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Toddler "Boredom" Busters

Phew! These last few days with Ava have been little more challenging. We have switched her, cold turkey, to a 1-nap-a-day schedule...and she's a little overtired! She used to nap at 9:30 and 2, and it was taking her an hour or more to fall asleep at her afternoon nap and sometimes she would even skip one of her naps entirely! I felt like 13 months was a little early to make that switch, but she's always been an alert kid and napping hasn't always come easily for her, so it didn't surprise me too much that she was trying to tell me she's ready for just one nap!

She's pretty tired in the mornings, so I've been needing to keep her busy to distract her from being sleepy. We took trips to the park, and I made sure to have new things for her to do. It's been going a little bit better each day, except last night she had a big meltdown for no other reason that we could figure out besides the fact that she was ready for bed. I think we are going to move up bedtime temporarily until she fully adjusts. She's only sleeping for 1.5 hours during the day and that is not enough! She normally sleeps twice as long when she took 2 naps! And she's been waking early, so that's been great (sarcasm).

Let's discuss my post title for a moment...and that word "boredom".

I put it in quotations because I couldn't think of a more catchy title, but it's not the right word to use, exactly.


I remember a particular coworker being very passionate about this topic! :)

Small children are innately curious and born to explore! Just because they are staring at what seems to be nothing, does not mean their brains aren't working or they aren't engaged in an activity. Ava loved to stare at the ceiling when she was a baby - our plain, white ceiling. Another example could be that maybe a baby hears the chirping of a bird outside the window and has stopped to focus on it. Or when a baby finds a tiny speck on the floor and spends the next 10 minutes picking at it. The activities of small children may seem mundane and pointless to us, but they are always learning!! Their brains are like little sponges!

Sometimes as the adult, we have a hard time remembering this. We feel, as parents, that if we do not buy them enough stuff, that we aren't "good" parents and that our children won't be able to learn. This is not at all true!!

However, everyone can benefit from a change of scenery after awhile and to be stimulated by different things. Children love to explore, so here are some easy things your small child can play with to encourage new pathways of learning!

1. "Trash" (I'm just kidding! Or am I...)

Ava always wants to know what mommy and daddy have, and whenever appropriate, we try our best to show her (with the delicate balance of making sure she understands that she doesn't always get what mommy and daddy have...but that's a post for another day!). Rinse out an empty plastic bottle and let her play! Ava loved to put the lid on and off and then carry it around the house! Children love to play with real life items! It works on fine motor skills and can be considered a music activity too, as she learns about the sounds it makes when she drops it or taps another toy on it.

Another favorite is when we have empty boxes laying around. We order her diapers and wipes from Amazon so once a month we have big empty boxes in the hallway that she will push around or hide toys in! I'd say almost 50% of the time we have empty boxes in the house. Just for playtime! We have a really big box from her car seat that we just kept and put in the corner, and she loves to crawl in and out of it to hide or play!

At this age, Ava is loving yarn, string, and even floss! She will hold it and run in through her fingers and test it out in her mouth for what seems like forever! The floss is actually a pretty good sensory activity because she can taste it and smell it (ours is mint flavored) and its a tad bit sticky, too. It's a pretty untraditional "toy" that wouldn't be an acceptable toy in a preschool for her age, but you can use your own discretion at home.

So the next time you have something you plan to throw away, consider if it would be a fun, safe item for your little one to explore first! Reuse, reduce, and recycle, right?!

2. Kitchen items

Ava doesn't have free access to our kitchen since we have baby gates up, but when we are in there for mealtimes, we have begun letting her explore while we get dinner going or are cleaning up afterwards. She loves to open and close all the doors and drawers an occasionally picks something out. If it is something not dangerous or breakable, then I let her play with it. And every time I tell her it's time to leave the kitchen, she gets mad! She loves to explore in there! You can easily bring out some plastic containers and lids or utensils or bowls, or even the pots and pans for some fun play! Things that are loud and noisy are guaranteed to bring out a smile on a toddler's face! Are loud toddler toys annoying to adults? Most of the time! But you don't have to let them play with it all day long. Set a time limit and give them a reminder when time is almost up, and then put them away and move on to something else fun!

I let Ava play with some plastic water cups my husband and I had each gotten from our hospital stays over the last year or so. We are moving soon, so I've begin purging things we don't plan to keep. Before I recycle these cups, I let Ava have them! I'm actually thinking of saving the straws because that's her favorite part, and I could easily use them in sensory table activities in the future! She likes to pretend to drink out of them and carry them around the house. I showed her she could put toys inside and she thought that was great!

I feel like playing with these things is more fun because Ava knows they are not available everyday and that is what makes them so special! It's almost like she knows that she's not "supposed" to play with it, or that it's not typical.

3. Paper, Magazines, Cards, Newspapers, etc

Paper is a great activity because it's crinkly, it can be torn or folded or crumpled, each type of paper has a different texture and color and's a pretty open-ended activity! I'm going through things all over the house and I came across an envelope stuffed with old photos of flowers my mom had taken years ago. I picked out my favorites (I plan to blow them up, matte and frame them, and hang them up in the house) and then I let Ava have the rest! She liked to look at all the pretty flowers and there were even a few butterflies in the pictures! She liked to hold each one and then toss it and move them around with her hands. As you can see, she explored them pretty well!

4. Nature

I think it is common for it to be assumed that kids need toys to play with when they are outside. But the best part about being outside is...being outside!! It is literally a breath of fresh air! Ava loves our rock beds we have in our backyard and picking out just the right rocks. She enjoys practicing stepping up and down without help on and off the patio. I bring toys out with us and she never even touches them! She likes to play in Duke's water bowl and she likes to pick up the hose and try to drag it around. She checks out the dirt and the clover blooms and sticks her hands through the chain link fence. She's always loved feeling the wind in her hair and she loves to have the freedom to walk around and go where ever she wants! I just let her roam! There is so much outside: a tiny ant, a big tree, the sound of birds chirping or a motorcycle driving by (or a Chinook or 2 overhead), the warm sunshine or a cool breeze, the smell of flowers or a neighbor grilling...there's so much to take in!

I think technology has creeped in and has really been changing the way we parent. But don't forget about the basics!! We are going to create a world of kids who are dependent on toys that entertain them instead of learning to entertain themselves! That is how to create a truly bored kid - when you've conditioned them to expect things to do the work for them. I kind of wish there were less toys that required batteries and had flashing lights and screens and lots of "narration". I have a toy from when I was a baby that my parents had kept in the basement, and now Ava has it. It is a simple radio with a twist knob and two buttons. No batteries at all. And Ava loves it! It's almost impossible to find toys like that anymore!

Bottom line is, is that you can teach your child that anything can be a toy with some imagination and a chance to explore. Ask them questions about it or show them new ways to play. Let their own unique personality dictate how the play! Back to basics is the way to go with toddlers!

Happy Toddler Days!


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