Pick up any magazine and you'll have all you need for a pictorial scavenger hunt. No matter the type of periodical, you can use it to start a seek-and-find. If it's a family magazine, ask your child to find a van, a baby, a dog, a house, and more. If it's a design magazine, children can find a bed, an oven, a window. And if happens to be a food magazine, you can ask your child to find something they might eat for breakfast or lunch or at a restaurant.
Toddlers love to dig through Mommy's purse, so why not pack a purse just for your toddler. You can use an old purse of yours or buy an inexpensive tote for your toddler. Fill it with all these things they fish out of your purse: an old (or toy) cell phone, keys on a key chain, paper and crayons, tissues, an old wallet, and plastic cards that look like credit cards. (Save cards from hotel stays or offers you receive in the mail. Your child will love to tuck them into the slots of the wallet and pull them back out.)
For parents with small children, eating out can be a daunting experience. The wait between ordering and when the food hits your table can seem like an eternity, so it's important to have a few tricks up your sleeve to pass the time. On those outings, make a game with what you have on the table. Use silverware to make a tic-tac-toe grid and sugar packets or jelly containers for the Xs and Os.
You know this classic game from family road trips, but have you tried it in other places such as the grocery store? Give your child things she can see from the grocery cart. Can you find something blue? Can you find something you like to eat with cheese? As you walk the aisles, your child will have fun looking at and thinking up silly ways to solve your challenge. This game works well in just about any situation that calls for a boredom buster, such as waiting for an oil change or in the doctor's office.
You don't need to crawl under the bed skirt to play this seeking game. Simply find a coin or other small item and hide it in one of your child's pockets while pretending to hide it in each pocket. Then ask your child to search every pocket to find it. Boys' clothing can be covered with a variety of pocket styles, providing plenty of places to tuck a coin.
Pack a new, clean shoelace and a plastic food storage container with O-shape cereal. Tie a knot in the shoestring on one end and let your child thread the center of the cereal with the shoelace. In addition to working on those fine motor skills, it makes for a yummy snack. When your child is done, tie it up to wear as a necklace.
When you have nothing but the clothes on your back, here's how you can use them to keep your toddler entertained. Little ones love to practice fastening and unfastening. Let them do this with the clothing they're wearing or the items you might have on. Your child can button your coat or practice zipping and unzipping his jacket. Our clothing is full of fasteners: Consider snaps, hook-and-loop tape, shoelaces, belt buckles, and more.
If running errands and sitting in waiting rooms seem to be getting the best of your child, it's time to pull together a bag of fun items that you keep in the trunk for just such an occasion. Gather crayons, stickers, paper, and books that are used only in the car and on rare occasions. That way the stash is always new and fun for your child. Pop-up books are favorites for toddlers.
Even if you rarely order a kid's meal at a drive-through, it doesn't take long to accumulate a few of those little toys. Next time, instead of passing the toy back with food, set it aside and save it in a bag reserved for cases of severe boredom or car chaos. This helps keep the toys special. Bonus: It also keeps all those little toys out of your home, and unlike taking a favorite toy along in the car, you won't miss a plastic figurine if it disappears.
Dig out one of your old wallets and fill it with little treats, one in each compartment. Flat items -- such as stickers, photographs, an old key -- work really well. If you have a larger pocket, consider stashing a wrapped food snack to keep hunger and boredom at bay. A crayon or pen, slips of paper, and a variety of silly crafts materials (pom-poms, googly eyes, or a bit of string) will also spark the imagination. Toddlers will enjoy opening and closing each pocket. The thrill of finding what's been tucked away is a happy bonus.
Sometimes we take for granted what our children have observed in a typical day. If your toddler is settled and attentive, it might be the perfect time to strike up a conversation. Ask him to tell you about something funny that happened today, what made him feel happy, or if he remembers something that smelled sweet. It will take some help from you to moderate the conversation, but imagine the smile on your child's face when he realizes how much you appreciate hearing his thoughts.
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