Whether you work from your home or not, as sure as toddlers get into trouble, you have a lot to do—chores, meals, bills, and maybe even a part-time job. But if you’re like most moms, you’re often at a loss for ideas to keep your little one busy and out of trouble while you get your work done. This chapter provides numerous ideas on how to keep him or her occupied indoors.
Begin saving them now. The more magazines you have, the better. Your toddler will go through them quickly. Curious toddlers love flipping through the pages. Many magazines—even the ones you may think would be of no interest to a toddler—have pictures that little ones love to look at. Ads as well as editorial copy include interesting pictures. Magazines commonly feature pictures of water, babies, puppies and other animals, food, flowers, dolls, costumes, dresses, jewelry, just about every sport, airplanes, and so on. Obviously, you’ll want to make sure the magazines are tasteful and the pictures suitable for your very observant toddler. A stack of old magazines can be a free way to keep your toddler occupied for a while. Your toddler may even find brochures and catalogs that come in the mail interesting. And since these magazines and catalogs are going in the trash, you don’t have to worry about your child ripping the pages while you are busy with your task at hand.
By looking at pictures, your toddler can learn new words and what those items look like. For this to be a learning experience, you may have to peek over once in a while and point out a boat or an ocean scene shown in the magazine, for example. This also can reinforce words already learned.
Kids enjoy looking at pictures—especially of Mom, Dad, brothers and sisters—even themselves. So next time you drop off a roll of film to be developed, order double prints. A set of doubles is usually free or inexpensive. If you want to keep both prints of certain shots, take them out of the stack and give the rest of one set to your curious toddler. This will make him feel trusted with their care and included in an aspect of your life. Your little one will get excited to see the pictures, just as you do. The best part is that you won’t have to worry about fingerprints or bends in the photos since you have a clean set of your own. You may even want to keep a special box in your child’s room for the photos. You can put them away together when you are finished with your task.
Toddlers will begin to learn that pictures mimic real life. They will develop confidence by being able to identify individuals and objects in the photos. If you keep a photo box, your little one will learn to put things in their proper place when he has finished with them.
Next time you’re at a dollar store, buy a few toys or trinkets. Then pull one out when you need to sit down at your computer or get some ironing done. Something new should keep your toddler content and out of your hair for a while, although how much time it buys you depends on the child and the toy. Of course, you will need to swing by the store and purchase these toys when your child is not with you. Otherwise your observant toddler will see your purchases, and, for obvious reasons, the new toys will lose their effectiveness. Also, you will need to make sure they are safe for your toddler. This idea will only cost you a dollar a shot. Your time and sanity are worth much more.
What your toddler can learn will depend on the toy. Some of the possibilities: colors, shapes, and new words (names of objects).
Most little girls love dressing dolls. Boys also enjoy dressing up their bears or other stuffed animals. If you have saved your toddler’s baby clothes, let your little one play with them. This will add excitement to the dress-up, and your toddler will discover what she wore as a little baby. This small clothing fits or comes close to fitting many dolls and teddy bears. You can leave a medley of clothes—shorts, jeans, sweaters, tanks, dresses, jackets, socks, whatever you have—in a box for your little one to pull out and discover. You could play along in a sense and still get your work done by creating scenarios for your toddler. For example, say, “Okay, your baby is going dancing. What is she going to wear?” Or, “If your bear goes to the park, what shirt should he wear?”
By dressing up bears or dolls, your little ones can learn a variety of skills, including how to put on certain articles of clothing, how to zip, how to snap, and how to button. In addition, they could learn what clothing is appropriate for different occasions. When your toddlers get old enough, they can practice tying shoes on bears or babies.
If your toddler is old enough not to put things in his mouth, this can be a bundle of fun. Give him a bag of buttons that contains a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors. He can sort them by type, color, or size or just play with a handful of them. Your little one can line the buttons up in a row or make pictures such as smiley faces or shapes. Call it button art. If you are more trusting, you could spread some newspapers, get some glue and paper plates, and let your toddler make more permanent artwork that will be cute as a button. This idea works better with older toddlers. To ensure safety, you should be able to keep an eye on your little one when he handles small parts. When you are both finished with what you are doing, have your toddler help you put the unused buttons back in the bag.
Playing with buttons can help your toddler practice motor skills making pictures, learn shapes and colors, and recognize the need to pick up after an activity.