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10 Tips For Keeping A Toddler Busy

10 Tips For Keeping A Toddler Busy

toddler

    It can feel like the day is never ending when you have a small child in your care. Aside from observing their feeding and napping as well as their physical hygiene and toileting; they seem to have boundless energy and infinite curiosity. They certainly keep you on your toes, but it doesn’t have to feel as though every minute is a constant demand of your attention and time.

    With just a shift in approach, you can observe their needs and behavior in a way that makes the day ordered while still very flexible and also encourage their independence and separation from you. By segmenting the day into smaller increments of time and facilitating their desire to need you less, you can free up your time and release some of the pressure on yourself as a carer. At the same time your bond and relationship with the child is strengthened and enhanced.

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    The key is to attempt to extend the time of a particular activity by paying close attention to detail, having the patience to explain things by pointing out features, and asking questions to encourage participation and autonomy. Children lose interest when you stop paying attention, but the attention doesn’t have to be so intense that it becomes over bearing. It is crucial to find the middle ground and combine guidance with self reliance.

    Here are 10 tips for keeping a toddler busy.

    1. Meal times as sign posts

    Meal times are an important part of a toddler’s day. Not only do they provide the necessary sustenance that they require, but they can also take up a bit of time and become an opportunity for learning and bonding. It is a good idea to sit down for meals together. It allows you to enjoy your food and demonstrates this to the child as well. Making the effort to sit down and eat is time consuming, as it should be, but it is a significant experience. When the child starts to understand that it is breakfast time, lunch time, time for a short snack break, or dinner time, they learn to have some sort of structure to the day. It centers them and slows them down. It also provides rest and a chance for you to teach them about nutrition. Enjoying food together or a short water drinking break gives everyone a recharge and enhances bonding. It is also a good time to share ideas, thoughts, and feelings by talking to one another. Bonding over a meal is an ancient human ritual. We can make the most of it by occupying a child while also connecting with and educating them.

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    2. Quiet time or naps

    By the time a toddler reaches the age of two, they may have already dropped their usual day nap. They don’t have to go to sleep during the day to rest; however, it is a good idea to allocate a part of the day as down-time. The best time to do this is in the afternoon after the lunchtime meal. Whether indoors or out, why not make a comfortable space to lie down, such as a picnic blanket under a tree or a pillow and blanket fort on the lounge room floor. If you’re inside, just darken the room a little. You can read a favorite book together or watch a movie. Again, it is a good opportunity to talk or have quiet play. Try to do an activity that requires little physical exertion and concentration. Simple activities include watching the clouds drift by, staring up at the leaves in the trees; watching shadows on the walls, and just relaxing. On some days, they may fall asleep. Other days, it is just a much needed rest and another way to segment the day and recharge from the morning activities to prepare for the afternoon routine. No matter what you have planned for the day,  making time to have a rest is important so that both you and the child can recover some energy and prevent either of you from becoming over tired.

    3. Getting outdoors

    Going outside is a great way to keep a toddler busy. Whether it is playing in the backyard or going to a park or the beach; fresh air, nature, weather and wildlife are all valuable stimuli for a child. Play doesn’t have to be structured all the time. Just exploring and discovering the ground, the sky, the water, and the weather is magical for a child and excellent for their health. More structured play can include riding a bike, kicking a ball, or flying a kite. Free play such as looking for objects like shells, rocks, and flowers and collecting them in a bucket is fun too. Observing insects, birds, and other creatures can also be very exciting. Sometimes you can spend an entire day exploring and having adventures outdoors. Other days, it may be a short stroll to the letter box or a cup of tea on the balcony or porch while they meander beside you for half an hour. Having a little bit of outside time each day is beneficial. It doesn’t have to be a sunny day either. Nothing is more joyful to a child than putting on their rain coats and gum boots, taking their umbrellas, and playing in the rain – splashing in puddles and discovering mud. Getting outside can also improve sleep in the afternoon and at bedtime.

    4. Little helpers

    Including a child in your day to day activities can become play and occupy some time. Keeping a toddler busy this way will distract their busy minds and teach them some life skills in the process. Get them to fetch things and put things away. Handing you pegs while you hang out washing, putting things in the bin, helping you to water plants and tend the garden, or prepare meals, as well as accompanying you on errands or shopping trips, all build excellent aptitudes. Whatever you need to do during the day while they are in your care can also become an activity for them. Children are very willing helpers and even just explaining what you are doing and making them feel included is enough to keep them intrigued. Even very small children understand handing objects backwards and forwards or placing objects into a vessel. The older they get, the more responsibility and complex jobs you can entrust them with. Acknowledging your daily routines as though they are a game is a beneficial way of keeping a toddler busy. Soon enough, they will be following basic instructions and taking some of the burden away from you. Nothing is more rewarding than when a child becomes involved in their own care and starts doing basic things for themselves.

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    5. Open play toys

    Every child loves toys. A bit of forward planning and clever purchasing can fire up their imagination. Open play toys such as blocks, figurines, puzzles, and musical instruments allows them to make up their own games and lose themselves in play. You can sit with them to start with and show them (often non-verbally) how to play with toys that require their imagination and creativity. When they are immersed in play, it is valuable to walk away and just observe them. Leaving toys in an accessible area, perhaps in containers marked with a sign and a picture, allows them to choose what they want to do. Playing with household objects that aren’t toys are attractive to toddlers also. Give them plastic containers, kitchen utensils, shredded paper, ribbons, and empty packets or boxes. As long as it is age appropriate and they are closely supervised for their own safety, these objects are great as sensory play and can keep them busy. You can also make lots of sensory play toys like these.

    6. Reading and art

    Children can never have too many books and art supplies. Establishing a library for them with shelves that they can reach and a comfortable place to sit or lie gives them constant and easy access to books. From the time they can grasp things in their hands, children should have access to books. There are a multitude of board and fabric books available for small children. There are also quiet books you can purchase or make that are not only effective toys for keeping a toddler busy, they also teach them skills like tying laces, doing up buttons and zippers, and sorting objects. A blackboard or white board, scrapbooks, and age appropriate crayons, pencils, markers, and paints can inspire them to express themselves artistically. You can do an infinite amount of activities and art with children, like trace and color their hands and feet, draw their favorite toys or cartoon characters, draw their family and friends, as well as experiment with shapes, colors, numbers and the alphabet. They don’t have to be able to read in order to benefit from the exposure to signs and symbols that they will use when they get older. Observing you drawing and writing is fascinating and becomes familiar. Let them scribble and doodle freely. Take a box of chalk outside and let them draw on the ground then stamp the pictures away with your feet or brush them away with a hand broom. Sticker books are also a lot of fun. Whether it is making up stories with stickers on scrap paper or doing more structured activities in a sticker book, these too can be educational and enjoyable. Reading and art is an opportunity for storytelling. Another wonderful idea is story stones. You can forage for your own flat pebbles at the beach or in a park, then draw a picture on each stone with some permanent markers. Put the stones in a fabric bag or cardboard box and let the child draw one stone at a time. Describe the picture and start a story. An older child can join in the fun too. Pick the next stone and continue the story. The possibilities are endless.

    7. Water play and bathing

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    water play

      Children love the water. You can get really creative with water play. Water play tables are a great investment and are easy to store and clean. On warm days, you don’t have to go to the pool or beach for a swim, you can set up your child in the yard or balcony with containers of water to help them cool off and play. Making bath time fun is a must also. Toys that allow them to fill up and pour, squirt, splash, and dunk will provide endless interest and fun. You can set up a container with water and some child-friendly bubbles and get them to hand-wash toys. Blowing bubbles is timeless and these days there are lots of different options for making them. You can also set up a blow-up pool or sprinkler and let them play in the water when the weather is warm. Keeping a toddler busy with water play has many benefits for their development. It is also relaxing for both you and the child.

      8. Visiting

      It is easy to become reluctant to take children out to someone’s home. We tend to prefer to take young children out where they can run wild, make a mess, and make lots of noise. However, keeping a toddler busy by giving them the opportunity to understand what is expected of them in public doesn’t have to be traumatic. Short visits are easier to manage if you take them to a place where there is a more formal relationship and less familiarity. A whole day spent with grandparents and other relatives provides a little more freedom. Children benefit from interaction with other adults and children. From an early age, they can understand how to manage their emotions and behavior if they are guided. They can always take along something special to occupy them, like a favorite toy or book. Perhaps they can even give a gift that they’ve chosen or made themselves to present to your host. This encourages them to participate and socialize in a positive way.

      9. TV and electronic devices

      There is a lot of guilt associated with letting children watch television or use a computer or electronic device, but these can be tools to help you keep a toddler busy and can prove to be educational as well as skill building. In moderation, these devices can allow children to observe someone else’s creativity and also introduce them to a number of concepts and ideas to accelerate their learning. Touch-screen devices in particular are equipped with many applications that allow children to interact and learn problem solving skills. Quiet time is a good opportunity to introduce these to older children who prefer not to nap. They are also effective when waiting for a meal to be served while dining out or to keep them occupied when you have work to do or need to focus your attention on something or someone else. It is also an opportunity to teach children boundaries and limitations. The hardest part of giving children access to these devices is turning them off or taking them back. There is bound to be a tantrum or two. Explain to your children that they can enjoy them for a short time and then must hand them back when that time is over. Getting them to practice that habit is also an excellent development tool.

      10. Doing nothing

      Carers of young children put a lot of pressure on themselves. We put pressure on each other too. Sometimes, you don’t have to do anything at all. Allowing children to lead you and being guided by their needs brings us to the realization that all they really need and want is our company and our affection. Everything can be a game and everything can be an opportunity to learn. We don’t have to load the moment with constant activity and forced interaction. Just be. Sometimes just connecting with them, letting them crawl on you and cuddle you, or letting them sit beside you to have a conversation on their level, is enough. Sometimes, the less we do the more we benefit.

      Before you know it the time has flown and they’ve grown up. Enjoy their babyhood. It is fleeting.

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      Diane Koopman

      Writer, Author, Novelist, Self-Publisher

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      Published on October 18, 2018

      Reading for Kids: 17 Reasons Why It’s Important and Where to Start

      Reading for Kids: 17 Reasons Why It’s Important and Where to Start

      Reading is one of the most important activities that you can encourage your children to do. It’s entertaining, thought provoking, and absolutely critical to success later in life.

      Being a proficient reader by the third grade is an integral factor in a child’s future success. Reading for kids is not just a fun pastime. It is the gateway to learning about other people, places, and ideas, with limitless possibilities.

      Why Reading for Kids Is Important?

      Develops Vocabulary and Language Skills

      Before your kids are able to read on their own, it’s important to nurture a love for books early on. Reading aloud to them at a young age is a great way to promote verbal communication skills between parent and child.

      As kids get older, we speak to them on a daily basis, but the vocabulary and topics that they are exposed to are limited and often repetitive. Reading books will improve your child’s vocabulary and expose them to different types of sentence structure, writing styles, and ways to express themselves.

      Not only will your children’s reading comprehension improve over time, this will also have a positive effect on their writing and communication skills. For children who are bilingual or learning a second language, reading is an important component of attaining or maintaining fluency.

      Encourages a Thirst for Knowledge

      There are books written about any topic imaginable, many in a wide variety of reading levels.

      When reading books, your kids will be introduced to a wide variety of topics, cultures, and ideas. They will realize how much knowledge is out there to be discovered and delve further into the subjects that interest them the most.

      In many cases, they will be enjoying the content of the book so much that they won’t even realize they are gaining so much knowledge about a particular topic.

      Increases Empathy

      Children have a very narrow understanding of the world around them. This is due to the limited number of experiences that they have encountered, based on the circumstances in which they grew up.

      Reading books about different types of people who have had a wide range of experiences allow kids to not only appreciate diversity but also to understand what it may be like being in someone else’s shoes.

      Doing so will help them appreciate and empathize with people who have very little in common with them and help them develop into more well-rounded individuals.

      The Best Form of Entertainment

      In the current age, technology has become the go-to for entertainment for adults and kids. Although TV shows and kids apps like these can be a great resource for learning, books are a better choice every time.

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      Rather than spending hours in front of a screen, encourage your kids to consider books as the default source of entertainment. Studies show that in families where reading was emphasized, the children are more likely to read independently and develop a passion for books in the long run.

      Creates a Bond

      There are multiple ways that reading creates a bond between parent and child. Starting from infancy, reading aloud promotes closeness and intimacy through spending time together and being physically close.

      As your child gets older, you can continue to read aloud or read the same book separately and talk about the parts that you enjoyed the most.

      Use reading as an opportunity engage and interact with your child, asking them about their thoughts on topics covered in the book or connecting the story to everyday life.

      Exercises Their Brain

      Reading requires more brain power than watching TV. When our kids read books, they utilize the part of their brain that deals with multi-sensory integrations, making connections between words and visual thinking.

      For beginner readers, illustrations can be a useful tool to help them grasp the narrative and gain better comprehension. In the case of more advanced readers, they use their brain when gathering context clues to help them figure out words or phrases that are unfamiliar.

      Reading also stimulates critical thinking, spurring kids to make connections between the book and real life and to form opinions about the story.

      Improves Concentration

      Reading a book requires focus and concentration, which are essential skills to work on, even for toddlers who have trouble sitting still.

      Consistently reading books will help your kids practice quieting their minds and their bodies to focus on a task for a set period of time.

      By taking away distractions and giving them space to read and understand, their attention spans and ability to concentration will greatly improve over time.

      Sets Them up for Success in School and Life

      There have been numerous studies that indicate reading books to children at an early age has a lasting effect on their success in school, which often directly correlates with success in the workplace.[1] But the benefits are not just limited to academic success.

      Reading is a long-term learning experience that promotes growth, which will result in your children becoming more effective people overall – better spouses, bosses, and friends.

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      Promotes Creativity and Imagination

      When reading a story, our children create an image of how they perceive the story to look in their minds, using creativity and imagination. Every person sees a different image in their mind, and it may change each time the same book is read.

      Reading also introduces new worlds, whether real or fictional, that we have never been a part of before. Immersing in the book allows your kids to imagine new experiences and scenarios that they never thought possible.

      They will be able to bring these ideas into their play time and use their creativity to go beyond the limits brought on by their everyday lives.

      Where To Start

      Now that you are aware of the multitude of benefits that reading can provide for your kids, what’s the next step?

      If your child has not yet developed a love for reading, it’s not too late to start.

      1. Make Reading a Choice, Not a Chore

      Don’t make reading a mandatory task or assigned chore. Encourage and remind your kids to read, but let them make the ultimate decision on when to read and for how long. Feeling like they are being compelled to read will inevitably take the joy out of the experience.

      If you have a reluctant reader, try to figure out what the root cause of the reluctance is. If your kids are struggling with words, find a few books below their reading level to instill confidence in recognizing the words they DO know. Gradually transition to harder books until they are more eager to read voluntarily.

      Another alternative is to try audiobooks. Hearing another person reading confidently is a great way to experience fluency, and they will be able to enjoy the book without having to stumble through it.

      If the content is the issue, and they find reading to be boring, introduce them to different types of reading material (see below).

      2. Suggest a Variety of Reading Material

      Reading can come in so many forms and every type has something unique to offer the reader. If your kids are having trouble finding joy in reading, it may be because they haven’t found a genre that fits their interests.

      Traditional books come in many genres, including mystery, history, biographies, fantasy, science fiction, and more. Some books are written in unique and fun styles, such as choose your own adventure books, diary novel, or epistolary novel.

      If you are looking for reading material that is more visually stimulating, try a graphic novel, a magazine, or a travel book. Books are also great resources for learning a new skill. Joke books, magic books, and cook books are great examples of these.

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      Don’t forget to show your kids the practical side of reading as well. Enlist their help in reading out the grocery list at the store or ask them to read recipe instructions when cooking in the kitchen together. All types of reading counts:

        3. Experience Books Firsthand

        As your kids read more books, they may start to imagine what it would be like if they were characters in the books. A great way to support their love for reading would be to help them depict their favorite parts of their book.

        Look up a recipe for butter beer (Harry Potter) or Turkish Delight (The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe) and make it together. Start planting a garden together after reading The Secret Garden.

        Another fun way to celebrate finishing a book is watching the movie interpretation of it. Seeing beloved characters come to life on screen is an easy way to enhance the enjoyment of reading.

        4. Be an Example

        You are the main person that your kids look up to. Kids love copying their parents and doing the things they observe their parents doing on a daily basis.

        Don’t just tell your kids to read often; show them by doing it yourself.[2] Actions speak louder than words.

        When you model your own love of reading and books and show them the joy it brings to your life, they will be inclined to feel the same way.

        5. Set Aside Time

        For a child with a busy schedule and so many other fun screen-filled activities to choose from, it can be difficult to purposely reserve time for reading.

        Make this decision a little easier by creating dedicated time that is just for reading. This can be just before bed, right after homework, or whatever time works best for your family’s busy schedule. This time can be used for read aloud time with your child or independent reading.

        6. Bring Books to Life

        Finding real life connections to the books that your kids are reading will extend the joy of the reading experience.

        Did your children just finish a book about life on the farm? Take them to visit a local farm and experience what they read about firsthand. Reading a book about planets and space can turn into a trip to the planetarium.

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        For a more memorable excursion, take a family trip out of the country, like visiting London after finishing the Harry Potter series.

        7. Make Books Accessible

        One of my favorite activities to do as a child was to go to the library. The vast number of books that were at my disposal made me so excited to read.

        Find a great library in your area to take your children and let them experience the magic of limitless possibility. Sign your kids up for their own library card and encourage them to take ownership of their reading adventure.

        Start a small collection of books at home so that your kids will always have books at their fingertips. Visit a bookstore, browse online, or sign up for a monthly book subscription. Getting access to new books on a regular basis will keep reading exciting and fun.

        8. Start a Book Club

        Having other people help you stay accountable is a great motivation to read more and to discover new books you may not have otherwise.

        Encourage your kids to start a book club, either with their peers or with you. Choose a book everyone would enjoy and set a deadline for getting together and discussing what each person thought of the book. The tangible due date is a great incentive to stay on track and read on a regular basis.

        The Bottom Line

        Fostering a love for reading in your kids is one of the greatest gifts you can give them.

        Reading books can transport them anywhere they could imagine, and the benefits that it provides for them in the short and long term are innumerable.

        Use these tips to actively encourage reading to be an enjoyable part of their lives, and it will be worth the effort.

        Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

        Reference

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