Low- to no-prep ‘keep your toddler busy’ activities

low- to no-prep 'keep your toddler busy' activities

We were waiting on The Husband to finish having his hair cut, and The Child wanted a babyccino. Unfortunately, this steamed dairy product only lasts a couple of minutes as she uses a straw and inhales it like it’s the last cup of milk she’s ever going to drink. I’ve long since learned to take crayons and a notepad with me for her to scribble on, but sometimes we need to change things up a bit. So here are some activities that work for us:

  1. Craft stick ‘blocks’: stick hook and loop tape (or dots, whatever you’ve got) to the ends of craft sticks. The Child is currently into showing off that she can make triangles — she hasn’t moved on to squares just yet. This held her attention for around 15 minutes, which is amazing.
  2. The ol’ rubber band game: probably more suited to a quiet activity at home, get a bunch of rubber bands and an unopened tin of something. Stretch one rubber band over the tin, and encourage your child to do the same. This failed so badly the first time, The Child didn’t care for it, but I left it a few weeks and tried again, and she suddenly decided it was the best thing ever.
  3. Cocktail sticks ‘sorting’: this needs supervision, since they can be sharp. My mum discovered this while entertaining The Child while her tired parents got some shut eye. She had a plastic box of cocktail sticks and shook them all out (the container must be the kind with a small hole from which the cocktail sticks emerge). The Child took great delight in putting them back in, one at a time.

The bonus? All of these are pretty good for fine motor practice!

Tips for flying long-haul #2

We’re getting ready to take The Child on yet another long-haul flight, so it’s a brand new mission to get activities together to keep her from being too frustrated at being strapped into a long metal tube with no way out. We’re going to hit the inflight entertainment system hard, and also hopefully cycle through walks around the cabin, eating, napping, and other activities. Those 13 hours will fly by.

Tips for flying long haul
  1. I used a bunch of free clipart to create an airport scavenger hunt in a word processor (although I am hoping she’ll be sleeping on the way out as it’s a night flight, but one should always. be. prepared.). I tried to personalise it slightly to the specific airports we’d be using, but you’re welcome to download a copy.
  2. Non-stinky snacks will be the order of the day. Vegetable crisps, crackers, dried fruit, cereal, fresh fruit like oranges and grapes, you get the idea.
  3. One of The Husband’s many jobs as entertainer on flight will be to play Monster Snap using this printable from Activity Village.
  4. I’ve scavenged a bunch of pictures from free catalogues and magazines and will be combining them with my used envelopes and glue stick to make a collage.

Also, as a last resort to stop screaming in its tracks — Haribo sweets in small packets, and a gift-wrapped doll from one of her favourite movies. Never underestimate the power of a bribe.

Previous edition here.

Painting with blocks

Painting with blocks (and hands)

This takes no preparation at all, assuming you’ve already got:

  1. Blocks
  2. Paint
  3. Paper plate
  4. Paper
  5. Plastic tablecloth (optional, depends on how comfortable you are with mess)

I showed The Child quickly how to make prints with her blocks, then let her do whatever she wanted. As you can see, it quickly degenerated into hand-painting — it usually does once paint is involved.

Cook: Parmesan broth, with stuff!

Good for feeding a husband whose tummy is feeling a little poorly. The Child seems to like it as well. There are loads of recipes for making Parmesan broth, so use whichever one you like best — I went for the easiest (of course).

parmesan broth with stuff

You’ll need:

At least 1 Parmesan rind (or some sort of budget version, which is what I’ve used)
Chicken stock
Parsley, dried or fresh
Spinach or kale, shredded
Filled pasta
Broccoli (optional)

Make the broth: put the required amount of stock into a saucepan or pot. Drop in the parmesan rind (you’ll need more than one if you’re making a large quantity) and parsley. Let it simmer for 30 minutes.

Prepare the vegetables: wash and (if using kale) strip the leaves from the stalks. Grab a bunch of leaves and cut into shreds with kitchen scissors.

Optional extra yummy step involving broccoli: Slice some broccoli thinly (I had a bunch of stalks). Fry in a pan with oil, salt, and pepper until soft and brown round the edges.

Finish it off: Remove the cheese rind. Add the vegetables to the broth and let simmer for a minute or so, then throw in your filled pasta and simmer until heated through. Top with fried broccoli pieces and serve immediately.

parmesan broth with stuff

On princesses and tiaras

But she’s only seen Mickey Mouse Clubhouse twice

I feel pretty strongly about letting The Child figure out who she is and what she likes. As a fully-fledged life member of the Tomboy Brigade, I make sure she does have clothes that are feminine (just not overly so) as well as my staples, t-shirts and trousers of some description. The goal is to make sure she doesn’t go all girly just to spite her mother.


This is killing me. But I’m going to grimace grin and bear it. As far as princesses go, I much prefer Merida to Cinderella, and I hope she will, too.