5 Tips for Toddler Play When You’ve Got Something Else To Do

When you've got a toddler in the house, you're always busy and they will happily command ALL of your attention.  However sometimes you've got other things to do – and you need your toddler to be busy so you can attempt to complete a task.  Not only that, it's healthy for kids to get a chance to play independently.

Tips for Keeping Toddlers Playfully Busy

Tips and Things to Do With Toddlers When You'd Got Something Else To Do:

  • It is helpful to have an easy to access collection of items that are interesting to toddlers.  We have a toddler activity cupboard that I keep stocked with things like recyclables, bins and boxes.
  • Sensory play – things that excite the sense of smell, touch, hearing, tend to be the most engaging. Some of these quick set up sensory activities can work well with toddlers or preschoolers.  However…
  • Choose items which are pretty easy to clean up when you know you won't be giving your full attention to the toddler's play.  This is why, in this list of “independent” toddler activities I gave her a box full of cotton balls and treasures mixed together, rather than beans, for instance.  They still have an interesting sensory feel, but won't spread so far when dropped.
  • To stretch out the activity, you can have your toddler set up somewhere near by and then give out new material bit by bit, allowing your toddler to fully explore new items before adding on.  In this post about water play with toddlers I talk about building onto the play gradually.
  • Don't feel guilty about not always being fully engaged with your toddler while he plays.  Sometimes it's very good for him to have a time of exploring by himself.  He will feel excited by the discoveries he makes on his own and will gradually learn the important skill of entertaining himself.  We are hoping to raise resilient kids, right?  This means they need moments to struggle and learn on their own!

And finally,  know this: you're  not failing if you have a feeling like you're never getting anything done.  Toddlerhood is a busy, busy time.  You're not the only one with a bit of chaos in your home during the toddler years! It will pass.  In the mean time – try out a couple of the tips above, and whether they work or not, enjoy the things that are the most delightful things to do with toddlers while you have the chance.  Good Luck!

baby play zero to twoMore On Life with Toddlers:

Alissa Zorn stands near a pond with an orange shirt on wearing a black button down over that.
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Alissa Zorn is an author, and founder of the website Overthought This. She's a coach and cartoonist passionate about helping people overcome perfectionism and shame to build authentic, joyful lives. Alissa is certified through the International Coach Federation and got her Trauma-Informed Coaching certification from Moving the Human Spirit. She wrote Bounceback Parenting: A Field Guide for Creating Connection, Not Perfection, and is always following curiosity to find her next creative endeavor.