My first few months as a toddler mom, I felt like I was drowning. Matthew was getting into everything, we didn’t have any structure, and I just didn’t feel like we were doing what he needed to grow and learn. Plus, I’m super paranoid that I’m going to forget to teach them something important and they’ll hit adulthood and not know their colors or something (this is also reason #19281 why I can’t homeschool). After doing a TON of reading on the interwebs, I started to get an idea for what I thought would work best for our little family. I’ve found that I like to have goals for the day because otherwise, I feel like we just sort of hang out all day, and by the end of the day, I don’t feel like much of a mom. Having a few go-to toddler activities in my back pocket has made all the difference.
Now, every family needs a hang out day once in a while– I’m a huge fan of staying in my pj’s and there is ZERO mom judgement happening over here– but because I’m a stay-at-home mama, I prefer to have something I try to do every day with our kiddos so that I know we’re doing more than watching movies, eating frozen food (which is what inevitably gets pulled out if I haven’t already planned out our meals with something easy like Instant Pot Tacos al Pastor or Instant Pot Ham and Beans), and driving each other nuts. The boys do so much better on days when I never even turn the TV on and have toddler activities planned– both attitudes and sleeping-wise, which in turn makes for a happier, more patient mama which is exactly what they need most.
5 Toddler Activities You Can Do Every Day
I feel like this one is kind of a given, but it’s something we decided we wanted to be intentional about from Day 1. Even when he was too little to understand the words or even appreciate the pictures, we read to him. Now, whether it’s a result of that or just having an amazing little kid, he LOVES books. He’ll stop playing to ask me to read to him. Matthew, since he was about 2, would lay in bed for literally 2 hours, reading to himself, naming the animals or food or whatever in his 101 words books, saying the words he remembers from Madeline or Doggies. I try to make a point of reading one-on-one with Mason, too, when big brother is at school so that he’s getting to see the pictures and some quality time with just Mama.
Some of our favorites lately:
- Amelia Who Could Fly by Kane Miller: A sweet story narrated by the young Amelia Earhart, before she was a pilot. It talks about her dream to fly and her love of flight. A must-have for any pilot kids!
- Pirates of the Sea! by Brandon Dorman: Extremely well-written and fun to read (even the 39,202nd time).
- Doggies by Sandra Boynton: I’ll never forgive my cousin for this one, but Mason LOVES it (and Matthew did, too).
- Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss: This one has gotten a lot of play on Pinterest as a memory book, but it’s also just a great book. Matthew picks “Go!” a lot (Mama has the entire thing memorized) but it’s an easy read and it has a great rhythm.
- Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans: I remember reading this one as a kid, so it’s fun to read it now, too.
2. Play with Kinetic Sand
I love doing sensory toddler activities with the boys, but so many of them are too messy to want to do in the house or too sticky/dirty for my littlest kid to enjoy. This stuff has been AMAZING for both of them, though. It sticks to itself, so not only does it not get their hands sandy, but it’s super easy cleanup if it spills. You just grab another piece of it, press it down on top of the part that spilled, and it’ll pick it up for you! I found some little sand castle and animal molds at Michael’s for CHEAP ($3 a bag?), got a cute tray from Hobby Lobby, and bought the sand on Amazon– they now have shimmery white, purple, black, green, blue, and pink, too, or traditional brown! How fun would the white be for a mid-summer snow day (or a warmer activity on a real snow day)?! Matthew will sit there and make crabs and fish and castles the entire time I’m getting dinner ready (a HUGE help when Daddy isn’t home) and it’s cathartic for me to do it again for him when he wants Mama to play, too. Mason mostly just messes with it, but he does love using the little shovels like they’re spoons and it’s been great for his hand-eye coordination.
3. Build That Imagination
Matthew and Mason both love to “cook cook” at his kitchen (we love the retro look of this one, and the fact that the fridge is separate so it’ll fit in any space and it comes in several color options). We got a stir fry set as well and Matthew loves it since it’s one of his favorites for supper and it’s velcroed together so he can “cut” it up. Santa brought him a cash register and a grocery store (that doubles as a lemonade stand) which will eventually help him with counting, numbers, money, etc. Mawmaw and Granddaddy got Matthew a doctor’s kit that BOTH boys play with all the time, taking turns (Mom win right there) being patient and doctor.
4. Move Around
They’re 19 months and 4! Not only does doing something physical eat up that time between awake and asleep, but it also exhausts them best so they sleep well during nap and bedtime. We’ll play out in the backyard with his Cozy Coupe, Bubble Lawn Mower, chalk, or bubbles (the last two being their favorites). Often times, I take the chalk and bubbles across the street to the park, too. I end up drawing a LOT of airplanes and shapes, and blowing a LOT of bubbles, but it gets the energy out and lets them learn to share with other kids. During the summer in Texas, it gets rather warm, so we spend a ton of time playing in the sprinklers, with the water table, or “watering” Mama’s plants (I’m pretty sure the boys end up more watered than my tomatoes).
No matter what toddler activities we’re doing– whether it’s while we read, watch a show, before bed, or while they work on a puzzle (this Pets Cube Puzzle one is a favorite)– we snuggle every day. With Daddy being gone a lot, I do my best to make sure they’re getting as much affection as they would if we were both home. Even without that factor, though, I think it’s important to show them how much we love them, and the best way to do that for a toddler is physical affection since words and actions don’t mean nearly as much to them. They LOVE our snuggles and tickles before bed.
BONUS: My Trick for Patience
Diffusing an essential oil blend like Balance, Serenity, or even just some lavender essential oil makes a HUGE difference in our attitudes (plus, it makes my house smell less like dirty diapers). For more info on my favorite five diffusers, check out this post!
What toddler activities do you and your toddler do every day to keep your sanity?