If you thought for sure you’d see a blank page after clicking on this headline, I hear you. Keeping a toddler occupied must be a joke, right? Is that even possible? I could’ve titled this “Tips to Keep Your Toddler Happy,” but you already know how to do that. Pass over the sweets, let em strip off and do dangerous things like run in the street (or is that just my kids?). No, you don’t need tips on what will keep your little kid happy. Instead, you want to know how to make trips to the supermarket doable without getting a neurotic eye twitch or long waits in boring places like the dentist’s or doctor’s surgery more bearable. So, for the sake of your sanity, here are a few things that I have found help you out (without the aforementioned stripping or dangerous activities):
- Hand over your phone
What I hear you cry!? Aren’t screens terrible for toddlers and kids? There were — or at least they used to be. For years the American Academy of Pediatrics had strict guidelines about shielding children under 2 years old from having any interaction with TVs, tablets, computers and mobile devices. But, according to a policy statement released in late October, some specific educational programming, like Sesame Street, is OK for children ages 18 to 24 months. The group also noted that some interactive media is OK, too. Video chatting and learning apps that promote social connections and help toddlers learn new words are a few examples.
So, when you’re in a pinch, pull out your phone. This may even be what you needed to justify upgrading to a smartphone like the iPhone 6s Plus (my friend’s routinely ask me why I bought my tablet ago to our coffee break…), which has a nice big screen for watching “Daniel Tiger” and FaceTime video calling with Grandma. Just make sure to have some headphones on hand, too.
- Pack a “Special” bag
For times that you need more preparation than your mobile, buy your toddler a special on-the-go bag. This bag should only be brought out when you desperately need it. After a few uses, your toddler will recognise it as a special treat, which will help keep them quiet longer as they explore what’s inside.
Start with a new bag. Skip Hop makes some cute, small backpacks, but you can also find toddler-sized bags on Etsy and at major retailers. Fill it with age-appropriate toys and activities, like reusable, mess-free water coloring booklets, mini puzzles and magnetic tins. For the best results, rotate activities and toys every couple of weeks, depending on how often you use the bag. However, don’t rotate these special bag toys with ones your child plays with at home. The point is to make it a special surprise for when they need to be on their best behaviour.
The best way to keep your toddler occupied and content while you’re on the go is to give them an incentive. Whether they’re playing a new game on your phone or with a toy from their on-the-go bag, find something fun that will keep them busy and happy for a good chunk of time. Good luck!