22 February 2011

simple toddler activities

i am always on the lookout for good playtime ideas for my two year old boy. i thought i might share some of his favorite activities and perhaps you'll share your favorite ideas with me. like any mama, i try to limit television time to just a few favorites while i get my act together in the morning. i've found that he (and i) are supremely more happy if the tv is off for the majority of the day. this means a bit more planning, tidying up and discipline on my part. even though i am involved in freelancing, blogging and other outlets, remembering that being a mom is my full-time job is key. it is always at the forefront of my brain. everytime i unload the dishwasher or sweep the floor (for the hundredth time) i remind myself how much i really do love this stay-at-home-mom stuff. i love when i choose to put off everything but being a mom and snuggle up or play trucks or read or kick the soccer ball back and forth first thing in the morning with him. that is when my priorities line up like clockwork. as i've said before, i never want to miss my chance to play with benji because i know he will grow up so fast and may not think it's super cool to string beads (shaped like fruit) with his mom forever. here are some of his / our favorite things to do together.



01. stringing beads. i found this jar of beads only a couple weeks ago at my local DownEast Home. he loves it and will sit for a long time at his table stringing beads together, naming the little pieces of fruit as he goes. sometimes i can even cook dinner. victory!

02. imaginary play. this photo was taken at an art museum in our town. benji (and dan) love the teepee, the mini log cabin, playing whose tracks are those? and serving up pretend rabbit stew in this children's exhibit. i had no idea this exhibit even existed until we went to see the nativity displays this christmas! now the museum is our very special outing.

03. arts + crafts projects. when benji's friends come over i try to do something crafty with them, even if it only lasts a few minutes. i have a box of scrapbook paper scraps, crayons and stickers ready to go. we serve up ramekins of pretzels and mini marshmallows and it's a party.

04. dishwasher fun. benji loves to be in the kitchen with me. he has mastered the art of emptying the utensils, handing them to me one by one. then he gets his cars out and plays while i boil pasta or saute some chicken.

05. water painting. i love to fingerpaint with benji but it can be a big project that we don't always have time for, especially since you have to plan in bathtime afterwards. right before christmas i went to kohl's for some reason and discovered this Water Wow! paint set. it is the most brilliant (and easy) painting activity ever. simply paint the scenes with water (we've opted for a sponge paintbrush for littlest hands) and see the scenes come to life in color! just awhile later, the scenes go back to black and white and are ready to be used again. benji is thrilled he can do it all by himself and i'm happy that there is no mess whatsoever. am a huge fan.

06. cars on the road. after a long search for a nice road map rug, my cousin abby surprised benji with this adorable train tracks quilt. i might frame it when we're done with it, i love it so much. see more lovely things inside her gracie lane quilt shop.

07. train tracks and puzzles. thanks to dan for making the coolest tracks and oma and opa for introducing benji to thomas and friends. benji still loves doing puzzles too. we store wooden puzzles in this wire organizer. his latest favorites are these giant floor puzzles by mudpuppy brand.

08 and 09. large container of anything amusing. i once bought a ginormous container of alphabet cookies. after they were all gone (i choose not to think about how i helped inhale that many cookies in under a year's time), benji begged to play with the large jar. we washed it out and put some of his tub toys in it. he was in heaven. i thought it would be a one-day thing, but it has continued to amuse him when afternoons get dull. i think the coolness of it all lies in acting like it's cool. i ask him to untwist the cap like there is gold inside. we count the pieces; pour them out, play around with the contents and put them all back inside, twisting the lid on before anything hops out. one time we even played a distance drop game with the pieces high above the container. it was one wild afternoon.

i love that toddlers want to help, they want to play, they want to impress, they want to follow the rules, they want to be your best friend. toddlers want to try hard and be good and learn new things. it's all in the letting them try, letting them express themselves, letting them be heard, letting them explore, letting them learn while still letting them have boundaries. am seeing that i can learn a lot if i just sit and watch and play.

28 comments:

LAPLibrarian said...

My son loves the dishwasher too! We have a small "galley" kitchen and I just got something called "The Learning Tower" from my neighborhood listserv. He loves it! My son now safely helps me wash fruits and vegetables and plays at the counter while I cook. I bought him these little toob animals and he'll hide them in oatmeal or rice and dig them out with a spoon or drop them into small canisters. There is no more 5PM dinnertime craziness!

Emily Stearley said...

Do you know Made by Joel? If not, I have a feeling he'll be a happy discovery.

katielicht said...

LOVE this post. i'm planning on staying at home with my kids sometime soon, and I think the biggest thing I worry about is how we'll fill up all the hours of the day. so I'm always on the lookout for simple & fun little kid activity ideas.

BusyB said...

Your pictures were lovely to look at. I like the paint with water activity, I'll pass that idea on to my daughters. I teach toddlers in music and movement classes, they are beloved by me. Yes, I am a grannyblogger.

abby @ tales and trials said...

Give Benji some mini marshmellows and some toothpicks and let him go to town building things and making marshmellow trains. My toddler loves to do this.

Also I now let me three year old help out in the kitchen a lot. I find if he "helps" make his lunch he actually eats better most days. We found little silverware in the kids section of ikea. It looks just like real flatware. We were using it to play with but now he uses the little knives to spread his own jelly on his sandwhich.

PBS kids online has a lot of games and printable coloring pages too

Thanks for the tip about the water play coloring pages. Gonna check that out!

Julia Wade said...

this put the biggest grin on my face :) looking forward to this time so much

Anneliese said...

what fun activities! those water paint pictures look so cool! yay for something awesome that doesn't equal a giant mess. just yesterday i reminded myself that playing IS on the to do list. i'm not wasting time by sitting & rolling the ball :)

and i love your map quilt! how super for a little boy. i hope my baby loves trains. i think they are the epitome of boy toy.

--r said...

sam likes to "do the dishes"—which means i fill a bin with soapy water (making sure there's LOTS of bubbles), and he gets to stand on the step-stool at the sink and play with containers and water. gramma even made him some aprons to keep him from getting completely soaked during this activity!

Jennifer Snellings said...

Oh, this post made me so happy!! I have an almost two year old little boy and your pictures and descriptions reminded me so much of our home each day! It is such a sweet time and too easy for me to forget that it will be gone before I know it! I can get wrapped up in "life" stuff and forget the importance of just playing with my kids! Such a good reminder; thank you!! :)

Take care,
Jennifer

Emskyrooney said...

Great post! I was just looking for more ideas for playing with my 2 year old boy this morning! A mama can only take so much time at the train table (loved seeing Thomas pop up in several of your pictures- he's a permanent fixture in our house too!). I've recently started creating ways for my son to "help" me around the house. I cleared out a low drawer in the kitchen and put all of his dishes in there so that he can set the table himself. I found a child sized broom that he sweeps with when I'm sweeping. I give him a little spray bottle of water and a rag to clean the fridge with. He loves it, he's learning, and I can get chores done while still having special time with him!

ashlynn said...

Great post - Lucy has the same threading toy from downeast & loves it.

This makes me want to giveaway half her toys! Too much stuff!

Nessa said...

thank you... I just swept the floor for the 3rd time today and was getting grumpy. I was glad it was nap time. I needed this reminder of how important every little thing I do is...

I love your tips - my little one is 1. She just discovered "club house" made of a blanket over the table. So fun...

Krista said...

thank you thank you marta!
i'm always on the look out for new things to do with sid. that quilt from abby is so cool. i love the string beads...tried to do it with fruit loops this morn, but he just wanted me to put milk in the bowl and eat them...so i will have to get some wooden beads.
love the water painting thing..love that you can reuse them!
we like to make play dough here and do floor puzzles too.

chliterature said...

I love the dishwasher and cars photograph - a perfect summation of motherhood!

Eeny said...

Can I come over and play with you and Benji... this looks like so much fun =)

swell.life said...

i am drinking this up! love this list. i feel like we've hit a dry spell of major cabin fever and sesame street has become all-too convenient, all day long. excited to keep my eyes peeled for water paints and giant beads.

we recently flattened a big cardboard box, spent a day or two coloring it top to bottom, cut out a square hole, taped a piece of fabric to the back, and created a poor boy's puppet stage. it's been hours of fun!!

homemade playdoh is a big hit around here too. graham always asks me to roll "big balls" and "little balls" for him.

Mrsink said...

I love this post! LOVE IT! I'm also a stay at home mom and loved your toddler fun-time ideas. It's so good to remember that the moments now won't stay forever and to treasure them. That's been on my mind lately as well.

KJ said...

paint with water books are loved here. as are wooden puzzles, blocks, play-do and the grand poobah: impromptu dance parties with "rock star" songs. makes everybody happy and I'm hoping it counts as exercise.

Tanja Vaillancourt said...

try playdough! my son could do it for hours ! with cookie cutters. And dancing to loud music !
thank you for this great post!

the teacup chronicles said...

hey these are all my favorite activities too...!

*Dream Weaver* said...

Good pieces of advice Martha :)

Travelin'Oma said...

I think you've discovered the cure to the terrible twos!

Clare said...

Your Benji is soooooooo cute! I hope my future children are just like him!

Darci Dowdle said...

Marta, you are a wonderful person, mother and blogger. Thanks for all your insights and inspiration. I love to hand out here:)

talesofahummingbird said...

mine and yours are meant to be bff's. and yes, there is a lot a mama can do to help your child find his way through those terrible two's....they are misrepresented as terrible i think, these kids discovering their world at a pace much faster than most of us are comfortable with! pete delights in many of the same activities as benji. he loves to sweep alongside me with a little boy sized broom. he loves to transfer objects (noodles, dried beans) from one mixing bowl to another with a measuring cup. he loves to pour water between containers. he loves to help me water the garden and weed, as long as he gets to have full access to all my little tools. he just wants to be part of the real deal, to feel included and to master the same tools mama uses. its pretty sweet. :) we are so blessed!

Abby said...

Great ideas. I've got to get to Kohls for the cool paint things. I've been looking everywhere for water painting!

love.boxes said...

I would love to see more photos of that pretty little bed.. it's so beautiful.

Elizabeth {e tells tales} said...

A good blogging friend sent me to your blog today after I blogged about the paradox that is pregnancy--happy to have baby on the way and excited to meet him/her, sad I have to give up our exclusive us time.

I have to say, I am touched, absolutely touched at your writing. This post especially gives me so much to look forward to once this pregnancy does wrap up.

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