Keeping your toddler engaged and stimulated need not be expensive and time consuming.
1. Go outside
Even when it rains. It does not matter if the weather is so awful that you have to dress them in coats and blankets before strapping them into the buggy. Or go walking with them in rain boots and an umbrella. Explore your street! It may sound very boring to you but to your toddler everything is exciting. Oh, look, garbage trucks! Oh, wow! A bridge! Don’t be afraid of getting them a bit wet and muddy. Afterwards, you can get changed into warm, clean clothes and have tea.
A highly underrated and undervalued activity for toddlers. Paper and pencils, crayons even a good old fountain pen will work. Teach them how to draw animals from basic shapes like circles, squares and rectangles. If you aren’t too confident of your own drawing skills, encourage them to make patterns with straight and squiggly lines.
3. Play with clay
Clay is a great way to keep your toddler engaged for hours with a creative and stimulating medium that will help increase their fine motor skills too. You can make a safe toddler clay at home by mixing 2 cups of flour, 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, half a cup of salt, 2 tablespoons cream of tartar, 1 to 1.5 cups of boiling water and a few drops of food colouring. Mix the ingredients and knead it until you have the right consistency. Keep in a zip lock bag and it will remain soft for months.
4. Make paper animals
You don’t have to be an origami master to be able to make a few simple animals from paper. Cut the shapes and glue them together. A shark is a long oval with a triangle for a tail, for instance. Try making stands for the animal by folding paper into “feet”. Children can play for hours with pieces of paper.
5. Empty boxes
Many parents have been amazed to discover their children playing longer with the empty box that housed a very expensive present. Empty boxes are great for putting stuff in, carrying things around, hiding objects, and yourself, of course. Give them a few boxes to pack into and out of, which helps with spatial learning too.
6. A puppet show
This does require some input from mom but will entertain your little one. A simple sock over the hand will do as a puppet. Get different coloured socks for different characters. Your stage can be the top of the couch. Sit behind it and act out a story for your little one. After the show is done, they will want to the socks and continue with the story by themselves.
7. Play with Tupperware
You will be surprised to see how long your little one will be kept busy by sorting out your tupperware. Building stacks and towers with empty plastic bowls and adding bridges with lids is a very fun way to play for a small child and costs absolutely nothing! You will have some tidying up to do afterwards but that will take a few minutes at most.
8. Play easy games
Your toddler is already able to understand basic concepts and it is good for cognitive development to play games like: where is the (whatever). A good memory game can involve you showing different objects, like: a spoon, hair band, a small animal toy, a salt shaker and throwing a scarf over it. Ask them to tell you what is under the scarf. If they can’t speak that well yet, point to the objects and ask: Is this a spoon? This will also help with language development. You can also hide a coin under plastic cups and move them around and see if you little one spotted where it is now.
9. Play with yarn/string
If you don’t have yarn in the house, try to find some string for various games. These can involve tying the ends and showing them how to make shapes and play string games. The internet has several videos showing you how to make various shapes and interesting designs with only a piece of string.
10. Making music
Toddlers love making noise. It follows then that they will enjoy ordering that noise into something melodious. Help them to make instruments like drums (empty pots) or a guitar with strings (if you have some energy left). Sing songs with them, make up songs or create your own marching band.