Toddlers are a notoriously difficult age group. With all of the developmental changes they are going through, they are unpredictable and constantly in need of stimulation. But toys, gadgets, and trips are costly and not always successful in capturing a toddler’s elusive attention. Even a day out to a local museum can quickly become a size-able expense when you factor in transport, entry fees, and eating out.
In a world where so many families are focusing on how to discharge debt, few can afford these big outings and expensive toys on a regular basis. Instead, we’re faced with finding ways to entertain toddlers that don’t cost an arm and a leg. Few things in life are completely free. But, there are plenty of ways to have fun with young kids, without spending more than the minimum on essential supplies. Here are some ideas to help you.
Cooking is a great way to help your toddler get comfortable in the kitchen while having fun. It’s also the perfect opportunity to talk about nutrition and how to maintain a balanced diet. For younger kids, baking treats is always a great go-to because there is minimal heat involved and plenty of opportunities for little hands to measure, pour, and mix.
Don’t enlist the help of your kids when you are trying to get dinner on the table or on a time crunch. They will typically make the process more complicated than if you were cooking by yourself. But set aside an afternoon with plenty of time to experiment and learn in the kitchen. For kids who can’t quite reach the counter, a kitchen helper stool is a great way to give them a boost.
Make a Fort
There is nothing that a toddler loves more than a space that he can call his own. My son, Eli, received a toddler armchair for his first birthday, and he LOVES sitting in it because it belongs to him. One way you can create a space for your kids is by helping them build a fort.
Put those cardboard boxes to good use! Construct a structure indoors or in the backyard and your kids’ imaginations go wild. It doesn’t have to be fancy or elaborate. Kids have the ability to transform it into a pirate ship, a castle, a train, and much more! Or use chairs, sheets, and pillows to create a temporary space that they can play in.
Do you have a love for gardening? Whether you have potted plants in your house or a whole garden, share your love of gardening with your toddler. Even in a small space, you can cultivate a herb garden, care for succulents, or plant some cherry tomatoes. Let them help you plant and water, then spend time learning about what you are growing together.
If you have a picky eater, use this opportunity to introduce your child to new fruits, vegetables, and herbs, straight from the earth. Food really does taste better when it is a product of hard work.
One of Eli’s favorite activities is playing with water, whether that’s splashing in the bathtub or in the swimming pool. But there are so many other ways to incorporate water into fun activities. Set out the sprinklers in the yard and let your kids run through the water in their swimsuits. Invest in a water table for endless pouring and splashing or fill a sheet pan with ice cubes for a more budget friendly option. Another idea to try is to freeze a large bin of water with your kids’ toys and let them “excavate” them using plastic syringes and salt, to help the ice melt. When the weather is nice and warm, water play is a fun and mess-free way to pass the time with toddlers.
Arts & Crafts
Toddlers are at an age where learning is a very tactile process. Fostering their creativity through making a collage, shaping play-doh, or painting with watercolors are excellent ways to keep your little ones occupied.
The first place I always look to for craft ideas is Pinterest. I have many boards that I pin ideas to so that I have everything in one place when I’m in need of inspiration. I even have a Pinterest board specifically for toddlers. This age group brings along unique challenges and require constant stimulation for their developing brains.
Keeping toddlers entertained is not an easy feat. But it doesn’t require much money or many resources to keep them happy and occupied. They are often just as content playing with the dirt in the backyard as visiting a fancy amusement park.
Please share your free or nearly free ways of entertaining your little ones!