Mess-Free Ideas to Entertain Toddlers While Homeschooling Older Children
Ideas to keep babies and toddlers entertained while you’re trying to homeschool older siblings!
Hands up who is struggling to juggle all of the balls ?
Homeschooling, employment, general life…… throw in a baby or toddler, and it’s not hard to feel like you’re being pulled in too many directions.
Even if your school is running live online lessons, odds are that you’re still needed to help with tech problems, explain a few concepts and keep your darlings well-stocked with snacks, drinks and soothing(!) words.
That’s not easy to balance when you have younger children at home too, and we’ve definitely had tantrums when the kids all want help or attention at the same time.
This week, I’m going to try and set Toddler Mumbler up with some easy activities while I help the bigger two with their schoolwork. I need things that don’t involve mess, set-up time and she can do by herself.
She’s also feeling quite left out, so I want to sit her at the table or on the kitchen floor, so I can be close to all three kids at the same time.
The list below is aimed at mess-free fun, but if you are looking for messy play, there are some great ideas here. There are some fun messy-ish ideas here too.
Sending hugs and virtual vino to all of you – none of this is easy, and you are all doing an INCREDIBLE job!
QUICK, EASY & MESS-FREE IDEAS TO ENTERTAIN TODDLERS
Magnets: Rearranging the fridge magnets or collecting them in a bowl is a favourite for Toddler Mumbler. She also likes playing with magnetic letters on a baking tray. Magformers are great for little hands too, and can be enjoyed by all ages.
White boards: We have a little white board that has a chalk board on the other side and is magnetic too. It comes with chalk, a white board pen, cloth and magnetic animal pieces.
Books – She likes leafing through books herself, but prefers me to sit on the floor with her to read. I can’t really do it in the kitchen as it is too distracting to the bigger ones, so we sit in the hall and if I can still hear what’s going on. If you want to throw money at it, Santa brought us a Leapfrog Story Cube and it has been a lifesaver. She chooses her own stories and songs to listen to and we can record stories for her to listen to as well.
Build a den – I do this under the table where the bigger kids are working. Drape a blanket over it, throw a few cushions inside and an LED lantern or a torch, some books, toys and a snack. It’s a great place for them to go back to through the day.
Playdough – You can make your own but if you don’t have time – and who does at the moment? – buy a pot or two. Throw a few tools in, and it will keep them busy while you tend to the bigger kids.
Kinetic sand – This isn’t really mess-free, but I’ve included it as if you contain it in a tray it isn’t too bad and easy to sweep up afterwards. It does keep her interested for a long time though, and the bigger kids like it during break times.
Plasticine – sticking craft matchsticks into plasticine is great to build hand and finger strength!
Magic painting – the worst that’s going to happen is they knock over the water! Keep a cloth to hand just in case.
Paint sticks – Toddler Mumbler will sit with these for ages. We have a stash of paper (she doesn’t half go through it!) but all I need to do is find somewhere for her masterpieces to dry, and accept that she WILL mix up all the colours (so she has her own set to prevent sibling meltdowns).
Stickers – you can get cheap packs of peel-off stickers from Home Bargains and Poundland. Have a bowl for them to put the discarded backs in, and let them stick them onto paper. Reusable stickers are great too.
Cars – set up a little ramp (prop a book against the sofa, or unfold a cardboard box) and set a box of cars on the floor then let them find the fastest racer!
Bricks and blocks – we build towers as high as we can until they all fall down. It never seems to get old!
Throw and catch with a ball – my two-year-old loves rolling or throwing a ball and I can play it with her while concentrating on other things.
Simple jigsaws – or puzzle books – another good one you can do on the kitchen floor while supervising the bigger ones.
Make a potion – give them a big mixing bowl and a wooden spoon then let them throw in small toys, leaves, flower petals, dried pasta, crayons, anything you like. I advise against adding water!
Pushing dry spaghetti through a colander – cheap and easy!
Tape toilet rolls to the fridge door – this is really quick to set up. Take some pom poms from your craft box, then show them how to pour pom poms through the toilet rolls.
Decorate a cardboard box – plonk it in front of them and give them washable felt pens, crayons, stickers.. stuff that won’t make a mess.
Fuzzy felt – we were gifted a book with felt animal shapes that she likes to play with. There are lots of similar things online!
Sensory basket – throw a few safe but interesting things into a box or basket. A wooden spoon, pine cone, things from the craft box (ribbon, pom poms), a sponge, keys, shell, nailbrush…. Things that you can easily grab but are safe. My little one loves to pack things in and out of bags so I would include a few little bags too.
Looking for more ways to entertain kids during lockdown? You can find LOADS here, plus local family-friendly walks and homeschooling resources. We’re updating it all the time, so do check back soon.