Monday, July 23, 2012

40 Ways to Distract a Toddler, text only version

For all of you who seem to see only five ideas when you click on the original 40 Ways to Distract a Toddler post,  I have re-typed and re-presented the post for you. This is a text-only version (sorry, no pictures) in hopes of allowing those who've had difficulty to access a simpler format.

I am sorry for whatever technical issue it is that prevented you from seeing them the first time through, and I thank you for taking the time to check out the full list, presented here. I hope you find inspiration here!

Here goes...

Re-typed exactly as appears in the original post (but without photographs):

As a homeschooling mom there are times when I want to include every member of my family in an a activity, and there are other times when I need to distract the younger set so I can practice a particular skill with my oldest. But you know, that can be tough with two toddlers running around.

Here are some of the strategies that work well with my daughters when I need to devote some attention to schooling their brother. I try to have several examples from the following list on-hand at all times to pull from when necessary. I hope they help your family as much as they do mine! Want more inspiration? Check out my Toddler Ideas Board on Pinterest.

(Please supervise your child at all times, and use your best judgement when choosing activities which are safe and appropriate for your child's readiness level.)

1. Rice/bean bins. All you need is a bin, some rice or beans, and some scoops or cups. (I use an under-the-bed storage container because I actually store mine under a bed, and because that way it's actually long and shallow enough for multiple children to use at once.) These require close supervision for really young children, so I set mine up right next to the table I'm working at so children are always in sight.  And may I mention that I strongly prefer beans to rice? You see, beans vacuum up easily and rice just gets blown every which way.

2. Water bins/tables. These require a nice day and a deck.. smile... but are great. Again, fill up a tub of water and provide scoops, bowls, and a few fun trinkets (some that float and some that sink) and let kids play 'til their heart's content. Add a few drops of food coloring for extra fun!Accept before you begin that each child who plays will require a full wardrobe change. I actually use this one a lot while I'm making dinner- the kids are going to get into the bath at that point anyway, right? Please use your best judgement when allowing children to engage in water play and ensure close supervision at all times.

3. Paint with water books. Yes, they still exist and yes, they are still a great way to get some exploration going with less than half the mess of the full-fledged version.

4. Puzzles. Use the manufactured variety or make your own by cutting up pictures your child (or a sibling) has drawn.

5. Special Play Boxes. The idea is that you only take these special boxes of toys out when you are homeschooling another child. These are special treats.  Change them up every few weeks or so depending upon your younger child's interests. Here, my youngest daughter is playing with Matchbox cars as I work with her brother.

6. Stickers. On paper, on clothes, on favorite chairs...

7. Number Wheels. Print a color wheel and ask kids to place the corresponding clothes pin on the wheel. For details, check out Money Saving Mom's post here. If your child isn't ready for numbers yet, try putting colors onto the wheel and putting colored dots onto the clothes pins for them to match. If your child is really young, try just giving them clothes pins and a variety of materials to try to adhere them to.

8. Legos and blocks. These are great all by themselves, but can also be used on conjunction with props like dolls, cars, shoebxes and and paper towel rolls. What can your child make with them?

9. Tweezers and pom poms. Provide some multi-colored craft pom poms and ask kids to sort by size and/or color. If the child is very young, take away the tweezers and give them a yogurt container with a small hole cut into the top to stuff pom poms through. When they are done, open the container and start again.

10. Toddler sewing basket. For details on how to assemble one of these babies, go here, to Childhood 101.

11. Pipe cleaners in containers. This is a variation of the pom pom suggestion: cut several small holes in a yogurt or coffee container and ask the child to stick pipe cleaners into them. For added challenge, color hole-reinforcers (like you use in three-hole-punches documents) and ask teh child to match the pipe cleaner color to the hole reinforcer color.

12. Magazine scavenger hunts. Really young kids can just rip up the pages, but slightly older toddlers can search through the pages to find the items you ask for, like pictures of smiles, flowers, a Mommy, etc.

13. Alphabet or picture tracing sheets. This is as easy as laminating alphabet practice sheets and providing dry erase markers. All done? Erase and start again.

14. Egg cartons filled with plastic colored eggs. Fill these with trinkets which will make noise within the eggs. This is enough for young kids. For slightly older kids, you can ask them what they hear in the eggs, and then have them open the eggs to discover whether or not they are correct. (Be careful of very small items for very young children.)

15. PlayDoh filled balloons. You never know what a child is going to create with these, but the sensory experience is a major boon. For details, go here

16. Pool noodle stringing. Cut up pool noodles and provide yarn for little kids to string together.

17. Magnetic Magazine Face-Making. Cut out eyes, ears, noses, mouths, etc from magazines, laminate and adhere to magnets. Then, provide your toddler with a magnetic surface to rearrange the faces. For details from the Iowa Farmer's Wife, go here

18. Lacing boards. These can be made with leftover cereal boxes, or can be purchased. You pnch several holes along the outline of a shape, and ask your toddler to weave shoestring in and out of the holes. Don't expect perfection unless you are giving instruction- just let them do it on their own.

19. Felt Face-Making. Same idea as above, but you use felt to create facial features and let little hands assemble as they will. This idea can be adjusted to fit any theme you're working on in your homeschool with just a little forethought. Cupcakes, ice cream comes, firetrucks, fish...the list goes on an on. Just create one larger object and lots of little ones with which to adorn it.

20. Soda bottle filled with oil, glitter, and water. Grab a two-liter and fill it with these ingredients for fun. Roll them, shake them, and put them into containers. Remember to glue the cap on before you give this to your child!

21. Button snake. Tie or sew onto a piece of ribbon and provide felt scraps to thread onto the "snake". For details, go here.

22. Clothesline play. String up a pretned clothesline and provide a few socks, some felt clothes cut-outs, and some scarves, etc. plus a few clothespins and let younger kids have fun putting up the wash.

23. Bathtub painting. Let a squirmy toddler paint in the bathtub with tempra or other washable paint. Just strip them down and let them go to town, then use the shower head to rinse it all (including what's on their bodies) down the drain. Use your best judgement when it comes to supervising your child in the water (which you'll need to use when you're cleaning up the masterpiece).

24. Ziplock bag painting. Fill a bag with paint and tape it to a glass surface. For details form No One Has More Fun Than The Adams', go here.

25. Giving babydolls a bath. This isn't so gender-specific as you may think. You may be surprised at how many boys enjoy a small tub of water, a plastic baby doll, towels, and soap. This is another activity which may require a full wardrobe change, but it's well worth the effort.

26. Stamping. Ink pad, paper, and a variety of stamps. Check out my tutorial on how to make foam stickers into stamps here.

27. Color scavenger hunt. Give your child a paper bag with a color scribbled on the front, or a colored bag, and ask them to run around the house until they find items of that color to put into the bag. You should also *ahem* set some limits as to what can, and cannot, go into the bag.

28. Bottles and cap matching. Take a bunch of used bottles (clean, of course) and let children match the caps to the bottles. Added bonus? This is a self-correcting activity, so when they get to the end and all the caps don't match, they know they've made a mistake and can go back to find it. Want details? Click here for the post from Home Learning from Birth.

29. Rubberband/shoebox guitars. These are fun to play and fun to make. Just a couple of shoeboxes with rubber bands around them make music (but not too loud) and lots of opportunity for exploration).

30. Give them "work." Give your younger child the same worksheet you give your older child and see what they do with it! The more authentic and identical the worksheet, the better.

31. Pudding/Yogurt finger-painting. This is another activity which necessitates prompt bathing (boy, I have a lot of those) but gives you peace of mind while you work with another student that your younger child won't be ingesting paint. Tools like spoons and paintbrushes only add to the fun.

32. Cutting practice. While themed printables are fun, you don't need anything that fancy. Just draw some wiggly lines across a page and ask your toddler to cut the lines you've made.

33. PlayDoh prints. My kids will play with PlayDoh for hours anyway, but they're especially intrigued by anything that makes a print in the soft dough (think Legos, sporks, beaded necklaces, cookie cutters and little truck wheels).

34. Balloons. They don't even need helium just blow them up and provide a pool noodle for hitting, or tie bunches of them up with ribbon and let your kids try to keep them in the air. Try giving kids a straw and having them blow balloons around the room.

35. Sorting. Colored pasta, old keys, nuts and bolts. You name it, a kid can sort it. (Supervise young children closely with small objects.)

36.  Water transfer. This can be done with pipettes and small bowls of water, or with small pitchers. The key here is small amounts of water. Colored water is extra exciting.

37. Chalk. It's versatile- if you have a chalkboard that's great, but chalk can be used on black construction paper, on sidewalks and driveways if you're outside, on rocks, on felt...

38. Masking tape obstacle course. You can tailor this to meet your child's needs- put down a straight line and ask your child to walk/skip/hop along it. Create squares they must jump between, even adhere tape to walls in a hallway and ask your child to go below the lines you've set up.

39. Pattern blocks. The idea is to use a set of blocks and ask your child to create the same patterns that are on a form. This can be done by tracing blocks you already have, or by purchasing a set.

40. Give up. Really. When all else fails: skip school for the time being and give your babies the attention they need. I've seldom regretted calling it quits on a tough school day to give us all the chance to regroup, but I have often regretted not doing so. Realize that you aren't a superhuman and there is nothing so important that should make you ignore a child who wants and needs you.


  1. Found this on Pinterest- great ideas!

    1. I'm so glad you like it! Are you able to see the original post, with pictures?

    2. Great ideas! I found this on Pinterest too but had to view the text only version to view all of the ideas.

    3. I'm so glad you found the post helpful, and I truly still don't understand what makes one person able to see the full post an others not... that hasn't been the case for any other post on the blog! Ah well, I'm glad you got to see the ideas, even if it was only in text format. :) Thanks for the comment!

  2. Great ideas!! I had to do the text only version, I could only see 6 ideas on the original post.


  3. thank you, this is great! we're 2 weeks into homeschooling and this is so helpful.

    1. Stephanie, I hope by now you're really loving your homeschool journey. It really is such a gift!

  4. Thanks for the great ideas. I will be having baby #2 soon and these ideas are great for occupying her time when I need to take care of the baby!

  5. I love this list, but #40 is my favorite. :-) Great advice.

  6. GREAT ideas! My brain is in gear to make some of these into busy bags and boxes for car trips and outtings. I think we can also incorporate many of them into the 2yr old Sunday School class we teach. Thanks!!!

    1. I also am involved with our Sunday School and I use some of these tips regularly in that scenario as well. I hope you find some success there! :)

  7. You have some awesome ideas! You have a creative gift. :) Ill use these for my 2 year old when I'm feeding my 3 month old. :) Thanks!

  8. Some very great ideas on here. These could also work for needed distraction when I need to get some housework done. I have a 4 year old and a 10 month old so some would work for one while some would work for the other.

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