Is anybody else feeling a little overwhelmed with keeping kids entertained now that we’re all staying at home? I love being home and wish I could be a full-time stay-at-home mama, so even though the circumstances leading to us being cooped up in the house are not good, I’m thankful for the extra time with my boys. I’m already used to staying home during the summers, and I typically have some sort of loose schedule during those months, but so much of that schedule depends on going places. We visit family, go to the library, go to the playground…all things we can’t do right now under our current circumstances.
I’m going to be honest – during this time, we don’t have a schedule and more often than not we watch a few hours of Disney+ every day. That’s just how I’m making it through to be able to get the house semi-cleaned and cook dinner and keep my sanity with a toddler and an infant. I don’t see anything wrong with using TV as a tool or a distraction during this strange circumstance, but I also don’t want Jack to be a TV zombie, so I’ve been trying to do at least one activity each day and we try to get outside every afternoon.
Here are some of our favorite activities from the last few weeks:
For this activity, you just need some construction paper, markers, and a box of any kind of toys (I like using blocks for this).
In a perfect world, I would have used colored sheets of construction paper for this, but I didn’t have any, so I used white cardstock and some markers to make place cards for each color. Jack has a pretty good grasp on the six colors of the rainbow, so I added black and white since he has blocks that are those colors, too.
Setup it simple – set out your color-coded cards, dump out the toys, and let your kid sort them by placing the toy on the correct colored card. I like to review the colors with Jack before we start and I’ll help him do the first few to model how to play. Once he gets started, I leave this set up all day. He typically does a lot of non-color sorting play as he goes through the toys and decides to build something or finds a toy car in the box of blocks and decides to race it, but as long as the cards are out, I can usually easily redirect him to sorting colors by asking him what color something is and that makes this activity last for quite a while. I don’t mind that he plays other things in between completing this activity as long as he’s playing independently and not glued to the TV – independent play is actually the whole point.
This activity is similar to color sorting. All you need for this one is some construction paper and markers. I just take sheets of construction paper and draw shapes on them (I did circle, square, triangle, and rectangle in the activity pictured). Once you have drawn the shapes, review them with your child – I like to have Jack tell me the name of the shape, try to draw the shape, and find something in the room that is that shape. Next, send your child on a scavenger hunt for items in those shapes. Each item he or she finds should be brought back to the cards and placed on the correct shape’s card.
I have a few rules for Jack when playing this game:
- No climbing to get items. Everything he finds on his hunt has to be within his reach.
- No opening doors or drawers to find items.
This is another activity that I set up in the morning and leave out all day. Jack will play with it on and off, and when Jeff gets home, he can’t wait to show Daddy what he found and tell him about all the shapes.
This is one of Jack’s favorite activities, and you can do it with any kind of toy (not just dinosaurs). I actually used this for the first time during Jack’s dinosaur themed birthday party, and all the kids loved it. We have continued to do it over and over since then.
All you need is a sandbox, some digging tools (shovels or even plastic spoons work), and some kind of toy for kids to dig up (dinosaurs, in our case). Just cover the toys with sand, give the kids the digging tools, and let them have at it. This keeps Jack entertained for hours. He usually ends up getting all his trucks involved in digging up the dinosaurs, too. It is the perfect vehicle for imaginative play and he makes up stories as he goes along, which is so cute and so great for learning.
As you can see in this picture, our sandbox is nothing special. We just bought a small plastic kiddie pool from the dollar store and a bag of sand from the hardware store. I got a small pool to use as the sandbox and one a little larger to use as a cover when we’re not using it to keep bugs and animals out of it.We made a super cheap version with a plastic kiddie pool from the dollar store and a bag of sand from the hardware store. I just got a small pool to use as the sandbox and one a little larger to use as a cover when we’re not using it to keep bugs and animals out of it. It cost about $25 total and we used it all summer and fall and most of the winter. We did dump out the sand and get a new bag a few weeks ago, but that will last us a few months before we need to replace it.
If there’s one thing my toddler loves, it is water! I use the cover of our sandbox (the bigger plastic kiddie pool) for this activity and Jack loves it. I just fill the pool with water, squirt in some dish soap, dump in some toy cars, and give Jack a scrub brush. He loves this activity because it has water and bubbles (the epitome of a good time for a toddler).
As you can see in the picture, sometimes this turns into an actual car wash for his ride-on toys, but that’s just an easy way to get all the pollen washed off of them without me having to do it. This even led to us washing Jeff’s truck together one afternoon last week, which Jack absolutely loved. He’s practicing real-life skills with this activity, and it is his favorite thing to do when we go outside.
I first saw sensory bins on the Busy Toddler Instagram page (linked here – this is one of my favorite resources for fun activities for kids). I made Jack a bin using rice and keep it ready all the time for those moments when time is dragging or we need a quick distraction that doesn’t involve TV for me to get some work done.
There’s a whole post on the Busy Toddler website (linked here)about the benefits of sensory bins and there are tons of ideas for them there, too.
Jack’s collection of Mega Bloks is one of my favorite things to get out for him to play with. I love how creative he can get with such a simple toy. We love having robot building contests with his blocks, and you’d be amazed at what he can create at just 2.5 years old.
I usually help him get started and then once he has a few robots built, he will play with them for hours at a time. I know this doesn’t really seem like much of an activity, but he’s doing so much learning through play when he does this and it gives him a great opportunity to use his imagination.
This one is so easy and it really helps on those days when things start to go south and we need a quick way to get out some energy and reset. There are tons of apps you can use for this that have videos for kids to dance along with (Like GoNoodle, linked here, or you can search for videos on YouTube). The videos are fun, but my favorite way to do this is to just blast some fun music and be silly. Even Henry loves when we do this activity.
Here are some of our favorite songs to use for a quick dance party:
- “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake (Henry’s favorite)
- “Can’t Touch This” by M.C. Hammer
- “Happy” by Pharrell Williams
- “Uptown Funk” (the clean version) by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars (Jack’s favorite)
- “Old Time Rock and Roll” by Bob Seger
- “Rockin Robin” by Bobby Day