As all parents of toddlers know they often have the attention span of a gnat so you need a LOT of activities up your sleeve to fill these days during lockdown. I know there are plenty of resources out there from people far more qualified than me but I wanted to share a few of my faves, plus ways I’ve found to involve my 6 month old too. Hopefully it might give some of you a few extra ideas for things to do.
1. Hide the bean bag, teddy, crayon etc
My toddler loves hide and seek but it can get a bit samey when you’re in a 2 bed flat with no proper garden so we’ve been mixing it up by hiding objects for her to find. She’s only 2 and a half so we’re not doing any home schooling but this is also a way to practice colours and numbers, such as “I’ve hidden 3 red bean bags in the kitchen – can you find them all?”
Side note: I totally overestimated my toddler’s seeking abilities the first time we did this – they really are terrible at looking right? Now I hide them in far more obvious places so she can actually find them and she enjoys that much more. She also really loves hiding them for her brother and I to find.
2. Turn a cardboard box into a slot machine
We’ve done this various ways – by colouring the slots so she has to post the right coloured bean bag or equivalent in the right slot, or by numbering them then I give her a verbal instruction for which one to put it in. She actually asks to play this one which is a mega win because it means it’s an activity that lasts more than 3 minutes.
3. Bean bag balancing
We put some masking tape on the floor either in a straight line or zig zaggy one to mix it up then she has to walk along the line with the beanbag in her hands or, to make it more challenging, on her head. She struggles with this one so gets frustrated quickly but it’s a good one to keep working on and it’s not like we don’t have lots of time to practice it, is it now?!
4. Scavenger hunt for the baby’s toys
My son loves this because it involves his sister bringing him lots of fun things to play with. We mostly use wooden spoons, noisy toys and balls for this.
5. Speaking of scavenger hunts, we’ve been turning our daily walk into one
This has been a big hit too for all of us. It keeps my daughter engaged on the walk and it’s been a great opportunity to learn new things too. We’ve discovered tree bark, spiky leaves, wiggly worms and lots of different flowers so far. There are loads of free sheets you can print off too because she loves ticking things off once we find them.
6. Animal impersonations
This is a loud and fun one that the baby also enjoys. We take turns to suggest an animal then everyone has to move around and make noise like that animal. Often Alexa gets involved too when we want to check what the animal sounds like and the toddler LOVES talking to Alexa!
7. Messy/Water play
This is obviously not a new or ingenious idea but one that not everyone is keen on at home because of the mess. We use our tuff tray to keep things contained but doing it in the bath or just on a mat in the kitchen with bowls for stuff means it’s not total carnage. I love it because both of them can be equally involved – in fact my son loves messy play even more than my daughter. We use all edible materials because it inevitably ends up in both their mouths. Flour and water, yoghurt with food colouring, spaghetti and cereal to make a crunch are our faves. For water play I like to freeze a couple of their toy cars or people in a block of ice too because it takes a good old while to chip away and get them out. I even managed a hot cup of tea last time we did that!
8. Letter bingo
Another one to make our neighbourhood walks more interesting. We each have a sheet with a few different letters on it – for her I give her mostly letters she knows with one or two she doesn’t. We have to spot letters on road signs, cars, estate agent boards, houses and try to be the first to find them all. It’s definitely helping with her letter recognition and she gets really excited when she spots one.
9. Making pictures/crafts for family and friends
This is one for when the baby naps because the parts are a bit small and my daughter needs quite a bit of help with stuff so I can’t really divide my attention properly when I have both of them. We’ve been using painted lolly sticks, stones from outside, pipe cleaners, sticky shapes, card, some twigs, feathers – anything we can find really – to make cards to send to everyone we’re missing. And yesterday we made a ‘horse’. She really loves painting and sticking and is enjoying trying to use her scissors. Making stuff we can send makes it feel a bit more constructive and it means I don’t have the age old dilemma of what to do with everything she paints and makes. (Throw them in the bin – obvs. Just joking…sort of!)
10. Netflix/iPlayer/Disney+/Amazon Prime Always remember, TV is ok too. For everyone.