Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Five things that might make your toddler forget about the TV (At least temporarily)

As I mentioned the other day, Lucas got a nasty stomach bug that lasted for a few days. During that time, I let him watch an embarrassing amount of Sesame Street and Curious George because he wasn't really up for doing anything other than lying on the floor. So when he finally started to recover, he was still in the mindset of "let's watch television all day." Which, you know, really isn't the most educational thing I could have my child do for hours on end. He's usually really good about entertaining himself with his toys and books for reasonable periods of time (for a toddler, I mean,) and he loves to color, but after he recovered from his stomach bug, he was still dead set on being allowed to watch TV all day. Oops.

So here are some random things we did together in the days after he was sick to get him out of "TV mode" and back into "let's actually do something" mode.

1. Play Dough and Uncooked Noodles
How adorable is this smile??
I had actually never let Lucas play with play dough until last week. And then we really, really needed a new activity to make him stop asking to watch TV, so I pulled out a jar that I had stashed in a closet. Like almost every other mom who uses Pinterest, I had seen an idea to stand uncooked spaghetti noodles up in play dough and then have your toddler stack Cheerios on the noodles. It sounds like a good idea in theory, but spaghetti noodles break really easily, and toddlers aren't exactly gentle. So it didn't work out for us. Instead, we just stuck the (broken) noodles into the dough for a while. Then I rolled the dough into a bunch of little balls, and Lucas stuck a piece of noodle into each one so that they looked like lollipops (except that we called them "flowers" so that eating them wouldn't be too tempting.) Lucas thought it was the best thing ever. Seriously, he played with them for at least an hour. Play-Doh brand is non-toxic, but if you have a little one who's really into eating everything, you can find lots of recipes for homemade play dough on Pinterest.

2. Treasure Box (aka - Box full of Random Stuff)

Moms who are a little more together than I am call these "sensory bins," and these boxes often have a theme. But as I've mentioned before, the theme of my sensory bins is usually "these are random things I found in my house."

The key here is that you want to fill a box/basket/container with items that have a wide variety of shapes and textures that will be fun for little fingers to explore. (Make sure that nothing in your box is a choking or strangulation hazard!) If they're not typical "toys," they seem to be more interesting than things your child gets to play with every day.

Here's what ended up in our treasure box:

And here are some more ideas:

- Pieces of yarn/ribbon/lace (make sure they're too short to wrap around the neck)
- Pieces of cloth/felt
- Clean sponge/bath loofah
- Key chains
- Shower curtain rings
- Cupcake pan liners
- Photographs or post cards

As with anything else your child plays with, this will lose its appeal if it's always easily accessible. So get it out for a day or two, then tuck it away in a closet until you really need it again.

3. Wrapping Paper/Crepe Paper

I'm going to say this up front - this activity is kind of wasteful. So maybe either recycle the paper or find another use for it after your child is done.

Having said that, am I the only one who has gotten sucked in by the 99 cent wrapping paper in the front of stores at Christmas time? I'm always like, "Oo, look! It's so cheap! And we need some! I'll buy three rolls!" Well let me give you a little hint. There's a reason that wrapping paper only costs 99 cents: it's not worth a whole dollar. Seriously. After it ripped for approximately the four thousandth time while I was trying to wrap gifts, I shoved it back into the closet and whipped out the expensive stuff. I didn't actually want to throw it away, but what do you do with really awful wrapping paper? Answer: give it to your toddler.

The first time that Dan saw Lucas running around unrolling a barely used roll of wrapping paper, he said, "Um, do you know that he's destroying a whole roll of wrapping paper?" And I responded with something like, "Oh, that wrapping paper would destroy itself if he didn't do it first." Lucas had a blast unrolling an entire roll of wrapping paper; it was definitely way more fun than watching television. (But make sure your good wrapping paper isn't accessible, or it might all become a toddler toy.)

If you've never been suckered into buying the worst wrapping paper of all time, a roll of leftover crepe paper/streamers that you're never going to use the rest of is extremely fun, too. (Lucas also had a blast completely unrolling two rolls of toilet paper while I was making lunch, but that was not a mommy-sanctioned activity.)

4. Stickers

Lucas loves stickers. I taught him to peel them off of the page himself (with medium-ish success,) and he will happily put stickers on paper for a ridiculously long time. I scrapbook (or at least I used to,) so I have lots of stickers, and I try to pick some up at the store occasionally for when we're bored. They're not stored anywhere that he can reach them, so it's always a fun treat when I pull the stickers out.

The great thing about younger toddlers is that anything that sticks is automatically a fun sticker. Price labels leftover from your garage sale last summer? Cool! Those address labels you got for free in the mail on which your name is spelled wrong? Sweet!! Just hand your toddler the stickers and some paper and let him go wild. (Bonus: circular and rectangular stickers are much easier for little hands to pull off without ripping them than irregularly shaped stickers are.)

5. A "New" Toy

I'm definitely not advocating buying your kid a bunch of new things to bribe them not to watch TV. This is more like an in-case-of-emergency idea.

There's nothing quite like a new toy/activity to distract a toddler from saying "George??" for the nine millionth time. Keep an eye out for good clearance deals, garage sale finds, and in the dollar section of Target for inexpensive toys/books/activities that can be pulled out if you really, really need a new distraction. Or, just put a few toys that your kids haven't played with in a while away in a closet, and in a few weeks/months - voila! They're new!

We've been using Pampers diapers on Lucas since he was born, and I've actually entered all of the Pampers Rewards codes for every single one of them. So periodically, I get to cash the points in for toys for Lucas. A few weeks ago, I cashed in some points to get a set of wooden alphabet blocks for him. I had originally intended to use them as a birthday gift, but they came a few days after his party, and he had already gotten a bunch of new toys for his birthday anyway. So I stuck them in a closet for an "emergency." I pulled them out one night when nothing else was cutting it, and even though he builds towers literally every day, building a tower with new blocks was extremely exciting.

*Bonus idea!*
(I thought of this one the morning after I first published this post, and it seemed silly to make a whole new post for it. Also, I was too lazy to change the graphic that said "Five things" so that it said "Six things." So here you go. It's a bonus.)

6. Giant Building Blocks

Yes, my child is in pajamas in every single one of these pictures.
I promise I really do dress him in real clothes.
We tend to shop online more than in stores, and so we end up with a lot of boxes of varying sizes. Lucas loves to play with and color on the boxes, and he also loves building towers with blocks. So I taped a bunch of boxes closed, and suddenly we had giant building blocks! It took me about two minutes total, and it was a lot of fun for Lucas.

What other ideas do you have for distracting toddlers when they've watched just a little too much television?

For more "this is more fun than television" ideas, check out these posts:

Ways to entertain your toddler inside when it's ridiculously cold outside

My "extremely sophisticated" homemade toys, part 1

My "extremely sophisticated" homemade toys, part 2

My "extremely sophisticated" homemade toys, part 3


  1. Hi Bethany! I'm stopping by from the SITS Spring Fling.

    I love these easy ideas - mentally bookmarking them for when I have kids!

  2. Those are some really great ideas! I remember those toddler days. I'm sorry to say that even with older (elementary age) kids, I'm still trying to come up with ideas to keep them off the screens! :)

    1. I bet it's even harder when they can actually use the remote AND they know how many shows there are out there! As far as Lucas is concerned, there are only three shows in the whole world.

  3. Great post! Your blog is adorable! I look forward to following along. {Visiting from our Sits girls group #5}

  4. For the last 2 months someone in my house has been sick... and my guy has turned into a TV junkie. I can't wait to try some of these!

    1. Sorry everyone's been sick!! That's the worst. Hope you're all feeling well very soon! And I hope that some of these ideas work for you! :)

  5. When we go to Costco we always get some big boxes. My kids like to decorate them with stickers and markers. It keeps them entertained for hours.

    1. Oh man - the bigger the boxes, the better they are! We got two chairs from Ikea that came in the biggest boxes ever, and it was like Christmas in our house!!

  6. Fun tips! I think the spaghetti in play dough might even keep my newly turned 5 year old occupied for a bit. It is so much harder to keep them off the things with screens once daddy shows them how to turn on the TV, select the right HDMI number, turn on the playstation, and load their favorite minecraft tutorial on YouTube. That's just the 5 year. Getting the 15 year old off screens is nearly impossible. I had to threaten him with grounding if he didn't take a family bike ride (and enjoy it) the other day. :D Stopping by from SITS!

    1. Eek! I am NOT looking forward to when my son learns how to turn on the TV!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  7. These are all fantastic! I nanny a two-year-old and she isn't allowed to watch TV except during lunch time. These ideas will really come in handy!

  8. I needed this today. We are all recovering from a stomach bug and a few days of way too much tv. Pinning it...

    1. Hope you're all feeling well again very soon!

  9. I loved this post so much I posted it on my latest Shout Out post...

    Were not big on the TV in our house.. so I loved these tips!!