Juggling a toddler and a baby can be tricky at times, especially when you’re feeding, trying to make a meal or completing a chore. We asked the Be a Fun Mum community, for ideas on how to keep an active toddler happily occupied, and you came up with dozens of wonderful suggestions! The common theme was that planning ahead is a key to ensuring that the day goes smoothly. Setting up some activities the night before, packing snacks and planning your day ahead means you are less likely to encounter the chaos that comes with a bored toddler.
Below is a list of 60 ideas to keep your toddler entertained and engaged, so that you can spend some precious time with your smallest one, or attack that never ending “to do” list.
Note: As I was going through the list, I did research on some of the products mentioned and found the link affiliate link on Amazon.
Food – the ultimate toddler distraction!
Ahh… you’ve just sat down to feed your little one and your toddler announces, “I’m hungry!” It’s a great idea to have some snacks already prepared and packed in the fridge or pantry, so that your toddler can enjoy a snack at the same time as baby. Lunch can also be ready in the lunchbox, so that it can be easily and quickly accessed when needed. It also makes it easy to pop out for a spontaneous outing when you have snacks, lunch and drinks already prepared. To keep toddlers busier for even longer, you can divide up the food into little containers, a muffin tray or treat bags. An indoor or outdoor picnic can also be great fun for a toddler.
1. Pack a lunch box with snacks in the morning
2. Divide food into little containers or a muffin tray
3. Indoor picnic
4. Get the child to cut bread shapes using an upside-down plastic cup
For lunchbox and snack ideas, check out our 100 lunchbox food ideas printable.
Toddler craft activities
Most toddlers love art and crafts and these will usually keep them busy long enough to get the washing on the line or the dirty dishes in the dishwasher. Many arts and crafts require supervision, but there are also some on this list that don’t make mess and can be completed independently by a toddler with mum close by:
5. crayons and scrapbook
6. art easel and paint
7. playdough (6 recipes here)
8. sticker and colouring in books
9. paint with water books (available in many different themes e.g. Frozen, Lalaloopsy, Vehicles)
10. push pipe cleaners poked through a colander
11. large buttons in a jar or tin (or make your own with milk bottle lids)
12. paper plate art with glue, wool and other craft items available cheaply from discount stores
13. match coloured pegs (or place sticker/mark different colours on wooden pegs) and draw a grid on a piece of paper with corresponding colours for the child to match and clip on (example here)
14. ice cube tray with things to sort into the sections – add little tongs for developing fine motor skills
15. kinetic sand
16. Magna Doodle
17. pom pom sorting
18. pasta necklaces
19. biscuit decorating (doesn’t have to be sweet: crackers, hummus and a variety of toppings)
20. water mat to draw without mess (like this Water Drawing Doodle Mat)
21. water play
22. painting outside the house with a bucket of water and a paint brush
23. paint and cut out egg cartons in different colours and practise stacking them up
24. collecting items outdoors – interesting leaves, sticks, seed pods, flowers (try collecting items in an egg carton)
25. bubble blowing (homemade recipe here)
26. chalk drawing
27. Pull out plastic cups, bowls, other containers and wooden spoons they can stack them, make a tower, put toys in the containers or just make a sound.
28. Make a cosy spot close by with pillows and cushions
Check out this post for some more crafty ideas that your toddler will love.
Books, puzzles, and games for toddlers
It’s a good idea to keep toys, books and puzzles in rotation, so that they seem new and exciting to your toddler. You can even wrap them up like a present, so they feel brand new or keep a special box just for times when you need to feed the new baby! Here’s some more ideas:
29. jigsaw puzzles – you can swap with friends to keep the puzzles new and exciting
30. books to read together – visit the library and let your toddler choose some books, and when it comes to feeding the baby time, interact and read to the toddler
31. audio books – these can be downloaded to your phone, and are great to use when out or at home
32. a special new toy
33. balloons (these balloon balls are great)
34. a quiet box with books and activities that only come out at certain times
35. a table set up with inviting activities
36. Duplo or other construction toys
37. blocks for building
38. felt boards for creating a play scene
39. skittles made out of old sauce bottles or soft drink bottles
40. fun magnets for the fridge
41. a kitchen drawer or cupboard with pots and pans for banging, plastic containers for building and stacking, utensils for sorting
42. a decorated box with a different activity for each day. It could be a CD of favourite songs to dance to, dress ups, a treasure map for them to follow, or the materials needed to create a race car track or dolls house.
43. sing songs or make up your own stories
44. look through photo albums
45. a tea party with the teddies. You can even use chamomile tea bags and a little water in the tea pot if you don’t mind it getting messy.
46. a play pen with lots toys and a picnic set up
47. a postal tube with balls to roll through it
48. busy bags with activities such as threading coloured straws onto a shoe lace, counting activities etc.
49. a trampoline where you can zip your toddler in so they are safe and let them burn off steam
50. stack up plastic cups in various ways and add some bouncy balls or other little toys to put into the cups
51. play ‘broom-broom cars’ over mummy’s arms and legs – it’s fun for the toddler and a massage for mum!
52. give the toys a bubble bath using the baby’s bath
For more inspiration, check out our top 10 favourite children’s picture books.
Helping with baby and chores
Toddlers generally love to help around the house and with baby – they are industrious little people! Here’s some ideas to keep them busy:
53. encourage your toddler to help with the household chores. Use a cloth or baby wipe and ask them to wipe down the coffee table, cupboard doors or bookshelf. You could also try a spray bottle and cloth for cleaning the windows and a dust pan and brush for sweeping.
54. allow your toddler to hang washing on a clothes airer/line which is within their reach.
55. ask your toddler to find things to help you. You can even set little challenges such as asking them to fetch something blue, put a pair of pants on their heads, find a book about dogs, draw a picture etc.
56. draw or cut out pictures of well-known shapes, animals etc then randomly blue tack 3 or 4 to the inside of each kitchen cabinet. Ask your toddler to find them while you are cooking dinner.
57. invite them to swaddle, care for and feed their own baby (dolly) just like Mummy.
58. involve them in the other aspects or caring for a baby such as fetching the nappies and wipes, rub baby’s back at burping time.
For more ideas on being a fun mum with your toddler, check out our 100 ways to be a fun mum printable.
Television and Screens
Sometimes, when you’ve exhausted all your other options, you’re not feeling well, or you didn’t have time to prepare any activities for your toddler, screens such as a tablet or television can provide you with a bit of peace and quiet. There are lots of engaging and educational apps available that toddlers will love including the ones listed in this post. On television, ABC4KIDS (channel 22) offers child friendly viewing all day between 5 am and 7 pm. You can also record your child’s favourite show so it’s ready to pop on whenever you need some downtime. Shows such as Play School have craft and cooking ideas on their web site which tie in with the theme of the television show.
59. Snuggle together as a trio and watch tv.
60. Check out the educational apps in this post
Do you have other ideas for keeping an active toddler busy?
PipMay 1, 2017 at 5:08 pm
This is a great article
Caring dadJuly 16, 2018 at 4:48 am
“Snuggle together as a trio and watch tv”
Please don’t give out advice that contravenes American Pediatric Association guidelines. Children under 2 should not be watching tv, period. If you are unable to avoid giving out medically harmful advice then please stop giving out advice st all. Telling parents to harm their children whether through ignorance or intent is unacceptable. Thanks.
Kelly - Be A Fun MumJuly 30, 2018 at 10:04 am
There is a lot of research out there. One can pretty much always find some sort of research to support their argument on either side of the fence. One thing I am very strong on this blog is not parent-shaming, ESPECIALLY through scaremongering tactics. For example, other research shows that interacting with toddlers while watching television (“snuggle together as a trio and watch tv”) can be beneficial to toddlers. Gemma Taylor, Research Associate for the ESRC International Centre for Language and Communicative Development from Lancaster University says, “Watching TV with your child and making the experience more interactive can enhance the educational value for your child.”
I stand by what I have shared here (which comes from feedback from thousands of parents from around the world). Use the television for long periods of digital babysitting is NOT what this is about. It’s about sitting down to feed a new born and also spending time with your toddler too.