• Vicki Manning

6 easy ways to entertain your toddler while you work!


Trying to get things done at home with a toddler - nightmare right? I remember the day I answered the door to collect a parcel and came back to find my bundle of joy had pulled the letter E and number 3 off my keyboard and was attempting to eat them.


Huh.


toddler drawing while parent works from home

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Toddlers are particularly tricky to have around when you need to work from home as they have the combination of short attention spans and lots of energy. This is where a quick and easy way to entertain is a lifeline.


Something simple to put together but unusual enough to keep them entertained.

toddler playing with laptop computer on sofa

I have a handful of ideas in my back pocket for when we are having one of those tricky days, where he's just not interested in his regular toys or I need to get on with things and require the use of both my hands (something he thinks is optional!)


All of these activities have the added bonus of developing fine motor skills, so your little one can learn while they play!


So if you're having one of those days, here are some easy ways to keep your little one occupied.


toddler painting on pink paper with water

1. Painting with water


This is one of those ideas that's unbelievably simple but it has the potential to entertain for long enough to write an email or actually drink a HOT coffee for a change 😂


All you need is some coloured paper (white doesn't have the same wow factor), a chunky paintbrush and a small pot of water.


I used one of our trusted IKEA plastic bowls as it was the first thing that came to hand, but I only put a little bit of water in the bottom so he didn't spill it everywhere or flood the paper.


blonde toddler trying to eat paintbrush

When they've covered the sheet of paper, you can swap it out for another colour. We popped the first one on the radiator to dry ready for another go!


Mr 18m has sensory issues and puts everything in his mouth so this is a really safe way for him to get creative. It also avoids any of the potential mess from real paints.


If you want to let them create something more permanent, try paint sticks - they are virtually mess-free to paint - we love ours from Little Brian

mini paint sticks

toddler playing with blue and pink pegs

2. Pegging


You can't get easier than this as a way to entertain a toddler! Mr youngest played with pegs as a baby when I would put them on a basket and he would pull them off, but his motor skills are now good enough for him to peg them on himself.


Young children love getting to play with everyday objects that are normally only for the grownups!


We just used one of our IKEA storage boxes as they are a good width, but you could use anything as long as it's not too wide for the pegs -


toddler playing with blue and pink pegs

We use our ecoforce pegs (which I am slightly obsessed with as they are made from recycled plastic and last for years), as my youngest finds them really easy to use.


blonde toddler playing with corn sensory bin

3. Sensory bin


If you've never tried sensory bins, I recommend giving them a go. They're worth the little bit of effort - they entertain my kids for ages and they keep coming back to them all day.


You'll want it to be a low-mess version - you don't want to go for the full jelly experience if you're trying to work! If you use larger sized fillers they are easier to tidy away and you won't have to clean any clothes or surfaces.


Low-mess filler ideas:


  • Dried beans

  • Pompoms

  • Corn kernels

  • Pasta shapes

  • Pinecones

  • Packing peanuts

  • Buttons

  • Plastic lids

  • Corks

  • Feathers

  • Mini wood slices

Read how to create a sensory bin here


toddler practicing scissor skills cutting pink wool

4. Cutting wool


If your little one is fairly confident with scissors then try giving them some wool to cut up.


They will love snipping away at it and if you use safety scissors you can let them get on with it sitting next to you without worrying about snipped fingers.


As well as keeping little ones busy, this is a great activity for developing fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, independence and focus!


The great thing about wool is that it's an interesting and easy material to cut, but if you can't get your hands on any, you can try string, leaves - anything unusual and easy to snip!


If you've got a bit of time to prep, try our crazy hairdos cutting activity


blonde toddler drawing on cardboard with yellow crayon

5. Scribbling on boxes


Over lockdown we had a never-ending supply of cardboard from Amazon, so when we got a large box, I would break it open and spread it flat on the table next to me.


Then I would give my little man our tray of crayons and pencils and let him go to town.


Because it was such a large surface area, he could scribble and draw to his heart's content, plus there was less chance of him having a cheeky scribble on the table when I wasn't looking.


I also liked to join him and have the odd therapeutic doodle.


pencil and crayon kids scribbles on cardboard

We love gel crayons and watercolour pencils as they give the most vibrant results on cardboard.


The great thing about this activity is once you are done with it you can pop the cardboard in the recycling!


blond toddler playing with blue playdough at table

6. Playdough


Although playdough can be a little messy, I find that of all the things I can throw at my kiddos, this distracts them for the longest.


A few tips for making clean up easy -


  1. Put something on the floor to help collect any stray pieces

  2. Use a tray to keep all the tools and playdough in one place

  3. Wear old clothes - playdough will come out in the wash but save your nicest clothes


Read my guide to making your own playdough


blue playdough with wooden rolling pin and green cutters

Some of our favourite playdough accessories

wooden rolling pins

Creation station textured rolling pins

wooden playdough stamps

Anthony Peters wooden patterned stampers

natural pattern wooden stamps

Olycraft natural pattern stamps


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