By: Tamara Bailey
The scene: my two-year old and I are in a walk-in clinic waiting to see a doctor. We’re singing The Wheels on the Bus as loud as we can. Who knew that song had so many possible verses? My off-key rendition aside, I’m happy that we are avoiding a meltdown and my son isn’t running around touching everything germ-ridden in sight.
Restaurants, doctor’s offices, banks, grocery lines – anyone with a young child knows these excursions can be tough without an arsenal of ideas to keep little ones occupied during long waits.
Toddler Fun While you Wait: No Toys Required
Usually, when we are out and about, my son and I chat about what we see around us: the big delivery truck outside the window, the waiting room chairs, the waterfall in the foyer. When we need to keep still is when I find myself scrambling to quickly think up activities to keep the wiggles at bay. The best activities are those that don’t require any gear. From the time my son started talking, we’ve practiced counting, ABCs, or colours when waiting in lines. Lately, we’ve moved to more sophisticated games like I Spy.
As a child, I hated to memorize, but I find now it very handy as a parent. Nursery rhymes, sayings, and songs, especially ones with actions are excellent fodder: Incy Wincy Spider, Five Pretty Poppies, Round the Garden Like a Teddy Bear, One Little Finger, I’m a Little Teapot all receive regular rotation when we are on the go. I figure I must look (and sound) pretty ridiculous to passers-by, but my son’s enthusiasm when we start performing these rhymes makes up for that.
For longer trips from home or those where I know we will have to be sitting for a while, I’ve started to collect various activities for a busy bag. Most of the following don’t take up a lot of room and are easy enough to carry along.
- Thomas & Friends reusable sticker book. Stickers won’t last indefinitely, but should buy some managed time.
- Shape Pattern Puzzles. These homemade laminated shape puzzles from Toddler Approved can be glued to a file folder. Backing the shapes with sticky velcro (available at sewing shops like Fabricland) will minimize the amount of pieces that may end up on a dirty restaurant floor.
- Travel Etch-A-Sketch. Return to your childhood with this classic.
- Lacing Cards. Practice dexterity with these Eric Carle Lacing Cards. Make your own as demonstrated by the Peek-A-Boo Pattern Shop.
- Quiet Book. Pinterest or The Quiet Book Blog are full of examples and instructions to make these cloth activity books.
- Smart Phone Apps. These days there’s a plethora of game and book apps to keep kids young and old occupied. Check out Goodnight Safari (IPhone), Puzzingo Toddler Kids Puzzles (Android), Kids Doodle (IPhone / Android), and MyFirstBooks by BabyFirst (IPhone / Android).
Perhaps the biggest lesson I have learned from outings with my toddler is not to stress about getting stuff done. In the end, it’s these bits of spontaneous fun in-between that often turn out to be the best part of the journey.
Tamara Bailey is mom to a sweet 2 year old and adorable 4 month old, and wife to an amazing husband. When not sorting Lego and diapers, she enjoys her role as Leader, Technical Communication at PMC-Sierra, a semiconductor innovator that designs products enabling storage, optical and mobile networks. You can connect with her on Twitter @tam_ba.