Free and cheap ways to entertain toddlers
24 ideas to help you keep little ones entertained
Anne Page has been writing and broadcasting about parenthood for over 25 years. She's written articles for a supermarket baby club, parents' magazines and for newspapers. Over the years, Anne has helped parents to find information, come up with solutions or simply tell their story, and she is sharing her experience with Bounty mums.
1. Visit a garden centre and let them wander round checking out all the different plants.
2. Most shopping centres or markets have a pet shop or stall so let them wander and learn about all the different animals. Or visit the local aquarium where they can watch different fish in the tank.
3. Buy a cheap bottle of bubbles, or create your own with washing up liquid and teach your little one to blow bubbles.
4. A simple walk in the park, stopping to explore as you go can be great fun for a toddler.
5. Head for the local library – most have a child-friendly section.
6. If you have a child’s sand pit, give them a bucket of water and watch the fun unravel.
7. Take a jar and hunt for spiders and snails in the garden.
8. Fill a bucket with warmish water so that your toddler can wash teddy’s clothes, or a plastic picnic set.
9. If you can get your hands on an old tyre or two, clean them thoroughly and set up an obstacle course in the garden or fill with sand.
10. Collect ten empty plastic bottles and set up a tenpin bowling alley. Use a soft ball.
11. Cut the bottom out of a large, strong cardboard box to make a fun tunnel.
12. Save some different sized cardboard boxes (shoe boxes, cereal boxes, online delivery packaging) to make a street of shops and garages.
13. Create rattles and shakers by filling empty plastic pots and bottles with beans, lentils and dried pasta. Seal with strong sticky tape and cover with bright wrapping paper.
14. Separate and save a few seeds from oranges, lemons or other fruit. Help your toddler plant them in yoghurt pots to watch them grow.
15. Make a ‘safe’ cupboard near floor level with plastic boxes of different sizes, pots and pans, wooden or plastic spoons for sorting, building a tower or improvising a musical instrument.
16. Cover the kitchen table with sheets of lining paper or large poster paper. Keep a box of felt tips nearby for drawing anytime.
17. Make finger puppets by drawing smiley faces on sticky labels, then stick them on your fingertips. An older child may have a go themselves.
18. Make a hand puppet from an old sock or mitten. Cut out eyes, nose and mouth from sticky labels.
19. Use two chairs and an old blanket to make an indoor tent, or buy a play tent.
20. Keep a box of old shoes, slippers and hats for dressing up.
21. Use a small basket with a few packets or tins for your toddler to go ‘shopping’.
22. Give your child some sticky labels and scrap paper and let them create a masterpiece.
23. Collect old washing-up liquid containers and shampoo bottles, add a funnel and they can play with it at bath time or in the paddling pool.
24. Assemble a pile of soft cushions or bean bags in the middle of the floor for them to jump and roll on.