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How to Amuse Toddlers

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I've been providing private childcare for infants and toddlers (3 months - 2 years) for the past six years and during that time I've come up with a wide range of activities that I've used to keep these little people busy as they discover the world around them. Some of the activities may be ideas you've never tried and others may be things you do regularly with your own child. Whatever the case I hope that other childcare providers and parents will find inspiration in this Instructable to challenge their babies with creative new experiences.
 
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Step 1: Playing With Water

Playing in water is a classic experience that nearly all babies enjoy. An outdoor kiddie pool is great when the weather is warm but there is no need to stop the wet fun when the air outside turns chilly. Just bring your kiddie pool inside to a warm room (with a water proof floor) and let the tots sit in the pool and play with warm water from a basin. They love using cups and funnels to fill clear bottles with warm bubbly water and to mix pots or bowls of water with spoons and whisks.

One novel variation on this theme that I've tried successfully is to add a couple drops of food coloring to large clear containers of water. The colored water adds a new twist to the play and provides another opportunity to teach the names of colors. (As long as the food coloring is diluted you won't have to worry about staining problems, just make sure a tot doesn't get a hold of the little bottle of concentrated dye.)

Misc Tips:

- When it's hot outside your toddlers will naturally want to drink the water they are playing in. Be ready with fresh water to quench their thirst.

- I don't recommend filling the whole pool with water when you have it indoors because 1.) it's difficult to empty the pool out and 2.) it's more likely the children will become excessively wet and chilled.

- For safety sake keep pool water shallow and maintain constant supervision.

- For comfort use warm water (even outside sometimes.)

- When using a kiddie pool indoors you may want to surround the pool with towels to absorb spilled water. This will make cleanup a little easier and will also help prevent slips and falls when toddlers climb in and out of the pool.

- Add bubbles to the water.

- Try bubbling the water with a straw or baster tube. Older toddlers can do this too, just watch the straw on the first time and make sure they understand the difference between blowing and sucking.

- If you let your tots play right at the sink beware of scalding danger if they can reach the faucet handle. As an added precaution you can turn your water heater down to 120 degrees. That will still hurt but won't cause real damage.
waggy1011 month ago
Is that playground in Vermont?
boomfiziks1 year ago
I'm a first time, new dad. I can't wait till he's a little older and the weather a little warmer to do these things with him. Thanks!
Great ideas!
Also, these kiddos are adorable!!!
My baby brother (2) LOVES playing dress up, his hats are his favorite! :0)
vpatrick2 years ago
That's really good idea and a great fun for our toddlers. I will definitely try it out.
Animals Safari
You are a creative caring genius. Thanks so much for sharing!!! xxxooo
missyE3 years ago
a cpl hrs play in the pool & this is there chill out hour...... lol just kiddin
babies.jpg
lol!!!!
fcross12 years ago
i can understand that STRESS !!!
missyE3 years ago
NUFF SED
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Another realy good music toy for kids is Boom Whackers. They are essentualy tuned plastic tubes by hitting one you make a note. my nephew who is almost 6 now has had them since he was a baby. At first he would just bangh them arouund. Then as he got older he made beats and my brother taught him about harmony and chords with them. He uses mallets or drum sticks sometimes to play the notes. One of his favorte games is drum circle where every one gets a tube or two and makes a beat and then you go in a cirlcle and start making up a beat trying to harmonize with the rest of the group. It might be that my brother is a musician or that my nephew is naturaly tallented but i recon that most of my nephews love and tallent came from being exposed to instruments at a very young age. he plays the piano and the guitar not brilliantly but its a start.
BoomWhatkers: http://www.westmusic.com/1002405-kids/k5010-boomwhackers?gclid=CKqWrdG8s6cCFZNd7AodJm75_w
sissy763 years ago
At our house, the kids make muesli. We use separate containers for each ingredient- oats, dried cranberries, raisins, sliced almonds, a little brown sugar, and in a small restaurant-size syrup "pitcher" we have the milk. They love mixing and tasting and it doubles as a snack. It's also really cheap if you have a grocery store near you with a "bulk" section- just get the amount you need. We place an old sheet under their child-size table to catch the mess.
ybedull3 years ago
Oh wow! I think these are all such great ideas! A lot of them I do with our kiddos too but there were some new ones on here that I loved! Thanks for posting ;)
altiodsnerd3 years ago
im 13 years old and in 8th grade... I brought duck tape to school and i came home with cat ears cat tail and every thing all of my friends were drenched in it we love tape. it was ;ole 5 inches thick and it was gone in a 35 minute period
o_o you could be my best friend. =P
most likely im friends with every one
An Villain4 years ago
also, this calls to mind my toddler sister getting her hair tangled in the kitchen-aid mixer.
;____;
HA! HA! I AM MEL-ON!
An Villain4 years ago
even though hammers do not have sharp edges, they are a bad idea too.
My 3yr old and 1yr old sons LOVE hammers! You just have to make sure they have appropriate objects to USE them on, or they will bash anything. But supervised hammer and drill play is great for wee kids, and is a good environment to teach them about safety (better than playing with matches to learn about fire!)

If you never introduce your child to (controlled) danger, they won't learn to recognise it or protect themselves from it.
i suppose you are right, but i learned the hard way from a lot of things.
My son is 25 yrs. old. There was a small work bench with tools in his kindergarden class.  It was a wonderful experience for him. He still has all his appendages and is a happy and creative young man.  The kids at the kindergarden knew the rules. Wood was often slightly pre-drilled to make hammering nails in easier.
that is good, and i had something like that but in second grade, (no saws though.)
PoeDunkMae4 years ago
Great ideas! I have a two year old daughter and 8 month old twins so these are some great ideas.  Yes some require a lot of supervision but they would get that anyway! 

I'm always looking for something new to do with my kids, many of these are already things I would do, but some are ones I might not think of right away.

Another cool idea is to take empty yogurt cups and poke small holes in the lids, and put "smelly" things inside.   It's my experience that toddlers love to use their senses, and smell is one of them! Have them sniff the tub with the lid on and have them guess what is inside.  Like put banana in one, cinnamon in another, garlic in another, a flower in one, etc etc (things that are all safe to sniff obviously)

Can also do the same idea but dip tooth pics (the round ones not the sharp ones) and dip them in different safe flavors and have them taste the flavors. 

Get a big bowl or plastic tub, and fill it with uncooked rice, and uncooked dried beans.  Add in some large wooden beads and have kids play in that.  They will love the tactile aspect and finding the "hidden" beans.  Give them some measuring cups, and funnels and watch them have fun! 

meejenbea4 years ago
people are always giving away moving boxes on craigslist for free.
An Villain4 years ago
toddlers+coins=choking hazard, most mothers do not like their young ones playing with coins, especially shiny ones.
An Villain4 years ago
toothpicks=bad idea, toddlers are not known for their attention spans, many toddlers would just leave that little spike ball laying around for someone to step/sit on, (that has happened that i know of.)
An Villain4 years ago
this calls to mind the class bully taping little children up, tape is not a good idea, but good idea.
wocket4 years ago
fantastic ideas. I'd like to add that all sand boxes should have a cat proof lid s the toddlers don't end up playing in a cat toilet! :)
I would not be put off by the fact that you are a man running a childcare. What's important to me is that the children are safe, happy and have lots of creative opportunities. Wish you were here; my grandson will enter child care when he is eight months old. Hey! forget sending the kids. I want to go.
SteveGerber (author)  porcupinemamma4 years ago
Thanks for the positive feedback! Eight month old babies are amazing! They are wide awake to everything around them and want to take it all in and pick everything up and learn, learn, learn. They are beginning to understand words but usually don't speak their first clear word until around 12 months.
our little Jackson is 4 months old and of course, grandmother (me lol) thinks he is the most handsome and brilliant baby in the world. I hope to teach him basic sign language before he is verbal. I did that with my grandaughter and it reduced frustration for all concerned. I highly recommend it for all people that interact with kids. It makes life much happier when communication can be understood by all.
mamamari5 years ago
We have an indoor ´ricebox´ It´s awesome and my daughter has been busy for hours since we set it up yesterday for our toddler group. we just got a really large plastic storage tub from Ikea or the like and filled it with about 14Kilos of rice. Much easier to clean up and it feels really cool. Great to bury items in and hunt for them. We also use our beach toys in it like the water wheel (where you pour water in the top and it makes the wheels spin) great with rice. Good to get a box with a lid so it´s easy to store.
This gives new definition to playing with one's food. I gotta say, I like that idea, the texture would be really neat, and it's prolly cheaper than sand! *goes to play with rice in the kitchen*
These are really great ideas! Thanks for posting!
Leosmama5 years ago
Hi, here is just another option: I make my own photo fridge magnets using small photos (or pictures, or pressed dried flowers, or letters, or anything that is flat....) and laminating them. You can stick the self adhesive magnet strips directly onto the back (or re-cycle cut-up pieces of the free 'advertising' fridge magnets that I seem to accumulate, and glue them on) . It protects the photo and they last longer, if little sticky fingers play with them, they just wipe clean. My 3 year old loves them, and we write the names of friends and family with letter magnets beside the photos and he can recognise quite a few names now. They are also a great present for grandparents, family and big and little friends, especially those who live a bit further away and can't see you as often. Enjoy! XXX
So well done. You've reminded me of some of the things i can do with my two year old grandaughter. 5*****!
SMRUDOLPH6 years ago
Steve, you're a genius. Naturally I thought you were a female genius when I started reading this, but then I saw your name. A collection of small cardboard boxes, though bulky to store, is a great toy for kids who like to stack and build. You can buy a set cheaply, but I work in an office and kept my eyes peeled, and in a couple of months had plenty, for free. Which reminds me -- kids of all ages go through forests' worth of paper. I kept a box in my office for scrap paper that was blank on one side (making sure there was nothing not-safe-for-public-viewing on the printed side). When I had a shopping bag full, I'd bring it home let my son have at it. In fact, I still bring home scrap paper and use it for printing personal correspondence or things I don't need spanky-clean copies of.
The paper thing reminded me of something my dad used to do a lot. He used to work for a font company, and he'd bring home test papers in bulk. One of the things I used to do was find all of the Chinese and Japanese lettering and he'd help me cut them out and paste them into a collage. I'd always have forests of kanji, a symbol for a house, and a bunch of symbols for people standing around. He'd never see it, so he had me write a story underneath it. For parents that don't have kanji fonts on their computer, even just printing out the alphabet in caps and lowercase in a large size can be fun. They can cut them out and turn Qs into balloons and Bs into teacups.
Nice idea. I've been sitting here trying to turn a 'B'into a tea cup. I just tried a lower case'b' and i see what you mean. Cool!
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