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6 Ideas For Self-Entertainment and Independent Play

The million dollar question every parent has: how can I get my one, two or three year old to play on their own for longer than 2 minutes?! It’s a constant struggle. Whether your toddler is in a day care or you’re a stay-at-home parent, there are always pockets of time where your child needs to be entertained.

I often find myself plopping my 1 year old in front of a heap toys and then trying to make a beeline for the kitchen, laundry room or even bathroom without her following me in close pursuit. Of course, I can be totally present with our littles but it would be impossible to check the myriad of boxes on my to-do list at the same time.

Below I’ve listed some favorite toys and activities that never fail to entertain my toddlers. We've definitely fallen for our fair share of "uncaptivating" toys, you know, the ones where children would prefer to play with the box it come in than the toy itself. In those cases you just gotta hope they weren't too costly! But the following toys are different, they grab the attention and don't quickly let go, at least for our kids.

1. DontPlayWithThat.com!

At the risk of being self-serving, toys from this very shop!

Instead of battling between parent and child over the phone or sparkling water can, provide your little one with toy versions of their very own. Sit a kid down in front of our busy-board and you'll likely be able to squeeze out 5 minutes. Maybe.

Busy Board Keeps Toddlers Entertained

2. Play Doh 

I’m in agreement with many parents that activities that take longer to clean up than to play with, generally aren't worth the effort. Play-Doh is different.

We recently purchased a starter set at a reasonable price. Our 2 year old didn’t get up from her chair for 30 minutes! I was shocked at how long she found different ways to roll, mush, cut and shape those four colored blobs. Granted, she was talking to herself for most of it. Surprisingly, when I kindly asked her to try and keep the colors separate, she listened!

As far as cleanliness, we set a rule that the Play-Doh doesn’t leave the basement (which only contains furniture I don’t mind getting ruined). Play-Doh, for the most part, is easy to wipe off wooden furniture. 

Play-Doh for Self Entertainment

3. Sensory Bins 

Just take any durable bin or container and fill it with odds and ends consistent with your child's age. During the summertime you can fill it with water and bath toys and put it outside for a cooling activity. During the fall season, throw in some leaves, cranberries, dried oats and the like for the seasonal flair. Colorful, painted rice, spaghetti or pasta are great options too. 

This idea definitely requires more creativity for bin contents and more effort for cleanup. Placing a tablecloth or garbage bag underneath is a game-changer for cleanup.

4. Magna-Tiles

Now this is an exception to the budget friendly claim I made earlier, however these magnetic shapes are a real time-consuming activity.They're quite durable so you really get you money's worth. When we gifted these to our daughter, we had to drag her to the dinner table to eat. 

There are endless ways to construct buildings and designs. It fosters creativity and imagination within your toddler and it is totally safe! Cleaning these up is a breeze because they're magnetic, stackable and take minimal space. 

Magna-Tiles Independent Play
5. Color Wonder Markers

Coloring is a classic favorite activity and it has been for centuries. I’ve always been reluctant to allow markers or crayons brought into my home for fear of the drawings slowly creeping up from the paper onto the wall.

That was until I discovered Crayola's Color Wonder Markers - the stuff that parents’ dreams are made of. Miraculously, the colors only appear on the Color Wonder coloring sheets. It also come with a stamp pad that does the same trick! 

Crayola Color Wonder Markers

6. Videos

I'm mentioning this last for its obvious downsides. In fact, there are parents out there who prevent it strictly and I salute you. But, most of us would be fooling ourselves by saying TV isn't an option.

Ideally, screen time is reserved for when other options have failed or you desperately need an hour breather. For us, our toddler goes to school and after-school time is occupied with playtime or errands. Then there's dinner ad bath time. We set screen-time for the post-bath pre-bed slot, which lasts between a half hour and an hour. By now she knows the drill, so she doesn't ask for it early unless it's a sick day.

     Happy toddler entertaining! From one exhausted parent to another : )

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