If you currently have a toddler in your home, or if you’ve ever had a toddler in your home…you’ll understand exactly what I mean when I say, surviving a long & cold winter with one in tow is right up there with winning the Noble Peace Prize! Oh my word, I can honestly say I’ve never realized how long our winters in Nebraska really are – approximately 9,578 days long. And how exactly am I suppose to keep Quincy Rose occupied when our activities consist of Target runs & trying not to freeze our noses off? Not that I’m complaining about our frequent Target runs. She’s a fast learner & fully understands the beauty that is Target.
BUT! If you have a toddler, you know that keeping them busy is next to impossible & what’s more important than keeping them busy? Teaching them how to play independently! Independent play is important for them AND let’s be real…it’s key for saving our sanity! So I’ve done some research & tested out a few theories & I’m here to share with you, four things I’ve found that has kept my one a half year old busy, busy, busy!
Disclaimer: I initially tried to think of things that would not cause a gigantic mess, but who was I kidding? Toddlers are messy by nature, so just know that 100% of these activities will result in a mess, some more than others.
#1 Rice-a-Roni: the Midwestern Treat
My gal pal, Leslie, told me of this great invention & I have to say…on a scale of messy, this is a definite 10, but on a scale of occupying my child, this is also a 10! Here’s what you’ll need to make the rice:
1 cup of rice
1 tablespoon of white vinegar (although, I only had apple cider vinegar on hand so I made due)
Food coloring (Unfortunately, I don’t have an accurate measurement to suggest. I used the gel food coloring & just used a handful of droplets)
Gallon-sized Ziploc bag
Add all the ingredients to the Ziploc bag & mix ‘er up! I let Quincy help with this step & she had a blast and a half running around the house shaking the bag. Once all the rice is colored, spread it out on a baking sheet & bake for 30 minutes at 200 degrees.
Quincy is currently obsessed with our measuring cups, so I gave her one & a couple of big mixing bowls & let her go to town. I made the mistake the first time around of giving her bowls that were smaller & it made it that much easier for her to miss the bowl & pour the rice ALL. OVER. THE. FLOOR. I’m not sure if it’s the color, the texture, or what, but this keeps her busy for quite some time!
Messy Scale: 10 out of 10 (Just prepare yourself & know that you’ll be finding rice all over your floor…forever. Although, once it’s nice outside, I might try this in a kiddy pool. At least then the mess will be much more contained!)
Occupied Scale: 10 out of 10 (So far, this is the activity that keeps her the busiest the longest. Not to mention, it’s so sweet to see her work so hard to get the rice into the bowls.)
#2 Shake your Pom Pom
Otherwise known as a sensory box – I wrapped an old kleenex box in some leftover tissue paper to make it a little more fun! I’ve seen LOTS of different ways to do these sensory boxes, so I plan to switch out the contents pretty regularly! I’m hoping it will help Quincy stay interested & bonus points – it will introduce her to new textures, shapes & sizes of items too!
For now, I added in some pom poms from the Target dollar section (holla) & some of her bathtub foam letters that she loves. What I usually do is dump out the contents of the box & show her how to pick them up one by one & add them back into the box. However, 50% of the time, I’ll dump out the box & then Quincy will immediately try to shove her face inside the tiny hole. Either way, it’s keeping her occupied, so I’m going to chalk it up as a win!
Messy Scale: 1 out of 10 (It makes a rather minor mess & super easy to clean up.)
Occupied Scale: 6 out of 10 (Quincy still struggles with getting the items into the box, so she gets frustrated & moves on to another activity after a few minutes. However, if I sit with her & help, it holds her attention much longer!)
#3 You get a sticker book! You get a sticker book!
I love this activity because 1) I get to channel my inner Oprah & spoil Quincy with sticker books, compliments of the Target dollar section (holla – again) & 2) it’s legitimately the most simple thing ever! This one isn’t great for independent play, because she still struggles to get the stickers off the page on her own, but if I sit with her & hand her a sticker to put on a blank white piece of paper, she’s as happy as a clam! It’s also a great time for us to practice our “Please” & “Thank Yous” – which is just about the cutest thing ever.
I’ve also noticed that she’s learning to point at which specific sticker she wants. If I give her a different one, she just points even harder to tell me, “Hey mom…you picked the wrong sticker! Listen to me!” Who woulda thunk – a sticker book could occupy my toddler’s attention for so long? Sometimes, it’s the simple things in life, man.
Messy Scale: 2 out of 10 (Sometimes she’ll smack the stickers onto the floor or table & I have to peel them off.)
Occupied Scale: 7 out of 10 (If I can’t peel the stickers off fast enough for her, she’ll quickly lose interest…such a diva.)
#4 Poor Man’s Plinko
If you’ve never seen an episode of The Price is Right, then you probably won’t understand the reference above. However, I was really excited about this activity when I first saw it on the Instagram account, The Mama Notes! She’s actually been the inspiration for quite a few things I’ve been testing out with Quincy Bear.
Another great part of this activity – it’s like dirt cheap to throw together. Take some old toilet paper rolls, tape & call it good! It took a couple of tries for Quincy to understand the concept of this activity, but she eventually caught on & has become her own hype man. She’ll yell, “Go!” every time she drops a pom through one of the toilet paper rolls.
Messy Scale: 1 out of 10 (Again, not a whole lot to clean up here. And if the pom poms end up all over the floor, I’ll have Quincy help me clean them up. Again – win, win!)
Occupied Scale: 8 out of 10 (Go! Go! Go! Is all she wants to do when we play this game.)
I hope this was helpful & maybe even sparked some new ideas for you to try with your little ones at home! I’m PRAYING that winter is coming to an end & we can play outside with fresh air & green grass…but until then, we’ll be snuggled inside!
If you’d like to share a fun activity that you do with your kids, no matter the age, I’d love to hear – just leave a note in the comments below.
Thanks for stopping by!