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Easy Toddler Activity to Prevent Creative Toddler Self Entertainment

the result of a toddler self entertaining - and an easy way to keep them busy in a more attractive to adults manner

Like most toddlers, two-year-old Anna is very curious, and she has a lot of energy! Toddlers don’t waste time, and I find that one of the challenges of raising toddlers is keeping them busy so that they don’t come up with creative activities on their own – like covering themselves in marker while I cook dinner. Thankfully the marker was washable, so this particular adventure made for my favorite photo of the week.

toddler activity - paper and glue stickes

One of my favorite tactics for getting toddlers to “behave” is to take an inappropriate activity, look at their reasons for pursuing that activity, and then finding an appropriate way for them to experience something similar. With the marker incident, Anna had found the markers, but not the paper. The collage activity I’m writing about today is something I set up after I found Anna rubbing glue all over the dining room table. I found some construction paper in the closet, ripped some of it into pieces, and showed her how to glue the pieces onto whole pieces of paper. It was a very easy toddler activity that kept Anna busy for at least one hour the first day, and another hour the next.

collages are great toddler learning activities

Two-year-olds are at a magical age where they want to explore the world. If you give them the tools, they often show a lot of patience and determination as they work to master a skill. Anna had to think a lot about how to put glue on the paper, and then which side of the paper to put face down to make it stick.

collages give toddlers opportunities to develop storytelling skills

Once the basics were mastered, Anna made the task more complex, all on her own. She started naming different pieces of paper (I think the one she is holding up here is “Mama”, which she thinks is hilarious since I am standing there with the camera, and also possibly because it looks nothing like the real me) and arranging them together on the paper. In the photo below, she is gluing a mom holding a baby onto the paper.

toddlers loves opportunities to get creative!

Collage activities like this are wonderful learning opportunities. Besides storytelling opportunities and creative expression, it’s an opportunity for toddlers to develop the fine motor skills and manual dexterity they need to succeed in elementary school.

fine motor practice with paper and glue sticks for toddlers

Basic crafts like this are also great parent-child bonding opportunities. Don’t worry about the finished product – the process is what matters, especially at this age, but also as kids grow older.

crafting time can be a fun parent-child bonding experience

Both Anna and Mike enjoyed making this silhouette scene together! Mike cut out shapes as Anna requested them, and then they both added details in pen.

adding details to a scene helps toddlers develop storytelling skills

Next time your toddler is fussy or getting into trouble, hand them a glue stick and some colored paper. I do recommend sitting them down at a table first, unless you think your couch would like a lovely glue stick varnish. Take a few minutes to create alongside them so that they understand that it is an activity you value, and that you are not simply trying to get them out of the way. If possible, bring some work of your own and sit at the table next to them – whether you are peeling potatoes or sending emails on your laptop. It’s an easy way to keep them happy, busy, and learning!

MaryAnne lives in Silicon Valley with her Stanford professor husband Mike and their four children. She writes about parenting through education, creativity, and play. Mama Smiles - Joyful Parenting is a space to share crafts, hands on learning activities, and family outings that enrich lives and bring families together.

16 thoughts on “Easy Toddler Activity to Prevent Creative Toddler Self Entertainment”

  1. Well, I had to click through to see more of what that little cutie was up to ;) I agree that finding the reason behind behaviors and re-directing when needed is a great idea. Creative face painting–I love the colors!

  2. Oh My Goodness, life in our house got so much easier when I figured out that they were trying to develop a skill or satisfy a curiosity and learned to re-direct it. So much win.

  3. I remember T doing something similar – she turned her face into a pirate with a purple beard and red eye patch I’m sure I still have the picture fantastic post and ideas for how to channel that creativity into something less ummmm facially creative

  4. Great post! I love that you’re channeling what Anna is exploring, in constructive ways. Where were you when my youngest two painted their bedroom with baby food and the contents of a diaper, when I thought they were quietly sleeping!?! Oh, and that marker picture…it’s too cute for words – so sweet. Thanks for the smile.

  5. Such a timeless activity! Even my 5yo is still into gluing (he cuts his own shapes and glues them into posters and such). Great way to redirect a good impulse into something appropriate!

  6. Elisa | blissfulE

    That face-painted picture is sooooo adorable! Love her expression!! Great idea coming up with something she is allowed to do that matches her interests, and sitting with her as well while she explores the new medium.

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