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  • 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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  • 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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  • 4 Benefits of Play Dough

    Hi guys! It’s Chelsea, the Founder of The Dough Project, here to talk about the awesome things that come from playing with dough.

    But first, a little bit about me and my background in early childhood education!

    I started The Dough Project as a preschool teacher in NYC. Year after year, making dough was my go-to classroom hack. It was fun and easy to make. Even better, fun and easy to play with, build with, squeeze, smush and share again and again.

    After witnessing the magic that came from playing and creating in my classroom, I knew I needed to make it easier for families to recreate that experience at home.

    The Dough Project creates a world of kid-powered playing with jars of fresh playdough and DIY Mixes that come packed with everything you need to make your own dough at home. We use only all-natural ingredients and color from plant-based sources.

    So, what’s the deal with dough?

    Used on its own, with clay tools or loose parts, dough supports imagination, conversation and growth across developmental domains. When you watch children play with dough, without any agenda of your own, you’ll be amazed.

    At past dough parties, parents would be in awe watching their kids play. We’ve heard a lot of “wow, he’s so into it” and “I’ve never seen her sit this long” in our day.

    4 Benefits of Play Dough

    Speech and language

    Playing with dough facilitates conversation as children narrate their work, problem solve and tell stories. It’s a great way to introduce new vocabulary. Most importantly, it’s a wonderful opportunity for you to listen. Play quietly, they’ll talk to you.  

    Cognitive skills

    As children play and explore with dough, they begin to understand early quantitative concepts, like “a little” and “a lot.” They also begin to learn about geometric shapes, measurements, and balance.

    Fine motor skills

    All that squishing, mushing and rolling strengthens muscles and develops hand-eye coordination. These skills are critical for early writing and self-care, like getting dressed! 

    Self-regulation

    Similar to the relieving effects that come from squeezing a stress ball, playing with dough is great for little ones to calm themselves down, release energy and express emotions.  The sensory experience is grounding and can be very soothing. It’s the perfect way to unwind and reset. 

    And if you still need more convincing after all that, try out our all-natural, non-toxic dough made with just five ingredients!

    Use code PLT10 for 10% off your first order of dough. Then, watch the littles in awe as they play and create a whole new world with dough.

    About The Dough Project

    The Dough Project is on a mission to get both adults and little ones to think outside the jar. Using only all-natural ingredients (things you can find in your own pantry) and color from plant-based sources (like those beets you used in your salad), The Dough Project is obsessed with creating products that are high quality and safe, so kids can explore and play freely.

    The Dough Project believes playtime should be easy, enriching and well, fun. After witnessing the magic that came from playing and creating in her preschool classroom, Founder and CEO Chelsea Milkman wanted to make it easy for families to recreate that experience at home. The Dough Project creates a world of kid-powered playing with jars of fresh playdough and DIY Mixes that come packed with everything you need to make dough at home. So when you open a jar of dough or a box of the DIY Mix, you’ll instantly get inspired by the feeling of endless possibility.

    About Chelsea Milkman, Founder

    As an early childhood educator and Founder and CEO of The Dough Project, Chelsea Milkman is on a mission to make playtime easy, enriching and well, fun!

    Inspired by the values held at the core of her preschool classroom for 10+ years, Chelsea built The Dough Project on the foundational belief that kid-powered playtime is essential for learning and cultivating creativity—both in the classroom and more importantly, at home.

    Using all-natural and plant-based ingredients, The Dough Project encourages process based play through jars of fresh playdough and DIY Kits complete with all the ingredients you need to make dough at 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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  • Gift Guide–Wooden Toys on Amazon

    1. Melissa and Doug Unit Blocks: These are an amazing starter set of standard wooden blocks. Every play space should include a set of wooden blocks!

    2. Plan Toys Tea Set: This is a beautiful and gender neutral wooden tea set that is perfect for pretend kitchen play!

    3. Wooden Instruments: This set is extremely well made and very reasonably priced for everything you get. I do have to hide the recorder every once in a while.

    4. Melissa & Doug Play Food: Kitchen play is always a huge hit. This set has a good variety but isn’t overwhelming. The wooden boxes are great to use to store food, or can be re-purposed for storing other playroom items.

    5. Le Toy Van Telephone: A retro inspired rotary phone is an adorable addition to any play space. This toy will inspire creative and imaginative play for years.

    6. Hape Toy Cars: These cars are very solid an have heavy duty wooden wheels that hold up well to vrooming and zooming. The holes in the vehicle make it easy for little hands to grasp.

    7. Hape Doll House Family: These doll house families are a perfect fit for any doll house. They are bendable and their feet are big enough so they can stand without falling over.

    8. Plan Toys Dollhouse: A dollhouse is a must have for pretend play–for both girls and boys. This is a nice sized and reasonably priced doll house that holds up well. It’s basic enough to be gender neutral and the balcony is a fun touch.

    9. Guidecraft Rainbow Blocks: Rainbow blocks are an awesome addition to any block set. They can be used to learn about colors and light, as well as for general building. The triangles make the perfect castle top!

    10. Le Toy Van Wooden Stackable Animals: Small world play for kids is big. Having animals, trees, houses and figures gives kids an opportunity to create their own little worlds. These wooden animals are adorable and can stack which is a fun building and fine motor activity.

    Check out of latest blog posts.

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