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20 simple ways to entertain your toddler

19. Lay on the floor and let them play on you.

how to entertain a toddler

Possessing endless energy and short attention spans, toddlers need a lot of entertainment provided by us. They are also easily distracted, so you can use this to your advantage by switching up these ideas and doing them all over again throughout the course of a day.

Here are 20 easy activities to entertain your toddler—bookmark this list for your next long day at home!


1. Play with toys

Break out the cars. Dump out the blocks. Grab some Barbies or trains or animals or anything. It may make a mess, but it's easy to clean up and will keep your little one occupied for a minute at least, maybe two if you make cool crashing noises with the cars.

2. Feed them snacks

Toddlers not only get hungry quickly, but they also get bored easily—snacks are a win/win. Feeding them snacks keeps them from getting hangry, and at the same time, it gives them something to do. Plus, trying to pick up little cheerios is great for their fine motor development. Score!

3. Take them on a walk in the stroller

Sometimes a child just needs to sit buckled in a stroller so they can't run rampant, causing havoc wherever they go. They may even sit willingly if they are distracted by all the cool stuff outside. They can hear the birds, feel the wind, and see the flowers. Point out different things you see and hear. Bring snacks and toys if you want them to last longer on the walk. Keep moving so they don't get bored. And seriously, buckle them in. Not for safety reasons per se (although that really is the main reason), but for containment of the ever escaping toddler.


4. Take them on a walk to the mailbox

Other times they need to get out of the house and get their little legs moving. Take a walk over to the mailbox. Let them help you get the mail. Walk back. That should cover at least a minute or two and get them to move around a little bit. You can even do this multiple times in a row. Have you toddler make laps around the mailbox if you have to in order to get them to burn off some energy.

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Wooden toys to engage their senses


5. Take them to the park

This can be either amazing or not. It all depends on if there are swings. A trip to the park is glorious when you can sit there and do nothing while your toddler runs and climbs and gets all his energy out. It's not when you have to do all the work swinging him and he just sits there, relaxing. So, it may be a good idea to avoid parks with swings if at all possible until they're old enough to swing themselves.

6. Play in the backyard

Sometimes this is all the outside time you can muster, and that's OK. Take a book out in the backyard and read while your child plays with toys, digs in the dirt, or pulls old, curdling milk jugs out of the recycling bin. OK, I don't really recommend allowing that last one, but if your child is anything like mine, it's inevitable. So be prepared to hose down the cement and your child if this happens.

7. Give them a bath

You don't even have to wash them, just let them play in the water. It's like a trip to the pool, but without all the hassle of sunscreen and bathing suits. And cold water. And life jackets. And the fear of drowning. And having to be in public with other people. And pool monitors who think you're the worst parent in the whole wide world. Yes, baths are a great substitute for taking a toddler to the pool.

8. Play-Doh

A little messy, but always interesting. Give them some forks or cookie cutters to cut and smoosh the Play-Doh, or popsicle sticks and beads to stick into it. A lot of fun can be had with a jar of this stuff. But don't make it from scratch. It's only 50 cents to buy it at WalMart, and the store bought kind is much softer.

9. Wash dishes

My toddler LOVE LOVE LOVES to play with water. Standing on a chair in front of the sink while the water runs on a trickle keeps him occupied for a good, long time—like three minutes, at least. He just fills a cup and dumps it out over and over and over and over again. Just keep towels on hand for when your child dumps it on the floor over and over and over and over again.

10. Tickle them

This can even turn a grumpy mood around when tickling turns crying into laughing. Of course, it could always make it worse, so prepare to bail on this idea if that's the case.

11. Chase them

All my kids have loved the “I'm gonna get you" game. When my oldest was about four, he called it the “crawl guys eat you" game. I guess because dad would crawl around on the floor, chasing the “guys" (the two and four-year-olds) and pretend to eat them when he caught them. It's not as creepy as it sounds, I promise.

12. Enlist other people, if possible

Have a playdate or meet friends at the park so you can have a little adult conversation while the little ones entertain each other. Or trade babysitting with a friend so you can take turns getting stuff done (or take a nap) without any kids.

13. Let them look at themselves on your phone

My child always grabs my phone and asks for the “baby." He loves to see himself. If you can record a video of your toddler looking at himself on the phone, even better, he'll love to watch it later.

14. Activity songs

My son loves “The Eensy Weensy Spider," “Little Bunny Foo Foo," and “This Little Piggy." Sometimes it calms him down when he's throwing a fit. Sometimes.

15. Read a book, or two, or five

Or read the same book five times in a row. My child loves Brown Bear, books with pictures of babies, and books where we make sound effects as we read.

16. Video game controllers

When the older kids are playing video games and the toddler wants to steal their controllers, we give him his own controller—usually one for a different gaming system, so he doesn't mess up what they're doing. He somehow still manages to, but it at least keeps him occupied for awhile.

17. Run an errand

If you're super desperate to kill some time and get out of the house, running an errand is a great way to serve two purposes at once. You get something productive done, and your toddler stops asking you to play with cars for the 395th time. Although, wrangling a toddler at the store is no small feat. I don't recommend doing this if you can help it.

18. YouTube Kids

If all else fails, pull out your phone and put on the children's shows that are on YouTube Kids. Sometimes—especially in the doctor's office waiting room—it's the only thing that will keep them entertained long enough to stop jumping off the furniture.

19. Lay on the floor and let them play on you

This is a legit parenting tactic. Just bring a few toys over and lay there letting them climb and play all over you. This works especially well when your child doesn't nap, doesn't like being left alone, and you are just plain out of energy.

20. Lay them down and pray they take a nap already

Even if your child doesn't like to nap, try it anyway. Maybe you'll get lucky and they'll fall asleep, or maybe they'll just play in their crib or cry for a bit—either way, you get a few minutes before you give up and rescue them. Or lay down with them in the hope that they'll eventually get bored and go to sleep. This is a long shot.

With their short attention spans, each of these ideas may only work for about a minute or two with your toddler, so having a few lined up for quick rotation is ideal. Toddlers are just developing their imaginations, so be sure to use your's and put your own spin on whatever works best with your child!

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Tips parents need to know about poor air quality and caring for kids with asthma

There are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

When wildfires struck the West Coast in September 2020, there was a lot for parents to worry about. For parents of children with asthma, though, the danger could be even greater. "There are more than 400 toxins that are present in wildfire smoke. That can activate the immune system in ways that aren't helpful by both causing an inflammatory response and distracting the immune system from fighting infection," says Amy Oro, MD, a pediatrician at Stanford Children's Health. "When smoke enters into the lungs, it causes irritation and muscle spasms of the smooth muscle that is around the small breathing tubes in the lungs. This can lead to difficulty with breathing and wheezing. It's really difficult on the lungs."

With the added concern of COVID-19 and the effect it can have on breathing, many parents feel unsure about how to keep their children protected. The good news is that there are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

Here are tips parents need to know about how to deal with poor air quality when your child has asthma.

Minimize smoke exposure.

Especially when the air quality index reaches dangerous levels, it's best to stay indoors as much as possible. You can find out your area's AQI at AirNow.gov. An under 50 rating is the safest, but between 100-150 is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as children with asthma. "If you're being told to stay indoors, listen. If you can, keep the windows and doors closed," Oro says.

Do your best to filter the air.

According to Oro, a HEPA filter is your best bet to effectively clean pollutants from the air. Many homes are equipped with a built-in HEPA filter in their air conditioning systems, but you can also get a canister filter. Oro says her family (her husband and children all suffer from asthma) also made use of a hack from the New York Times and built their own filter by duct taping a HEPA furnace filter to the front of a box fan. "It was pretty disgusting what we accumulated in the first 20 hours in our fan," she says.

Avoid letting your child play outside or overly exert themselves in open air.

"Unfortunately, cloth masks don't do very much [to protect you from the smoke pollution]," Oro says. "You really need an N95 mask, and most of those have been allocated toward essential workers." To keep at-risk children safer, Oro recommends avoiding brisk exercise outdoors. Instead, set up an indoor obstacle course or challenge your family to jumping jacks periodically to keep everyone moving safely.

Know the difference between smoke exposure and COVID-19.

"COVID-19 can have a lot of the same symptoms—dry cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and chest pain could overlap. But what COVID and other viruses generally cause are fever, chills, vomiting, diarrhea and body aches. Those would tell you it's not just smoke exposure," Oro says. When a child has been exposed to smoke, they often complain of a "scrape" in their throat, burning eyes, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or wheezing. If the child has asthma, parents should watch for a flare of symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing or a tight sensation in their chest.

Unfortunately, not much is known about long-term exposure to wildfire smoke on a healthy or compromised immune system, but elevated levels of air pollution have been associated with increased COVID-19 rates. That's because whenever there's an issue with your immune system, it distracts your immune system from fighting infections and you have a harder time fighting off viruses. Limiting your exposure to wildfire smoke is your best bet to keep immune systems strong.

Have a plan in place if you think your child is suffering from smoke exposure.

Whatever type of medication your child takes for asthma, make sure you have it on-hand and that your child is keeping up with regular doses. Contact your child's pediatrician, especially if your area has a hazardous air quality—they may want to adjust your child's medication schedule or dosage to prevent an attack. Oro also recommends that, if your child has asthma, it might be helpful to have a stethoscope or even a pulse oximeter at home to help diagnose issues with your pediatrician through telehealth.

Most importantly, don't panic.

In some cases, social distancing and distance learning due to COVID may be helping to keep sensitive groups like children with asthma safer. Oro says wildfires in past years have generally resulted in more ER visits for children, but the most recent fires haven't seen the same results. "A lot of what we've seen is that the smoke really adversely affects adults, especially older adults over 65," Oro says. "Children tend to be really resilient."

This article was sponsored by Stanford Children's Health. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With fall in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in outside-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Detective set

Plan Toys detective set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

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Cameron Diaz on having a baby at 47: 'You really have to work hard for it'

"The only pressure for me now is I have to live to be, like, 107, you know? No pressure!"

This is the decade that saw the face of first-time motherhood change. The number of first-time mamas under 30 is shrinking, while more and more women are becoming moms after 40.

Cameron Diaz is one of them. The actress and businesswoman, now 48, became a mom in January at the age of 47. In a new episode of Naomi Campbell's YouTube series, No Filter, Diaz opens up about what it's like to become a mom in your fourth decade.

"A lot of people do it the other way around ... they get married [and] have a family in their youth," says Diaz."I'm kind of doing it in the second half of my life."

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