Fun is the key to getting little ones to play independently--an important skill for any child but especially for one with a work-at-home mom. Obviously, toddlers have not yet mastered--or perhaps even attempted--this, but this is the age to introduce the idea. Kids who are deeply engaged in play may not even notice that you are in the room, allowing you the opportunity to get a few things done.
These activities are all fun for toddlers and two-year-olds.
They foster independent play, though at this age they can't necessarily be done independently.
Remember, though the eventual goal is independent play, you need to monitor toddlers all the time.
- Play dough - Keep cans of it squirreled away so that when kids mix all the colors together and turned it to brown,wow them with a fresh can of bright green or electric pink. After age 2, kids don't need much help with play dough, but you should keep an eye on them so they don't eat it. (It's not toxic, but not good to eat either.)
- Art - Keep a basket of crayons and scrap paper handy and encourage your child to draw pictures. However, toddlers do tend to get bored with drawing quickly because developmentally their fine motor skills aren't quite up for it. A little bit every day will build their interest and ability. And by age 3, your child may love it. Paint is another story, though. Toddlers love paint. Set up an art space, so you don't have to worry about the mess and try out these ways for a toddler to paint.
- Toys - Toddlers move from one toy to the next quite quickly and will get bored with the same toys day in and day out. Keep a few favorites handy all the time and rotate the other toys available on a weekly basis. Favorites tend to be the basic toddler toys. Anything too complex will get tossed aside at this age.
Kids really get good at fantasy play when they are preschoolers, but it starts at this age. Toddlers and twos with older siblings may get lessons in this wonderful form of play by being given a role in an older child's fantasy ("I'll be the princess; you be the frog."), even before they are old enough to understand. Toys like play sets, construction sets, doll houses and trains all encourage this kind of play too. Eavesdropping on my kids' dolls or trains as they 'talk' to one another was one of my true joys of working at home.
Exercise and Outdoor Play
Take your little one outside to play every day possible. It doesn't have to be an extended amount of outdoor fun. Remember toddlers like activities in short doses anyway.
But getting outside is good for the body and the mind for both mom and her toddler. Exercise, of course, will tire out a toddlers quickly making nap time go more smoothly, but even the stimulus of being out in a stroller will do the same. So, walk to the store or even just around the neighborhood. Go to the park or a playground.
Or take the fun out into your own yard. Set up a water table or turn on the sprinkler. Blow bubbles or draw with chalk. Play ball or simply explore the wonders of nature in your own backyard.
Some toddlers won't sit still long enough for you to get through a whole book, but some love listening to a story. Read to your child for as long as he or she will listen. Books are a nice way to transition from a more active pursuit to nap time or bedtime. Keeps stacks of books in your office so your toddler can "read" them on his or her own. While toddlers and two-year-olds aren't usually too bothered by the fact that they can't read the words, these wordless books have engaging visuals.
All of the above activities engage children and teach them how to entertain themselves. But toddlers aren't truly ready for independent play, so a work-at-home mom who wants to get some things done will need to employ multiple strategies to keep her child busy.