10 Toddler Activities To Avoid the Dreaded Meltdown

I do my best to avoid meltdowns like this.

And this.

I'd much rather see happy and smiling faces like these. So I've put together my own list of "Keep 'Em Happy" Activities. Food and recipe websites suggest making a list of your go-to meals that you can easily assemble with ingredients you have on hand. Well, I think we need the same for our kids. There are so many times I ask myself, "What am I going to do with the kids today?" and "How can I keep them happy for another 30 minutes before dinner is ready?" Here's my top 10 activities to avoid meltdowns.

1. Photograph the House
Over the summer we let Finley try out her photography skills on one of our old cameras. Playing with that camera can keep her busy for a good chunk of time. Her favorite activity is a picture scavenger hunt. I draw pictures of items in the house and send her on a scavenger hunt to take pictures of all of them. If you really want to put your kids to work, get them to take pictures of all your valuables for insurance purposes!

2. Dance Party!
This is probably my favorite. I love to dance and so do my kids. Even if you don't have an extensive music collection, you can listen to lots of free music on services like Pandora. Get in on the dancing yourself and get a little exercise while you're at it. We do this so much I'm starting to think the The Chipmunks make quality music.

3. When In Doubt, Turn On The Spout
Water has wonderful healing powers when it comes to cranky kids. (I guess the same can be said for tired moms.) I usually reserve bath time for that space of time between dinner and bed time when I just want the day to end. But sometimes I do bath time right smack in the middle of the day because it keeps them happy. Add a little colored shaving cream paint or some fizzy tub colors and you can let them play until they're prunes while you relax on the floor with a book. Without a doubt they'll be super dirty by bedtime but it gets me through the day and some days that's about all I can hope for.

If it's summertime, a sprinkler or kiddy pool in the backyard works well, too. While you're out there, throw a little soap in pool and call it a bath.

Or you can always fill the kitchen sink with soapy water and let them at it. You'll probably end up with a lot of water on the floor but maybe you can convince them that mopping up the floor is part of the fun, too!

4. Color Buckets
I have a few colored buckets from Finley's art-themed birthday party. These work perfectly for the color bucket game. Give your kids a bucket (or anything else they can put stuff in) and have them go around the house finding things the same color. Ok, you'll probably spend a few minutes putting everything back. But if it keeps the kid busy for a bit, I'm ok with that.

5. Hide-and-Go-Seek with Toys
My husband likes to play this game with the kids. He hides one of their toys that makes noise, like LeapFrog My Pal Scout or Violet, turns on the music and has them search the house for them. I'm sure we all have way too many annoying noisy toys, so just grab one of those to use. And if you hide it so well that the kids never find it, even better!

6. Stickers, Stickers, Stickers
When there's no paper to be found, mama works well, too!
If there is a sheet of stickers in the house, Grady seems to be able to sniff them out. I'm always finding him sitting on the floor peeling stickers off a sheet and nicely decorating the house or himself. I should probably be better about putting them out of reach. Finley was the same way at that age, but she used to decorate me instead of the house. It always keeps the kids quiet makes them happy, so it makes me happy.

7. Dress-Up
This is an easy activity that I never even have to encourage the kids to play. They're usually off in their room playing quietly and then one of them comes out wearing something totally random. We have the standards like dresses for Finley, hats, and a fishing vest for Grady. But Finley also found a 6 - 9 months baby outfit in the donation pile that she quickly turned into dress up clothes. She loves wearing it and it now has a home in the dress up the basket, too. (For a while that was her favorite hat to wear when we went out.)

We also have a duck costume that Finley wore for Halloween when she was two. She still squeezes into it and Grady likes to wear it, too. Basically, anything that the kids don't wear normally, goes into the dress-up basket and makes for hours of fun!

8. Pipe Cleaners + Colander
Give your kids a colander and handful of pipe cleaners (or spaghetti noodles if you're fresh out of pipe cleaners) and walk away. Honestly. That's all I had to do. No instructions needed. They'll figure it out and have a lot of fun.

9. Lacing
I think one of the hardest things about doing crafts and activities with kids is the preparation. Once you've pulled out your supplies they've already lost it and there's no going back. That's why I love this one. You can have it ready in a minute or two. Find a shoelace, or any sturdy string. Cut up some straws. And you're done. Let the kids lace the straws onto the shoelace. When they're done, put it all in a ziploc bag and you've got a quick activity for those "I'm bored" moments.

10. Word World
This one is also super fast and super easy. Pull out some letter magnets and a baking sheet. Write some words on a piece of paper and let your kids spell the words with the magnets. If they're a little younger you can give them animal magnets to play with. If they're a little older you can let them make up their own words.

What are your go-to activities that help keep you and your kids happy?

1 comment:

  1. Love these ideas. When my son was little he wanted to drink everything with a straw. Well the straws are way to big for the cup, so I would cut them. Instead of throwing out the little bits, I saved them in a plastic cup in the cupboard. I took them out one day when he was board and we made a necklace with those and some pasta shapes. I will have to try the colander with pipe cleaners and the paint bag. Thank you for the ideas to make my er my kids cranky moments a little easier to handle.
    Emma xo