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Ideas for Busy Toddlers

A reader recently asked if I would do a post about Norah’s activities.  It can be challenging to come up with ideas to keep an energetic toddler engaged and active at home.  Especially when you are busy with an infant!  Some days are better than others.  I certainly resort to popping in a movie sometimes so don’t think I’ve got all this mastered!

Craft Shelf:  I have a shelf in the hall closet that is dedicated to crafts.  There are shoebox sized containers holding strings for necklaces, paints, glitter, glue, homemade play dough, popsicle sticks, floral foam, etc.  I also keep several old sheets and blankets to cover the floor for quick clean-up.  I keep activities simple.  Lately we’ve been enjoying leaf rubbings.  Norah also loves to thread uncooked ziti noodles on string.  And she loves to cut things with plastic knifes.  So sometimes I give her a knife with a few fruits/veggies and bread/cheese.  She’s also enjoyed building structures with (just a few) large marshmallows and uncooked spaghetti noodles.  I’m not very crafty so I often just throw down some supplies and see what she creates. 

IMG_8955The Dollhouse:  Our best investment (and gifts from grandmas) has been the dollhouse and accessories.  I’m watching her play with it now.  We chose Plan Toys  dollhouse and accessories.  Norah spends the bulk of her time playing here. 

Pretend Play:  I keep a mason jar and a clear plastic egg carton filled with assorted objects.  Buttons, leather pieces, marbles, shells, acorns, etc.  I’m amazed at some of the ways she plays with these.  And she loves to sort them.  We also have a bin of dress-up clothes. 

Dinosaurs:  A hand-me-down from cousin Taylor, the dinosaur collection is another big item in our home. 

Green Hour:  Although I’ve slacked off some since Cedar was born, we typically have a green hour every day (rain or shine) during which Norah explores the outdoors.  She can make bug houses from leaves and sticks, make “dinner,” or simply make a mess.  She especially loves green hour when it is raining because she gets to carry an umbrella.


We have a small house.  I use lots of baskets to keep things sorted properly.  If toys are strewn about, then the “Toy Fairy’s” phone number is programmed in my cell phone.  Or at least that is what Norah believes.  I’ve never had to call the Toy Fairy but according to some moms, she will come pick up the toys and take them away if she is called.  There is an equally effective “Clothes Fairy.”    

I’ve noticed that it takes some time for Norah to begin playing with things that I introduce.  It probably took 6 months for her to even notice her dollhouse. 

I find dress-up clothes at thrift stores.

For toys that she loses interest in quickly, I put away and reintroduce later.  When she’s bored with it, I put it away once again.

For the most part, I turn my head when she decides to use household objects as play items.  I’ve lost almost all of my kitchen towels to her play baskets.  She loves to sneak away with belts, shoes, tape measures, cookie cutters, etc.  If I need something, I usually know where to find it.

Finally, we’re pretty careful about toy volume.  I generally try to avoid plastics and I like to know that toys are not made in sweatshops.  We keep an amazon wishlist so extended family know what we think would fit in our home and in Norah’s days.  If it requires batteries, it usually stays at grandma’s house. 

What toys do your toddlers and preschoolers love?  What works for your family?

9 responses »

  1. THANK YOU JULIE!!! My wheel is turning and I am excited about introducing some new play ideas to Elly. I love the marshmellows and noodles, and the dollhouse is great!

  2. I am going to have to use some of these ideas! You know what I did today? I gave Suzi a practically empty Nutella jar and a spoon and told her she could eat all the chocolate she could get out of it. It kept her busy for almost an hour.

    I am a slacker mom.

  3. I have been eying that Plan Toys dollhouse on Amazon – man, am I sick of all the plastic in our house.

    Alex likes to “make a party” with paper cups and plates, “food” (fabric food or play-doh or real fruit snacks) and sippy cups of water. We pretend to blow up balloons, send invites in the “mail” and call our guests, sing to everyone, and then do the clean up songs when we’re done. He’s also getting into taking pictures and I have the camera with me a lot. He calls it “CHEESE!”

  4. Have you seen my tape measure?

  5. Pingback: Ideas for Busy Toddlers « Inexplicable Ways | CraftPile.Com

  6. Pingback: Ideas for Busy Toddlers « Inexplicable Ways | ToddlerPlays.Com

  7. Today Norah is playing with two fishing worms (yes, the kind you fish with) named Kermit and Lucy, an attachment for an air compressor, a soft tape measure, and some nesting purses from Cambodia (three little purses that nest inside the big one).

  8. Hey Jenny-
    That is EXACTLY what I have done w/ Hayden !

  9. I LOVE the idea of a “Green Hour”. Thanks for sharing that!



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