My Best Toddler-Busy Idea After Having Five Kids

January 5, 2011

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I’ve finally found a simple way to keep my rambunctious toddler busy . . . and no, it’s not a new TV show or the computer (Yes, he is already a pro with the computer and loves Starfall and his Dora computer game.)

In fact, this works so well, I wonder why I didn’t figure it out with the first four kids.

Do you sometimes feel like you’ll have perfected your parenting skills about the time your last kid turns 18?  I guess my older kids should just consider themselves experimental parenting subjects.  🙂

Here’s a picture of my brilliant idea:  Toddler Boxes

I know it’s hard to see what’s in the boxes.  Here’s a better picture:

So, I went to the store and bought a handful of clear plastic boxes.  I looked for a size that was large and shallow.

Then I scrounged through my school and toy cupboards for ‘sets’ to put in the boxes.  Here what I looked for:

  • Not too many pieces.  There need to be few enough pieces that they can be dumped out and cleaned up without any help.
  • A mix of ‘learning’ with ‘toy’ sets, though there is a lot of overlap at this age.
  • New, new, new!  Rotate!  Every Sunday, we put everything away and the older kids help me find new things to put in the boxes.

What I like about them:

  • Jacob is learning to clean up with the rule of “Only one box out at a time.”  . . .Wait . . .  I have to say that again.  Jacob is learning to clean up!
  • He can entertain himself while I’m helping other kids!  (That could also be repeated)
  • He gets to use our nice learning sets that have been protected in a locked cupboard, or forgotten toys.  In the past, Jacob would get into the cupboard and just empty shelf after shelf before we noticed, creating a huge mess.
  • The older kids are attracted to the newly available sets and play with him.   I love seeing my kids working and playing together.

Ideas for toddler boxes:

1.  Playdough (recipe) – add some plastic utensils, cookie cutter, and a wooden dowel for a rolling pin.

If you hear strange sounds in the other room:  a rapid tapping noise followed by a soft humming, check to make sure your toddler isn’t putting dried playdough in the fan because it’s so fun to watch it splatter across the room. 🙁

2.  Play food like this wooden set my Melissa & Doug (happens to be over half off today for $8.50 – Borders also carries Melissa & Doug and often has single-item email coupons)

Don’t you love seeing your older kids enjoying time with the littlest?

3.  Pattern making sets.  For a frugal version, find any toy with multiples of similar items (army men, beads, matchbox cars), and make your own cards by drawing simple patterns on index cards for your toddler to copy.

4. All kinds of sorting sets!

I had no idea how much he would love to sort.  These sparkly puff balls were in the craft section of Walmart for a couple dollars.  The metal cups are condiment cups from Sams Club.  The first day he had this set he must have sorted, dumped, and remixed them 8 or 9 times.

5. Puzzles

6. Simple Games like Go Fish and Memory

We sure loved having Grandma visit this last week.

7. Stacking or Building sets

He’s really enjoyed this alphabet tower we got on an Amazon ‘under $10’ sale.  He also enjoys the garage sale Jenga set we found and anything else that can be stacked high and knocked down.

I hope that gives you some good ideas for your toddlers.  If you’ve used this type of method, I’d love to hear about any favorite sets your toddler enjoys.  Switching them out every week means we’re always looking for good ideas.


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4 Comments so far

  1. docmisty January 8, 2011 12:59 am

    Glad you liked it! I’m sure wishing I’d figured it out a few kids ago. It’s a nice alternative to the pile of books emptied by a toddler in front of the bookshelf or every drawer in the kitchen dumped on the floor or the trashcan dumped and sorted through for interesting things to play with or . . . you get the idea. 🙂

  2. Felicia January 8, 2011 12:09 am

    What an awesome idea! I am going to share this with a friend of mine that just asked a similar question on Facebook tonight! You rock!

  3. docmisty January 7, 2011 5:37 pm

    Yes, I’ve used that positive spin on messes plenty of times 🙂 “Future scientist”!

  4. Henry January 7, 2011 4:39 pm

    We have done a similar thing in our back porch. We have boxes for the different types of tools.

    I had to laugh at the play-dough fan experiment. Maybe you have a little scientist on your hands.

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