How do you entertain someone with the concentration span of a puppy on red bull?
The answer is of course “With an endless amount of patience and variety”.
The puppy in question is our toddler!
A little while back I wrote a guest post for Olly Olly about what Baby B wanted to spend his time doing versus what I was trying to get him to do.
At the time he was almost a year old and in the three months since then I’ve seen him blossom into a fully fledged toddler with determination and stubbornness to match his growing height.
So I’ve had to accept that he will only do what he wants to do when he wants to do it. There is little point in offering his favourite digger to play with if he is focused on dragging his toy pushchair in and out of the kitchen, and screaming in frustration when it gets stuck against the bin.
What hasn’t changed is his desire to do several things at once or lose interest in whatever he is doing after a couple of minutes. I don’t think Baby B is particularly hyperactive, he seems like a healthy, active boy to me, but I am keen to help him burn off some of that energy and also sit still occasionally!
So after much road testing here are the top five toddler activities that are currently a hit with our fourteen month old boy:
1. The great outdoors
As the weather has improved we’ve been spending a lot more time in the garden. Often he is content to simply toddle about looking at the plants, the sky, picking up twigs, splashing in puddles. But we have invested in a couple of outdoor toys that are beginning to bear fruit.
The first was a fabric play tunnel from IKEA. When we first unfurled it he was very unsure, walking around the tunnel, peering in, backing away, and I was starting to think we’d made a mistake. But then one day we were in the garden and I was peeping down one end of the tunnel and got him into a game of peekaboo, when he suddenly launched himself inside, went all the way through and then went backwards to where he’d started. After that he couldn’t get enough of the tunnel, he was like an excited sheep dog at a dog agility show.
The other purchase was this junior slide and climbing frame from Little Tikes. It’s made from big chunky plastic pieces, which I must say were surprisingly tricky to fit together.
The plus side is that once the pieces are together they are very sturdy and there’s little chance of it collapsing. The slide is just enough to be exciting for a 12 to 18 month old without being scarily high. I can see Baby B will grow out of it by the end of next summer but I think it’s a good first option.
For now he mainly seems to want to crawl UNDER the slide. Bit of work to do here…
2. Story time
I have a lifelong love of books and I’m very keen to pass this on to Baby B, so his bookshelf has been laden since before he was even born! OK so maybe we were getting a bit ahead of ourselves but we’ve always read him a bedtime story, even if it’s only a few pages long like One Sleepy Night.
During the day time Baby B has started to enjoy picture books with flaps to lift, especially if they also make a noise! He will actually go and fetch one of these from his book box now and sit on my lap, turning the pages back and forth.
If I asked him to choose his favourites of the month I think it would be these three.
Baby B loves animals and this book gives him ample opportunity to test which animals make particular sounds. The animals each have their own page with big displays of them in various poses, often alongside their young. And down the side on a panel are smaller photos that make a sound when you push them. So we say ‘Which sound does the goat make?’ and press the right picture. OK most of the time he just sits and presses the mice or the pig regardless of which picture he is looking at but I’m sure this will progress!
This great book from DK has a series of flaps on each page where your toddler can search for the hidden animals behind objects in the main photo. And when they find the right place not only are they rewarded by a cute photo they get a sound too! Baby B got a bit too excited and tore off the Owl’s hiding place but it was nothing a little Sellotape couldn’t fix!
The wheels on the bus is a classic nursery ryhme of course and there are lots of versions out there. Ours has a lovely old toy red bus with bears riding on it and a button to press that plays the tune so we can sing along. Baby B will come down in the morning and seek out this book, press the button while it’s still in the book box and do a dance. It’s been played so much the tune is starting to wear out – it will be a dark day when the tune no longer plays (well, maybe not for us!)
3. Playing fetch
At any moment Baby B may approach and hand you a toy animal, a shoe, a stick from the garden, and occasionally something scary like a glass that we’ve forgotten to move out of reach. I’ve noticed this ‘helpfulness’ and his new found understanding of a few words, and decided to turn it into a game. So I can now manage to actually sit down on the sofa for five minutes and send my son on little errands around the room.
At first I thought he was bringing me the first thing he found but this weekend he definitely brought me the cat’s head (not the actual cat’s head – the cat from his animals jigsaw set) when I said “where’s the pusscat” thirty times in a row. I saw him discard a guinea pig and a rabbit so I think he knows their names too. I’m hoping that all of this training will mean we can eventually ask Baby B to bring us snacks from the kitchen, the TV remote, and eventually when we go for our first pint together he’ll go and get them in.
For now he often just wants to bring bits of the hoover to me.
In the past couple of months Baby B has got his clapping sorted and moved on to full grooving. If a piece of music takes his fancy he will stop what he’s doing, turn to face the source (respect to the DJ), and start swaying from side to side. He throws in a little hip wiggle and now and then a full 360 degree turn. He’s not quite doing urban dance routines yet but it’s impressing us!
I’m not sure if this video will be removed due to licensing issues but I think M&S should be pleased their advert has a new fan.
Children have no fear when it comes to music or art. As we grow older too many people lose their natural inclination to dance, sing, or draw, usually because they start to think they are ‘no good’ and worry about what others think. Along with his dancing I’m keen to encourage Baby B to enjoy drawing and painting. He’s already produced a few pieces when he’s at his childminder – but I think he is getting a bit of help!
Anyway, we bought some non-toxic crayons and a nice book of plain white paper and I decided to let him loose. I was amazed how long he managed to sit on his little chair playing with the crayons.
It was one of the first times I’ve seen him really engrossed in something. Art is often used as a form of therapy and I can see how it could help quieten someone’s mind just from watching Baby B disappear into his own world for five minutes. Hopefully I’ll be sharing the best of his work with you over the coming months!
What games and activities do you enjoy to buy yourself ten minutes from your toddler?
What are your favourite places to visit with a little one?
Categories: Being Dad