Parenting hacks: How to keep toddlers busy — without screens

toddlers, what toddlers like to do, parenting, preschoolers, keeping toddlers busyIf you are 2 or 3 or 4, what are you interested in doing? You really like hiding in boxes and popping out to say “hi.” You like crawling through tunnels and sliding down slides. You especially like doing these things when you can laugh with a friend beside you.

You like a tire swing big enough for two or three. You like digging in sand and pretending to cook dinner with it. You like making rivers and canals in the sand and using a hose to fill them. You like making forts or caves with blankets and chairs.

You want to march to music, rock on a rocking boat, put lots of clothespins into a container, dump them out, and do it again. If you are older, you want to fit the clothespins around the edge, and maybe color them with a marker first. You want to wrap babies in blankets and put them to bed, then wake them up and do it again. You want to build houses and towers with blocks, then add farm animals or wild animals and make homes for them. You want to try Bristle Blocks and Duplo® blocks, sponge blocks and colored wood blocks.

How can you be a helper?

You can chop cheese with a popsicle-stick “knife” or stir scrambled eggs. You can roll pie dough and put vegetables into the soup before it is on the stove. You can water the garden with a small watering can, dipping it in a tub of water to fill it again and again. You can push the numbers on the ATM if mom or dad has time. You can match socks, fold pants and carry the piles from here to the bedroom.

What sparks your creativity?

Glue that drips onto the paper. Glitter and sparkles to drop into the glue. Stickers to put on and take off and put on and take off, then leave on. Scissors that have holes for all your fingers. Colored paper to fringe. Play-doh to squeeze and pinch and roll and push through garlic presses. Shaving cream for finger painting. A few markers and a lot of paper.

What keeps you busy and happy?

Puzzles with knobs or pictures of family members, vehicles or rescue helpers. A box of cars or little people. Cardboard books with push buttons for noise and music. A family photo album. A toy purse filled with things. Toy cell phones. Beach balls. A yard or park in which to run.

Do you need movies? Do you need video games? Do you need computer games? Do you need television? Not yet. Will they give you fears and nightmares and make you dependent on outside entertainment? Sure. Are they intriguing to you? Of course. Do they get in the way of enjoying all that other stuff when you are little and will they be there for you when you are 5 and older? Of course.

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