11 Busy Toddler Activities

I used to think that my primary job as a mother was to be my kids' playmate. And I truly used to spend every waking minute with Emerson, my firstborn. But after a very exhausting second pregnancy and having another baby that requires lots of attention, it dawned on me that I cannot be my toddler's playmate and my baby's source of life at the same time.  At first, I felt serious guilt about this. I was putting way too much pressure on myself as a mom. But then I realized that this is just a part of life, and sooner or later, Emerson was going to have to learn that the world doesn't revolve around him :) I still interact with him while he is doing different activities throughout the day, and I also try make time to read books with him or play choo choos while his sister is sleeping, but I just cannot devote the entire day to him anymore. And some days may go by where our one-on-one time is slim. But I no longer feel guilty about this. It's just the reality of being a mom to a baby and a toddler. Anyhow, I have had to come up with a few FREE fun indoor activities [crazy weather] to keep my little man child busy and happy, and I wanted to share them with you!

1.      Magnets. I don’t know why they are so cool, but they just are. Emerson loves it when I get out my different pots and pans and my refrigerator magnets. He likes to sit in his chair and just go to town putting the magnets on the pans.

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2.     Magnets & Paper Clips. I also happen to have a TON of those super strong magnets that you use for crafting. We like to put paper clips inside Tupperware, and he guides the magnets along the underside of the containers, moving the paper clips all around.

This was before I tried the paper clips in the tupperware... the strong magnets stick too hard to the metal pans, so use plastic instead!

This was before I tried the paper clips in the tupperware... the strong magnets stick too hard to the metal pans, so use plastic instead!

3.     Pipe Cleaners & a Colander. We like to poke the pipe cleaners through the colander and make it look all crazy. At the time of this picture I only had tan pipe cleaners, but with the colored ones, it could look totally cool! Sometimes we even add magnets to the pipe cleaners.

See, Trice can read the mail while Emerson is busy with the activity ;)

See, Trice can read the mail while Emerson is busy with the activity ;)

4.     Popsicle Sticks & Velcro. My friend had a “Busy Bag Swap” in December, and we got all sorts of wonderful baggies for Emerson to play with. This is one of the baggies we received. We take the sticks and Velcro them together and make all sorts of shapes. He loves to make a square and then squish it to a diamond. This is so good for shape learning!

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5.     Flash Cards. We have a few sets of flash cards that have been handed down over time. One goes over colors and shapes and another set goes over modes of transportation. This boy has gotten SO GOOD at his shapes! If he sees the moon now, he says, “Look at the crescent, Mommy.” That boy!

6.     Beads & Pipe Cleaners. This is a FAVORITE of Emerson’s. Not a day goes by that he doesn’t create some sort of bracelet with beads and pipe cleaners. I don’t know why he likes this so much but he does. Sometimes I’ll sort the beads into different piles and I’ll coach him on how to make a rainbow bracelet or I’ll try to encourage him to put similar colored beads on the same pipe cleaner. But most days he just does his own thing!

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Here is one of his recent masterpieces!

Here is one of his recent masterpieces!

7.     Blocks/Legos. This is an obvious one. When I’m nursing Etta Jayne, I’ll have Emerson build the tallest tower he can. This keeps him occupied and he still feels like I’m involved as well!


8.     Simon Says. This is another fantastic activity to do while you are nursing or have your hands full. Emerson loves it. His favorite commands are when I tell him to do a dance, sing a song or pretend to take a nap :)

9.     Wine Corks and Containers. This one was done on a whim. I was desperate to get some bills paid the other day, and Etta Jayne was sleeping, but Emerson was sooo bored. So I had a stash of wine corks for crafting, and I got a tissue box along with different size containers and he spent a solid 30 minutes moving the corks from container to container. And I got all my bills paid. Double score! If you don't have a stash of wine corks, try using clothes buttons, carton lids, cotton balls, or anything else you may have on hand!

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10.  Art. What child doesn’t love art? I set him up at the table with markers, craft paper, paint supplies, glue sticks, crayons, etc. and just let him go to town. We have a roll of brown butcher paper that we lay out so we don't have to worry about paint and marker ending up all over the table.

11. Emerson has also gotten very into puzzles lately. I guess he takes after Trice and me because we are puzzle nerds! He can now do this 35-piece I Spy puzzle with virtually no help!

No pants required :)

No pants required :)

When he isn't playing or sleeping or eating, he also likes to help us with the chores. I'll be writing a post on that soon. I also have no problem letting him watch an episode or two of Daniel Tiger or LeapFrog each day. This is yet another thing I used to feel guilty about, but hey, it's reality :)

What are some activities you like to incorporate to keep your toddlers busy and help them have fun independently?