DIY Projects

Three Easy (And Free!) Toddler Activities

Until a for-real child actually started living in my house, I never spent much time around kids. I babysat a bit when I was a teenager, but mostly for older children who really just wanted me to leave them alone so they could watch TV (although there was this one time when I was 15 or so, and these extremely wealthy friends of my parents left me with their newborn, and their townhouse was so enormous – we’re talking a New York City apartment that required an elevator – that I literally got lost and spent a decent percentage of my time babysitting toting a baby around in a carrier and freaking out). And until very recently, I didn’t have any friends who had children, or any nearby relatives with kids.

So one major thing that worried me about raising a little boy was…you know…if I’d know what to do with him. If I’d have the right tools to make his days fun, exciting, and (hopefully) a little educational. And I completely understand that pressure to buy the fancy, expensive, bells-and-whistles toys…but over the past couple of months what I’ve learned is that you don’t have to spend a cent to set up a toddler for a truly awesome (and seriously fun) afternoon, even when it’s too cold outside for the playground to be an option. All it takes is a little imagination.

And bubbles. Obviously.

This is such a fun – and free! – way to keep a toddler entertained for ages (or…you know…thirty minutes. Which is “ages” for a toddler). Just look around the house for a bunch of items with varying textures (keeping in mind not to incorporate things that are too small if your toddler is still in the everything-goes-in-my-mouth stage, and to monitor closely regardless), and spread them out on the floor or on a large unbreakable plate. Remember that this can get a little messy – and that’s OK, it’s all part of the fun – so don’t set up shop in an area where spillage will make you nuts.

Here, I used barley (again, our son doesn’t really put things in his mouth anymore, but I still kept a close eye on him), sticks, and pine needles so that he could feel all the different textures and use different things as tools to push the stuff on the plate around.

A small plastic cup is a nice addition, as it can be used both as a receptacle (kids love “putting stuff away”) and as a pouring device. One note: grains and other very small objects of which there are thousands get messy very quickly, but you can also turn cleaning up into a fun game (after the barley had been sufficiently spread across our floor, I showed Indy how to use the dustpan…and while I can’t say that he was “helpful”, exactly, he was extremely enthusiastic and cute about participating in the cleanup process).

Also try: leaves, pinecones, grass, marshmallows, plastic spoons, raisins, silky scarves, cotton balls.

Ooh, this is fun stuff.

You know, I would have thought that an obstacle course was a little advanced for a toddler, but Indy and I recently started going to a “gym class” (the term is a loose one), and I was surprised by how much he seemed to enjoy following instructions (crawl up/walk across/crawl through).

And while for-real gym equipment is nice and all…there’s something even more fun about climbing over the pillows from your living room couch

I mean…everyone loves bubbles. This one is a no-brainer.

You probably won’t have to offer too much direction with this activity, but you can encourage your toddler to “stomp” the bubbles and to “clap” them; you can also have him “chase the bubbles” as you move from room to room.

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