When your bored toddler is tugging on your arm, waiting for you to organise an activity, it can be all too easy to reach for the television remote. This might occupy your child, but it is nowhere near as rewarding as spending some precious one on one time with mum. Try these crafty ideas as an alternative to televisions - guaranteed to keep toddlers entertained even on a rainy day.
If you are a mum who likes to be in control, you might have to let go a bit during this activity. If your child cannot control a paintbrush very well your painting session might not end with a masterpiece, but do not let this worry you. Try not to tell your toddler what to do and let them enjoy the process of painting just as much as attempting to create a decent picture. Even if they mix up all the colours and end up with a painting that looks like brown sludge, their grandparents will still love it. For younger children ditch the brush altogether and do finger painting.
2. Play dough
Play dough is big business. Not only can you buy play dough in a rainbow of pretty colours, but you can also buy cutters, rollers, and all kinds of gadgets to use with it. You can even buy toys that make play dough look like pizza and cakes, although actually eating it is definitely not recommended. If you are feeling creative, you can try making your own play dough. There are many recipes available on the Internet and you can create different colours using food colouring.
Collages are great fun and a useful way of using up old magazines that are cluttering up the house. You can make a random collage or make a collage that actually looks like something. For example, make a seaside scene using bits of paper the appropriate colours for sand and sea and some brightly coloured pieces for fish or shells.
4. Leaf Printing/Rubbing
Choose printing or rubbing depending on your tolerance for mess. If you are not a fan of messy play, then try leaf rubbing which only involves paper and crayons. If you are more tolerant, then try leaf printing with ink or paint, which makes interesting pictures but also runs the risk of interesting prints on your carpet. The great thing about leaf printing is that it also sneakily gets your toddler out in the fresh air while you go and collect the leaves. You could also collect pinecones, feathers and other natural objects and see what kind of prints they make.
5. Card making
Everyone loves getting a card, and a homemade card is particularly special. Cards can be as simple or as complicated as you like and even though your toddler probably will not yet be able to write properly, they can still 'sign' their name in the card with a crayon scribble or by having you draw around their hand.
One of the easiest ways to thread is to use thin rope and uncooked penne pasta. Once you have threaded the pasta on, tie the ends together to make necklaces or bangles. If you are feeling adventurous, you can try dyeing the pasta different colours to make a pattern. You can also thread old beads and buttons if you have any lying around.
7. Fabric Painting
Let loose your inner fashion designer and try some fabric painting. All you need is some plain white t-shirts and some fabric paints. You can also buy fabric pens that might be easier for a small child to handle. You can use a stencil or draw an outline of your design first using chalk or a sewing marker, or just paint freestyle and see what happens. Put cardboard inside the t-shirt creating a flat surface for painting on to get a crisper design.
If you are a dab hand with the sewing machine, then you and your toddler can probably create elaborate puppets, but if you aren't then do not worry, there are always wooden spoon puppets! Take a wooden spoon, draw on a face, maybe stick on some wool for hair and drape some material over the spoon for clothes and lo and behold you have a puppet.
You can pick up different coloured felt at a craft shop and use scissors to cut out different shapes. The scissors will need to be quite sharp to get a clean cut so make sure you are in charge of this bit, not your toddler. If you want to put two colours together then simply glue them. You can also make a felt board, by covering a piece of wood or stiff card with a sheet of felt. You can use this to stick you other felt creations on to make different scenes. The only limit to felt shapes is your imagination (and possibly your scissor skills).
Most toddlers can be encouraged to do some baking because they know there will be something yummy to eat at the end of it. Stick with simple recipes without too many ingredients or complicated techniques and let your toddler get involved as much as possible. Try no-cook recipes or things with short cooking times so your impatient little taster will not have to wait long to try the finished goods.
These activities are fun, but they also help your toddler to learn concepts such as numbers and letters, develop their imagination, and encourage them to sit still and concentrate which helps increase their attention span. Young children learn best through play and they will appreciate the time you spend with them. So, next time you think about turning on the television, head for the craft cupboard instead!