We’re all busy. And, if you’re anything like me, the busier life gets – the more Mom Guilt sneaks its way in. It’s a vicious cycle. My level of Mom Guilt rises exponentially, incidentally, during final exam season – which I find myself in the throes of, again.
I barely see my kid these days. I usually get up and get her out the door to preschool every day, and that’s all I see of her. I’m trapped in the library until well beyond her bedtime. So, when I find myself with a few minutes at home with her these days, I’m all about building up my parenting ‘Street Cred’ (you know, so I’m seen as the ‘cooler’ parent in her eyes, even though I’m largely absent the last few weeks of the semester? That kind of Street Cred).
Word to the wise: Pinterest is my jam. If you haven’t used it yet to search for fun toddler-esque activities, you’re missing out, my friend. It’s a literal GOLD MINE of tricks just waiting to be used at your disposal. Some activities are more complicated, but some (i.e., the ones I prefer) are mind-numbingly simple. And, if it’s a good day, your toddler won’t even care how simple it is – in fact, its simplicity is sometimes part of its appeal (you know, the way your kid always plays with the box instead of the toy contained in it?).
Here are a few stupidly simple toddler activities I’ve tried in the past few months. They keep E entertained, reduce my Mom Guilt to a manageable level, and build my parenting Street Cred at the same time. Win-win-win.
- The pompom drop. I can’t believe we waited so long to try it. We’ve had pompoms hanging around for ages, usually ending up in random spots under the couch, collecting dog hair. This weekend, while I felt especially guilty for missing almost a week of bedtime routines, I found an empty roll of wrapping paper, cut it up, taped it on using some handy-dandy painter’s tape, and we were set. She loved it. I loved it – probably more than I should have, and watching the pompoms may actually have helped me relieve some stress. A+.
Level of difficulty: (on a 1-5 scale, where 1 is ‘so easy, your kid could do it’ and 5 is ‘you need tools, and someone who knows how to use them (AKA not me)): 2.
Materials needed: scissors, painters’ tape, empty cardboard rolls, pompoms or other similarly-sized objects, barbecue tongs.
Skills developed: fine motor (particularly if you use the tongs), cause and effect/object permanence. Bonus points for colour recognition if you can turn it into a game (drop the ‘pink’ one, etc.)
Level of messiness: (on a 1-5 scale, where 1 is ‘spotless’ and 5 is ‘where’s the mop?’): 2.5. There will be pompoms on the floor. Deal with it.
- Toddler cooking class. Is anyone else’s kid as obsessed with mixing random things up in bowls as mine is? This was another easy one, but be warned – it is MESSY.
Level of difficulty: 2
Materials needed: various bowls, a plastic tarp or towel, patience (if you’re an “OMG don’t spill that on my floor” type, you may need to walk away for a few moments. Shit’s going to get messy, fast), various spices and cooking ingredients (we used oatmeal, pasta, popcorn seeds, a few spices, etc.) and tools (spoons of varying sizes, a whisk, hand-beater, turkey baster).
Skills developed: sensory, fine motor.
Level of messiness: 5. Definitely a 5. But the engagement level was pretty high (as in, she played for a half hour or more), so it was worth it. In my eyes, if time spent cleaning up the activity is < actual engagement time, I’m willing to try it.
- The sensory ‘bin’. [Okay, mine was more of a sensory Pyrex dish, but whatevs. It’s hard finding the right sized plastic bin. Plus, I don’t have the budget to fill a huge bin with stuff]. In this one, I combined shaving cream and corn starch – which felt SO cool – and added in a few Christmas accessories from the Dollar Store. She was weirded out by the texture at first, and yes, there was some mess, but it was manageable.
Level of difficulty: 3.5. It took some time to research a good ‘base’ for the bin using the random materials I had around the house. I did learn that shaving cream is probably one of the coolest materials to have kicking around, and it is pretty versatile.
Materials needed: a large plastic bin, a base of your choice, a seasonal or thematic assortment of materials from the Dollar Store.
Skills developed: sensory.
Level of messiness: 3.5. Not the messiest activity we’ve ever done, but it did require some clean-up, particularly when she wanted to take the items out of the bin to play with them elsewhere.
- The nature table. This one’s easy, too. Just gather up some seasonal items, place them in baskets on the table, along with a book or some toys that fit into the season, and go from there. I included a mirror and magnifying glass.
Level of difficulty: 2 (at most… it’s fun gathering the items and we gathered most of them together).
Materials: wooden boxes/baskets, a magnifying glass or mirror, a light table (if you have one), and seasonal outdoor objects.
Skills developed: sensory (throw in some language skills, too, as you discuss the objects — where they came from, what they do, etc.)
Level of messiness: 3. There were some random pine needles scattered here and there, but nothing I couldn’t handle.
- Create your own puzzle. One day when the power had gone out, and all our puzzles had already been mastered, we gathered up random objects from around the house and traced them onto a huge sheet of paper (having an Engineer in the house really pays off, paper-wise). E’s pretty good at puzzles, so we did this in another room so she couldn’t see until it was time to do the actual matching. We then mixed up the items and she went to town. It amazes me how good toddlers are at puzzles. I thought we’d have her tripped up by a couple of the objects, but she solved it no problem.
Level of difficulty: 1
Materials: large sheet of paper, assorted household objects (adjust the difficulty as your kiddo masters it – it can be done again and again!)
Skills developed: matching, fine motor
Level of messiness: 1
So, there you have it. I owe all of my Parenting ‘Street Cred’ to Pinterest. (But don’t we all?) 😉