My children's toddler years have been some of my favorite thus far. I loved watching both of my kids' personalities and interests develop. But that time period can also be an incredibly difficult one for parents as we try to figure out how to educate and entertain our kids, while also staying involved and interested ourselves.
There are many great typical toddler activities that are critically important for development, but I often found that those weren't the most interesting to me personally. Plus, baby yoga doesn't take all day!
As I share in my book, Banish Boredom: Activities to Do with Kids That You'll Actually Enjoy, I've found that one of the best ways to help young kids develop their own interests is to actually start with activities that interest you as a parent. Then as you watch your kids develop their own ideas of fun, you can adapt accordingly.
Sure, I understand that one- and two-year-olds aren't just going to pipe up and tell you about their burgeoning interest in pop art, but these suggestions for activities should get you started!
Don't feel like you have to do what everyone else is doing.
Parents constantly feel pressure to compete and conform. Resist! Think about what you like to do and start doing them with your children. One of my favorite things to do is visit modern art museums and I found our kids really enjoyed going with me even as toddlers. Take a pack of crayons and some paper along and let them make their own art afterwards in the café or roam about a sculpture garden while you're getting your art fix.
Aim for a variety of activities to expose your child to different things.
Mix it up with activities both in and outside of the home, and get outside of your own comfort zone. I love art, but history is not high up on my list. However, I learned early on that I have two little history buffs, so I take them to all kinds of historical places, many of which have programs for even very young kids. And if not, it's another good place to let them practice those walking skills. Also, you just might learn something new yourself!
Keep things simple.
Toddlers have a limited attention span and behavioral needs that usually require smaller scale activities. If you plan something elaborate, chances are you'll be disappointed. I favored very basic art projects when my kids were toddlers—set them up to have fun and explore with something like finger-painting or basic printmaking with paint.
Don't underestimate them.
Be realistic, but see what happens when you stretch your kiddos a little. I love to do outdoor activities with my kids. And while they couldn't tackle a huge hike in the woods, they could certainly handle a paved looped trail close to a nature center. Give it a try!
Balance being engaged with encouraging independent activities.
You do not always have to be on, mama. Toddlers learn valuable lessons from small periods of independent play time. Prioritize safety and oversee them, but don't feel obligated to actively entertain them 24/7.
I loved to set my kids up in a highchair with a few containers of colored water they could mix and play with. It gave them the confidence to entertain themselves and gave me the time to make my 500th cup of coffee for the day. ☕