12 Things to Do at Home with an Active Toddler

I know we each are affected by the coronavirus in very different ways.  Some in life-changing types of ways, and others in smaller disappointments.  I know there is this temptation to down-play our own feelings right now, with the preface of with everything going on, it feels silly to… or I know others have it a lot worse, but… 

I know that temptation well because I have most certainly felt it in the past couple weeks.  It feels silly to complain about a postponed marathon, when others are losing jobs, weddings, graduations.  It feels silly to complain about not getting to play at the park when we have a cozy house full of toys to play with. It feels silly to feel the pressure of keeping up with all the other moms that appear on social media to be handling it so much better than you. 

All of it can feel silly, especially in the face of death and unemployment.  But, it is your feelings and your situation, and it is okay to feel real sadness, disappointment, and anxiety over things that may feel small in comparison with everything else that is going on.  It is okay to own our struggles, even if they may be small.

With that said, in the past couple weeks my emotions have been all over the map.  I have felt a whole lot of disappointment. Disappointment over the marathon.  Disappointment in not being able to attend church in person. Disappointment over not being able to go that basketball game or have that couple over for dinner or attend that birthday party.

Then, I went from disappointment to determination.  Last week, especially, I was determined to make the best of these situations.  This means keeping my whole routine as normal as possible. These choices have helped the initial disappointment to fade, but it also has created some unrealistic expectations. 

The fact of the matter is that we are living in a global pandemic. This is new territory for all of us. It is new, weird, strange, scary, confusing, and uncertain. While I still stand on the fact that it is important to keep things as normal as possible and still goal-set and look ahead to the future, I am learning I need to add room for grace.  

To give you an idea of how my brain works… 

Circumstance: Race postponed.

Response: Keep training hard and run a sub-80 minute virtual half-marathon.

Circumstance: All classes, parks, museums, and stores closed.

Response: Be the best Pinterest-worthy mom.  Do ALL the sensory bin activities. Do a craft every day.  Read ALL the books on the shelves. Create fun learning experiences.  Avoid screens at all costs.

Circumstance: All restaurants are closed, except for takeout.

Response: Bake and cook gourmet recipes for every meal.  

Circumstance: Quarantined.

Response: I must learn to knit, organize every cabinet/drawer in the house, and finally finish Hudson’s baby scrapbook.  

Get the picture? 

Not a whole lot of room for grace.  This is new. This is weird. I am doing my best and God will fill all of the holes.  He always does. I don’t need to put added pressure on myself to be super-mom, super-wife, super-human. This pandemic alone is pressure enough.

Before getting into ideas to keep an active toddler busy at home (I promise, we are still heading in that direction), I wanted to preface it with the fact that I too am struggling and feel this weird sense of pressure to do all the things. I am learning daily that the mundane elements of our day: taking a bath, watering the grass, calling a grandparent are enough. We don’t need to get crazy.

We Are Still…

We are still good runners during a pandemic if our mileage suddenly drops drastically.

We are still good moms during a pandemic if we do not always have a scheduled craft for the day.

We are still good wives during a pandemic if we become a bit more reliant on frozen pizzas than we did pre-pandemic.

We are still good productive humans during a pandemic if we have not acquired a new skill and the junk drawer is still full of junk.  

Let God’s grace enter.  You don’t need to be all the things or do all the things or learn all the things.  Keep it simple. Keep folding the laundry, washing the dishes, reading bedtime stories, running, and cooking.  In other words, keep doing the normal life stuff you would do all the time, no need to add the pressure to become a gourmet chef, a Pinterest-perfect mother, or super fit.  

With all that said, here are some very simple things I am doing with my very, active, almost-2-year old that is keeping us both sane and happy, mostly.

1. Keep a routine

Keep waking up at similar times, keep changing out of pajamas, keep snacks, lunches, and dinners at normal times.

2. Walk/Run Outside 

Take the jogger out for a short run or walk around the block.  The days we go out for a morning run always seem better because it really breaks up the day.  We have been calling our runs around our neighborhood, “dinosaur runs” because we stop by a nursery with giant, metallic dinosaurs and Hudson gets to roar at them. It is the small things!

Also, the sunshine and fresh air does a whole lot of good for the both of us. If you’re new to the baby jogger, I have some tips on running with the stroller, you can find here.

3. Take Long Baths 

We now take baths in the morning and the evening.  If Hudson is acting crazy, the bath is always a sure way to calm him down and get some sensory play as he plays with the bubbles and his bath toys.  Typically, we will take a quick shower and rush out the door to our scheduled outing. It has actually been a real joy to embrace these slower, bubble bath type of mornings.  If you are looking for more bath activities, here are some of my favorite products that always make bath time more fun:

4. Chores Around the House 

There is always a chunk of our day scheduled for getting things done around the house.  I try to always incorporate Hudson. Sometimes he just watches me or wanders off to play independently in the playroom, but sometimes he grabs the broom or his pretend lawn mower and goes around the house “working.”  This is a win-win because I get things done around the house, while he imagines and helps me through play.

5. Bounce House

Set up something fun in your living room or playroom that is typically not up.  It could be a tent, a fort, a ball pit, or a bounce house.  We have this bounce house.  It is not very big, but it already has been a well-worth it investment.  As a family, we seem to always end up hanging out in the bounce house after dinner.  In these scary and uncertain times, I feel pretty certain I will look back to our evenings spent in the bounce house with great fondness. There has been a whole lot of laughter happening in that little house- Nala (our 80 lb. golden) even joins and things get real crazy.

6. Songs + Dance 

We usually break out the Greg & Steve tunes midmorning.  This is a fun way to transition between activities and is a great way to burn off some extra energy before nap time.  Here are a few songs, that are especially great for dancing with your toddlers:

7. Leave Things Out 

Here’s the honest truth, our house currently is chaos.  And this is entirely intentional. Part of it is laziness, but part of it is strategic.  There are TONS of invitations to play all over our house for Hudson. He can jump in his bounce house, he can color on his chalk board, he can pretend play with his trains, he can practice his baseball swing on his tee.  I am simply leaving things out all over to invite him to play. This creates a very messy house, but it is not like we are having guests over anytime soon and it takes the pressure off of me to constantly entertain.

8. FaceTime Family/Friends

This has been a great way for him to still have social interactions and see the people he loves most!  We have been doing this almost daily. It has been the perfect way for both of us to feel more connected. Not to mention, great for him to practice names.

9. Make Cards

So far, we have made 2 birthday cards and one thank-you card to our amazing pool man.  This is an easy “art project” and Hudson is at the age where he LOVES giving things to people he cares about.  We don’t have a ton of art supplies, so I have kept it really simple with crayons and card stock. For auntie’s birthday card, we even broke out the water colors.  I am not very creative or artsy, so making cards is a great way to incorporate some art + also teach Hudson the importance of appreciating those we care and love for.  

10. Scooter 

Self-explanatory. Lots of indoor and outdoor scootering happening over here.  

11. Mud Play

I will be honest, I have been on Pinterest more than ever recently.  And it gets pretty overwhelming. I am all about simple activities with few supplies and ingredients needed.  When I saw this mud play recipe, I knew it was perfect.  You just combine water, flour, and cocoa powder.  And there you go, the best smelling mud ever. It was perfect for creating dinosaur and truck tracks on paper.  

12. Window Clings 

If you are able to make a quick trip to the dollar store, they have really cute Easter window clings.  This was very entertaining for Hudson.  He especially likes the gel clings, which I am not crazy about because it attracts dog hair and H always ends up ripping them.  But it is just $1 and entertains him, so still worth it in my book. The day we brought them out, he kept going back to the window to rearrange the bunny and the chick. 

Okay, I am going to stop here. This is becoming too long.  Here is the bottomline: use this time wisely. Soak it in and appreciate it for what it is.  Sit in the quiet, the slow, the mundane. Don’t feel like you need to do all things.  Keep it simple. Invite your little ones along in your ordinary days and take lots and lots of bubble baths. 

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