Entertaining your toddler on a budget
There are many ways to entertain your toddler for very little to no cost. Here are five cost effective and fun toddler activities:
Your toddler may not be old enough to use a mixer or flour sifter, but could probably take charge of the cookie sprinkles. Bake up a batch of cookies. You can even buy pre-made dough. Ice with either homemade icing or premade icing and let him go to work with the sprinkles. Some may be heavily sprinkled and some may have very little sprinkles but he will be very proud of his work.
Toddlers love to open presents. Sometimes they enjoy opening things more than they do the things inside. Wrap up something small that you already own. You can use recycled bows and ribbons. Sunday comics work great for paper. Present it to her and watch her have fun.
Let your toddler play with a hunk of pizza dough. It is not too sticky and not too runny. It is the perfect consistency for little fingers. You can get some from your local grocery store, pizza parlor, or make your own. You can also incorporate a rolling pin into the play. If you are feeling motivated, you can bake a pizza with the rest of the dough while your child plays with his portion. Otherwise, simply freeze or refrigerate the rest for future playtime.
You could take your baby to the zoo, but don't be surprised if he falls fast asleep – or favors the water fountain over the orangutans. Instead, try a park where he can see dogs playing. It's a lot less overwhelming and every bit as exciting, plus it doesn't cost a penny. Just be sure to practice good doggy and child safety habits. You might want to carry your baby in your arms or a baby carrier to make sure he's safe when watching and petting the pups (with permission, of course).
Turn off the lights, close the blinds, grab a flashlight, and lie back on the floor for a rockin' light show with your little one. Dance the light beam along the ceiling and walls as your baby stares in delight. An older baby might like to try holding the flashlight herself (though you shouldn't be surprised if all she does is gum it). Just don't let her shine it directly in her eyes – or, for that matter, in yours.
For a change of pace, set up your baby's highchair in the backyard or out on the front stoop. He'll feel like he's won the lottery! A bit short in the yard department? No worries – bring a booster chair to the park and set it right on the grass. Throw in some bubbles and you've got a perfect recipe for a fun-filled morning.
Wait for a dark and dreary day. If your child has a case of the "nothing-to-do" doldrums, all the better! Now suggest that you go camping – in your family room. Make a "tent" with sheets and blankets draped over chairs. If you have sleeping bags, dig them out – or just create some bedrolls with blankets and pillows. Tell stories and sing songs around an imaginary fire. And when the lights go out, make a beautiful galaxy appear on the ceiling of your tent by shining a flashlight through a colander.
Jocelyn Debick, Director accessAbilities First Step Early Intervention
- BA in Early Childhood and Elementary Education, Carlow University, Pittsburgh, PA
- Infant Mental Health Graduate Certificate, Chatham University, Pittsburgh, PA
Experience includes 25 years in Early Intervention, Early Childhood Education; advocate high quality early care and education services
accessAbilities First Steps Early Intervention provides a variety of home-based services for children ages birth to age 3. These services are designed to foster learning and growth during the most important developmental stages as well as provide support for the family as a whole.
If you have a question you'd like to ask our experts, please submit it using this form.