parenting

  • 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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  • Why big kids need play, too

    Why big kids need play, too

    Renowned educator Maria Montessori described 12-18 year olds as budding social justice advocates. Children in this stage are developing who they are and how they can be of service to the world. Pre-teens and teens are deep thinkers. These adolescents are very serious and dedicated to figuring out what the world is about and how they fit into it. Physical and mental changes make this can be an exciting and challenging time for youth. They need opportunities not only to blow off steam, but to play and develop their creativity. Yes, big kids need play, too!

    Socialization and Play

    Many teens and tweens have their own devices to connect to others digitally. Unless it’s during structured activities, clubs, or organized sports, teens rarely have unstructured “play” time. As kids become more independent, it’s unlikely for parents to push this free play. Although big play groups may not be appropriate at this time, encouraging your older kids to connect with their peers offline when it’s safe to do so is so important for their mental health and well-being.

    Exercise and Play

    In our current pandemic society it is even harder for young people to have opportunities to play with their friends, and it is increasingly important for the adults in their lives to make space for them to let their play muscles get exercise. Getting kids off their devices can take a little maneuvering or persuading sometimes, but it’s not always hard to distract them from their digital presence. Encourage your tweens and teens to get outside, hang out with neighborhood kids (when it’s safe), and explore. Let go of the fear that they will get in trouble or get hurt. Riding bikes, taking a walk in a nearby park, or going fishing are playful activities that get the body moving and teens playing! Play some music at home and have a dance party. All of these activities will help your older children play and move.

    Tinker and Play Like a Child

    It is pretty hard for anyone to eschew bubbles. In addition, it would be a challenge for a teen to ignore dry ice in a kiddie pool and a few PVC pipes and a hose. A refrigerator box and a can of paint, a giant piece of wood and spray paint, stickers and an old dresser, and water squirters are all things that would likely captivate a teen if a willing adult started in on it, quietly…and offered encouragement. There are few young adults that wouldn’t be ready to start creating and playing with materials if you started a Rube Goldberg machine with some ping pong balls, dominos, cardboard and masking tape. A tray with some nuts and bolts and magnets on the coffee table might be enough to get a digital addict to put the device away for longer than you might think possible. Fill a kiddie pool with sand and pretend you’re at the beach. Spray each other with the hose. Or simply run through a sprinkler. Sometimes all it takes is permission to encourage sensory and constructive play.

    Pretend Play

    Youths are often natural dramatists, we see this as parents when their hormones rage and their feelings are strong. Kids are also so creative and want to put on a show. There’s a reason TikTok is so popular! Channel this ability into doing some fun drama games. Charades can be corny for youth sometimes, so have the kids come up with some guessing games that incorporate creating characters and personalities based on celebrities or family members. Make your own rules to make it personal and laugh together. Finally, have them just act out their own skits or plays. Parents know how important it is for children to be children. Older kids can have a hard time remembering this, especially with the weight of the world on their shoulders during the pandemic. Make some time to bond with your big kids and make PLAY a regular part of your DAY.

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  • Social Emotional Learning In Your Home

    Easy Ways to Incorporate Social Emotional Learning Into Your Home Routine

    Now, perhaps more than ever, the letters S-E-L are on everyone’s lips. Parents, teachers, students, children, and families are experiencing stress and anxiety at this time. It’s often hard to know where to begin. Social emotional learning can help the whole family manage feelings, maintain relationships, and adjust positively to change.

    We know that kids learn best through play. their development hinges on active involvement. So how can we bring social emotional learning into our home routine?

    Gratitude helps social emotional learning

    So much research has been done on the power of gratitude. People who practice gratitude experience the following:

    • better physical health
    • more optimism
    • increased resiliency

    To begin, gratitude is a mindset, and it may or may not require a shift in your family dynamics. A great time to practice gratitude is before a family meal.

    Coming together and talking about your day and what you’re thankful for is perfect social emotional learning practice.

    Like everything our kids learn, modeling is powerful. Check your own words and actions. First, make certain you are saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in your daily activities. Next, be specific when you thank someone. For example, say “Thanks for making dinner!”

    Practicing gratitude as you go about your day is a great example for kids and will feel natural after a while. Notice your surroundings in the backyard with your kids. Are you grateful for your trees that give you shade? Your tomatoes that are growing so well? Make a point to say it out loud!

    Kindness is Key

    Have a kindness contest. Download a pre-made kindness printable or make your own and hang it on the fridge. Kindness activities might include things like ‘let someone else go first’ or ‘do an extra chore’. Set an individual and a family goal for how many acts of kindness you want to complete each day. Even better? Try to do an act of kindness without getting caught!

    Turn Taking and Patience

    Patience is a challenge for many of us, regardless of our age. Playing a game of Monopoly, Candyland, or UNO is a fun way to incorporate a host of skills, including taking turns. Board games also offer opportunities to practice winning and losing gracefully, as well as having conversations and maybe even using strategy. Taking turns is a great way to practice social emotional learning.

    Mindful Breathing

    Children can benefit in so many areas of their lives by practicing mindful breathing.

    Among other things, mindful breathing can:

    • strengthen self-control
    • lower anxiety
    • improve emotional regulation skills

    One way to practice mindful breathing is to ‘cool off the pizza’. To do this exercise, tell the child to pretend there is a hot slice of pizza in front of him. Have him take a deep breath in through his nose (to smell the pizza) and then slowly and steadily blow on the ‘pizza’ to cool it off.

    The behaviors currently filed under ‘social emotional learning’ have been around forever, in the form of manners, good citizenship and self-awareness. Regardless of what these skills are called, life is much easier when they are worked into our home routine!

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  • How to Learn About Your Child’s Interests

    You’re so busy doing the maintenance work – changing the diapers, making the meals, bandaging the knees. But do you actually know what makes your child tick? What do you know about your child’s interests?

    Let’s talk about why you would need to know these things. The thought behind Child-Led Learning is that when a child is in charge of her own learning, her engagement is much higher. This increased engagement results in more motivation and ultimately better learning.

    Knowing that play is the work of the child, it’s helpful to acknowledge that what may look like play to most of us, is actually how the child is learning about the world around her.

    You as the parent know your child better than anyone else. So how can you get a handle on what your child’s interests are? In short, be present. Often we as parents are pulled in so many directions we find it difficult to stop multi-tasking long enough to take in our surroundings in any more than a cursory way. So, take a deep breath. Look around you. Is your child there? Great. Focus.

    Observation

    Taking time to observe your child can provide lots of feedback in terms of your child’s talents, interests and motivation. How is this observation done? Sit, be still, and be quiet. If you look hard enough, without multi-tasking, you will learn so much about your child.

    What does she enjoy playing with? Does she prefer playing alone or with others? How might she integrate herself into a bunch of children – or does she prefer to hang back from the group? Besides giving you information, this intentional observation can strengthen your relationship with your child.

    Learning About Your Child’s Interests By Spending Time Together

    Besides observation, just spending time together with your child can give great insight into her potential hobbies and interests. Together you might read a book, watch a program, or try an art project. The feedback you get from these activities will be valuable in planning next steps.

    Try Something New!

    Expose your child to a broad range of experiences – trying something new might ignite a spark in her and send her in a new direction! One area that is often popular for children to explore is art. Providing a sensory rich environment will encourage your child to explore and possibly find great enjoyment through art.

    Regardless of the field trips, materials and experiences, it’s important to keep a couple of things in mind. First off, don’t pressure. When you put intriguing materials in front of your child, get out of the way. This is child-led learning. Second, be sure to nurture your own passion for learning. Children learn what they live. If your child watches you joyfully knit a sweater, create a collage, or sing a song, she will be more inclined to dig in, as well!

    Want more information about the importance of play and tips to reorganize your playroom check out my e-book: Simply Play: Everything You Need To Know About The Most Important Part of Childhoodwhich you can buy here for only $4.99.

    Do you like this post? If so, check out some of these related articles.

    Make Organizing Your Play Space a Priority

    Outdoor Play: Why Does it Matter?

    Type of Play for Development

    Toy for Toddlers: Encouraging Active Play

    Top Toys to Encourage Outdoor Play

    The Power of Play   

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