A bored toddler is a bad toddler!
Toddler activity bins can really save you time and energy in the long run. When you need a few minutes to yourself, or during a transition time, toddler bins are the way to go! These are magic bins that, when they come out, you know you have a few minutes that you can get what you need done.
These are activities they don’t normally see. They don’t have access to these, and they can’t get them over and over. A few examples are:
Ping pong balls and a bin of water with scoops
⦁ Potting soil with dinosaurs, sticks, rocks, and leaves
⦁ Potting soil and plastic bugs, leaves, sticks and rocks
⦁ Fake flowers with potting soil, plastic bugs, leaves, sticks, and rocks
⦁ String and beads with holes
Construction paper and markers
⦁ Ping pong balls and muffin tins
⦁ Masking tape and cars, build road on floor
⦁ Giant paper you can hang on the wall and let them draw on with markers
⦁ Giant raw noodles and string
⦁ Playdoh with hard rice mixed in it
⦁ Blow up balloons and paper plates to hit the balloons back and forth
⦁ Streamers, wrapping paper, and bows
⦁ Collection of items from a nature walk and a magnifying glass
⦁ Water with blue dye and water animals
⦁ Spray bottle and construction paper
⦁ Marker, coffee filter, and spray bottle
⦁ Kids magazines that come in the mail
⦁ Chalk and black construction paper
These are just a few examples using supplies you already have, or cheap supplies at the dollar store. Put them in a bucket and your toddler will be invested. Knowing your own toddler and their attention span, sometimes it’s best to put two activities down so they can go back and forth for a while. That may help you get some good traction. You can find a tub to put these activities in at Lowe’s. They are $6.00.
Your child can learn to use their imagination to explore the items in the bin. There is no wrong way to play! Let your child do what they are going to do. I would have them work independently with these buckets or with another child.
Transitions between activities is another time that toddlers pick up on the unpredictability of what’s coming up next. It’s also important to have a great transition process in place because it helps toddlers predict when a fun activity will be coming to an end, which is hard for a toddler to understand. In order to continue to help them build their security skills, it is important to give them transition cues.
Any time a fun activity is coming to an end, it is important to give them notice. Start with a ten-minute notice. Set a timer, go over to your child, look him in the face and say, “Logan, in ten minutes, we have to clean up for lunch.” After five minutes, repeat the process and say, “Logan, in five minutes, we have to clean up for lunch.” When the timer goes off, start helping him clean up. This is not a negotiation. If this is a new transition process, he may cry,
and that’s fine. Cheerfully clean up and talk to him about how fun the activity was and what’s coming up next. If he is having a tantrum, do not acknowledge it. Quickly move on to the next activity.
Do this transition process every time a transition activity occurs. He will begin to understand about how long he has left for an activity with a ten-minute warning, and he will begin to understand that having a tantrum will not affect the outcome of whether he gets to continue the activity or not. He will also begin to understand that the timer is responsible for the time, not Mommy, and that pleading with Mommy will not result in more time on the timer. Never add minutes to the timer. Anticipate the end of the activity, and be ready for the change when the timer goes off. A good transition system in place will cut down on a lot of tantrum behaviors.