I'm in sort of a rough phase here with my toddler, in finding things to occupy him on his own. I engage with him all the time I'm with him, but there are times when I would love for him to be entertained for a few minutes on his own... (when I'm trying to make dinner is the main one). I've tried all sorts of things and sometimes various activities I set up will work, but other times they won't.
I'm at the end of my rope some nights while I'm desperately trying to assemble a meal and he's clutching at my legs and screaming. And although I too feel like screaming, I can't blame him.. he's bored and needs something to do and hates being down low and unable to participate in what I'm up to on the countertops and stove.
I have mostly just tried to involve him somehow in everything I have to do (ie, "helping" me hang the laundry or sweep or even cook) but sometimes I need (want) to do it alone and quickly/efficiently. The cooking is really the main time this is an issue. I sometimes just don't have it in me to be as patient as I need to be to have him up at the counter "helping." Sometimes, I'm tired of having it be such a production to have him up there and I just want to throw the meal together in peace, and fast. I wish I had more patience, but sometimes I'm awfully short on it.
So... what is your toddler's favorite toy, that will occupy him or her for 5-10 minutes minimum. I know every child is different, but I'm just wondering if there are things I should be considering as activities that won't quickly lose their allure. I'm already considering a dollhouse, a toy kitchen, a few silks, and some building blocks. I imagine these are things that can provide long-term imaginative play and will entertain him beyond his current stage. Anything else I should be thinking of?
In addition to toys, do you have a favorite activity you set up while making dinner? I'd like to avoid anything too too messy, though a little bit is fine. I will give him a small jar of beans, along with an ice cube tray or some spice jars and encourage him to sort. That will sometimes work, but not for long, and I think I've used it one too many times because he hasn't gone for it lately.
We don't currently have loads of toys, and I'm realizing we should add a few more. I've tried to avoid some of the typical plastic noisy toys (though at this point, I'd gladly utilize one while I make dinner!).... so I'm feeling it's time to invest in a few things that will help him to play on his own. We've got various hand-me-down toys, but they all seem to lose their allure so fast. He'll put a puzzle together a time or two and then never is interested in it again. That doesn't seem terribly sustainable or a good investment.
I am totally aware that this age is not particularly independent or self-directed, and it's not that I expect him to totally go off on his own. But man could I use a few 10-minute chunks here and there.
Tell me your tricks and ideas!