Toddlers like to explore pretty much anything. Especially if it’s something they see mama or papa do. For some reason, they like their toys but they will choose OUR toys over theirs in a heartbeat. This is why I have learned that the best way to be productive with toddlers is to incorporate them into your activities. I know you are probably thinking “no mama, my kid will not, there’s no way”. But I promise this is not as crazy as it sounds. This is why I researched and tried these activities at home with my toddler and I was able to clean the kitchen, do the laundry, make my bed, cook…. you name it!
A few things to know before getting started is not to expect them to know what to do with these activities. It’s important to guide them into doing them. How? By using the parallel play method. Parallel playing means playing next to them, not necessarily with your toddler(s) and their same “toy”. If you’re like me and like to keep things clean, then get excited. You will be able to clean your home WITH having your toddler around. YES, it is possible.
1. Kitchen Play
You can either purchase kitchen accessories or you can give your toddler(s) kitchen gadgets that you already own. This way, that they can play with those while you are cooking. Make sure you show them how to play with those kitchen tools and that they are not dangerous so that you can do your own thing. For example: Grab a spatula and a cooking pot. Maybe put some water in if you’d like and have them mix the water with the spatula. Try to always give them two gadgets that go together such as: cup with water and bowl, spatula and cooking pot with water. They can even help you make some eggs by letting them crack the eggs open or putting some avocado on toast with a toddler knife if you’re needing to make breakfast.
2. Cleaning Play
When you are cleaning your toddler wants to clean too, so let them! Purchase a mini broom and garbage collector so that while you vacuum or sweep, they can also “help out”. This is actually something they like to do; you can even make it a game. Surprisingly, they will pick up the trash/food on the floor and throw it in the actual trashcan.
3. Edible Play-dough
You might be concerned that using regular playdough could not work for you since your little one still puts everything in his/her mouth. Find a recipe that’s edible but is still moldable for your little one to play with. I like to have my baby stand in his Simplay3 toddler tower where he can reach the countertop and not ask me to carry him- which defeats the purpose of being productive.
4. Cookie Tray and Magnets
Literally, this is it. Give your little one a cookie tray and find magnets that are big enough for him/her not to fit in his/her mouth. They might not even be tempted to put it in their mouths because they will be so drawn to the magnets sticking to the tray. This one works like magic!
5. Sticky Wall
Grab a piece of contact paper. Cut it and then paste it on your side wall. Place anything your kid likes on it so it will stick such as pompons, small pieces of paper, anything that is light enough to stick to the contact paper. It’s pretty amazing how such a simple game can make them so happy and playful.
6. Sensory Bin
Grab a large empty bin where you kid can fit inside and place beans, rice, pompons; anything you’d like for him to play with. Yeah, it might become messy once he comes out of the bin or once he tries and deposit some of those beans out of the box. But once they are out, they can even help you pick them up- and there you have another activity!
7. Cardboard Box Play
Grab a large cardboard box you may have lying around somewhere such as his/her car seat box. Make a hole on one the sides to create windows and leave the front part of the box open as the door. Place toys inside or even a toy that lights up so they can feel more encouraged to play in there. Try and place the cardboard box close to you because if your kid is like mine, then he/she will want to be near you.
8. Sink Play
I don’t know what it is about little ones wanting to play in the sink, but my toddler could play for hooooours if I’d let him. So, grab a large container, put some water in there and some cups and let your kid(s) play with that. You can even give them their plates and utensils for them to wash by just using some water and a sponge.
Try these out! I’d love to know if they all workout for you or which ones worked best! Also, I encourage you to spend quality time with your little one(s). Maybe reading a book, playing with Legos or even putting together a puzzle. They love playing near you, but sometimes all they want is just to be with you.