24 Clever Activities to Keep Busy Toddlers Happy

Safe Activities for Little Thrill Seekers

24 Clever Activities to Keep Busy Toddlers Happy

Our little toddlers are full of energy but lacking in reasonable and rational behaviour. They have such little experience with, well..., anything, understandably due to their short time on earth. This means little to no cause and effect knowledge, zero ability for wise and thoughtful risk calculations, yet all the while a propensity for thrill seeking and an unwavering interest in all things dangerous.

If there is a choke hazard on the ground, a knife anywhere near the counter edge, or hazardous spot to climb, they will find it. So you run around  putting out the fires with your hair dripping with shampoo, one leg shaved, and always a bit shell shocked. 

As a mom to a 14 month-old, I am often looking for ideas to entertain my little one and buy myself a moment to get something done. And so I ask around for others' experiences and found some for us all!


24 Toddler Time-buying activities


1. Basket of new toys or rarely seen ones
Keep a box of fresh toys only used when you need to shower.
2. Persnickety pomegranate
YMC's foodie Anne Radcliffe gives this a thumbs up for buying some time, in fact Anne even said "an hour of peace," so I have high hopes for this one. She suggests stripping them down and pulling out an old tarp. Frankly, toddlers should come with tarps. I think it would be good to see some of juicy red faced results so let us know how it goes.
3. Pot, wooden spoon... earplugs
Another from Anne, and I agree, don't mess with the classics.
4. Muffin tin and muffin liners
Our crafty Andrea Mulder-Slater gave this little activity to her little one and found they loved it. I assume this was discovered accidentally and probably when some older child needed something for the bake sale that morning and in the frantic chaos the 14 month old descended on the supplies with a quiet countenance that couldn't be ignored.
5. Build a tent for solo exploration
6. Cheerio string
I am cautious about putting things around my little ones neck so make sure your eyes are near your little one for this one but I have seen this snack necklace suggested for the grocery store or car trips which looks brilliant to me. 
7. Dishwasher water play
Our fearless editor Jeni Marinucci is also a fearless mom to a school-aged son and a teenaged daughter but back in the early years she found that opening the empty dishwasher, since the front already had a decent edge to catch water, made a great little water table while she tried to a get thing or two done in the kitchen.
8. Fresh laundry fun
Get a little “help" of the distracting kind. Jeni suggests leaving the basket unattended and watch the magic “unfold.”
9. The Tupperware drawer
Let 'em have it. It seems like such a disaster when they do it unexpectedly but if you know what you are in for you will find it really only takes a short time to clean up.
10. The Eye Spy toy
Although I am not terribly crafty I made this for my daughter. For a toddler the interest wanes much shorter than the time put into the making it but it does buy a minute or two and older kids can enjoy finding the items put inside.
11. Sensory bins with beans or rice and little toys
12. Or for the super brave... the sand table
Maybe better when they are out of the all things in the mouth stage. Andrea Mulder-Slate says sand really occupied her kids which she kept under control with a tarp. Of course there is kinetic sand now!
13. Shaving cream and highchair table art
14. Fake painting
YMC's resident sleep expert Alanna McGinn, and mother to three children including twins says a bowl of water and a dollar store paint brush with the child's chosen job of painting “the fence” worked wonders.
15. Keys
Get a janitor like volume going with the random keys in the junk drawer that don't seem to match a single lock in your household.
16. Egg rattles
Re-use your plastic Easter eggs.  Put rattle-able objects inside and glue the egg rattles shut. You can store them in a egg carton for the extra adorable factor. 
17. Play dough balloons
How cute is this? You can also use it as a stress ball for the days when no distractions are working.
18. Portable inch of water tub
Drag in a big rubbermaid or large bucket to your kitchen or bathroom, then add a little bit of water and let them play while you get stuff done, this one might not require two hands but definitely two eyes on them.
19. Light Table
A great way to explore objects in a captivating way. You can purchase one or make your own.
20. Interesting safe gadget box to peak your Toddler's interest
YMC's dietician Sarah Remmer says that she keeps a box of old brushes, makeup cases and containers to distract her twenty month old.
21. Baskets
A collection of these might allow you to pee or send an email.
22. Forbidden Fruit/ or the Coveted
Take a toy away for a bit or make it desirable. If my daughter plays with any of my toddlers toys he is instantly interested and enjoys the company.
23. Hide and Seek
Parenting Expert Andrea Nair says that it was hiding things and getting your toddler to find them that kept her kids distracted and gave her a minute or two here and there.

24. The big Empty Box
Endorsed here by other similarly wild creatures


Safe, simple ideas that give you a few minutes to yourself. Keep this list handy and use one, some, or ALL if the day is particularly challenging.

And please, share your tips and tricks. What are your go to's when needing your little one busy?





The Balancing Act of Having an Adventurous Daughter

What the Balance is Really About

The Balancing Act of Having an Adventurous Daughter

Tales of an adventurer

My daughter has decided, at seven years-old, that she wants to be a professional climber when she grows up. She saw a makeshift climbing wall once in a bachelor friends living room and had a good time traversing it. The majority of her experience, however, has been more of a free climb—of everything and anything. We lived in the Caribbean until this August, and although there were playgrounds that had equipment she liked to try and climb the tops of, she was more often found up every tree or rock structure she could find.

Not surprisingly, my good friend sent me this article from The Washington Post: Dear strangers, please stop telling me my daughter might get hurt.

I could have been this mom. That could be my daughter. I remember a mom running to me with concern at a playgroup because my daughter had climbed and stood upon a small table. I was surprised it wasn't something higher. At a birthday party last year, two separate parents mentioned she had the skills of a mountain goat. Another well-meaning mom approached me about my daughter standing on "a ridiculously high rock formation" - a height I admit I agreed to. But this rock was at the beach we went to almost daily; she knew it well, so I feigned concern, sauntered over, and whispered, “Love, can you get down for now? You are freaking some of the moms out.”

My concern is rarely about my daughter's safety; my struggle is balancing the opinions of others with my own understanding of the active little girl I am raising. On at least one occasion, my daughter's behaviour helped encourage another child to challenge himself.

But more often, it me trying to assure people she is okay, and I see the look of doubt in their eyes. They doubt her abilities. Possibly more, they doubt my judgment. 

My mother said she herself has admonished my daughter's decision to climb the shed and jump off it last summer. Her concern was most heavily influenced by the fact that the neighbor kids were there. What if they did it too? What if they weren't as dexterous? What if their parents found out? In this day and age, someone could sue! And so we step in, we correct, we caution. But frankly, I fear I might have dampened her spirit in the times I intervened because of the anxiety of others.

Should I stop her? This is her. This is what she loves to do.

One of the first researched and carefully selected gifts my husband bought for our daughter was a climbing harness when she was 2. Of course, and no doubt quite appropriately, he could only find one in size 4. He proceeded to rig up makeshift zip lines at two different places we lived. She's repelled down our house, she jumps into the water from decks and bridges, and all trees are a potential challenge. My toddler son is also showing some of this no-fear gene. I have often joked that fate should have given me at least one quiet little reader who would like snuggles more than scaling, but this is not the case. I wonder, like the writer, if her behaviour is noticed by others more because she is a girl.

I wonder if the reaction with my son will be as marked.

I long ago learned when I couldn't see my daughter in a crowd to look up. I don't particularly love heights myself, but letting my daughter be who she is has had an effect on me. I push myself a bit to either help her down from some weird position she has put herself in or just to join in her in her adventures. So to her I say: keep climbing, take on challenges, soar to these great heights, and thank you for pushing me to try new things. Even though you're only 7, I look up to you, my darling.

Tips for the parents of an active child:

1. Understand your own child and trust in that understanding
2.  Join in the adventure
3. Let them learn through their mistakes knowing you can't always protect them
4. Have a go to explanation or even a disclaimer at the ready for the more concerned audience members

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RELATED: Why "Acting Their Age" is Exactly What Our Little Kids Should be Doing