The Independent Toddler
In two months, I’ll have two children under two in the house! This is going to come with some challenges. I’m especially worried about times that Little Fox is going to want my attention while I’m nursing the new baby.
Already, I know I’m lucky to have an independent first child. Little Fox likes to explore her toys on her own, and only sometimes comes to me to share what she’s doing. When we play together, I am usually sitting down. And we spend a lot of our time cuddling while reading books. This routine won’t change drastically when the new baby is born.
But I know there will be some jealousy anyway.
So, of course, I’ve been thinking of plans of what Little Fox can do while I’m nursing, or otherwise preoccupied with the new baby’s needs.
Special Toys: Learning through Play
This is the number one solution I’ve heard from other parents with multiple young children. Have special toys, quiet books, and “busy bags” for the toddler to play with while Mama nurses. (I’ve also heard this is an effective way to keep younger children occupied while homeschooling the older kids). So, I’ve been working on putting together activities for Little Fox that are going to be able to useful and reused for years to come!
While all play is learning for toddlers, there are a couple of categories of “learning toys” I’m making. The first category is Math activities. There are “toys” that work on learning shapes, colours/sorting, patterns, and number recognition. The next category is Pre-Reading, which is basically just letter recognition. The last is Motor Skills, under which anything else falls. Because everything toddlers do is helping with either fine or gross motor skill development. Except for screen time, but that isn’t on our activity options list anyway!
Some of my Favourites for Early On
While Little Fox is under two, the activities I will give her from those prepped are quite simple. One of the first ones I’m excited to try with her is painting construction paper with water. I have some construction paper and a big paint brush for her in a zipped bag, so all I need to do is set her up with a bowl of water and she can make art! The best part is the only mess is water, which is easy to clean up.
Another activity I have planned for my toddler is giving her a big tub full of bubbles. (The water will be drained/I’ll only put bubbles into the tub). She already loves playing with a bowl of bubbles while I wash dishes. I’m thinking maybe she can “wash” her toys with just the bubbles. Either way bubbles aren’t going to hurt the floor or anything else she may spread them onto.
Finally, I know Little Fox will love Sticky-note peek-a-boo. I’m keeping a pad of sticky notes in the busy bag bin for this activity, and am only pre-doing a few books with it. How it works is you put sticky notes over-top pictures in a photo album or book, and it’s like lifting the flap to find out what is underneath. Only the flap also can come off and it’s not a torn book when it does. Little Fox learned to play with sticky notes at Baba’s house. She puts them all over herself. So, this activity has the added bonus of including moving sticky notes around which she already loves.
Busy Bags Kids Will Love
Sara McClure’s book inspired most of the activities I’ve prepped for Little Fox. I heard about it on a homeschool podcast – sorry I don’t remember which one. It was about keeping a toddler happy while homeschooling the older children. They did discuss how it would be useful for while nursing a baby as well. I think it is definitely going to be great for both instances!
In McClure’s book there are 52 different activities listed with the materials you need to make them. I’ve done a couple of adaptations, such as photo paper instead of popsicle sticks for the pattern sheets with pom-poms as shown on the cover. I got the categories (math, pre-reading, motor skills) from her as well. While the title includes preschooler, the activities range in ability, and lots of them were easy to adapt for younger ages. Even in the book there are sometimes two levels for an activity, with the lower level being suited to a younger child. I’ve been working on making easier and more difficult versions of the activities now, because I know I’m only going to have less time to prepare these sorts of activities once we have a second child. But in theory, if we have a third child in another two years, both Little Fox and Little Badger will have a busy bag activity suited to their age and skill range.
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More Toddler Activity Highlights
We received a magnetic fishing rod in a used toy set, that didn’t come with any magnetic toys. I was overjoyed! One of Sarah McClure’s activities includes making magnetic felt fish with numbers and/or letters on them. The child can then work on fishing out numbers in order or just saying what number or letter it is she found. That seemed like a lot of fun even to me, and I didn’t have to make the fishing rod! (The book does contain instructions on how to make te fishing rod). I got some large felt squares off Amazon and cut 26 fish out. I folded the felt diagonally and used the folded edge for the tail. Then I hot glued a couple tiny (6x2mm) magnets inside the fish. (Also from Amazon – but they don’t carry 6×2 in the same quantity now so I’d go with 12×2). Although my fish aren’t uniform, I am super happy with the product. I know Little Fox will have lots of fun fishing… and maybe so will I.
The fish were probably the most labour-intensive busy bag activity I worked on. But I also enjoyed making some of the simple ones. Like the colour sorting egg carton, or the sticker number recognition clip cards. I’m not great at sewing, so my husband is helping me with sewing a button onto a strip of felt. With some small (4×4) felt squares I got off Amazon I cut flowers, which Little Fox will be able to put on the button, and then slide down the strip of felt to take off. The extra felt I didn’t use for flowers went towards felt funny face making, and felt dress up.
Other Toddler Activity Prep Options
Not everything fun for a toddler can be prepped and put in a bag. But I am preparing a list of simple activities that are quick and easy to set up for when we want to do something different. While these activities also aren’t “reusable” like the previous ones, I may still want to try them out.
One activity that is still cheap and easy is making a tape walk. I can put painters’ tape on the floor either in a straight line, or in zigzags, or some other funny pattern. Then Little Fox can try to walk the line.
I also plan to save a recipe for edible play dough. I have one open on my computer but haven’t printed it off yet. Putting paint in a Ziplock with a piece of paper is another activity I’d like to try again with Little Fox. We tried it when she was younger, but she wasn’t interested at the time. Although these activities can’t be totally prepped ahead of time, I can keep some of the materials together and ready with the list. (So, painters’ tape, paints, paper, Ziplock bags, for example). And I’m not going to put pressure on myself to do these activities while I am in the super-tired-mom-with-new-baby stage. That is what the totally premade activity bags are for.
Thank you for reading this week’s article! Have you heard of busy bags before? If you have McClure’s book, be sure to let me know in the comments what your favourite activity in it is!
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