Amusements for the discerning senior baby/junior toddler
March 14, 2022 4:55 PM   Subscribe

I'll be joining some friends and their eighteen month old child on a trip this weekend. I would like to entertain and delight said child! I have experience with toddlers, but not the under two crowd. Hit me with your best tips!

I've got a bunch of picture books for story time. Assume no toy purchases, please, but a simple DIY craft isn't out of the question. Bonus for fun things to do, sing or play on long car rides. We'll be indoors in a rented house on a rainy weekend. All ideas welcome!
posted by prewar lemonade to Human Relations (16 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I made a craft for a friend's kid that age that was a hit: take a cylindrical oatmeal container and cut a slit in the lid. Find an old deck of playing cards. The kid puts the cards into the container through the slit, and then can empty them. Anything like this where they're putting one thing into another thing is quite entertaining for them. We also played with some measuring cups and pretend filled up another container with something. Fill, dump, repeat.

Stickers are another thing. Get some simple dots/labels from an office supply, and give them some paper to stick them onto. I've drawn a line or two (or spell out DAD, for example, on large construction paper), for them to add the stickers onto the line (this may be a bit too advanced for 18 months). You can tape this up to a section of the wall. They toddle to you for a sticker, then put it on the paper. Toddle back to you for another sticker, then back.

Play-doh is fun at least for 2-year olds. You can make a small batch of this at home - lots of recipes online. Give them a plastic spoon and they can 'cut' the dough and whatnot...
posted by hydra77 at 5:26 PM on March 14, 2022 [6 favorites]

Best answer: This is the "taby" stage and as a parent of a 13 month old and a 3.5 year old I find it the most challenging! Good for you for looking for ways to entertain your young friend. I love all the Busy Toddler activities for "Tabies" - lots of fun ones with sticker dots and tape. Have fun!
posted by rossination at 5:54 PM on March 14, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Stuff we do with littlefeet, who is in this age group:

Outside time! Either playgrounds or just outside. A tennis ball or similar can be fun if you have one. Our little loves the stroller. We like rolling little rocks down the bigger rock in our yard or stacking things.

Water play. Sometimes it's just in the bath with a cup of water and some containers.

Drawing. I bought a cheap art book and she loves flipping through and drawing on the pages. (We do have to clarify that we don't draw in reading books.)

Blanket forts - even as simple as I'm sitting on the floor and have a blanket on my head and she climbs in.

Simple baking- she loves to help mix. A simple one is pancakes.

We love watching vehicles and machines, like the garbage truck, diggers and bulldozers, trucks, the street sweeper, aeroplanes.

Dance party.

For the car trip, lots of songs! Nursery rhymes with actions. Baby Shark has actions if you're allowed to use it. Judicious use of screen time if the parents are OK with it. (I like old school sesame Street on YouTube) - peek a boo, hiding toys and finding them. (While it's a touchy subject rear facing is safer but harder because they can't see out the window as well as they might. We leave our baby rear facing.)
posted by freethefeet at 6:22 PM on March 14, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Little soft balls are great. The kid probably can’t actually catch yet, but they’ll enjoy having you toss the ball at them, or rolling it back and forth.
posted by LizardBreath at 6:31 PM on March 14, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Any kind of dress up stuff. Old glasses or sunglasses that if broken will not be tragic. Bangle bracelets ( the kind that just slide on and off) necklace that goes on over head. Scarf. Hat. You put on the things then give them to baby to put on. Baby takes them on and off over and over. And then baby puts them on other people. My 18 month old does some version of this everyday.

Any kind of bucket or basket that can be used to collect treasure like rocks, sticks or random household objects.

The only thing my child will really do with no help is wrapping a blanket around a stuffie and shushing it. Otherwise her default activity is destruction.

If you have an apple device you can set up guided access and download some apps. When you turn this on your phone won’t respond to slides or button pushes. Only app is on. Peekaboo barn is one of our favorites. It shows a picture of a barn and plays an animal noise. You tap on the barn doors and they open to show you the animal and then tell you the animals name.
posted by MadMadam at 6:32 PM on March 14, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: several cardboard boxes, at least one large enough to fit the 18 month old.
posted by rockindata at 7:22 PM on March 14, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yup. Boxes. Making tents with bedsheets also good.

Pouring water from one cup to another? Party animal.
posted by stray at 7:30 PM on March 14, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Puppets. My kids absolutely loved puppets at that age, especially when they did "human" things (trying to cook, talking to someone on the phone, etc.). Make sure it's a puppet where they can see it is part of you (sock puppet, not marionette) so it is more humorous than scary.
posted by _DB_ at 8:01 PM on March 14, 2022

Best answer: put something on your head and pretend it is a hat. and then make it fall off and wonder what happened to your hat.
posted by capnsue at 8:18 PM on March 14, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Silly repeated sounds: Ta-da! Moop! Not too loud, and not too fast, but toddlers love repeated noises.

Note that some toddlers don't really smile that much but it doesn't mean they aren't enjoying themselves.

Peeling and sticking stickers, or pieces of masking tape.

Painting on pavement or wood with a large (1 or 2-inches wide) paintbrush and a cup of water.

Spraying things with a spray bottle of water.

When they cry, hug them and don't talk much or move a lot, just a nice calm press.

Put a few cups of dried beans or uncooked dry rice in a big container, with some little cups for pouring and scooping.

Do this on a tile floor with an old bedsheet laid down - Spray half a can of cheap foamy shaving cream (mind the scent bc the kid will smell like it all day) into a large container, and put in plastic animals or letters. Play in the foam. When that gets boring, present a bowl of water and a towel and the next job is to bathe the toys to remove the foam.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 8:45 PM on March 14, 2022

Best answer: Be prepared to be dynamic. The way that little kids play may be completely different from what you expect. As an example, I made a toy truck for the son of a friend of mine. It came with a person (a dowel with a round drawer pull on it with a face painted on the pull). The back section of the truck had a hole in it that went down to the rear axle which in turn had a cam on it so that when you rolled the truck the person popped up and down. The boy spent exactly 0 time rolling the truck and most of the time pulling the person out of the back and then putting it back in.

Toys and games are a process of socialization and they likely haven't learned a lot of the rules yet.

For my nephew, when he was around that age, he loved getting piggy back rides from me. If you can, hoist them up on your shoulders and just, well, walk around with a goofy bounce to your gait while making funny noises. Also on mount or dismount, spread your legs wide and swing them like a bell between your legs and make ding-dong noises.

Love the idea of the shaving cream. Be careful about them trying to eat it. It does look delicious.

18 month olds don't have a lot of fine motor control, so don't expect a lot in terms of being able to do art. Fat sidewalk chalk can be fun if the weather is nice. If not, here's a thing we did with my daughter to help it develop. You will need:
2-3 identical boxes of crayons (8 color is fine). Splurge on Crayola other crayons suck in terms of the wax.
a small pack of paper dixie cups (think 3-4oz cups)
a 9x9 baking pan
Denude the crayons and break them into small pieces and put them into the cups. You can keep the colors homogeneous, but you don't have to. Put the cups into the baking pan and add water to the pan - an inch or two is fine. Bake at 200F until the crayons melt completely. Remove and let cool completely in the water bath.
Remove and peel. You should now have a bunch of crayon pucks that are sized well for toddler hands.
Cover a table with butcher paper and have at it.

The playing cards in the oatmeal tub is great - that hits on a development called "dump and fill". It's even better if the object makes a noise when it goes in. Very large (non-chokable) polyhedral dice and a light aluminum pan will need less fine motor and make a ton of noise. You could also use golf balls or ping-pong balls or alphabet blocks.
posted by plinth at 4:36 AM on March 15, 2022

Best answer: Our bullet-proof tip for toddlers in the car is snacks, all the snacks, but the parents have to be ok with it obviously/baby must be supervised. My daughter will happily eat cheetos for half an hour, it's terribly messy but again, happy in car, it got us through last summer when she was not a fan of being in the carseat for more than 30 minutes. I pack a cloth washcloth and use my water bottle to really clean the hands off though, wipes aren't enough. Keep in mind popcorn is a choking hazard. Goldfish crackers, puffs, cheerios are also good options.

Motor activities are huge, if there's a way to create a safe space in the apartment, throw down some couch cushions, a blanket, make them a little crash pad and they can jump off the couch happily for a long time if they're jumping, or just work on climbing up and down. Play peek-a-boo around the couch, chase after them.

Balloons get a lot of mileage over here. A pack of pom poms and a canister of some sort that they can squeeze them into, then dump, over and over. You can get "water wow" books that let you/toddler "paint" scenes, at that age I would do most of the painting.

If you're really stuck put a towel down on the kitchen floor, take out some tupperware, fill some with water, give them a measuring cup to practice transferring. And for a final worth a try activity, my almost 2-year old can happily spend 30 minutes taking my cards in and out of my wallet.
posted by lafemma at 6:35 AM on March 15, 2022

Response by poster: Love all these suggestions so far, thanks all!
posted by prewar lemonade at 7:06 AM on March 15, 2022

Best answer: A colander plus a pack of pipe cleaners is pretty fun at this age. Also we used to have a big bin of assorted pom poms, which you can get from a dollar store or craft store. Add a spoon and a second container and they will happily scoop from one to the other. Or sort by color (into matching cupcake wrappers is a good trick because they can also be very busy stacking and unstacking the cupcake wrappers), or throw in the air like confetti. My daughter used to also like to do a color scavenger hunt, where I'd pick an item in the house that was a color and challenge her to find as many things as she could that were the same color. Also maybe doing some kid yoga videos? 18 months might be a little young to follow along with the video but they might enjoy doing some simple poses. Cosmic Kids is the go-to I think.

For the car, we used to love to jam out to the vintage Sesame Street albums. Also those gel window clingy decoration things from the dollar store are great if kiddo can reach the window. Blankets for peekaboo. And if you can learn some finger play songs/rhymes that will be popular. Like, anything with hand motions. Itsy Bitsy Spider, etc. Google can help you there.
posted by cheese at 12:10 PM on March 16, 2022

Best answer: Remember it's important to have a bubble blower pot in your pocket/bag for emergencies.
posted by greenish at 1:38 PM on March 16, 2022

Response by poster: Just a quick update - thanks again to everyone for all the thoughtful suggestions! I made the oatmeal canister and playing card game thingy, which the very sweet taby in question enjoyed for a few minutes before moving on to more interesting pursuits. His mom says he'll often do that the first time around with a novel toy and then return to it later. Meanwhile, we enjoyed a lot of picking up objects together, putting them back down in exciting configurations, and passing them back and forth! Looking forward to trying some of the other ideas next time we hang out.
posted by prewar lemonade at 2:40 PM on March 22, 2022 [1 favorite]

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