Ten Surefire Ways to Entertain a Toddler for Half an Hour (or more!) When You Only Have Ten Minutes

Some days you feel like supermommy, ready to be engaged, read books, listen to inane stories, play school, and babies, and restaurant... but all too often you just need a few minutes to check your email, chill out on the couch with a magazine, or get dinner started. Here's a list of things that will entertain your little one(s) when you just need a few minutes. The best part? These activities take just a few minutes to set up and use things you probably already have on hand.  So be supermommy and still get stuff done!

  1.  Draw a shape or letter outline on a sheet of paper.  Give your child a sheet of stickers and have him fill the outline in.  Stickers are great for strengthening the pincer grasp and muscles your kid will need for cutting with scissors and holding a pencil properly.
  2. Set him up with poker chips and a piggy bank or box with a slit cut in the top of it.  Have him sort the poker chips by color then slip them into the slot one by one.  
  3. Find a small plastic basket or shoebox and tie a string to it creating a wagon or sled.  Your child can round up his favorite stuffed animals or treasures and pull them around the house.  You can also make this into a train with the addition of more boxes or baskets in the line 
  4. Line the kitchen chairs up and throw a blanket over them to create a tunnel.  Once your child gets tired of crawling back and forth, have him bring a pillow and blanket in and pretend to camp in the tunnel.
  5. Collect two gallon-sized ziploc bags.  In one bag, combine 1 cup water, several drops food color, and a scant 1/4 cup oil.  Seal, then tape it shut.  Place in larger bag, seal, and tape it shut.  Show your child how the colors don't mix together and the oil floats on top.  This shouldn't leak, thanks to your good taping job, but I wouldn't let your kid play with this on the carpet :)
  6. Get another gallon-sized ziploc bag. Put a good squirt of tempera paint in along with a little water (maybe 4 parts paint to one part water).  Seal and tape, then place the bag flat on the table or floor.  Show your child how he can trace pictures on the bag and smooth it out to start again.
  7. Hopefully you still have some gallon ziploc bags.  Fill one with shaving cream (I'm talking something like Barbasol here, not shaving 'gel') and add a few drops of food color, either a single color or a few drops of two primary colors to blend.  Seal and tape, then have your child mix it all together by manipulating the bag with his hands.  Once he's done mixing, snip a corner off of the bag and show your kid how to squirt it out onto the table (or bathtub if you're feeling less inclined to clean up!), then smooth it out and draw pictures with his finger.  When he's done give him a towel to wipe it all up.  (image via prestomart.com)
  8. Gather an collection of small, washable things (e.g. coins if your child won't put them in his mouth, toy cars, plastic animal figures, rocks, etc), a dishpan of warm water, old toothbrush, bar of soap, and towel.  Set up a station for your little one to rub the toothbrush across the bar of soap, scrub his items, then rinse them and set them out to dry.  
  9. Collect a couple of bowls, a funnel, and some measuring cups, plus 1-2 colors of dried beans.  Lay out a large fluffy towel (keeps the beans from bouncing away when they're inevitably spilled and dropped).  Have your child transfer the beans from one bowl to another using measuring cups.  Show him how a larger cup holds more beans and how the funnel works.  Optionally, provide your child with an empty plastic water bottle to fill with beans using the funnel.  When it's about half full put the lid on and have your child shake it and roll it around on the floor.
  10. Set your child up with a sponge and a sink full of soapy water to wash his plastic dishes, cups, and utensils.  Have him rinse them and lay them out on a towel or in a dishrack to dry.  This may be a bit of a mess, but hey, it's the easiest mess to clean up ever!!
Have fun!
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