I love the toddler stage. I think I am going to be so sad when all of my kids move through this stage because it is so darn cute. I love to do simple toddler play activities with my littlest (age 2) every day and spend a lot of time snuggling as well. I also tell my toddler that I love him a dozen times a day! Make sure that is on your "to-do" list too!
As a busy working mom of three kiddos I often make really detailed to-do lists and have super high expectations for what we are going to accomplish in a day. A few times a week I have my toddler all to myself while my bigger kiddos are at school. We sometimes spend that time running errands, working out, cleaning the house, and doing fun crafts or activities for my Toddler Approved site.
Lately though I've been trying to slow down and focus on the simple things my toddler wants to do during our special time together, instead of just my to do list. Not for the whole two hours, but for part of the time.
Here are five things we try and do every day...
This is the most obvious, but probably the most important. To be honest with you... sometimes I don't like sitting down to read with my toddler because my voice gets hoarse very quickly and I am usually so tired during the day that I start falling asleep when I read. I have to put a limit on how many books we can read in a row, especially in the afternoon. Sometimes to vary it up we also read outside, read while we are eating snack, or listen to a book read aloud on YouTube on my computer. We also invite friends over to read once a month and participate in our Mommy & Me Toddler Book Club.
I love reading because it is fun, it helps us use our imaginations, it teaches my son some new vocabulary words, and it makes him love reading! We also love doing book inspired crafts and activities after we read.
I collect book lists for kids over on Pinterest if you ever need any book ideas.
Right now these are three of the books we read over and over again...
2. Go on a hunt
Recently we did a spring name hunt and a heart alphabet match & hunt game. Flashlight hunts are pretty cool too.
3. Play with playdough
I love doing sensory activities with my toddler but on a daily basis I am not organized enough to pull together anything really fancy. I love to grab our giant box of playdough, playdough tools, and a few cool playdough creating items and let my toddler have a blast while I either work sitting nearby or clean the kitchen. It is really cathartic to just sit down and play with him too. Making spaghetti or coil pots or playdough snakes is actually really fun.
Sometimes we'll make playdough cupcakes, playdough & fruit loop threading, or playdough bugs as well.
We go to the park or play in our yard to get ourselves moving every day. Sometimes I jog pushing my toddler in the stroller and we stop and check out different things around the neighborhood and sometimes we just grab our favorite ride-on toys and drive them around our cul-de-sac.
When my big kids are home we sometimes do a family jogging club. I've also done our jogging club with just me and my toddler. He loves getting a punch on his card every time he runs a lap! When my daughter was a toddler we would also do a simple alphabet jogging game.
I love to get moving outside but sometimes when we are stuck indoors we also do movement activities as well! I like to adapt this stick movement game for my toddler and we play it together (even though he can't actually count yet).
5. Pretend Play
My toddler has a very active imagination. His favorite thing right now is to pretend he is a doctor and I am the patient. That mostly entails him checking me out with our Doc McStuffins doctor kit and wanting to give me band-aids. He also loves to dress up in some of our favorite Melissa & Doug dress up costumes.
Another simple pretend activity that we do a lot is play store. This is really easy to set up. We just grab a kid table and our favorite cash register and put everything close by our toys and pretend we have a toy store. He thinks it is so funny when I pretend to be a customer and try and buy toys from him. My big kids have also taught him how to have a toy store with LEGO bricks as well.
If you need any pretend play ideas I have several over on my Pretend Play pinterest board. Pretend play is such a great way to work on vocabulary development with toddlers and practice turn-taking and building simple social skills.
Bonus: Extra Sensory Play
We also try and fit sensory play into our day... though it doesn't always happen. Sensory play activities are often the easiest to set up and require little prep. I don't do anything fancy but love to pull out flour or cereal or rice or make up a quick batch of cloud dough. Shaving cream can also be a lot of fun with toddlers or pudding (if they are still in the edible phase).
Some of my favorite sensory activities are...
Sensory boards (we made a Christmas Tree one that could easily be adapted for other themes)
I also have an entire pinterest board filled with Sensory Play Ideas for Kids that are totally fun.
Now you might be reading this and thinking... how in the world does she find that much time to do all of those things in one day???
One thing to remember is that toddlers have really short attention spans! At our house we might play playdough for 15 minutes, dress up and play doctor for 10 minutes, play with goop for 10-15 minutes (and clean up), read 2-3 books, and run around outside... and sometimes we've only filled up 45 minutes!! Sometimes that whole list takes an hour and a half depending on the day.