By Kathryn Trudeau
It’s nap time and your baby is all tucked into her baby sleep sack and ready to head off to dreamland… but what about your toddler?
Here are 15 quiet activities to keep your toddler busy (and oh so quiet) during your baby’s naptime.
1. Create a Toddler “Busy Box”
Do you have a busy box at your house? A busy box is a box (or a bucket or even a cloth tote bag) that contains activities for quiet times. Stock the busy box with:
-Coloring books and crayons (or even waterless, no-mess paints)
To keep the busy box interesting, only bring it out during nap times or other times you need a little bit of quiet.
2. Get Busy with String Art
String art is a great way for toddlers (and even older kids) to spend the afternoon. It requires focus, concentration, creativity, and improves hand-eye coordination. At its most basic, string art requires wrapping string (or yarn) around nails or pins set into wood. You can make geometric shapes or full pictures. You could make the template yourself, or you can purchase kid-friendly versions that use plastic instead of nails. You can include these in the Busy Box too.
3. Try a Jigsaw Puzzle
Puzzles are popular among little kids and kids at heart. Puzzles increase your focus and concentration too! You can easily find puzzles with popular cartoon characters, which makes finishing a puzzle even more exciting for toddlers!
4. Create a Storytelling Basket
Let your toddler create his own storybook. Create three baskets and fill each basket with slips of paper with different pictures.
-Basket one: each paper has a picture of a character (animals, humans, princes, knights, etc)
-Basket two: each paper has a picture of a verb (or something that symbolizes an action e.g., running shoes for running)
-Basket three: each paper has a picture of a thing (items around the house, food, clothing, vehicles, etc)
Let your toddler choose papers out of the baskets and create a story. For more durability, laminate each slip of paper.
Origami is a fun, quiet activity that challenges kids to follow directions and improve hand-eye coordination. You can watch YouTube tutorials, or simply fold the paper along with your child. There are many simple patterns that even young children can complete.
6. Make a Sticky Picture
To make a sticky picture, you need:Double-sided sticky paper
-A plastic kid-friendly art easel
-Decorations (cotton balls, cut-up plastic straws, craft pipe cleaners, googly eyes, little bits of construction paper)
Apply the sticky paper to the art easel and let your toddler decorate the sticky paper with the decorations. This is a great way to use up scrap paper and little bits leftover from your craft bin.
7. Shape Threading with Felt
Shape threading with felt is another fun activity that also helps to improve hand-eye coordination.
Supplies you need:
-Plastic yarn needle
What you need to do:
-Cut out shapes with the felt: squares, hearts, ovals, etc.
-Create holes around the border of each shape with the hole punch
-Thread the needle for your child
-Let him thread the shapes with yarn
Tip: You can cut out several shapes ahead of time and place them in the Busy Box. Even though the yarn needles are plastic, it’s a good idea to supervise this activity. You can eliminate the yarn needle all together and let your child thread with his hands
8. Pretend Purse (or Wallet)
Do you have an old purse laying around? Stock the purse with fun items like an old pair of sunglasses, a laminated pretend driver’s license, an empty tube of chapstick. Let your child play pretend with the purse.
9. Pipe Cleaner Crafts
Kids love pipe cleaners. They’re bright and colorful, and they can be twisted into fun shapes. Create a play bucket with pipe cleaners and beads. Kids can thread the beads onto the pipe cleaners, make bracelets, or try to make creatures.
10. Letter Writing
This activity isn’t mess-free, but it’s a good activity that will entertain your toddler for a while. On a giant cookie sheet (preferably one with a lip), spread Cool Whip or similar whipped topping.
Ask your child to trace each letter of the alphabet. You can also trace shapes, draw animals, or create whole scenes.
Some craft sites suggest shaving cream, but I know that little ones tend to put their fingers in their mouths, so I opt for the edible version and stick with whipped topping.
11. Create a Rocket Ship
Do you have Amazon boxes laying around? (Don’t we all!?) If so, find the biggest one and grab a pack of crayons. Have your child transform the box into a spaceship. It takes time coloring a giant box, and then once it’s colored, it’s time to play rocket ship.
Rocket ships aren’t the only option. You can make:
-Ice cream shops
12. Sort with Tangrams and Beads
Tangrams are little geometric shapes. You can create your own designs, or you can use the cards. Each card has an image and you re-create the image with tangrams. Younger toddlers might prefer to just sort the tangrams, and that’s okay too! You can sort by shape or by color. If your toddler likes to sort, he or she might also enjoy sorting beads. It’s a great opportunity to work on identifying colors!
13. Pretend to Be an Archaeologist
To make a find it jar, you need a few supplies:
-A container: a jar, a big plastic Tupperware, or a small plastic box
-Small toys or trinkets
Fill the container with rice and the toys. Shake it up. Have your child hunt for the toys, using kitchen tongs or tweezers. You can make it a theme. You can hide small dinosaur figurines in the rice, and your child can pretend to be an archaeologist.
What about you?
What is your favorite quiet time activity? We’d love to know!
Kathryn is a self-proclaimed book nerd who has a passion for natural parenting and writing. As a homeschooling mother of two, Kathryn understands the dynamics of busy family life. She is the founder of the Cor Domum movement, a mission that guides families through life so that they can parent with joy. Read more at www.katietrudeau.com
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