Recognize either of these scenarios? It’s 5 p.m. and you need to make dinner, but you have a very small child clinging to your legs. Or, you desperately need to make an important call, but your two-year-old is interrupting you every two seconds. Instead of pulling your hair out, try one of these 10 ways to distract and entertain your needy toddler…just long enough to get it done.
1. Pull a sturdy chair up to the kitchen sink and fill the sink with warm water and bubbles. Provide a few spoons, plastic cups and a scrub brush. Bonus: your floor will probably get splashed clean too.
2. Take a minute and throw together a super-quick fort from sofa cushions and a blanket. Or simply toss a big sheet over a table and invite your toddler to bring some stuffed animals, dolls and other toys into the fort.
3. Dash down to the basement and come back with a big empty cardboard box. This alone might just buy 10 minutes, but pull together some washable markers and crayons and you’ll probably add five more.
4. Run outside and quickly fill a small bag with natural things like leaves, grass, pine cones, rocks and sticks. Let your toddler discover each item as he pulls it out of the bag.
5. Toss a few ice cubes into a plastic mixing bowl and watch her discover what happens to them. Replenish as needed. You’ll be surprised at how long this can occupy a small child.
6. Pull out some play dough and let him knead it nearby. Provide cookie cutters, plastic knives or cheese spreaders and a small rolling pin.
7. Pull out the pots and pans. No explanation needed; just brace yourself for the noise.
8. Try giving older toddlers a simple-but-fun task, like matching a basket full of loose socks. Even if they’re not very successful, they’ll probably have fun trying.
9. Raid the recycling bin for yesterday’s newspaper or an old magazine. With some washable markers, let them colour–or tear–to their heart’s content.
10. If all else fails, turn to technology. Try age-appropriate TV, an iThing or other handheld gadgets.