Keeping a baby entertained consists soley of meeting their basic needs. This moves on pretty rapidly at about 12 weeks when they start needing gentle stimulation in their waking moments to when they hit 6 months and require a horrendous amount of attention as they can’t cope on their own. That horrible stage where they can’t move and get frustrated lasts only a little while before most start crawling and so can get to other things to occupy themselves. But alas this is again only a stage because then they want to explore further, especially if they have an elder sibling as they will want to run about with them and because they can’t, frustration sets in – again! It is a never ending cycle and only at the age of 3 are we finally seeing a light at the end of the latest tunnel as our eldest can now watch a film all the way through, play with his farm or lego on his own for quite a while, or be trusted with crafts without eating it all! But even at this age they get bored easily and need ever changing activities to combat the sulks and strops setting in.
I thought I would do a list this week of things I do to entertain my two during the week. It can be pretty daunting facing the week as a parent when you feel a certain amount of responsibility for making sure you are getting the kids to meet their milestones and offer stimulating play…and believe me you do not need to be Mary Poppins every minute of the day! It’s ok to watch tv in your jammies all day. It’s ok to do nothing other than put some toys out in the livingroom. It’s ok to bundle them up and take them to softplay/your friends house/to feed the ducks for the fiftieth time just to get out the house! More than ok! But sometimes you want to DO something. It is nice to offer a bit of one on one time with the kids every now and then and you will be amazed at just how much they appreciate and respond to it.
1/ Arts and Crafts. Not everyones bag, I get it. But you don’t need to go full scale Neil Buchanan (too old school for a few of you?!) Firstly get an old towel on standby and shut any doors leading to your livingroom and nice soft furnishings. Secondly fill up the washing basin with hot, soapy water and get kitchen roll on standby.
Thirdly get your camera handy – rookie error to ever leave them unattended to retreive anything once you start! And finally get the kids and yourself ready, don’t wear anything good! Old t-shirt and joggers only. I usually have the baby stripped to just nappy and toddler in pants but they can wear old tshirts or already stained vests. Have some clean stuff laid out in the livingroom to make life easier afterwards.
For a simple ten minute craft you could just get some kid friendly paints and some coloured paper. Do hand or footprints, cut up potatoes and use them as stamps (toddlers love dinosaurs so you could cut out a rough shape and say it’s a dinosaur footprint the love that) anything can be used.
Homemade finger paint for the more adventurous – 1/2 cup corn flour, 1/4 cup cold water, 1 cup boiling water, food colouring.
Mix cornflour with cold water then whisk in boiling water halfcup at a time reallh thoroughly to a custard consistancy. Add colouring. For much easier method (but only if diet allows just use natural yogurt with colouring),if any allergies then you can use fruit purees which are a great first way to introduce baby to exploring, they can get stuck in and plaster it everywhere – and they will! Be prepared for the mess and embrace it. For the over 2’s just use shop bought washable paints. They love guddling so will end up covered. Other craft ideas once they are a little older include gluing stuff onto card, my son is obsessed with prit stick at the minute he likes doing it himself and sticking different textures. Making paper plate face masks or any topical crafts like leaves in the shape of animals for autumn, glitter creations for christmas, egg boxes cut out and painted for spring time. Use your imagination and transport yourself back to schooldays when you loved art in primary and got excited for that one hour a week making a mess! Also have a look in Pinterest for inspiration there are some highly creative folks out there. At the end put any paints and stuff up out of reach, use the old towel to wipe up as much as you can then literally dunk children in the sink! Make sure theres no paint or anything on yourself before you head to the livingroom-had a lot of paint and glue on the carpet and couch incidents to know better now!
2/Messy Play. For the more advanced among you this is honestly one of the best things you can do it is so much fun and teaches them about texture, colour and taste. You can use anything you have in the cupboards at home. Jelly, angel delight, cooked spaghetti, rice crispies, torn up tissue paper, cotton wool, a plain old basin of warm water. Place whatever your using in flat trays (or rip up an old cereal box and use that to put stuff on, it can then jut get put straight in the bin) and hide little toys in for baby/toddler to discover. Make sure you put a big sheet down to stop them slipping on the flooring and have towels on standby. As a rule they can only handle about 10-15 min until the age of one, then they can manage up to half an hour maybe. If you are feeling extra creative you can move it up a notch and make your own moonsand and playdough.
2 cups plain flour – but will work with self raising if thats all you have.
1/2 cup sugar
100ml oil i used sunflower but again it will work with any.
You can add some food colouring if you like.
Just mix all ingredients and run oil through until it resembles damp sand. Add more oil if required.
250g plain flour
Colouring if using
Mix flour, salt and oil then slowly add water, mixing with your hand until it comes together. Knead on worktop until pliable consistancy like playdough. If using colouring add with water
This is really good for toddlers but just keep a close eye to make sure they don’t eat it because even though it’s not toxic it is definitely not good to eat!
For another texture mix cornflour in water and you get a suprising liquid that’s also solid. Really amuses them. 2 parts cornflour to 1part water. Again follow the clean up regime, get the most messy stuff up out of reach and bundle evrything else up to deal with once kids are cleaned up and away.
3/Baking with kids can be a lot of fun-says no one ever! Sorry no I said that once way back when I was a mum of one and my baby was still in a highchair! When they can move and grab stuff and pour a whole bag of flour over themselves and sneak so much raw cake mix that they get the runs so they can’t be trusted to fart for the next three days – yeah that’s not fun! There are some easy recipes that you can make together though if your patience reserves are high- you have to be in a Mary Poppins kind of a mood and def wait till kids are in good form-this kind of applies to most activities though. Simple cookies are best the ones you can roll into balls and press down with a fork.
150g plain flour
100g unstalted butter softened
50g caster sugar
Beat butter and sugar and add flour and bring together, you’re looking for a playdough consistancy (add a splash of milkif you need to). Now get kids to roll golf ball sized balls and place on a lined baking tray. You can then get them to squash these down with a fork. My son really enjoys this bit so sometimes our biscuits are very oddly shaped! Bake at 180°c for 12 min until golden. Remove from oven and let cool for 5min on tray before transferring to a baking sheet.
Other good baking suggestions are crispie cakes-200g choc melted and 100g rice crispies stir together and put spoonfuls in cupcake cases then refridgerate until hardened. Scones – 80g softened unsalted butter or margerine, 350g self raising flour(if you only have plain then use it and add and extra tsp baking powder), 3 tablespoons caster sugar, 50g sultanas, 175ml milk,1 tsp baking powder. Rub butter into flour, baking powder and sugar until resembles breadcrumbs and then pour milk in and bring together. Kids enjoy getting their hands in so these won’t be the best scones you’ve ever eaten but they will have fun. Dust the worktop with flour and turn out dough and flatted down with your hand until about 2inch thick, cut out rounds with a cutter or plastic beaker works just as well. Place on lined baking tray and brush with a little beaten egg or milk. Bake for 10-12 min at 200°c until when tapped they sound hollow. Cool until you can’t wait any longer to eat one!
4/Dressing up. Have a raid about and if you have old stuff like pillowcases that can be sacrificed then you are on to a winner! If not then you can use tea towels, your own tshirts and the kids bedding to make capes, head pieces and silly costumes. Once they get over 2 their imaginations really take off and they will constantly be telling you there is a gruffalo or dragon hiding in the house and they want to fight it! Make funny costumes and endulge them for half an hour. My top tip is to forego the swords if you can as toddlers bloody love inflicting pain and can be suprisingly strong for their size! Again have a google for ideas.
5/ If you’re not prepared for a messy day (and lets face it that’s all of us 99% of the time!) Then a great activity for under 1’s is music. Get the radio on and have a crazy dance around. If you have youtube on the tv then search for nursery rhymes and do all the actions they absolutely love it-as do older ones. My 3yo loves the music channels and is starting to get his own taste in music. Our fave nursery rhymes are Row Row Row The Boat they pick it up quickly, Old Macdonald Had a Farm-E I E I O, was our sons first song he picked up , Wheels On The Bus is another classic and Head/Shoulders/Knees/Toes. You will be amazed how much they enjoy just being silly and it has the bonus of knackering them out! Don’t worry about getting the words right everyone has their own versions. Another non-messy activity is reading stories. The are never too young to love storytime. Our book collection is vast but they quickly get favourites and soon you will be able to read them all without the books!
So there you have it my comprehensive guide to entertaining the troops…oh I forgot the best one and the one that usually means a guaranteed half hour on your bum without interuption-just let me grab the quavers and the remote, hello Peppa Pig/Paw Patrol/Blaze/Ben and Holly! 😂
Have fun guys.