My Top Ten Distractions for Busy Toddlers

Published: December 10, 2014

Some days I just want to tear my hair out in frustration.  The toys are dumped all over the living room, the laundry is pulled out of the hampers, there are crumbs ingrained in the carpet, and jelly is smeared across the sofa.  All this, and it's only 10:00 in the morning.  My son's nickname is "The Sticky Tornado."  Here's a list of some of my best distractions to keep my son busy and keep myself sane.

  1. Trampoline

    This has been a lifesaver, and one of the best birthday presents I've ever recieved.  I got an adult version, intending to use it for exercise myself, but it turned into a toy immediately.  It's great because keeps my toddler both entertaned and moving, so he uses up some of that energy!  I like having the adult size because I can get on it as well and that makes him laugh.  Wonderful for gross motor skills and practicing his balance!

  2. Sidewalk Chalk

    Children have so much creativity that is hard for them to show.  I've tried crayons and markers, but they make such a mess.  Sidewalk chalk has worked better for me since they're big enough for tiny fingers to grasp easily and so easy for me to clean up!  I used some Chalkboard Paint to make a few indoor chalk surfaces for my son to use when the weather is less friendly.  There are also sticky chalkboard decals that you can use to turn tables or small spaces of wall into art surfaces!


  3. Small Slide

    This was my first concession to making our living room an indoor playground.  We got it for our 18-month old because he was climbing everything in sight.  It was an immediate success and it did help to keep him from climbing the more dangerous pieces of furniture.  He loves that it's his size and it helped teach him how to use the larger outdoor slides as well!  It's worth the space it takes up.  Little Tikes have a couple types of slide that are nicely sized.

  4. Foam Swords

    A new addition to our collection, the foam swords are a huge hit!  Soft enough that they don't hurt when mom or baby brother gets whacked, these are a great alternative to plastic swords or lightsabers.  Air Warriors and Nerf brands are nice and tough, they don't bend or break easily.  They can still be a bit destructive, but they are a great way to entertain little ones without much risk of injury.  The biggest challenge with this toy: it needs a sparring partner!

  5. Wooden Train Sets

    On a slightly less active note, wooden trains are wonderful for encouraging quiet time.  Battery-powered trains tend to get stuck on walls and have irritating little tunes that drive moms crazy.  The wooden train sets are child-driven, which helps encourage fine motor skills and concentration.  They ususally come in sections, so you can choose how many rails or engines you want around the house.  There are sets that have moving parts or tunnels to add some extra challenges as well.  My son loves the Thomas Wooden Railway sets because he likes to watch Thomas the Tank Engine on TV. 

  6. Chunky Puzzles

    Ordinary jigsaw puzzles can be terribly frustrating for little hands and the pieces tend to get thrown and lost, making the puzzle useless.  Chunky puzzles or knob puzzles are a wonderful alternative for helping your little one enter the world of problem solving.  The simple shapes and marked places help toddlers grasp the concept of "putting it where it belongs."  Melissa and Doug puzzles are my favorites.  The bright colors and solid wood shapes are splendid.  Janod also makes beautiful ones.  Puzzles are wonderful for creating associations, learning words, and developing those fine motor skills.


  7. Water Toys

    In the bathtub, the sink, the pool, or the puddle, water toys make great toddler fun!  They can be anything from fancy paddleboat to ordinary plastic cups and kids don't even care!  The fact that the toys are in water makes them extra special.  I'd advise staying clear of the squirty toys simply because the insides tend to get moldy.  But plastic balls, small cups, and even spoons can make for great splashing fun!  Boon makes a great "Bug Catching" toy with a net and play bugs.


  8. Hopping Horse

    This is one toy I am super excited for getting this Christmas.  An inflatable hopping horse!  My son loves to ride on things (especially me!), and so I think he's going to love this super-bouncy rodeo horse.  There are long ears to hold on and a saddle-shaped middle to make it easy for those little bottoms to stay on the horse!  It also doesn't hurt that it's so adorable!  A modern day rocking horse for a modern day hyperactive kid.

  9. Large Vehicles

    A staple of most little boy's bedrooms, large vehicles are underestimated sometimes.  My son will fill his dumptruck full and race it around the living room.  Because they are bigger, these cars are better to crawl around with than little matchbox cars.  Green Toys makes a great tough dumptruck and it doesn't have any sharp corners.  My son is also a big fan of the Fisher Price Little People's Airplane.  Vehicles with pull-along strings are also great for this age.  Anything to get those gross motor skills working!



  10. Outside Play

    Far and away the best distraction of them all, take the kid outside!  It can get hard on rainy days or during long winters, but any time outside is better than none.  The fresh air and extra movement do wonders for tiny bodies, even if getting them back inside again when you are done is like pulling teeth. 

I hope these help you tired moms distract your crazy kids, so maybe you'll get a break!  Busy toddlers need big movement to help their little bodies grow, and small jobs to help their little minds.  These are just a few of the many wonderful products and ideas out there, many of which were designed by parents for those exact needs.  Every child is different and unique, but there are some universal traits of the beautifully insane time known as toddlerhood.