Low mess, low prep quiet time activities for toddlers

Ten really simple activities to keep toddlers entertained when you need some quiet time…

Ten low mess low prep quiet time activities

I am all about preparing for our second child at the moment. This includes thinking about how on earth I will keep my super active ToddlerGirl entertained when I am either completely exhausted or sat for a while feeding the baby.

With that in mind, I’ve come up with a list of ten super easy activities to pull out at these times that will hopefully buy me some quiet play from her!

1. A bag of books
ToddlerGirl and I do a lot of reading anyway but I thought this would be a good way to inject a novelty element into the activity. I have a small drawstring bag and will put a selection of five or six board books inside. ToddlerGirl can then have a rummage around to pull out each book to read. I’ll add a new selection of books to the bag each week and am thinking it will be a good way for us to rediscover some of her older books that we don’t look at as much these days. Hopefully this will be perfect for cuddling up together on the sofa while I am feeding.

2. A bag of toys
A similar idea to above but this time, I will fill a bag with a number of ToddlerGirl’s smaller toys. I’m banking on the novelty factor of discovering what’s inside the bag to keep her occupied for a little while! Again, I’ll rotate the toys each week to keep it fresh.

3. Drawing folder with a selection of printables
ToddlerGirl enjoys colouring in, so I thought I’d collect a number of free printables together in one folder along with some special colouring pencils (maybe some sparkly ones!), again to provide a novelty factor. My plan is to set up her little table in front of the sofa and ‘play school’. I have been pinning some wonderful free printables on Pinterest, which I can’t wait for her to see. These include:

  • ABC sheets (as she’s really into her ABCs at the moment, much to my surprise)
  • Tracing and copying shapes and lines
  • Dot to dot sheets
  • Various colouring in sheets

4. Small DVD library
I don’t want to resort to the television for great lengths of time to keep ToddlerGirl quiet (and she actually has a fairly limited attention span for this anyway!) but it’s inevitable that this is sometimes going to happen. We have a few DVDs already and I’ve put these in a box to bring out when we need them. I’m adding a couple of new DVDs to the collection – one is a dance DVD and the other some action songs, both of which I’m hoping will entertain ToddlerGirl being that little bit more active.

5. Apps, videos and photographs on our tablet
While we’re on the screen time theme, I’ll also be making use of our tablet… We have some songs and apps loaded on here already that went down really well when we were travelling for our recent holiday, so I’ll see if there are any others that we can add. I’m also going to load on our photo albums and videos of ToddlerGirl from babyhood onwards as she loves looking at herself(!) and hopefully it will be a good way to show her that she was as little as her baby brother or sister once and help her to relate to this a bit more.

6. Audio book basket
We have been enjoying listening to audio books for a little while now and have a few different titles on CD, including the Julia Donaldson collections. As we also have many of the books that go with these, I’m planning on putting these together so that we can read through the books as we’re listening to the stories.

7. Tots trays
I’ve seen a lot of these on Pinterest and think they are a great idea for a small, contained activity. I’ll set up a box with all the necessary bits to hand in advance of baby’s arrival, so that all I need to do is find the items and lay them out on a tray for ToddlerGirl to investigate. I’m keeping it as simple as possible (read: as little capacity for making a mess as possible…!) and will be focusing on the following ideas:

  • Cotton reel threading
  • Playdough spiders/monsters kit (with playdough, googly eyes and pipecleaners)
  • Colour sorting pom poms
  • Matching games (using free printables)
  • Using tongs to transfer pom poms and other items
  • Pritt stick collages
  • Q-tip painting with watercolours

(the last two are my potentially messiest trays, so we’ll do them in the dining room but the others I’ll set up in our living room, where I can get more comfy!)

8. Sticker books
ToddlerGirl loves stickers and is totally absorbed by the sticker books she has had in the past. I’m stocking up on a few as this is a really easy and mess-free activity for us to do together on the sofa!

9. Sequences and patterns using building blocks
I’ve seen this idea on a few blogs, including the wonderful Imagination Tree, and think it’s a great way of extending the play value of our blocks, which ToddlerGirl only really plays with in fits and starts. I’ll make a couple of pattern sheets before the baby is born so that these are ready to bring out when I need them.

10. Playing shop
This is a really easy pretend play activity that ToddlerGirl loves to do. We’ll set up a shop using her little table and play food (or sometimes books or shoes!) and take turns being the shop keeper and the customer. Since I’ve been pregnant, we’ve even played this a few times from the sofa…! We’ve used our imaginations for the till and money elements to date but, as her birthday is coming up, we’re going to buy her a proper play cash register and I’ll print out some pretend money.

And two bonus ideas:

11. Nursing box
I saw this nursing box on Pinterest a while back and carefully pinned it so I wouldn’t forget! Basically, the idea is to put a few different items into a box that you only bring out for a nursing session. Our box will use a couple of the ideas above to include:

  • Two books
  • Two sticker books
  • DVD
  • A couple of small jigsaw puzzles and games we have
  • A couple of DIY matching puzzles
  • Some snacks and drinks!

I’ll only bring this out a couple of times a week for ToddlerGirl to select from, to keep the novelty factor of the contents.

12. Games you can play from the sofa
I love the suggestions in this article on Moving Smart for keeping your pre-schooler moving when you’re too pregnant (or exhausted!) to play, which I’m going to print out and keep as a reminder. These are all great as they are more active, so will hopefully suit my very energetic girl!

Do you have any other suggestions for easy, low prep, low mess quiet time activities? I’d love to hear them if you do. 


5 Comments on “Low mess, low prep quiet time activities for toddlers”

  1. Caroline (Becoming a SAHM) says:

    Love this post and some fab ideas there! I ahve a feeling i am going to need quite a few of these things over the coming months so thank you for sharing!! xx #mummymonday

  2. rachelvking says:

    Such good ideas, I really like the book of bags – i’ll be using that one! :)

  3. Gill Connell says:

    Thanks for sharing our post! Much appreciated. Keep in touch!

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