Tips and Tricks to Keep Toddlers Busy

Toddlers are active little people. They are curious by nature and love being engaged. If you are a mom, chances are good you need to get things done without a 2-year-old following your every move. You’ve probably found yourself in a position where you had to wait with a melodramatic 3-year-old who is crying out for attention and stimulation. Want a few tips to keep your little ones engaged and busy? Check out my latest favorites.

Scour the Target Dollar section

The bargain section at the front of the store is a gold mine for arts and crafts and small items that can entertain a little one on the cheap. I’ve found things like bubbles, sidewalk chalk, mess-free coloring books and markers, and travel crayons and paper. I can easily throw these things in the diaper bag before heading out to the park or dinner at a restaurant. They’ve also come in handy for long car trips.

Look to educational shows for tips

One of my son’s favorite games to play is “What’s Missing?” We completely stole this from an episode of “Daniel Tiger,” but it seriously comes in clutch when you’re out to eat and waiting for your food to cook. You look at all the items on the table: salt, pepper, ketchup, etc., then have the other players close their eyes. You take something off the table, and the players who closed their eyes have to guess which item is missing. My son loves this game so much he will ask to play before we’ve even had a chance to look at the menu.

Turn to Instagram

One of my favorite accounts to follow is Busy Toddler. She offers an array of activities with items you can either buy on the cheap or probably already have lying around the house. We’ve done Lego baths, DIY sensory bins, alphabet matching games, and, our personal favorite, putting stickers over patterns on contact paper. The activities are always fun and engaging and often teach skills like fine and gross motor skills.

Make use of toiletries and cosmetics around the house

I am a reformed makeup junkie and have a few eye shadow palettes I no longer use. But since they’re high end, I feel guilty throwing them away. So I let my toddler use them to “finger paint” on white paper. It creates far less mess than actual paint, and it’s easier to clean! And, I’m still getting use out of the product. Lipsticks, eyeliners, and brow pencils are also great artist’s tools. Shaving cream is another fun item in this category that doubles as a sensory activity.

Lesley grew up in New Bedford, MA, came to Boston for college, and stuck around. She holds a master's degree in criminal justice and an MFA in creative writing. Lesley is a playwright and has had her work produced in Boston, New York, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Texas. Lesley lives in Dorchester with her husband and 3-year-old son. She is a proud and unapologetic "one and done" mom. Lesley loves traveling, true crime docs and inspired scripted series, reading, coffee, face masks, and family game nights.


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