We paint with water colors - a lot. This is an activity that keeps Tory entertained for at least 15-20 minutes, which is an eternity in toddler time. I usually set her up in the high chair which controls both her and the mess into one little spot and that's a big bonus. I don't usually waste coloring books or buy special paper for her water color crafts. I take a piece of card stock, draw a design with a Sharpie marker and let her paint away. After the paper dries, sometimes I cut the design out or hang up the entire page.
I bought some "pom poms" (basically colored cotton balls in the Dollar Spot section at Target a while back. These little cotton ball thing-ys are some of Tory's favorite.
- We play guessing games with them. I hide a few in one of my fists and let her guess which palm they're hidden in. Tory thinks this game is hilarious and feverishly shakes her head "no" when she picks the wrong hand. It doesn't even matter if she can see me change the pom poms from hand to hand, it always seems to stump her.
- We play "dumping" with the pom poms and a bucket. We load all the pom poms into a container and then dump them out again. Sometimes we just toss them in the container; other times, I give Tory a spoon to we practice transferring the pom poms via spoon from container to container.
- We play color sorting. I group them into like color piles and then ask Tory to point to the purple pile, the yellow pile, the blue pile, etc. Eventually she'll be able to sort the pom poms on her own.
- I cut a hole in the top of an oatmeal container and had Tory practice dropping the pom poms into the container through the hole.
- You could glue the pom poms onto a piece of paper and make an arts and crafts project.
Andi poked fun at me for calling this activity a sensory tub. "Bet the 20-year-old you never thought you'd be playing in a sensory bucket," he said. Basically, it's a glorified touch and feel bin, I told him. I filled a large Tupperware container with expired noodles and lentil beans and let Tory go to town scooping and dumping the noodles and beans into cups. It usually makes a big mess, so I usually bust out this activity when I have sweeping and mopping on my to-do list anyway.
Along the same note, I put some marshmallows into a big bowl and gave Tory a few big spoons to transfer the marshmallows into various containers. Granted, about half the marshmallows ended up in her belly but she had the best time playing with them.
Fruity Cheerio Bracelet
My picky little Tory Bean doesn't like Cheerios. She may be the only kid on the planet that doesn't. I bought a box of fruity Cheerios's thinking that maybe she just needed some with flavor? It would be so convenient to toss her a few Cheerios as a snack when needed - I just want her to like them! But, no dice. Tory wouldn't eat the Cheerios dry or when soaked in milk. So, one morning I took a pipe cleaner and helped her thread some fruity Cheerios onto it to make a bracelet. She wasn't able to do the threading by herself just yet, but thought it was the neatest thing as we slid each Cheerio onto the pipe cleaner. Once the bracelet was complete, I gave it to Tory to wear on her arm and she chomped all the Cheerios's right off the wrist.
Coloring with the Lid On
I wish Tory was old enough to color, but at this age she's mostly interested in eating the crayons. Coloring with crayons, pens or markers requires constant supervision. Sometimes I give her a colored marker with the cap on and let her pretend to color on her own. Tory thinks it's pretty fantastic to sit in her high chair with a baby doll, marker and piece of paper and "draw" a picture. This keeps her occupied just long enough for me to prepare dinner or finish cleaning up after a meal.
Playing in the Water
On some of those lazy, lazy mornings when we have nowhere to be and Tory's still in her pajamas, I let Tory play in the kitchen sink. I crank up the heat, strip her down to her diaper and let her go to town. I let her have full reign on controlling the faucet (monitoring that she doesn't turn on the hot water, of course) and let her splash and make a mess all over the counter top. This keeps Tory busy for at least 30 minutes.
When all else fails, we hit the mall. I don't know why this never occurred to me before, but the mall indoors. It's great people-watching. It has a play area. It's FREE. The mall is basically the perfect place to go when you're out of ideas and need a place to burn off some energy. The closest mall to our house has a fairly clean play area and it's hardly ever busy. I just be sure to give Tory a good wipe-down when we leave.
An even bigger bonus that never occurred to me until last month is that the mall has STORES. I am a big online shopper and I can't remember the last time I went to the mall to buy something, so the other day when Tory and I were there and I remembered I had a gift certificate to Victoria's Secret from Christmas, I thought, "hey! Why don't I just use my gift card here? Brilliant!" (This was an actual conversation with myself. As my husband reads this, I know he's saying "oh honey ...")
I purchased a few things from VS with my gift card (AND took them home with me immediately afterwards, can you even believe it? I didn't have to wait a week for my purchase to arrive in by mail and deal with the barking dog and nap-ruining UPS guy who insists on ringing our door bell)! Tory had a great time doing one of her favorite activities while I shopped - wearing underwear on her head. Hey, whatever it takes to keep her occupied ....