In my quest to keep Vivi occupied without turning on the television, I have discovered two wonderful books. The first, Unplugged Play by Bobbi Conner, is a collection of 700+ activities for kids aged 1-10. The games can easily be constructed from materials you already have lying around your house. I checked the book out of the library and it has so many great ideas that I plan on buying my own copy.
The second book is The Mister Rogers' Parenting Resource Book by Fred Rogers. I received this as a gift while pregnant with Vivi and I've found it to be very useful. Not only does it have several easy activities for kids but it also has reassuring parenting advice.
As promised, I also wanted to share some of the games and activities that have kept Vivi occupied for fifteen or more minutes. I hope for those of you with toddlers, these games will be useful for you.
Whole Body Drawing
Vivi loves to have me trace her outline on a large sheet of paper. (I tend to save the paper that comes as packaging in large boxes. It is usually off-white and very large. You can also use butcher paper or a flattened paper bag.) Once I've traced her, she likes to color in all her features and clothes. I find that it is a little more exciting than handing her a piece of paper and telling her to go to it. You can extend the time by giving your child other things to trace-- like a stuffed animal, empty tupperware, you name it.
Poker Chip Fun
I've discovered that there are many fun uses for poker chips. One evening, I dumped them all into a metal bucket and gave Vivi some measuring cups and she spent the duration of my dinner prep, scooping and dumping them. With a muffin tin, she can fill up the different cups. Or, with a couple minutes of advanced prep, you can cut chip-sized slits into the tops of large yogurt containers and now the chips become money for "depositing in the bank." (Vivi also uses them as money in her purse for "shopping.") If you have three containers, your child can deposit by color.
Special Dress Up
This game seems to top Vivi's list of fun things to do. I've written in the past about how she loves to get dressed up in our clothes and I came up with this idea after she learned how to open my dresser drawers. Take an empty laundry basket and fill it with various items of your clothing. Usually, I take a pair of high heels, a bra (the hooks take up some time), a shirt (which Vivi calls a dress because it's so big), and one of my husband's ties. It's amazing to see the outfits she comes up with and she often will spend a good 10 minutes figuring out how to turn the tie into a belt that manages to stay around her waist.
Find the Colors
This game works pretty well when I need to get something else done but Vivi isn't prepared to play completely on her own. I drew a different colored square on each of ten index cards. So, for example, one card has a green square, one has a red, etc... I give her a card and a bucket and I tell her to find a few things that are the same color as what is on the card. It took a while for her to get the hang of this but now she comes up with some pretty funny things.
Beat the Beeps
Lastly, this is our end of the day, clean-up our mess game. I set the oven timer for one minute and Vivi has to race the clock to pick up her toys. There's no prize involved but she gets a giggle out of it and I don't have to spend the rest of my evening cleaning up and/or tripping over her toys. (It might take a few rounds of you racing around first before your child gets the idea.)
I've also listed below a few other quick things I let Vivi do which she seems to enjoy. (They don't buy me any time but I suppose a more creative soul could make a game out of them.) They are:
-opening mail. She loves to rip the envelopes so she gets all the junk mail.
-vacuum. Vivi loves to turn the vacuum on and use the hose.
-check e-mail. She likes to push the buttons on a big calculator. She calls it checking her e-mail. Since numbers actually come up on the screen it seems to be fairly gratifying to her.
Is there something you loved doing as a kid? Or does your child have a game that s/he can't get enough of? Please let me know. I'm always trying to find new ways to amuse us!