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5 Brain-Stimulating Ways to Keep Toddlers Busy

5 Brain-Stimulating Ways to Keep Toddlers Busy

When my daughter was about 18 months, we were at Target and some lady was buying finger paint. She was waiting to check out and she was making faces at my daughter and she asked her if she enjoyed painting. "She's too young," I told her.  She looked at me like I was crazy.  "Your daughter is old enough to paint," she told me.  "My kids started painting a long time ago." I didn't know whether to be offended or excited. I felt like my daughter had just started walking. How could she possibly be big enough to hold a paintbrush? 

When we got home, I decided to try some things out. I got out a piece of paper, a small paintbrush, and I poured some paint onto a plastic plate. Sure enough, it was slightly messy, but my daughter had a ball, and was so proud of her finished product. 

Not only did she love it, I noticed a great improvement in her behavior after we began doing projects every day.  Susan Case, author and former Kindergarten teacher, maintains that art is very important for young children. She says on her blog, "Crafting and art are forms of playful learning. Play is very important for children to learn and grow. They will learn from what is interesting to them and they are capable of understanding, and doing, for their age and abilities. While they are learning, their brains are making synapses, or connections of neurons, which will enhance their learning in the future."

The problem with all this artsy fartsy stuff is that I am terrible at art. In fact, it's the only class I truly struggled with in school, and I always figured I would just be the Mom who didn't do that kind of stuff.  The problem was that I really needed to find things to do with my toddler. So even I have learned how to make crafts do-able and fun for my kids. The important thing to remember is that projects with kids don't have to be fancy. You don't have to worry about the finished product. It's the fact that you are challenging them, and helping them use their minds that matters. And most importantly, you are finding ways to make the day go by. Days with toddlers can be very long. 


5 Ways to Keep Your Toddler Busy with Stuff from Around the House:

1.  Kids Love to Pour

During these warm summer months, fill up a bowl with water, give them a few cups out on the deck, and they'll happily pour for a long time, which is great for fine motor skills.  You can also try rice, beans, anything that pours well and has an interesting texture.  You might even tell them they are making soup for some fun imaginary play.  Of course, be sure you closely supervise your young children during all of these activities so they don't put anything in their mouth.

2.  Paint Anything You Can Find

Even kids as young as 18 to 20 months can do painting.  Give them just paper, or an egg carton and show them how to make a caterpillar. Or even try a paper towel tube and cut slits in the bottom to make an octopus.

3.  Make Your Own Racetrack

Get some long butcher paper from Hobby Lobby and set it out on your kitchen floor and be sure to tape down each end.  Draw a long race track  with markers and get out some cars.  You go on one end, and your toddler goes on the other.  You can roll the cars back and forth to each other on the long race track.  This is especially fun for little boys and it usually only takes a few minutes to help them understand to stay at one end.

4.  Make a Paper Plate Sheep

Get out some cotton balls and glue.  Show your toddler how to put a small dab of glue on each cotton ball and affix it to the plate.  If you have older children, they might be capable of gluing cotton balls around the exterior for a true "sheep" but for the younger crowd (20 months to 3 years), they will more likely put cotton balls all over the plate, but praise them lavishly for being able to get the cotton balls on there at all.  The first time we did this, I really had to force myself to let go and allow my 20 month old boy to hold the glue bottle, but he amazed and impressed me with his ability to do this.  If you want to finish the sheep, you can glue on eyeballs, and cut a nose and ears out of construction paper.  


5.  Experiment with Baking Soda and Vinegar

Buy some squeeze bottles from Wal-Mart. (Don't worry, this isn't money wasted. You will be able to use them all the time.) For this experiment, get out a foil tin pan and pour some baking soda in the bottom. Fill up the squeeze bottle with vinegar and show them how to squeeze into the pan.  The vinegar will make the baking soda fizzle and this will be fascinating for your toddler!  Feel free to mix the vinegar with water so you don't waste so much vinegar.  They will want to do this over and over again and it's a great way to build up those arm muscles that they will need later for learning to write.  To make it even more interesting, add paint to the bottom of the tin so that they can see the colors swirling together.

The important thing is to not let all of these activities overwhelm you.  They are meant to be a fun way to spend an hour with your toddler.  I have even noticed that after I spend some good quality time with my kids, they are more likely to play on their own for awhile so that I can pay some bills or do the dishes in peace.  And what Mom doesn't want to do the dishes in peace once in awhile? 

Image Source: Courtesy of Katie Norris

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

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