Entertaining the little ones at home, ideas and tips

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Yesterday I decided to experiment by spending a whole day in with my toddler to see how well I could entertain her using toys, puzzles, artwork and books without either of us having a meltdown.

With chicken pox doing the rounds at nursery, this was perhaps more than just a subconscious decision based on the fear that if I am going to be housebound for more than one day at a time that we will get through it with some quality time together (and no more than 30 minutes of TV!).

Entertaining the little ones at home, ideas and tips, www.flubit.com

On this occasion, it was mainly the Siberian weather and a slight cold putting me off from going outdoors for the whole day or mixing with noisy kids at a local soft play centre. Here’s how it went…

Being creative in small places  

Our current home is a little on the ‘cosy’ side, but that’s not to say that I haven’t been able to find innovative ways to entertain using the space that we have or making the most of local facilities.

With a very young baby I found that some of the best toys around were based on the simplest things. With this in mind we would spend lots of time at sensory rooms provided by my local authority.

So why not bring the sensory experience to your own home? Sensory toys are fantastic for children who have sight or hearing impairments or other physical or learning disabilities, but they can also benefit any child growing up.

Even if you don’t own specific sensory equipment there’s plenty of other ways you can liven your little ones up – from drawing and painting, to moulding Play-Doh animals and objects, creating Mega Blok, Playmobil or Lego constructions ,or doing jigsaw puzzles.

Playroom wish list

Keeping me going throughout the day was the thought that we do in fact have a house move imminent, meaning more space for play. The grand plan is to create a dedicated playroom featuring lots of calming and interactive sensory equipment to offer opportunities for the little one to be creative and more involved in role-play.

Bubble Tubes, Entertaining the little ones at homeLarge bubble tubes like these ones from Total Sensory will set you back hundreds of pounds, but if you do have some cash to splash they would look amazing in any playroom. You may prefer to buy a cheaper alternative such as a lava lamp – these can get quite hot so aren’t recommended if in reach of little hands. Check out this Lava Lamp Aquarium from the Glow Company – even better the fish don’t need feeding!

Little kids love to copy and so mini kitchens, ovens, tea sets and mini household items such as dustpans and brushes are another good idea for encouraging role-play.

rainforest-jumperoo, Entertaining the little ones at home

For younger babies, the ‘high maintenance period’ as I used to call it, is especially tricky if you’re stuck indoors. When we were in this particular non-sitting, non-crawling stage, as well as using all-singing, all-dancing activity mats, we were always keen on nursery rhymes, bouncy chairs and the lifesaving Fisherprice Rainforest Jumperoo.

Lessons learnt

So how did my day at home go? We went through every book and puzzle going and managed to keep ourselves amused by venturing into different rooms throughout the day. We also tried the tactic of ‘non-toy play’, involving letting her play with things she thinks she isn’t allowed to touch. For example, my wallet, where she takes all the money and cards out and puts them back in again, countless times.

All was going well until I decided to cut her toenails after dinner. Good quality time ruined with one moment of insanity and a lot of screaming – what was I thinking?

The day ended with me putting all of the toys back in a big toy chest so that the living room became ours again. Good storage is essential to your sanity if you want to prevent yourself tripping over balls, stubbing your toes on wooden toys and standing barefoot on a brick of Lego. Ouch – another lesson learnt.

Home play essentials 

Ikea Mini Kitchen – friends have sworn by this wooden kitchen for something a bit more ‘contemporary’ and agree it is great for boys or girls. If you prefer bright colours or plastic, the Little Cook’s kitchen is another tried and tested favourite from the ELC.

IKEA Mini Kitchen: Entertaining the little ones at home

Play mat – when your little one starts to sit up unaided, a whole new world opens up. We went for the Sensory Number Play Mat from Soft Floor Kids UK, which has been amazing and now at the age of 21 months is still proving useful. We take out all of the shapes and we then work out how to put them all back in. It’s also a good educational tool as your child starts to recognise colours, numbers and shapes.

The World of Popagami is a fun way of introducing some new activities to playtime with just a pair of scissors and a bit of patience – it’s also perfect to keep the kids busy if you’ve got a lack of space. One suggestion in the Animal Fun Activities Book (by Philip Craik) is how to make Pop-ettes, which are fun containers to hold all sorts of things, such as sweets and small gifts.

Entertaining the little ones at home, Popogami

Another nicely contained creative play kit is the fun Artzooka wooden spoon puppets. Using small paints and stickers, kids can make up to six different characters to play with or keep on display.

A den/play tent – if you are a bit short on space you can create their own little world. Fill a tent with cushions and their favourite cuddly toys or if you can handle finding balls in random places, you could also turn it into a ball pit. Argos sells The Chad Valley Pop Up Play Tent for just £10 or you can buy the Sensory Dome from the ELC.

Of course you can always get a better offer on all these lovely items on www.flubit.com 😉

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