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At Home with a Toddler?
My third baby was a little surprise. Several years ago I was “lucky” enough to be laid off of my full time job. The same month, I found out I was pregnant with my third child. That’s the surprise! It all worked out for the best because now, for the first time, I’ve been able to be home with my children.
I’ve been delighted to spend time teaching my toddler and learning everything about her. Toddlers have such fun personalities, adorable voices, at times-indecipherable language and all that boundless energy! You know, even the little tantrums don’t bother me (too much!)
Things to Do With a Toddler
It’s been a great few years with my toddler. I love how I’ve been able to connect, play and grow alongside my little one. However there are some days when I just don’t know what to do with her! I want her to learn through communication and age-appropriate activities but it can be a challenge to know just what a toddler will enjoy.
My daughter has only just turned two, so she still needs lots of supervision and parental guidance with everything. Limiting screen time for toddlers is ideal. But how can you keep your toddler healthy inside and out? I’ve come up with a few simple crafts, exercise activities, brain-building games and ideas for proper toddler nutrition.
RELATED: 65+ Things to Do at Home with Kids
Creative Arts & Crafts for Toddlers
Toddlers love to get into their playtime. Messy craft activities are a way that kids explore the world, to expand their brains and learn. Allow your toddler to safely squish dough, paint and craft. Kids will need constant supervision when crafting, as toddlers have the tendency to put these items into their mouth! Hey, that’s how they learn too. Here are a few suggestions for creative play and crafts to offer your toddler.
- Finger Painting with Pudding – If your toddler keeps trying to lick off the paint, try using pudding to paint with instead. I set this up outside where I can rinse off the concrete when my daughter is done painting.
- Toddler Clay – mushy Play-Doh and kid-friendly clay is a delight. Pair clay with a few simple items, like a safe plastic knife, rolling pin and small cookie cutters.
- Magic Mirror – Sit side by side facing a mirror and make faces. See if your toddler can mimic your expressions.
- Sponge Stamping – Soak sponges of various sizes with water and show your toddler how to stamp them on the ground outside to leave a wet impression.
- Sand Play – Let the grains of sand fall through toddler fingers, let them drive cars through it and enjoy building Kinetic Sand castles before knocking them down!
- Coloring – Yes, old fashioned coloring books and crayons are the perfect art tool for toddlers.
- Painting Fireworks – Snip the ends of an empty cardboard toilet paper roll and fan out the edges. Paint them with acrylic paint and let your child stamp the paper. Overlap colors to create patriotic “fireworks”.
Fun Indoor Physical Exercise
Toddlers absolutely need physical exercise every day. If you can’t get outdoors or to the park, try these indoor exercise ideas with your toddler to help them strengthen their muscles and improve coordination.
- Balloon Toss – Blow up a balloon and show your toddler how to tap the balloon gently with the palm of their hand to keep it in the air.
- Stretching – The slow movements of stretching are easy for little ones to learn. Put on some peaceful music and use kid-friendly connotations like “Melt to the floor like ice cream”.
- Dance Party – Play some kid-friendly songs like the “Hokey Pokey” and “Ring Around the Rosy”. Instructional songs like these that teach the lyrics along with movements are ideal. Make up silly moves like, “wiggle like a dog after bath time” or “waddle like a penguin”.
- Marching Band – Grab an old pot and a wooden spoon to beat out the rhythm. Teach your toddler how to march and clap and then how to synchronize both movements together.
- Balance Beam – Tape a piece of blue painters tape on the floor and show your toddler how to walk on the line.
Brain-Building Learning Games for Toddlers
Your little one probably isn’t quite ready for board games with lots of rules. Try these basic learning games that help your toddler make brain-building connections.
- Basket Toss – Use a laundry basket and balled up socks to create a tossing game to improve coordination.
- Bean Bag Balance – Show your toddler how to balance Bean Bags on the back of their hand, their elbow, top of their foot or her head.
- In and Out – One of my toddler’s favorite things to do is empty the kitchen drawer that holds her sipper cups and flatware. Give your toddler some kid-friendly general use items (like cleaned-out bottles in a variety of sizes with the caps removed) and a small box to let him load and unload.
- Sing Along – Encourage toddlers to learn lyrics and sing along to a rhythm (you’re going to have to sing along yourself to facilitate this!)
Sometimes when I’m home with my toddler, I’m just trying to figure out small bits of activity in between stopping tantrums. Having play ideas that are calming and entertaining is perfect. Having these toys are home will spark imagination for years to come.
- Classic Toys for Toddlers – Classic toys like wooden blocks, vehicles, colored Silky Play Scarves and stacking cups let toddlers play creatively and in their own unique way. No worries if you’re toddler is using the toy in a different way (ie: having a car fly in the air instead of roll on the ground). This just means their imagination is at work!
- Baby Doll – Show your toddler how to cuddle and take care of a baby, including putting the baby to sleep, feeding and changing a diaper. After playing baby dolls, your toddler may want to pretend that they are the baby! This is totally normal.
- Water Play – There’s just something about playing in water that’s both fun and relaxing for toddlers. If you don’t have an outdoor Water Table, a dish washing tub or the bathtub works too. Squirt in bath bubbles for added joy! Obviously this activity will take your full attention, as toddlers should not play around water alone.
- Indoor Tent – Set up an easy “tent” by draping a towel over two chairs or angling pillows to create a crawl space. Don’t be surprised if destroying the tent each time you set it up becomes the game!
Turn off the device and television in favor of story books and snuggles. Toddler story time is a great segue between playtime and nap time. Sometimes the books that toddlers love aren’t the ones that you’re usually drawn to!
Make reading to your child a part of your entire day (not just at bed time). No need to just stick to reading the words on the page. Talk about what you see in the pictures, asking your child to find specific images on the page. If you’re bored of reading the same books over and over, head for the library to borrow new stories or do a “book swap” with friends. Need suggestions on the best book for babies? Read more in the 100 Best Books for Kids.
Learning How to Play Independently
Many toddlers will insist that you either play with them or at least remain with them while they’re playing. Encourage the use of toys that are “open-ended”. Items like blocks, silk fabrics, dolls and dress-up clothes let toddlers use their imagination to play alone. Don’t feel like you have to sit and play with them all the time. Yes, engagement is great but you also want to teach little ones how to play independently. If you toddler is reluctant to play alone, here are some tips to ease into that transition.
Let your toddler choose the toy and start playing with them. Excuse yourself with a reason (you have to use the bathroom, etc). Be prepared for your toddler to follow you when you’re first using this tactic. Eventually you’ll be able to get up and leave the area without giving a reason. Return in a few minutes to join the game. Play for a few minutes, then leave again. Eventually your child may not want you to return, preferring to play on their own!
Restful Time (Don’t Call it a NAP!)
As much as they might protest, a proper rest and nap time is so important. Not only for your toddler but for you as well! Toddlers that have a nap schedule just seem to have better nighttime sleeping habits too.
Start by cleaning up toys, indicating to your toddler that playtime is over. Since I weaned my toddler, I’ll now offer a sipper cup of milk or formula and she’ll sit on my lap. While I read, she drinks. Once I feel her relaxing, I’ll segue into singing some of her favorite songs and she’s ready to sleep. If she’s resistant to lying down in her crib, we’ll often go for a walk in the stroller instead, which usually helps her to nod off.
I’ve been flexible on the nap time lately, noticing that my toddler hasn’t been tired or doesn’t sleep as long with an earlier nap time. I’ve adjusted the nap schedule, pushing it back 90 minutes and finding that she’s falling asleep easier and sleeping longer. It’s all about watching and knowing your own child and what works for them.
Ensuring Proper Nutrition
Toddlers are fickle little people, especially when it comes to what they eat. One day they love peas and can’t get enough of them. The next day they’d rather toss peas on the floor than eat them! It can be frustrating and worrisome; when you’re concerned your toddler isn’t getting proper nutrients. My just-turned-two-year old is already a picky eater and I worry she’s not getting enough nutrition from the little amount of food she eats.
Even if your toddler turns their nose up at everything you offer, just keep trying. My daughter’s lunch and dinner plate doesn’t always reflect what the rest of the family is eating. Sometimes it’s just a few bites in a variety, more like an appetizer platter! Here are some suggestions for toddler-friendly food to try with little ones:
- Cubes of cheese
- Banana Bread Muffins (skip the nuts for toddlers)
- Sliced salami
- Diced tomato
- Buttered noodles
- Kidney beans
- Fluffy Pancakes with toddler’s choice of toppings
- Hard-boiled egg
- Rice pudding
- Cubed chicken breast meat
- Avocado slices
- Enfagrow Toddler is a milk-based drink ideal for kids aged 1-3 years with DHA. It complements a toddler’s diet to help ensure good nutrition for their changing needs and tastes.
Looking for more Toddler Tips? Learn more about the technique of Potty Training in Three Days.
This post was sponsored by Enfagrow® Toddler Next Step™.
This post was originally published Jun 6, 2018 and has been updated and republished.