Keeping This Toddler Busy

Friday, July 04, 2014

Keeping a toddler busy is no joke. They always seem so curious about everything in their surroundings that their focus easily shifts from one thing to another, eager to get a go at whatever their sights lay on or whatever their little hands can reach. If you have all the time in the world, this can be tons of fun for you as a parent - mind you, seeing their faces in awe at the simplest of things can get very amusing. But if you're like most parents who are bound to other daily tasks, too, getting your child to play safely on his own while fostering learning can be quite a challenge.

I can see how a lot of parents and caregivers can easily fall into the trap of simply parking their kids in front of the TV or letting them play on the iPad for hours on end, just so they can keep the tots occupied enough to finish house chores or attend to other siblings. However, if this is what you do all the time, this is may not be conducive to helping kids develop mentally, emotionally & socially. Admittedly, even I resort to simply playing learning videos just to get Joaquin to sit through a meal.

Personally, I don't think there's anything wrong about resorting to technology to aid in teaching kids. I believe computers & other gadgets like the iPad can help even toddlers with learning if they are NOT used excessively, & if the programs, shows or apps are both mentally stimulating & age-appropriate. I feel that as a parent, I have the opportunity to take advantage of available modern resources that he'll probably get exposed to in school anyway.

Lately though, I have seriously considered starting to widen the variety of activities that Joaquin is exposed to. In our daily scenario, the 2 of us are left for most part of the day on weekdays, so his social interaction is pretty much limited to me & his dad in general. This is why, even when he's watching his favorite cartoons (Despicable Me & Toy Story), I chat all through the show, randomly pointing out what appears on the screen such as a train, a horse, or a ball and repeat the words a few times to reinforce. He would also often call my attention by pointing his fingers at what the TV displays and I tell him what it is. About a year ago, I got him a Vocabulary Builder set of DVDs, which kind of work like flash cards. It runs through different items that kids might encounter on a daily basis like cups, spoons, flowers or cars, and repeats the words a number of times to help children absorb the concepts. Thankfully, Joaquin can sit through the 20-30 minute videos while I encourage him to repeat the words (this is also a chance for me to multitask - he sits & watches while I fold laundry or tidy up the room).

While Joaquin can play independently, I prefer that he not get used to just sitting in a corner all the time, rolling his toy cars around and murmuring to himself. I've introduced new pastimes & I'm currently still testing the waters on most of them. One of these is coloring with crayons, which he can manage to keep at for 10 mins max, & which he prefers to do with someone else. He would tug at me or his dad and hand his giant coloring book, signaling that he wants to color.

I've also introduced him to painting, but he wasn't too keen on getting his hands sticky with the watercolor, so that wasn't much of a success and is something on shelving for now until he's ready to try again. This week, we're trying out some sensory activities with sand and water. Water he has no problem with since he's always enjoyed splashing it around and dousing his toys with it. The sand was a bit new to him (he's only been to the beach once) so he mostly ignored it after burrying some small toys.
yes I let him run around naked - it allows him to feel free & get messy :)
Foam was something he enjoyed more, and the way he marveled at the bubbles in his hand and how it dripped back into the bin was good to watch, too.

I have yet to try other materials for sensory play, like uncooked rice, cotton, & pebbles. Needless to say, if you're trying this out as well, supervision is still needed as toddlers still have some tendency to put things in their mouth.

I've read some other very easy & cheap DIY activities that can keep your little one busy, and I've tried some with success. One includes using a colander/strainer and bendable bottle cleaners that he can shoot through the holes. This supposedly helps develop fine motor skills - we only have straws at home & this seem to have sufficed anyway. Here is the little boss, concentrating hard for around 10 mins:

Another fine motor activity requires only some strips of masking tape & a something to stick/re-stick it on to (in this case, a used Pringles can that I just cleaned). The idea is to peel off the tape by working the edges first with their fingertips.

There are tons of other stuff you can find online on toddler activities that don't necessarily require purchasing anything, just a vivid imagination (which i don't have. haha) and creativity will do to make use of what you already have in your home in coming up with activities. My only tips are

1) Don't force your toddler to engage in the activity in the way you expect him/her to. They usually have their own ideas on how to work it, plus it will kill their fun

2) Accept that they will like some of the activities and they won't be interested in others. Don't be discouraged to keep on trying new things

3) Enjoy it with them. While independent play is a primary goal, they still need you with them to explain how things work, and it's just simply more fun when mommy & daddy is around :)

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