A friend with a child a bit younger than mine was wondering if I could share about some of her favorite toys, particularly things that will hold her interest for longer than 5 minutes inside when the weather isn’t conducive to shooing the little ones outside for an adventure. (Click any of the blue text for links to purchase if you’re interested.)
It’s amazing how long the squishy, colorful dough can keep Ali’s attention. She sometimes mixes stickers and toothpicks into the dough, and definitely jumbles the colors. It’s cheap and she’s having fun so I try not to look. Our biggest challenge with play-doh is reminding her to put it back into the containers so it doesn’t dry up.
At a playgroup one time I overheard the other moms talking about doing glow-in-the-dark baths for their toddlers. What?! I had to find out. It’s simple: give your kids a couple of glow bracelets and dim the lights. Suddenly, bath time is fascinating. This is often the reward at the end of a good day… sometimes it’s just to give mommy a break. I’ve never tested it but I think she would play in the bath with glow sticks until the water got cold. Sometimes I can find 15-packs in the dollar spot at Target. Amazon sells 100 for $9.
Ali got some paint-with-water books for Christmas, but honestly her favorite thing is to just make abstract paintings on plain white paper. I’ve always been a lover of abstract art so I find each of her creations to be masterpieces worth hanging on my office walls. This pack of Crayola Washable Watercolors is my favorite. Last summer (when she was turning 2) we only painted outside. Now that she’s approaching 3, she paints at the kitchen table strapped into her buckle booster. I have the paper on a placemat and I use a heavy mug for the water. Clean up is pretty easy with a damp cloth. She uses some of my old higher quality paintbrushes.
I’m sure you are all familiar with this classic toy. I don’t have much to say except that it gets a lot of play.
Play Kitchen / Tea Set
Jason and I both drink coffee and tea (respectively) several times throughout the day so Ali is used to seeing us with a mug of hot liquid. I think it’s for that reason that her tea set gets so much play time. Sometimes I let her have real tea in her cup, which she loves. Usually it’s imaginary tea: sparkle tea for me and chocolate tea for her. This was my first Green Toys purchase. They’re all made from recycled food-grade plastics and have a nice tactile texture. I found a play kitchen for Ali off of craigslist.
We have crocheted food handmade by Ali’s Nana, cloth breakfast food and vegetable sets from IKEA, and some second-hand Melissa & Doug wooden play food. Ali loves to practice her chef skills slicing apart the M&D Cutting Food set. I’d definitely recommend this to a friend.
I think this is a given at any age but it’s always good to have a good bouncy ball around. While it’s not usually an independent activity, Ali and I have spent many rainy or cold days playing soccer or catch. On her first intensive day of potty training when we spent hours in the kitchen, soccer was a life-saver.
Again, this doesn’t need much explanation. It got a ton of play time from age 18 months-present 2.75 years. We just moved it outside a few months ago. It used to be in our den/playroom. I stalked craigslist until I found a good deal on one that hadn’t been sun-bleached outside.
There are lots of options for this one. Drape a blanket between two pieces of furniture. Turn a big cardboard box on it’s side. (Pictured below: Ali and her BFF Jaron in the box fort in his bedroom.) Buy a play tent. Or do like I did and make a playhouse out of a sheet that fits snuggly over a card table. I only get this out when I’m desperate and it always works to keep Ali busy for a while.
This is also not an independent activity because it requires supervision but this is an addition to my list from Buzz last summer. We spent many, many hours at my parents’ swimming pool and these Cars diving toys were a big hit with both kids. Buzz’s mom bought him a set last summer and I plan to get Ali some for this summer. I’m praying she’s tall enough to stand on her toes in the shallow end like Buzz was last summer…
A wading pool. Water guns. A watering can. A bucket and a hose. Whatever you’ve got – toddlers love experimenting with it. Dumping, splashing, drinking, blowing bubbles, etc.
I make my own bubble solution. Ali is starting to get the hang of blowing bubbles with a bubble wand at this age. (And Buzz was doing it last summer at this age.) Last year, she relied a lot on the battery operated bubble gun. She also has a bubble mower that gets a lot of playtime.