticking them to the wall!).
- Fold them.
- Rip them.
- Older kids can stay interested, too. They can fold teeny annoying paper airplanes or make a puzzle by putting a bunch of them in a grid and drawing a picture, then challenging you or a sibling to put it back together.
Toddlers don’t need elaborate games to keep them interested. Sometimes all you need is a simple object and a bit of direction.
A final tip: don’t over-manage. Show her how to do it a few times, then let her do her thing. There’s nothing worse than having someone breathing down your neck when you’re trying to poke pom-poms in a bottle.
And if you don’t have siblings or babysitting clients? I hope that on the day when you somehow get picked to watch the church daycare classroom, these ideas will float down your mental stream of consciousness and be useful.
Sayonara for now,