Catching a Breather: 5 Ways to Keep Your Toddler Busy

While you may be tempted to sit your toddler in front of the tv and call that a fun activity as you catch a breather, it is a far cry from keeping your little one busy. There are fun and exciting ways to stimulate, challenge, and keep your toddler busy and out of your hair. Here are five easy ways to keep your toddler distracted and entertained.

Playdough

Playdough is a great way for your toddler to be creative. Whether it’s homemade dough or store bought jello playdough, your toddler squashing and rolling a piece of playdough can play on the senses and spark curiosity. The best thing about playdough is that it allows for your toddler to play “make pretend,” from monsters and aliens, craters, candy, cupcakes, pizzas, mom and dad, houses, to eyes. Provide a tray, playdough, and a comfortable space, and let your toddler’s imagination run wild.

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Shape Sorter

Sorting is a way to stay busy, and creating a shape sorting activity for your toddler may be just what you need to get a little me time. It’s a fun and a useful activity that your child can enjoy, identifying and naming shapes. You’ll need a shape sorter with accompanying shapes. Instruct your toddler to put specific shapes into the sorter, such as “find the circle,” or a specific coloured shape, for example, “show me green triangle.” Shape sorter is a great example of “learning is fun.”

Chunky Puzzles

A puzzle doesn’t have to be a puzzle, or maybe you need it to be to keep your toddler busy. Either way, there are many easy and enjoyable puzzles that your toddler can do on his or her own. Getting chunky puzzles of stories, your toddler likes, alphabet shapes, and farm animals can keep your child excited and engaged. Puzzle boards can be 4, 6 or, 9 pieces. Be sure to build the puzzle and show how it makes a picture before allowing your toddler to go at it alone.

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Race Cars on Tape

One of the best toys for 2 year old boys are cars, and if you want to keep your toddler busy, create a race track on the floor using masking tape. If your boy doesn’t already have a little toy collection, buy him his favorite toy car, create a track in the hallway, then let him race his car or cars down the track, while you put your feet up.

Nature in a Bag

There are many colorful things out in nature that are a marvel for your toddler. Creating a sensory nature bag gives your child something to explore. Fill a small bag with things like different leaves, grass, pine cones, and rocks, and let your toddler reach into the bag and discover each item.

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There are many easy and exciting ways to keep your toddler busy. Let your toddler get creative with playdough, solve chunky puzzles, sort shapes, race their fast car and explore nature in a bag. All the while, you catch a breather.

Pitch-In for Fitness with an Outdoor Sports Pitch

Playing in the neighbor’s yard or community park are common past times for kids of the 20th century. But this is now a rarity for kids today – especially those who are hooked on their gadgets. Given the importance of fitness in one’s overall well-being, everyone should be encouraged to participate in outdoor physical activities and sports. One way to do this is to provide kids with facilities like an outdoor sports pitch or playground.

Sports facilities in the school and community provide kids with a venue to explore different physical activities. This helps promote physical, mental, and social wellness in the community. However, not all communities have ample sports facilities to service the needs of their residents. This makes it harder to encourage people to get into sports. If you have extra space in your property then you may want to consider having your own outdoor sports pitch. This can be your contribution to sports and fitness in the community. You can also make money out of it by renting out the facilities for private events.

The usual concern in building or installing an outdoor pitch is limited space and budget. But this can be solved by installing MUGA or Multi-Use Games Areas instead. According to FIBA rules a basketball court should measure exactly 28m x 15m while a tennis court would require space of about 23.77m x 10.97m. This means you will need a minimum of around 54m x 27m of space for both pitches. On the other hand a MUGA would only require around 37m x 18.5m and you can already play basketball, tennis, and netball in it. Aside from saving on space, MUGA also saves on the cost of building and maintaining multiple pitches.

All Purpose Outdoor MUGA Court Surfacing

It would be great to have your own outdoor sports pitch. Aside from having free use of the facility anytime you want, you are also taking part in community building by encouraging kids to engage in sports and fitness activity. But if this is not possible, then you can simply involve your kids in sports activities in school and the community.

Totally Cool Augmented Reality Books from Scholastics

My kids are bookworms! There’s no question about it. Aside from being bookworms, they’re also advanced readers.  One factor that contributed to this is that we kept them away from gadgets during their early years. They learned to appreciate and to love books because of this.  I’m guessing that they love smelling the pages just as I do. Ebooks may be convenient and more affordable but it cannot parallel the satisfaction we get from flipping through page after page of paperbacks.

However, when they reached school age and became exposed to games their classmates play, we eventually allowed them some gadget time – always closely monitored and timed though. 😆 They do look forward to being able to use their tablet or my phone to play games or watch videos. Old-fashioned mom though still prefers that they just stick to their paperbacks.

Most likely, Scholastic knows that many other moms have similar sentiments. This is probably why they came out with their augmented reality books – books that encourage children to read while enjoying their gadget time.

The Magic of Augmented Reality

Whoa! It’s AWESOME!!! This was the first reaction of the two kids when they first tried out the app.  It’s like VR only better!  In virtual reality, the kids play in an artificial environment; but, in augmented reality, they play in their actual environment.  It’s bringing something inanimate to life and interacting with it in real time.

It’s totally cool! It’s showing on the screen like it’s really real! Like it’s really there in real life! – Jade

If you’re still confused about what augmented reality is, just think of it as something like 4-D.  It’s like adding another dimension to a 3-D image. When you hover your phone or tablet over the page, a lifelike image pops out and becomes part of your own environment. THEN you can interact with this image by making it move around and even taking pictures together with it.

 

In the books from Scholastic, our kids’ favorite characters come to life with the power of Digital Magic.  Now that we’re hopefully all clear about what augmented reality is, let’s check the books out in the next two posts.

Click here for Transformers Robot in Disguise: Where Crown City Comes to Life.

Click here for My Little Pony: Where Equestria Comes to Life

Four Free, Kid-Friendly Attractions in New York City

A visit to the Big Apple is a great way to spend a family vacation. While the city may seem like it is more geared toward adults, there are tons of fun things that you can do with children as well. And though New York can be expensive, it certainly doesn’t have to be if you know where to go. If your next family vacation includes a stop in New York City, consider checking out these four kid-friendly attractions which are absolutely free.

New York Libraries

The New York library system is one of the best in the world and offers plenty of fun activities for youngsters. With great family programming and tons to explore, the children’s sections at many libraries in the city as worth the visit. Top branches include the Children’s Center at the main branch of the New York Public Library, the Children’s Library Discovery Center in Queens, and the Central Branch in Prospect Heights.

NEW YORK CITY, NY - DEC 30: New York Public Library and street on December 30, 2011 New York City. It is the 2nd largest public library in US and managed with both private and public financing.

Sing for Hope Pianos

If you happen to be in New York during June, you should definitely check out the Sing for Hope Pianos. These pop up pianos in New York serve as a form of interactive street art. Organized by the Sing for Hope charity, this annual project puts 50 handpainted pianos in the parks and public spaces of all five New York boroughs for public use. Painted by local artists, the pianos are there for anyone to enjoy. Whether you happen upon a delightful performance or have your children play a number, this is a great activity for the whole family.

Sing for Hope

New York Museums

It is no secret that New York is home to some of the world’s greatest museums. Luckily some of them are free and great for the family. The Children’s Museum of Manhattan features a number of interactive learning exhibits. You can visit for free on the first Friday of the month. The Museum of the Moving Image is also a great choice, which offers free admission on Friday afternoons. Here you can learn about all about the history of movies, television, and digital media.

New York City - January 31, 2016: American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. The museum collections contain over 32 million specimens.

Staten Island Ferry

One of the hidden gems of New York is the Staten Island Ferry. This free ferry takes passengers back and forth between Manhattan and Staten Island all day, providing an outstanding and absolutely free view of the Statue of Liberty. Once there, you might enjoy exploring the area, including the Staten Island Zoo, which is free on Wednesdays afternoons.

NEW YORK - JULY 2: People taking the Staten Island Ferry on July 2, 2012 in New York. The S. I. Ferry has been a municipal service since 1905, and carries over 21 million passengers annually.

Math Fun With Affordable Math Manipulatives

How do we make Math fun in Camp Espino? We play!

Among the academic subjects we study here in Camp Espino, Math along with Araling Panlipunan is the most challenging one.  My two little ones’ love for Math is indirectly proportional to their love for Reading and Science.  This is why one of our major academic goals this year is for them to learn to appreciate and to love the beauty of numbers. 🙂

One way we’re doing this is by making them realize that Math is part of our everyday life.  At home, they measure ingredients when we bake or cook.  They learn the concept of division when they share toys or candies. When we go out to eat or to buy groceries and other stuff, I ask them to place their orders or to pay for their purchases. This makes Math “real” to them.

Another way we’re trying (trying is the operative word here!) to make learning Math more fun is by using manipulatives during our study time.

Our Math Manipulatives

Before we started homeschooling, I bought the Gigo Linking Base Ten set from Learning Plus.  It’s a great tool for helping kids learn place values and other basic Math skills.

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This has been very useful during the first part of our lessons this quarter but as we progressed, I realized we needed other manipulatives when dealing with bigger numbers.  Since, I can’t afford to shell out thousands more for a Place Value Discs set, I opted to improvise using poker chips and stickers!

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I bought a set of poker chips from NBS and wrote the values on them using permanent marker.  The chips set only had three colors I covered the others with pre-cut round stickers which is also available in bookstores.  This entire set just cost a little over a hundred pesos!  We’ve been using these chips for our lessons in addition and subtraction.  We’d most likely need to add another set of chips when we start studying multiplication.

For their Math bonds practice, I got some inspiration from the Fact Family Blast Off game. I printed templates on regular bond paper then inserted these into card cases.  Now we’ve got an easy wipe-erase activity board!

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Aside from these, we also use their Legos and other building blocks to study Math.  Since my son is highly kinesthetic, we incorporated some games into our learning.

Games Make Learning Fun!!!

For one of our games, I just wrote different activities to do on strips of cardboard.  The activities are a mix of lessons from different subjects including PE and Music.  We call this game “Ready, Get, Do!”

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Math – kids have to finish one Blast Off card, skip count, or do Math operations; PE – kids have to do a locomotor/non-locomotor activity; Music – kids have to name notes on the staff or play them on the keyboard; English – make a short poem about the word; Filipino – think of a rhyming word and make a two-line poem. 

When I attended Milona Barraca‘s workshop on How To Make Learning Math Fun At Home at the Learning Plus last June, I learned that even something as ordinary as playing cards can be used to make learning Math fun.  I taught the kids how to play “Go Fish! The Tens Edition” to help them master their 10-bonds.  🙂  They don’t even realize that they’re actually learning while playing!

(playing cards with kids)

Instead of making the usual pairs, the kids have to make pairs of tens. No one loses in this game!

Do the kids love Math already? I wish!!!!

Oh well, it may be far from being their favorite subject but at least they’re having fun learning it!

How about you? What Math manipulatives do you use at home? Would appreciate your sharing your ideas with me so we could try them out in Camp Espino. 🙂