Playtime Routine for your Littles

Playtime for your kiddo can mean so many things: Outside play, toys, stacking, hands on activities, imaginary play…the list goes on and on. Entertaining your little through those tiny years can be quite the task. Sometimes, there can be too many long days in a row, where it feels like your babe seems to be just plain bored. I’m going to share a few hacks to add to your playtime routine, to keep your kids engaged and excited, and hopefully help your day move by a little smoother! It’s true, I haven’t been a mom very long, but I am the big sister in a huge family! This has been such a blessing for so many reasons (which you can read all about here), but especially all of the childcare tips and tricks that I’ve picked up along the way, watching my wonderful Momma do it all! Your day with tiny toddlers doesn’t have to be a free-for-all playday, where everything is wrecked and disgruntled feelings settle in for all. Here are some of my favorite ways to keep the peace in our playtime routine!

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Declutter your Toys:

I know that this is the last thing you want to hear, let alone be the suggestion at the top of this list! All moms know they need to declutter their stash of toys, and all moms hate doing it. But hear me out-it will make your playtime routine simpler. Start with the no-brainers, the junky toys that your kids never touch, they just take up space in the basket. Then be a little more picky, take a look at those toys that you don’t really love. For example, I think noisy light up toys that sing or whir do have a place (hello road trip!), but for everyday play, I find them overstimulating. Too much busy amongst the already busy of buzzing littles! Weed out the ones that your kids don’t super love, or that are just too obnoxious. Or try breaking up your stash of noisy toys, so they aren’t all out at once – which brings me to my next point…

Rotate Toys and Activities:

I know some moms may roll their eyes at “rotating toys”. It seems like such a fad right now. But this is a game-changing move! Have a few baskets around the house that store your kid’s toys? Split em up. Go through and pull out some sets and toys. Store them away in a closet, and in about a month, bring them back out, rotating with the toys that your kids have been playing with for the last several weeks. This will make that hidden set of toys so exciting and interesting again! A refresh for your littles, without having to go buy something new. I do this kind of rotation with books, puzzles and toy sets like blocks or stacking cups. This is great for sensory activities too, like dry beans or rice, water play, or sorting games. I know some mamas who rotate out their Magna Tiles, Lego sets, and crafting supplies (we aren’t quite to that stage yet). You might think this won’t really work for your kids, but give it a try! Two major benefits: You have less stuff available to be dumped and destroyed. Less stuff, less clutter, less overwhelm for your day! Also, your kids learn to rediscover creative play with what’s in front of them. They will find new ways to enjoy the toys that are out, and will have lots more fun!

Think Outside of the Box:

Maybe your kiddos are just in a funk with the toys and activities you’ve got. So try shaking things up by thinking outside of the box. Head to the dollar store and grab some fun pipe cleaners, fuzzy pom-poms and sticker sheets. Have your toddlers sort colors into cups, or pull pipe cleaners through the holes in a colander. Fill up an empty water bottle with sand and tiny things to look at as your kiddo spins it around, discovering what’s inside. Pick up some masking tape and make a path on the carpet for them to follow through the house. Try to get creative in finding some hands on sensory play, with just some simple and cheap supplies. Another way to think outside the box, is to rotate some seasonal toys. For example, both Grandmas’ houses have a Fisher Price Nativity Set, for the babies who come by to sit and play with. It’s something that only comes out once a year, so they really enjoy it! Think of chalk in the summer, a leaf puzzle in the Autumn, stacking doll snowmen in the Winter. This is another great way to keep things fresh, in a creative way!

Independent Play:

I cannot preach the significance of teaching your Little independent play enough! Independence in your playtime routine can begin as early as when your infant is starting to really interact with you and toys. Is your baby having tummy time on the blanket with a bright book propped up in front of them? Walk out of their line of vision and see how long before they notice that mommy’s gone. Maybe it’s just five minutes before they begin to fuss and look for you…that’s great! The next day, see if they can make it six minutes, then seven, and so on. This is how you begin independent play training, no matter their age! As you practice with your kiddo, they will grow in their attention span and learn to entertain themselves for longer periods of time. At six months, I could leave Noah Jackson to play in his Pack-n-play for half an hour or so, with a few toys and his favorite book, while I put away laundry or started dinner. This continues on into toddlerhood, and beyond! Your five year old knowing how to sit with his bucket of Legos, or the 8 year old spending an hour in the garage making a spaceship out of a cardboard box- without mommy having to sit right there with him the entire time – that’s what happens when you train for independent play time. This isn’t to say that you should ignore your child’s needs or never play with them! I LOVE sitting down to read every book and let him show me each letter in his alphabet puzzle. But I also know that it’s important to teach my child this independence for several reasons:

  1. It shows him that patience is a part of life. Sometimes Momma does have a task that needs to be done, without getting to sit on her hip. He has to wait on me sometimes, how will he entertain himself peacefully while he waits?
  2. It slowly stretches and trains his attention span. In this day, attention spans for kids (and adults) are pretty short. Everything is a tap or click away, and we don’t have to wait very long for a waitress to bring our food. Instant gratification is running rampant, and that can lead to a very spoiled, and frankly dull lifestyle. I’d like my kids to know the skill and joy of going slow, and paying attention to the wonderful things that will come his way…not always tapping his foot when something takes more than 7 seconds to load!
  3. It teaches him to use his own mind. Have you ever watched a toddler who is good at independent play? Sit down and see him start to use his imagination with everything he comes into contact with. He’ll seem to be talking to himself, as he zooms his car or stacks his tower or hops his animals…he’s remembering a song in his head, he’s relishing the moment, he is using his mind to find enjoyment, right where he’s at. I’m sure we can all agree, this is a life skill that we hope each of our children learn!

Playtime Routine for All Ages:

I love being a mom! Watching the Little in front of you, enjoying their time at play, is such a sweet gift! These are just a few of the ways I like to develop our playtime routine- to give us some structure and keep things exciting. But there are SO many different ways to get creative here! Do you think you’ve missed the boat on some of these because your kiddo is too old? Think again! These tips and principles apply to all ages, well into childhood and beyond! It’s never too late to start!

Hooray for Play!

-Mal

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