• How to entertain a bored toddler at home with little effort

    How to entertain a bored toddler at home with little effort

    “Mom! I’m bored!” is something children repeat over and over. 

    What can you do at home to entertain a bored toddler? Do you play with them? Why not let them be bored? Is there even any benefits to being bored? 

    Open ended or parent directed play can entertain toddlers, but being bored is not always a bad thing. It can even help build your toddlers brain! 

    We live in a world where children are expected to be busy or scheduled from dawn to dusk. Giving the child the time and space to be bored can help them develop their creativity, learn to self regulate and improve focus.  

    By having a well-stocked and inviting play space at home, it is easy to entertain a bored toddler at home without using screens so that they can play independently.  

    How to Keep a Toddler from being Bored

    How do you keep your toddler from being bored? Simply, you can’t always keep them from getting bored. Despite the latest toys and plenty of outdoor time, kids still get bored.  

    Let’s discuss the benefits of being a bored toddler. I’m about to let you in on a secret:

    Being bored is not a bad thing, in fact, it is good for toddlers

    I know. The bored, whiny toddler doesn’t feel like a good thing. It can be really frustrating, but it’s good to experience your child being bored. 

    In fact, our brain needs boredom.  

    Boredom can be a very unpleasant feeling. 

    Their brains are craving new stimuli, so they turn to you to provide them with something novel to do. When we hand them our phones or turn on a cartoon we are buying their silence, but we aren’t helping them to develop the ability to come up with their own play.  

    When we resist the urge to give them the fastest thing possible and allow them to be bored, their brains will find a stimulus to entertain themselves. 

    Boredom fuels creativity. 

    And it works the same regardless of your age. Adults, children, and toddlers all benefit from boredom. Not only does boredom motivate your child to be more creative, but it also encourages them to seek out new experiences.  We wouldn’t be as adventurous if boredom didn’t exist.

    Perhaps the best benefit of boredom at a young age is self-regulation and improving focus. 

    That’s right! A child’s brain is better able to self regulate and focus if it is allowed to experience boredom and overcome it. Imagine that! 

    In this Psychology Today article, you can learn more about the benefits of  boredom. 

    How often should you be playing with your toddler?

    “Mommy, mommy play with me!I can feel it too, that deep sigh building in your chest. 

    I know what you are thinking, “If I eat one more pretend cupcake, I’m going to lose it.”” 

    Sitting down to play with your child isn’t something that has been around that long. Until recent history, adults and children had work to do in the home and very little free time to play.  And there are many theories on the importance of parent child play and how often it should be done. 

    So how long should you be playing with your toddler? As often as feels comfortable playing with them.  

    The most important things are to put your phone away, give your child undistracted attention and not to take over the play space. Let your child lead you in their world and join in as much as you want. 

    If you just want to sit close and observe and comment occasionally, that’s perfectly okay. And if you want to play Barbies and dress up, then go for it. 

    While playing with your child is fun, it should not be the only way they play. They should also have plenty of time to play and explore without adult interference. 

    Set Your Play area up with independent play in mind

    Your child needs time to play independently. You want to make the play area or playroom independent-play friendly when you’re setting it up. 

    Why is having a play area important for toddlers?

    Independent play is important to a child’s development. And their play space needs to be functional in a way that the child can play with it. 

    Having an organized play area that is not overwhelmed with toys and colors is the best way to help your child use the space effectively and get the most out of their play.

    Playroom/Area ideas 

    A playroom must be organized so that it can be used by children. 

    Organize the space using small boxes, buckets or baskets like these from Target. The child is able to get toys by themselves, since the baskets are lightweight.  And labeling the baskets with specific toys, like cars or dolls, helps with cleanup. 

    Keeping toys in a basket of just one type can prevent kids from becoming overwhelmed. 

    Large toys can sit openly on shelves or the floor so they are inviting to play with. 

    You should also keep like toys together. So baby dolls and baby doll furniture should live close together. 

    When making a play area, take cues from preschool and kindergarten classrooms and set up different stations. 

    The play kitchen should be separated from the block area.

    If you don’t have enough room to separate toys, only having one or two types out at a time can make it less overwhelming for your children. 

    This also helps getting toys cleaned up and reset for the next play session.

    For more information about organizing a play area check out my article here.  

    Ditch the electronics and go for Open-Ended Toys

    It is so easy to just hand a bored toddler a phone or a tablet and let them binge Youtube kids. But is it the best way to deal with their boredom? 

    Not really. We all know that screen time should be limited for children (and adults, I know that hurts). But when your child is upset and cranky about being bored it feels like the best solution. 

    But open ended toys are far better than electronic toys, including those with sound and lights even though they’re marketed as educational toys. 

    Open-ended toys encourage open-ended play. 

    What is open-ended play?

    Open ended play is any kind of play that can be done in any way. There is no right or wrong way to play. 

    It lets your child express their creativity so they can decide how the play should go. This could be a creative artistic activity like leaving out several types of art materials and non art materials without any instructions on how they should be used and allowing your child to make their own art. 

    Examples of Open Ended Play: 

    • Playing with playdough or kinetic sand
    • Building with blocks (including magnetic blocks) 
    • Building with Lego 
    • Playing with dolls or toy animals 

    To learn more of the benefits of open ended play check out this post here

    Open-ended toys for toddlers

    • Kinetic Sand is great for open ended play, but it does need to be supervised by an adult if the child is still exploring by putting things in their mouth. Scoops, molds, and household items can make playing with kinetic sand even more fun. (I love this set of kinetic sand tools)
    • Playdough can be homemade or store bought. Playdough is excellent for developing fine motor skills and imagination. The kinetic sand tools can also be used on playdough. 
    • Blocks- blocks can come in a variety of types, like magnet blocks, foam blocks, wooden blocks and *gasp* even plastic blocks. I linked to some of my favorite blocks that we love in our playspace. 
    • Lego Duplo blocks are great for fine motor skills, spatial intelligence, and creativity. Kids who tend to be more mechanically inclined or logical oriented may benefit greatly from this activity to tap into their creativity. Lego offers this great classic set of Duplo blocks that aren’t directly part of a set so they are more open-ended. You can get them here.
    • Rainbow Stacker- This is a playroom best-seller but isn’t just aesthetically pleasing, it’s also a lot of fun and kids love it. One of my favorite ones are right here.  
    • Realistic Toy Animals: I love realistic toy animals, made of rubber or plastic, these are fun to play with. Kids love these miniature animals. They can play safari, have their own zoo, or lead an animal parade. This is one of my favorite sets. 
    • Wooden Peg Dolls: wooden peg dolls are the perfect size for little hands, they are made of wood so less plastic, and they do not enforce unrealistic beauty standards. I have 3 sets that I really love. For customizability you cannot go wrong with this peg doll kit. For quick and easy, this painted set of peg dolls is great.  And if you are wanting to use the peg dolls to also work with emotions, this set of peg dolls is perfect. 

    Also check out: Open-ended toys myths, busted 

    The Bottom Line: A bored Toddler isn’t always a bad thing!

    Boredom is not always a bad thing, even if it is unpleasant to feel. Boredom can inspire creativity, build self-control and teach independence.  

    In a busy world full of jampacked schedules, one of the best things you can do for your child is give them the freedom to play and to be bored. 

    Because in the end that is how you can keep a toddler entertained for hours. By letting them learn to be bored and play on their own they develop the ability to entertain themselves. 

    For more ideas on getting kids to play independently check out my article here.

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  • The Benefits of Boredom

    The Benefits of Boredom

    “I’m bored.” Of course, you have no doubt heard this phrase from your kids. It’s an all too common chorus at home that causes parents to sigh and sometimes scramble for things to do. However, boredom is not a bad thing. In fact, there are many benefits to boredom. Especially in today’s age of instant gratification, it’s important for your kids to be bored. In fact, having that feeling of boredom allows for creative exploration. Here are some ways boredom fosters play.

    Here are 3 benefits of boredom

    Benefit of Boredom: Kids Start Pretending

    First, role playing, acting, and other types of pretend play is one of the best benefits of boredom. Encourage your children to play house, school, or other games where they act and become their own characters. One way to do this is organizing your home play space intentionally. Having a pretend play area is as simple as having a box or bag of costumes or props. Listen to the creative stories and ideas your children come up with as they pretend play. Refresh your pretend play bin with old Halloween costumes or shirts or outfits you’ve outgrown (in style or size). If you’re comfortable, throw in some safe make-up to let your kids have fun with their own unique styles. Next, have a building play space with boxes, blocks, or loose materials where your kids create and pretend. Believe it or not, big kids love doing this too! Pretend play is one type of play to come out of boredom.

    Benefit of Boredom: Art is Created

    Have you ever let your child use your phone or an electronic device with a camera? Look through the camera roll and check out the unique views they have of the world when they seemingly are bored with nothing else to do. Another awesome benefit of boredom. Photography is also art, and some of the coolest pictures on my phone are when my kids snap what they see from their own vantage point. In addition, having art materials accessible and ready in your home (even small simple things like recycled paper and pencils) is an outlet for those moments of boredom. Of course, playing with different mediums and art helps your students discover more about themselves and take that boredom into creation mode. Overall, artistic play is definitely a way to turn boredom into imaginative exploration.

    Boredom Give The BrainTime to Imagine

    Research from Doctors Erin and David Walsh in Psychology Today show that the parts of the brain which engage in creativity and imagination activate when we’re bored or seemingly unengaged. This unfocused “bored” time is the perfect channel for play and new ideas. Since kids’ brains are thrown external stimuli, another benefit of boredom is that it gives kids a chance to take a break. They think about things they are passionate about, want to create, and explore new ideas! Boredom is the fuel for creativity. Overall, boredom is not a bad word when it comes to your kids! Look at these ways that boredom fosters play. By organizing your play space and allowing your kids to be bored, their imaginations can engage in activities they may not normally explore. How can boredom become play time in your home?

    Want to create a more purposeful play space? I invite you to join us with our purposeful play space course.Get ready to transform your play space, gain back your own time, and help your kids play independently!

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  • Play and Physical Development

    Today’s episode features Dr. Allison Mell, PT, DPT is a pediatric physical therapist who has spent over a decade working with infants through grade schoolers.

    After recognizing the need for a place where parents can find answers to all their questions, Allison and her partner Maryann Deutsch MS, OT/,L co-founded Tots On Target, a community to bring parents and child development professionals together.

    Dr. Mell chats about the importance of floor time, what types of toys are best for physical development (as well as some recommendations for toys to avoid) and much more.

    Dr. Mell and her partner also have a Podcast called Talk with Tots On Target, and are social media platforms @totsontarget. You can sign up for their website community forum

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  • Open-ended toy myths, BUSTED

    Everyone is talking about open-ended toys. It’s no secret anymore that all toys are NOT created equal.

    Everyday you scroll social media and see playrooms full of carefully curated open-ended toys and children playing peacefully. 

    There are many benefits to open-ended toys and providing our children with open-ended toys should be top of mind. That said, there are some myths surrounding open-ended toys that need to be busted.

    3 Open-ended toys myths busted

    Myth one: Open-ended toys are an automatic kid magnet.

    It seems magical, kids playing by themselves while you prepare dinner? Heck yes!

    So you decided open-ended toys are the way to go, invest in some high quality, heirloom toys, and arrange them in the playroom after bedtime. 

    The next morning, you’re so giddy to see their excitement. You envision yourself drinking your coffee hot, while your kiddos frolic in their new play space.

    But it’s a flop. Your little one doesn’t seem to care. They don’t know what to do with wooden blocks or a stacking rainbow.

    Then comes the doubt. You are wondering what went wrong. You bought the open-ended toys, your little one should be far away in the land of independent play by this point.

    The truth is, nothing is wrong. 

    If a child is used to being entertained by playing with toys that react to them (you push a button and the toy plays music, lights up, or talks to you) then open-ended toys are going to be a shock. 

    They will likely need some gentle guidance (and a battery operated toy detox) to fully embrace this new way of playing.

    Foster your little one’s imagination by showing them ways to play with the new toys.

    Then step away. Provide plenty of time and space away from you to figure it out.

    Myth two: Open-ended toys will stay tidy

    No matter how much of a minimalist you are, play is more often messy than tidy. 

    Children at play are learning how to get along with others, solve problems, inhibit their impulses, and regulate their emotions. 

    In other words, they are coping, discovering, and processing the world through play. 

    That is a messy job.

    Let them enjoy exploring wildly. At the end of play, make tidying up fun – singing songs, or even better – make it a game. 

    The tidying process is, unfortunately, a lead by example process for the first few years. Keep in mind children are easily overwhelmed. So a room full of toys can not only inhibit purposeful play, but also create a chaotic experience when trying to tidy up.

    Also, in the words of Elsa, learn to “let it gooooooooo.”

    If one day the mess is not picked up, choose to remember the memories your children are making. All the growth and exciting new things your children experienced through the play. There is no mess that cannot (eventually) be cleaned up.

    Myth three: Open-ended toys must be wooden toys

    An open-ended toy is one that can be played with in infinitely different ways. 

    People choose wooden toys mostly because of aesthetics, quality, and sustainability. 

    Of course, we all wish for one of those Instagram-worthy play rooms filled with high-quality wooden toys that will become family heirlooms.

    Reality is, you don’t need to ditch every single toy in the house and start from scratch.

    This is not the only way to start your journey with open-ended toys. 

    Start by removing anything broken, or with missing parts, and anything that is battery-operated. 

    Then, observe your child. What are they drawn to?

    Do they love Magnatiles? Awesome! Invest in other building materials like wooden blocks and LEGO.

    Are they really into pretend play? Invest in some silks, peg dolls and a simple high quality doll.

    Do they need to run, jump and climb? Look into getting a pikler triangle, some stepping stones or a wobbel board.

    Starting your open-ended toy journey can seem daunting at first, but it’s worth it in the end. Open-ended toys encourage kids to play more independently and for longer periods of time. 

    Once they have adapted, I promise you’ll be able to drink that hot coffee while your kiddos frolic in their new play space.

    This article was written in collaboration with Vio Schuster you can follow her on IG @makinghomeinthewoods

    Want to create a more purposeful play space? I invite you to join us with our purposeful play space course.Get ready to transform your play space, gain back your own time, and help your kids play independently!

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  • Outdoor play + child development

    On today’s episode, Ginny Yurich from 1000 Hours Outside and I chat about the importance of outdoor play and how it impact child development from birth all the way through high school age (and beyond).

    We explore risk taking, slowing down family life, the education system and how it impacts kids natural development among other things.

    You can read more about the importance of outdoor play here and check out some of our must have outdoor toys to encourage play here

    Check out 1000 Hours Outside on their website here and get the free tracker here

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