I am a stay at home mom to two very active, very adorable, very vocal babies… and I’ll just come out and say it, some days seem really long.
Entertaining a two-year-old who DEMANDS my attention every second of the day is hard. Mentally hard. Like check-me-into-a-mental-facility hard. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job as a stay at home mom, but doing the same things over and over again, like working on alphabet memorization, “A. A. This is an A. Von, where is the A? Can you find the A? A is for apple, and alligator… A. A.A“, repeating numbers, colors and shapes can be, dare I say it, not very mentally stimulating. Necessary, but not sitting on the edge of my seat thrilling by any means.
Due to my toddler’s extremely short attention span, we do about 73 different activities on any normal day. I’m basically a freakin’ circus. I provide multiple forms of entertainment, I provide the food and the side shows acts. This Mommy-Circus does it all.
My son forces me to be one of those “creative moms” but honestly, I have fun making up silly games!
Are you in the same situation? Do you have no clue what to do with your child because the activities and toys he used to enjoy doing/playing with are now boring and things of the past?
Here are eight activities that have been a huge hit with my toddler at this Mommy-Circus lately.
1. Build a Massive Indoor Tent.
Don’t skimp out now. One sheet?…. just stop it. You want to impress the child, not make him think you are swaddling him for a nap. You must use at least three king-sized sheets. Not debatable.
2. Paint Rocks.
Go grab some rocks! We grab some big stones out of our flower beds, paint them bright colors, and then place them back in the flowerbed for all to enjoy! My son loves this. Every time we go outside he will run to his rock and shout, “VON PAINT!” with a huge smile on his face. That little caveman is so proud. (If only Daddy thought that this hot pink florescent rock did our flowerbeds justice.)
3. Build and Paint a Box House.
You will need to go buy a TV or large appliance so you can use the box. (Just kidding) Or grab a couple of normal boxes and duct tape them together, get creative! We had a large box a few months back from a glider we bought for my youngest’s nursery, so we made it into a house. Huge hit! Opening and closing the door all by himself was the best part. He also liked to run into the box, close the door, and then take a dump. Then he’d sit in there for a while, basking in his own stench. It was his own toddler port-a-potty.
Poop face. Please take note that the door and window are hand-cut by yours truly, and the door knob (pull) is made out of rope.
After a couple weeks of this house, he got bored with it. So, to make it desirable again, I hauled it outside on the back porch and we painted it. Sometimes, doing something new with an old object or just changing its scenery makes them interested again. This bought us a few more days of playtime with the box house.
Until the day I found a black widow spider in it and set the box on fire. Bonfire anyone?
4. Surprise box.
I created the surprise box for two purposes: a new fun activity and a bribe. I wanted this amazing surprise box to be something that I could use against my son, “Eat all the green things on your plate and we will go open surprise box! Oooooooo!” Sometimes it works as a bribe, sometimes it doesn’t. However, he always loves opening it! 2-3 days a week I fill the surprise box (a shoe box) with a random activity, either things I have laying around my house or things I find at Dollar Tree or in the dollar section at Target.
For example: Last week I threw in an old magazine, scissors and tape. Our activity was flipping through the magazine, cutting out pictures of things that he knew the name for (I did the cutting), then he would tape down the picture on a piece of paper. It was fun for 10 minutes then we found other things to do with the magazine, such as rip all the pages and laugh at the sound it made. Then when that got old 5 minutes later…. we would roll up all the torn pages into balls and throw them at each other. Then when that got old, we sang the clean-up song and threw them into the trash can. That surprise box took up 20 minutes of play time, and my son had a blast making a mess.
Look for simple objects, throw them in the box and try to think of a way to play and teach with them. Even if it’s dumb, no one is there to say, “You suck at being creative, lady“, and I bet your toddler will love it!
This was a Surprise Box was from a few days ago containing Target ‘Sculpty Sand’. Even Berkley was into it.
I’m not sitting here saying that you should be making each surprise box a lesson in physics or algebra. Keep it simple.
5. Picnic lunch.
We do this probably 3 times a week as long as it’s not the temperature of Texas Hell outside. The point of having a picnic is to feed your child, not burn them to a crisp. Eating outside on the patio is so liberating for my son. When we eat inside I always make him stay in his high chair – no expectations. But when we picnic he has a little more freedom. He loves it! Yes, his hands get dirty and then he touches his food, which is disgusting.
Having picnics has also forced me to face and work on my germaphobic issues.
Once he ate a bug at one of our picnics and I almost fainted.
Updated picnic picture with both baby beasts in on the action!
6. Glowstick Bathtub Rave.
Buy glow sticks from Dollar Tree or Target and throw a few in the bathtub. Turn off the lights, turn up the choo-choo jams and the bathroom becomes a G-rated rave. My son loves this and I get to dance like a lunatic – it’s part of the package deal. He claps, I dance. When I do this kind of bath, I bathe him first, completing the real purpose of bath time, then the fun begins. This usually ends up being a very long bath, and my dance moves…. well, to put it modestly, they’re epic.
Please take note: bath time doesn’t HAVE to be at bedtime. If you’re having a long day and don’t know what to do with the child, throw ’em in the tub with some toys! My son’s favorite baths are the impromptu baths that take place in the late afternoon. Break the bedtime routine rules every once in a while.
Be a rebel.
7. Flashlight Treasure Hunts.
This is the biggest hit for my son at the moment. We do this every day. Find the darkest room of your house, hide a few random items, then turn off the lights. Give your child a flashlight and walk/crawl with him guiding him and the flashlight while looking for the objects that you have hidden. After all of the objects are found we usually sit and play with the flashlight for a while. We make hand shadows, play music in the dark while whipping around the flashlight… I will say, this one is pretty entertaining for me as well.
Can you find the banana, red car, white car, spoon and blue cup? This is how things are hidden…. now turn off the lights!
8. Nature Walks.
Grab a grocery bag (or extremely tiny Easter bag, as shown below) and get to walkin’. I take my son on walks but in order for the walk to be fun, engaging and not involve me wishing that my son was on a leash the entire walk, we make it a learning game. Make a nature treasure hunt off the top of your head. “OK (your child’s name), we need to find three rocks! Can you find three rocks and put it in your bag?” leaves, sticks, balls, weeds… anything you see. I once saw an orange flag on one of the empty lots by our house, pretty certain it was an electrical marker flag, well, I needed an object and it was right there. “Von, can you find an orange flag?!“…. in the bag it went.
My husband later told me that you are not supposed to take those, I was quick to tell him that there are no rules on nature walks.
I hope you find some, if not all, of these ideas useful! I truly believe that it’s our job to teach our children how to play and how to use their imaginations. A box isn’t just a box, it’s a house, a race car, a present, a secret cave….. get your kids thinking outside the box (pun intended) because that’s when their attention spans hold the longest.
Do not be discouraged if your child doesn’t get these games right away (i.e. treasure hunt, nature walk, painting rocks), teach them how to play, it takes practice!
Let your kid make a mess! Yeah, it’s just another thing you have to clean up, but so what…. drink some wine and get over it.
Your kids had fun today, and you got to teach them something new.
Good job, Mama.
*Second Toddler Activities Post Coming Soon!*
– Until the next time this Redhead rambles.
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Related Post: The 5 Chaotic Phases of Putting a Toddler To Bed.