Ultimate List of “almost” FREE Toddler Activities

This one is for Jenn from Free in Parker FB page!  I hope you can find a few things to keep your kiddo busy!

I would like to just remind all parents that no matter what activity you plan for your toddler, he or she will only be interested in it for a short period of time. The rule of them is that their attention span in minutes equals that of their age in years.  So if your child is 1 year old, yep, you guessed it, they have the attention span of one minute!  EEEEKS!!!!  That doesn’t mean they won’t find certain activities totally fascinating and spend a half an hour or even more on them depending on their mood. If they are a bit sleepy and you give them a quiet activity like a wind-up musical toy with soft lights, for example, they may be content watching it and playing with it for quite a while.

If your playing WITH them and continue to keep engaging them, minute after minute, their attention span will grow.  So, they may get bored after one or two minutes but then you show them a new part of the toy (even the back side of the toy) and all of a sudden they are interested again for another couple of minutes and so on.

Sensory activities are HUGE for toddlers.  I’m sure you’ve figured that out by now while watching your little human touch and try to taste everything.

Once when I was working a night shift, my husband was home with our son who was a toddler at the time.  Timmy, our son, was like a ninja when it came to getting out of bed. Didn’t matter if we had a monitor or slept with one eye open, he could sneak out of any room without being detected.   He would then go on an exploration or hunt to see what he could get into.  It was a very difficult time for us.  We could either somehow lock him up (which we obviously didn’t do), never sleep (also not an option though some days and nights it felt like we didn’t get any) or baby proof and basically pad the whole house up so he wouldn’t get hurt.  Pillows and blankets on the floor by his crib, etc.  He was a climber to boot.  Baby gate, no problem, locked bedroom door (with us in there with him, no problem). Nothing would hold him back from his adventures (into the cabinets, my purse and makeup, closets, drawers, you name it!) He climbed out of his crib at a young age, pushed chairs up to the counter and climbed onto the counter. I am not kidding when I say that we found him on top of the fridge one day. It was where we kept his medicine.  He was sitting up there with the CHILD PROOF medicine bottle open chewing on something.  It was TERRIFYING.  Thank God he only took one baby aspirin because he had a “heg-ache.”  I was getting migraines at the time (wonder why?) so if I had one I would ask him to please be quiet because Mommy has a headache.  OMG, that child.  Anytime he didn’t want to do something, at that time, he would say to me “No.  I got heg-ache.”  He didn’t quite understand it but he knew enough to try to make it an excuse.

Well, (I really wish I had pictures of this), the day I was working the night shift I got a frantic call from my husband. I swear I thought he was in tears.  I thought the worst, “Timmy had fallen and hurt himself badly or got into something very dangerous somehow.”  I was in a panic the moment I heard his voice.  He said “Chrissie, it’s Timmy, I need you to come home.”  Talk about a mom’s worst nightmare!  It turned out that my husband had fallen asleep with Timmy but, of course, Timmy sneaked out of the bed and got into something. He found one of those large jars of Vaseline (of course it was way up high) in the cupboard and proceeded to smear it over his entire body. He put it on so thick that my husband had already given him 2 baths and couldn’t remove it.  That child was greasy for at least a week! (I did NOT come home from work for that but I did feel for him.  There’s nothing worse than having to deal with something like that when you’re dead tired).

Toddlers are naturally very inquisitive and want to try out everything!  Another time when we were at my in-laws, we are all together visiting in their sunroom.  Timmy was happily playing around right in front of us until one minute later we didn’t see him.  He couldn’t have left the room.  There was a pool table out there and some other hiding places so we were calling him and looking.  Low and behold we found, him sitting very quietly behind the bar with a bottle of whiskey, lid off, sitting beside him, taking a big ol swig from the bottle.  Didn’t even flinch when he tasted it.  Scary!

With sensory things in mind for that age, here are some ideas to keep that little one busy! Can’t keep them out of your sight though.  Not even for ONE minute.

Sidewalk chalk pack of chalk

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Chalkboard and chalk

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big crayons and a couple of large paper grocery bags cut open

boxes for moving house

a box! so many possibilities with this one.  its a car, plane, house, boat, secret hideout, cave, you name it!

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bubble wrap

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pots, pans and a wooden spoon

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magnets on the fridge at their height

jell-o squares (make them a little on the firm side so they can be cut into squares).  Easy treat on a hot day. recipe

Popsicles to eat and play with (they are kids- they get to play with food at this age! As a matter of fact finger food are the BEST for toddlers)

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cheerios necklaces (careful here with the string- just need to not leave them alone with it, obviously) Good for fine motor skills though.

 Excellerations® Plush Pull & Play Tissue Box - 12 Scarves

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An empty box of kleenex filled with pieces of cloth they can pull out one at a time (then, when they aren’t looking, you put them all back in and say they missed some. heehee)

Baby dolls or action figures- play acting things out

Think: Gross motor activities- jumping across a line (tape that you’ve taped to the floor), baby trikes, dancing to kids songs (I’ll include my favorite links in a separate post), running around at the park, playing catch, chasing something like a wind up car.

6 ideas for toddler bath time

when in doubt, give them a bath with bath toys.  That usually tires them out too.

(Speaking of this, babies and toddlers will not sleep unless they are exhausted.  Had I known this when I was a young mom, perhaps Timmy would not have done so much exploring.  Live and learn.  I wasn’t  peds nurse then, just a new mom trying to figure it all out).

This is to be continued.  I have so many more ideas.  These are just the FEW that came to my head without looking at Pinterest or anything else.  Please let me know what you’ve tried and if this helps in any way!

Please check back soon because there are A LOT more posts to come!

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