When Kim Kardashian put up an Insta story that showed her kids going stir-crazy in the pandemic, it immediately resonated with me halfway across the world. My life with my three-and-a-half-year-old toddler might be worlds apart from the Kardashians but like parents across the globe, I dread hearing those three words: “Mom, I’m bored!”
With the pandemic still raging out there and many schools closed for a break or continuing to stay online, the tiny tots are gaining cabin fever from having stayed indoors so long. Many of us might be struggling to keep it together but kids being kids, they aren’t just going to sit around while you finish up work. Kids want to DO things. And if you don’t channel that energy, you’ll end up with some really unhappy campers.
I have a list of a few tried and tested activities I’ve thought up, borrowed from Google or had a mom friend tell me really worked with their toddler. I introduced these to my daughter over the past year and it’s not only led to a lot of fun for us both but some have also sneaked invaluable life lessons for her. Some have even made me feel like I’ve bonded with my little girl on a deeper level. Some take a bit of prep work, which is great for weekends or to work on at night after tucking in your baby, while some are just easy-peasy for those days when you just want to engage and entertain without having to figure out how.
Toddlers are super fast at jumping from one thing to another, so invite them into a world of play they just can’t deny and will never get bored in. Additionally, think of activities your toddler would enjoy depending on where their newly developing tastes lie. Life as a mom can get super overwhelming.
This is my small effort at making it easier without having to turn to the phone or computer to babysit your kiddo. Here are the top activities my toddler loves to indulge in again and again:
You might not love mess but chances are, your toddler sure does. The meeting ground here: organised mess!
- Water beads, which are brightly soaked balls that expand when soaked in water, are a slippery, squishy and addictive sensory experience.
- Wow them with the water absorption “experiment”; place them in a bin with funnels and cups for them to play with; make slime from them; or just have your kiddo smash them. Get the non-toxic and biodegradable variety and always make sure your kid plays with them only supervised. Avoid for younger kids or children who like to mouth things.
- Similarly, foam and Oobleck can also make for fun sensory play that stimulates senses like touch, smell and sight. You can make squishy and goopy Oobleck at home, drop some toys in it and ask your bub to scavenge in there; colour mix it; try freezing it; or even make a marbled version like suggested here.
Art it Up:
Obviously, anything arty can be fun, challenging, and a great learning experience.
- I keep a huge canvas handy on which I often draw some of Shanaya’s favourite things, and ask her to stick pieces of paper on it for a stick collage or a paper mosaic.
- In the monsoons, we draw everything we see around – from bugs and rainbows to kids in raincoats and boots jumping in puddles.
- Depending on what we’re feeling like, I then lay out paints, paint-sticks, colours, embellishments, etc. to have Shanaya dig in and do any kind of art she’d like. Children need freedom and time to play, and this guarantees both.
Games in which you can involve the family are great fun but this of course depends on who is free to participate. My husband’s parents live with us, and they are great sports when it comes to participating in good old games like I Spy or Lemon & Spoon. We do family games every night, even if they’re just for half an hour. This teaches kids important stuff like teamwork, patience, how to lose gracefully and without throwing a tantrum, expands their language and reasoning skills, and is just great for family bonding time.
- I will be a doctor, my daughter can be a patient, and we can have lots of fun with pretend play. Then, we will reverse roles and can have a whole lot of fun and conversations all over again. Pretend play nurtures the imagination, builds language and social skills, and calls upon cognitive skills which your child will use throughout their life.
- You can add simple props to this like large plastic crates or cardboard boxes, old clothes, kitchen utensils, stuffed animals and dolls and even fabrics or curtains to make a fort or costumes. Some days, you can do it without props too, especially for slightly older children. And don’t just watch from the sidelines… get into it!
Make a snack:
Have your child prepare something fun with all the healthy options around you.
- Let them stir/squeeze/pour/mix/add ingredients. Cooking helps to build confidence and lays the foundation for eating healthy.
- I’ve made sandwiches, pancakes, lemon juice, bhel, cakes, and lots of dessert with my little one. Licking leftovers is fun too.
However, this said, I don’t want you to pressure yourself in any way about having to do activities with your kids. If they are unwilling to participate, I prefer giving my daughter choices to pick from rather than forcing her into anything. Then there are rough days, when the kid would’ve spilt milk, dropped food on themselves and just been cranky – all before it’s even 8.30 in the morning. I am very okay with giving us both a break on such days. We just go for a walk or a short drive in the car on those days. It helps us both calm down.
These are precious years when your kids are home almost full-time and for me, that’s a wonderful opportunity to create a lasting bond and memories together. Before I know, she will be off to school (assuming the pandemic dies down, which it’s really overdue for) and I will miss creating experiences for us to do together. Till that happens though, we always have one more activity to do together.