Let’s face it- keeping our kids occupied and entertained could cost some serious money. As a kiasu Malaysian mum, I’m constantly looking for easy, inexpensive, and educational play ideas for my toddler. Bonus, if the set up is quick, and it is easy to clean. Here are a few of my go-to lazy mum ideas that work a treat with my little ones.
Sensory play with sunflower or pumpkin seeds
If your child is anything like mine, scooping and pouring is a huge hit when it comes to sensory play. He has done this with rice, sand and pasta. However, as a lazy mum, sunflower or pumpkin seeds are my favourite materials to use. They are much easier to clean; they don’t get into cracks, or spread out as much, as with rice, flour or sand. Simply provide spoons, cups, and old pots of different sizes, and you are good to go.
Here is a lazy mum tip- use a picnic mat to contain the mess. Otherwise, an inflatable pool works really well too! Just pop everything, and the toddler in.
Photo Credit: Nature Crew Playgroups
This is a great activity to try during a hot day. Plus, it is easy to do, and always fun! Simply fill an ice tray with water, and add some food colouring. Then, place the tray in the freezer. Once the coloured ice is ready, fill a big tub or tray with water, and place the ice in. Like how it is with the seeds, you could even throw in some cups, scoops, or even brushes. Not only would this be fun, it is also a great way to learn about colours, and to introduce words like cold, melt, solid, liquid.
For added fun, include a toy in the tray. When the ice melts, the toy is slowly freed!
Just add string
This is about giving your child new ways of playing with their toys. You could also do this with any item you find around the house. Try keeping it simple by attaching a string to a toy car, and having your child pull it along. Or, you could attach a string to a balloon, tie it around your wrist, and ask your child to try and hit it. The possibilities are endless.
Photo Credit: Claire Walker
Threading is a great way to develop your toddler’s fine motor skills. You could get creative with the materials you would like to use. Here are a few that have worked with my kids- uncooked spaghetti, cheerios, chopsticks and cheezels. Let the threading begin!
Try using a bit of playdough as a base for your spaghetti or chopstick, and keeping your cheerios or cheezels in a bowl on the side.
Hide and Seek
It’s really cute when toddlers start to realise how fun this game could be. Mine went through the phase of ‘if I can’t see you, you can’t see me’, and would hide with his head under a curtain, while his body is stuck out of it. We laughed ourselves silly. If yours have never played this before, you could demonstrate this by role-playing with your partner. Hide with your child first, and ask your partner to find the both of you. Then, you could swap roles. Your child will understand the ‘rules’ quickly enough!
Change it up by hiding a toy and asking your child to find it. All that counting could help them learn their numbers too!
Painting with a twist
Photo Credit: Rod Long
Painting is always fun, but it could get boring after a while. One way to keep it interesting is to use your child’s toy cars or motorbikes. Simply dip the tyres into paint, and roll them along on paper. They would love seeing the different patterns these would produce. Alternatively, dab figurines, or dip toy animals’ feet into paint, and stamp them on paper to produce some really fun prints.
If you prefer to keep the toys clean, use common household items, like cotton buds. Your child could go nuts with dot painting!
Spray bottle and cloth
Children love to imitate their parents. This is a practical activity you could introduce. And as an added bonus, it could also help you keep the house clean! Provide your child with a filled spray bottle and a small cloth. You could start them off on their own toys, before making them wipe the table and windows clean.
Take this outdoors, and ask your kids to use the spray bottle on plants, and water your garden. My kids simply love this activity!
Broom and a dustpan
Photo Credit: Lucas
Here is another! One of the things we often do around the house is sweeping, and my toddler loves to join in. We bought smaller-sized broom and dustpan to make this easier, (you could get them for cheap from shops like Daiso), and it was his favourite activity for months. He would sweep up leaves, and paper balls. Sometimes, he would even clean up the sunflower and pumpkin seeds he played with!
Just remember to have a bucket for your child to dump in whatever is being swept up.
By Kristy Tan
Kristy Tan is a mother, teacher and occasional writer. Together with her husband Sam, whom she has known since Standard 4, she tries to find joy in the madness that is raising two boys under three.
Image Credit: Anna Kolosyuk