Even the most seasoned parent knows that some days, it’s just impossible to get out of the house with kids. You could be stranded at home waiting for the cable provider, suffering through inexplicably bad weather, or dealing with a transportation snafu that’s keeping you housebound. While Pinterest is full of amazing ideas to keep kids engaged, many of the most popular items involve a lot of setup--something that’s not always possible with an energetic two-year-old tearing around.
If you’re stuck inside and your toddler has exhausted screen-time, read through all of their PJ Library books, played with every toy, and completed several laps around the interior of your home, here are five fast and easy activities that you can do with items that are already on hand. Scroll down to see each activity, or click on a pink button below to skip to the one you’d like to review:
BUBBLE FOAM PARTY
Little ones love bubbles--if you don’t fancy the idea of a three-year-old carrying around a bubble wand indoors, you can setup this fun, sensory, activity in under five minutes. Your kids will have a blast squishing, scooping, and building foamy bubble towers. They can pretend to be stirring a big pot of cholent, building a snow man, or creating clouds.
TOTAL SETUP TIME: 5 minutes
1/4 cup baby shampoo
Liquid soap (whatever you use for bathtime works)
A bucket or the tub
Optional: Measuring cups, spoons, and bowls to scoop and play with the suds
Mix the shampoo and soap in the bottom of your bucket or tub. Add water. You won’t need much--in the image above there’s mostly suds and very little water.
The cool thing about oobleck is that it’s sometimes a solid and sometimes a liquid, depending on how it’s being interacted with. Your kids can press it, smoosh it, or scoop it up and stretch it out.
TOTAL SETUP TIME: 3-5 minutes
Optional: food coloring
Start with your cornstarch in a glass bowl. You’ll use twice the amount of corsnstarch as water. So if you’re using a cup of cornstarch, you’ll add half a cup of water, stir, and then add a few drops of food coloring and stir again. If the goopy nature of oobleck feels off-putting or you don’t have cornstarch on hand, you can also make easy salt dough or play dough.
MUFFIN TIN SORTING
Who knew that a muffin tin and some broken crayons and odds and ends could keep a child entertained for almost as long as a Daniel Tiger episode? While preschool teachers everywhere have long been aware of the toddler's penchant for sorting objects, parents are just catching on. So go ahead, dump out the junk drawer and put your toddler to work.
TOTAL SETUP TIME:1 minute
Objects to sort: crayons, clothespins, mismatched puzzle pieces, etc…
If your children are under two, you may have to demonstrate first, but then they can have fun on their own. Basically dump all your objects out on the floor, or toss them all in a bin or recycled container, and encourage your child to pick out individual items and place them in a cup of the muffin tin – that’s it! This is a great activity for developing fine motor skills. If your child is around age three and you’re using clothespins, you can also provide them with a cup or empty container from the recycling and encourage them to clip clothespins around the edge.
SQUISH SQUASH COOKING
Your toddler is now your official sous-chef. If you’re making anything that involves mixing, toss the ingredients in a sealable plastic or reusable bag and let them squish and smoosh to their hearts content. Your toddler can mash the chickpeas for hummus, blend herbs into cream cheese, or use their tiny little hands to crush olives for tapenade. Simply toss whatever you have into a bag, seal it tight, and let your little one have at it. Try the recipe below to create some tofu “ricotta” for your dinner.
Tip: This is a good sensory activity for kids going through a biting phase who may need some redirection as well.
TOTAL SETUP TIME: 5-7 minutes
One sealable plastic or reusable bag
Can of beans drained or tofu or cream cheese
To make hummus, pour all of your ingredients in the bag, seal it up, and then let your child squish and mash to their heart’s content. Or use the recipe for “tofu ricotta” below to give them something to mash for as long as their tiny hands need to be occupied.
One block of extra firm tofu, drained
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
Optional: juice of half a lemon, sprinkle of nutritional yeast
Toss everything in a ziploc bag.
Seal the bag and give it a generous shake.
Hand the bag over to your toddler to squeeze and mash the tofu.
Once everything is smooshed, give the bag another shake.
Let sit in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes, preferably overnight.
Swap in place of dairy ricotta for lasagna, ziti, or use to top pizza.
Sure, you probably have some beautiful, hand-carved, wood blocks right in the toy bin—but building and stacking can seem so much more compelling with household items. Tap into your little architect’s budding potential and encourage your child to build the biggest tower they can.
TOTAL SETUP TIME: 1 minute
Pasta or cereal boxes
Canned goods from the pantry
You may have to demonstrate once, but after that your child will be able to self-direct pretty easily. Grab anything within reach from your pantry or recycling pile and encourage your little one to build the biggest tower they can.
What are your tried and true boredom busters?
Share your favorite ideas with us on social media using #pjlibrary.
May 1, 2018