Keeping a toddler or two entertained is a full time job, and sometimes it can feel like you're all out of ideas. Here's 50+ toddler boredom busters to add to your collection, and best of all, they won't cost a cent!
Places to go, people to see!
Some days you feel like you’re going stir crazy staring at the same four walls, get out and about and beat the boredom!
*The playground – an obvious choice, but think outside the square: try visiting different playgrounds in nearby areas for a bit of variety
*The beach – another oldie but goodie, but not just when the weather is warm! A blustery autumn day is a great opportunity for kids to watch the effects the wind has on the water, and for digging bare toes into cold, wet sand
*The local rugby/soccer field – take a ball to kick around, or a kite to fly
*The local pet store – filled with animals, fish, birds… a toddler heaven – and free! Unless of course you end up taking one home with you…
*The library – kids love books and being read to, and many libraries run weekly activity sessions for preschoolers to encourage reading and creativity
* The Toy Library - access a huge array of toys. Have a turn, take them back and exchange for something else. Find your nearest Toy Library here
Kids can cook!
Kids love to cook, and even the youngest toddlers can help out with mixing and, of course, licking the spoon! Older toddlers and preschoolers can help with measuring and adding ingredients, a great way to teach numbers and volumes. Some easy things to start with…
*Muffins – tasty, easy and there are so many variations
*Scones – let them get their fingers dirty with kneading
*Biscuits – try a basic cookie dough that you can cut into different shapes, perhaps using different shaped cutters, or using a knife to cut out the letters of your child’s name
*Cookies – super easy, just drop spoonfuls of batter onto a greased cookie sheet and watch them grow in the oven
*Cupcakes – similar to muffins, but the thrill is in the icing! Different colors, sprinkles…
*Pikelets – require a greater deal of supervision during the cooking process but half the fun is in the topping: jam, cream, butter, maple syrup, fruit, you can even make pikelet fairy bread with hundreds and thousands
*Homemade pizza – even better than the bought kind! First is the fun of making and kneading the dough, then of choosing their favorite toppings to go on them, a great rainy day lunch
For some easy, kid friendly recipes check out our Fun Stuff Recipes section.
Dress up fun!
A drop of imagination and a few old clothes and magic can happen. Start your own dress up box with some of these basics…
*Mum’s and Dad’s old shirts/blouses/t-shirts, the tackier the better!
*Old belts and scarves
*Beads and bling – the $2 shop, and accessory stores like Diva and Accessorize are a good place to pick them up cheaply
*Hats and beanies
*Mum’s and Dad’s old shoes! What little girl can resist mum’s high heels?
*Wings and wands – make your own, or pick some up from your local $2 shop
Gathering up a collection of arts and crafts materials gives you a great entertainer on a wet afternoon. Stock your art box with…
*Paper – different sizes and colors, old computer paper, art paper, newspaper…
*Old wrapping paper scraps
*Old envelopes and stamps
*A variety of different colored felt tip pens, crayons, markers, chalk…
*Empty cardboard tubes – think toilet rolls, Glad Wrap rolls…
*Empty boxes and cartons – think egg cartons, cereal boxes, tissue boxes…
*Glitter and/or glitter glue
*String and/or ribbon
*Empty plastic containers and lids – think ice cream containers – the lids make great paint palettes
Once you have your art box well stocked, there’s no end to the projects you can embark on:
*Decorate the art box – if you’re using a cardboard box as an art box, let the kids decorate it then cover it with clear Dura seal to protect their decoration and prolong the box’s life
*Make a kite – using stiff card, sticks and string, and whatever decorations take your fancy. Don’t forget the tail!
*Potato printing – cut a raw potato in half and use a sharp knife to etch out a shape or pattern from the cut side. Dip the cut side into some paint and use to stamp prints onto paper. Experiment with blending different colored paints, or cut out the letters to spell your child’s name
*Origami – there are some great patterns online, or make up your own and see what you can come up with!
*Collage – glue cut out magazine pictures, shapes cut from colored paper or old wrapping paper, scraps of ribbon, glitter, buttons…onto stiff card to create a masterpiece
*Construction – use stiff card to build houses, cars, trees…
Rough and tumble play
The Ministry of Health recommend kids spend at least 60 minutes per day engaged in active play and movement. Some ideas to try outside…
*Hide and seek
*Climbing – even young toddlers love to climb, and safe climbing is great for encouraging gross motor skill development
*Running races – but can mum and dad keep up?
*Jumping – trampolines provide hours of fun, just make sure you have the necessary safety pads and adequate parental supervision
*Gardening – pulling weeds is a great place for budding gardeners to start
*Puddle-jumping – self explanatory really, and great fun after a morning’s rainfall!
*Riding a bike – start off with a ride on toy, graduate to a trike, then a bike with training wheels, and soon enough, even the training wheels will be off
And some ideas to try inside…
*Gymnastics – push back the furniture against the walls to create a big space, put down a mattress or two and have fun teaching your littlies how to do forward rolls and hand stands
*Chase with a twist – get down on all fours and have crawling chases around the house
*Build a fort – use dining room chairs and lounge furniture as props and drape with sheets, towels and tablecloths to create tunnels and forts
*Hide and seek – works just as well inside!
*Stage a disco – turn your fave CD up loud and dance like no one is watching. Older kids might enjoy having the curtains closed to darken the room, and replacing standard light bulbs with colored ones for an authentic disco atmosphere
Water, water everywhere!
Water can provide hours of entertainment for even the littlest kids, and there are so many different ways to use it, just make sure they are well supervised as even a small amount of water can be a drowning risk…
*Pouring games – fill a basin or plastic bowl with water and use smaller containers for pouring different quantities of water
*Paddling around – fill a paddling pool and let the kids splash around. This is great on a hot day, but just as much fun when the weather isn’t so warm; just fill it with half cold, half warm water.
*Bath time fun – spice up bath time with a few drops of food coloring. Pink creates a bath fit for a princess; add a little glitter for extra effect. For boys, try a green dinosaur bath or a blue lagoon, with toy animals, fish and dinosaurs
*Musical glasses – fill a series of glasses with varying quantities of water, use a teaspoon to tap the side of each glass and listen to the different sounds. Practice playing nursery rhymes and favorite tunes.
*An outdoor shower - turn on the sprinkler and let the kids run around under it in their togs. An added bonus - the lawn gets watered at the same time!
*Water colours - fill some jugs with water and add a few drops of food colouring to each jug so each one is a different colour. Then have fun pouring the different coloured water into flower pots and mixing them to see what new colours you can come up with.
Clean up, clean up
No one really likes housework but it has to be done, and surprisingly enough, littlies love helping out. Get them involved with…
*Sweeping – using a dustpan and brush
*Vacuuming – shorten the hose so that it is at the right height for your toddler/preschooler
*Hanging laundry – a piece of string between two kitchen chairs makes a perfect child-size clothesline. Give him/her a handful of pegs and a few socks, tea towels and other small items and voila, instant entertainment while you hang out the rest of the laundry.
*Folding washing – just like hanging out washing, giving your preschooler a handful of small items to fold is a great entertainer
*Tidying away the toys – they’re never too young to learn!
*Making beds – putting pillows into pillowcases encourages co-ordination
If you've got a tried and true toddler boredom buster, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll add it to our list!