Fun free things to do with toddler? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 25 Old 06-04-2010, 10:40 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I am curious what things you do at home or where you take your toddlers or other children for fun, interaction and/or learning.

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#2 of 25 Old 06-04-2010, 12:05 PM
 
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Our two favourite things to do outside the house these days are volunteering at our toy library and going to watch our friends' 4 year olds' soccer practice. Both are free and have tons of kids and adults around to meet and play with.

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#3 of 25 Old 06-04-2010, 12:12 PM
 
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We like to go to the little creek by our house. I take a fold up chair and my book, and my son putters around throwing rocks and stuff.

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#4 of 25 Old 06-04-2010, 06:36 PM
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We like to go to parks, wilderness areas around our home, or just take walks around town. Do you have a free zoo close by, or a childrens drop in center?
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#5 of 25 Old 06-04-2010, 06:42 PM
 
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Hikes, library, feed ducks, park, check your local paper, there are lots of free concerts, storytimes, etc around here, you just never hear about them except in one small newspaper.

Amri- mama to Indica 12.08.06 and Kytan 04.04.10
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#6 of 25 Old 06-04-2010, 10:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hikes, library, feed ducks, park, check your local paper, there are lots of free concerts, storytimes, etc around here, you just never hear about them except in one small newspaper.
Silly question...where in the paper would I look? I do not even know how to search for things like this online.

I love hearing everyone's ideas.

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#7 of 25 Old 06-04-2010, 10:19 PM - Thread Starter
 
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We like to go to parks, wilderness areas around our home, or just take walks around town. Do you have a free zoo close by, or a childrens drop in center?
Free zoo? I never knew there was such a thing.

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#8 of 25 Old 06-04-2010, 10:40 PM
 
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Okay, I know this sounds strange, but on hot summer days, DS and I go outside and "wash" things - sometimes its my car, sometimes its things from the house that could really use a good scrubbing like the compost can, diaper pail where we throw the cloth dipes, or rubber doormats - things that don't get cleaned often. It always turns into a big, wet, bubbly mess and is tons of fun!

Right now he has a 3rd degree burn on his hand so we can't mess with water so instead we do a lot of "finding" and then making stuff with the things we find. Yesterday we found lots of little sticks and tied them together with string and made little "rafts" and floated them in puddles. Last week we found lots of rocks and sticks and glued them together to make a bridge for his train. And really, sometimes all he needs is a bucket of dirt, a shovel and an empty bucket to scoop it into. Sometimes I bury "treasures" in the dirt and let him discover them. On rainy or icky days we cook together - and have been doing this since he could stand on a chair at the counter and not fall off. He loves doing anything at all to help mama!!

Oh, and here in Chicago we have a free zoo. I have never come across another one, though.

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#9 of 25 Old 06-05-2010, 11:16 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Okay, I know this sounds strange, but on hot summer days, DS and I go outside and "wash" things - sometimes its my car, sometimes its things from the house that could really use a good scrubbing like the compost can, diaper pail where we throw the cloth dipes, or rubber doormats - things that don't get cleaned often. It always turns into a big, wet, bubbly mess and is tons of fun!

Right now he has a 3rd degree burn on his hand so we can't mess with water so instead we do a lot of "finding" and then making stuff with the things we find. Yesterday we found lots of little sticks and tied them together with string and made little "rafts" and floated them in puddles. Last week we found lots of rocks and sticks and glued them together to make a bridge for his train. And really, sometimes all he needs is a bucket of dirt, a shovel and an empty bucket to scoop it into. Sometimes I bury "treasures" in the dirt and let him discover them. On rainy or icky days we cook together - and have been doing this since he could stand on a chair at the counter and not fall off. He loves doing anything at all to help mama!!

Oh, and here in Chicago we have a free zoo. I have never come across another one, though.
Sounds a lot like what we do. My little man loves helping mommy. You have some great ideas with finding things. I wish I was more creative on what to do with things found! Please feel free to share more ideas. I love them and so would DS. How old was he when you trusted he would not fall off a chair while cooking with you? What type of tasks did you give him to keep him entertained? This is something I have been wanting to do with DS.

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#10 of 25 Old 06-06-2010, 12:56 AM
 
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At home, DD likes:

Watching songs on YouTube next to me on the couch while I knit (right now she's into The Pirates of Penzance!)
Helping me hang washing on the clothes horse
Helping me knead bread (actually not so much lately. She gets worried about having dirty hands. Used to love it, though!)
Playing with dry rice, cups and spoons. I spread a big blanket on the floor and put the items on a chair in the middle - helps with cleanup.
Helping me cook - she stirs, sieves, licks beaters, steals veggies I'm chopping up, tries to eat creamed butter and sugar from the bowl...
Gardening, not that I get around to it as often as I should
Wiping things. She loves wiping things! Cupboards, walls, whatever.
Reading books.
Drawing together.
Putting away the cutlery from the dishwasher.
Googling things. Image searches. She'll sit there and demand "See bunny! See pink piano! See froggies! See dead fish!" as fast as I can type.

Outside the home we don't do a huge number of activities, but she likes:

Swings and seesaws at the park
Walking to buy veggies
Going to the library in town (mostly to ride the rocking horse and drink at the water cooler, but hey!)
Going to the public gardens to feed the ducks
Going to the supermarket (we go with SIL and her baby)
Walking down the street to see a bunny in a cage that lives close by
Seeing her aunts
Going to creche at my weekly Bible study

She doesn't spend that much time with other kids, but she prefers adults and bigger kids anyway.

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#11 of 25 Old 06-06-2010, 09:10 AM - Thread Starter
 
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She doesn't spend that much time with other kids, but she prefers adults and bigger kids anyway.
Sounds just like my DS. I try to make as much fun and learning experiences as possible. I love to hear what everyone else does!

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#12 of 25 Old 06-06-2010, 09:50 AM
 
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If you have any kind of Bank of America card-- credit, debit or ATM-- you can get in for free to a lot of museums, including some child-friendly museums and botanical gardens, on certain days of the month. Go to http://museums.bankofamerica.com if you are interested.
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#13 of 25 Old 06-06-2010, 11:34 AM - Thread Starter
 
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If you have any kind of Bank of America card-- credit, debit or ATM-- you can get in for free to a lot of museums, including some child-friendly museums and botanical gardens, on certain days of the month. Go to http://museums.bankofamerica.com if you are interested.
Darn, my state is not listed.

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#14 of 25 Old 06-06-2010, 07:22 PM
 
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Sounds just like my DS.
TBH I think it's true for a lot of (most?) toddlers. It just makes sense - adults and older kids will play with you and have the power to give you stuff. Other toddlers are hard to understand and steal your toys. I occasionally feel the obligatory Mummy guilt that DD doesn't have more playdates, but really - whenever she is around the tots at church they all ignore each other unless they both want the same toy, and instead crave attention from the creche helpers. So I'll worry about getting her more little friends when she stops being completely indifferent to the ones she's got.

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#15 of 25 Old 06-06-2010, 09:55 PM
 
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I spent $20 on a pool for the backyard [big enough for DD + some friends or me & her] and a sprinkler, and so our hot afternoons are spent doing either of those things. She brings her "creatures" into the pool, we wade, we swim, tell stories, run through the sprinkler etc and it's perfect and totally worth the few dollars I spent.

Parks are obviously great - find a beautiful local national park, pack a picnic and spend the day exploring/playing and relaxing. Some parks have free festivals or concerts so check that out too, just Google your parks department or something.

Look up your towns free events. Museums have free days, there are free concerts, street fairs and the likes all summer long so take advantage!

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#16 of 25 Old 06-06-2010, 10:08 PM
 
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Sounds a lot like what we do. My little man loves helping mommy. You have some great ideas with finding things. I wish I was more creative on what to do with things found! Please feel free to share more ideas. I love them and so would DS. How old was he when you trusted he would not fall off a chair while cooking with you? What type of tasks did you give him to keep him entertained? This is something I have been wanting to do with DS.
I think DS was just under 2 when we started cooking together. At first, I would get things ready by putting things into measuring cups or spoons and having him dump everything into the bowls and then stir it up (mostly works for baking). The older he gets, the more fun it is! I also give him a blunt children's knife, fork, cutting board and bits of soft food that he can practice cutting up (and then eating, of course!). I think its a Gerber knife and I feel very safe letting him use it - it is super blunt and he is very good at following directions.

Sometimes I find pictures of things on the internet or in magazines and cut/print them out and bring them outside with us and have a little "scavenger hunt". I pick things I know we will find like trees, cars, mailbox, stop sign, etc...

We also have a dog so we take him to the dog park which is entertaining for everyone! Even before we got him, DS and I would just go and watch all the dogs having a good time. I think it really helped him become comfortable with the noise and chaos that can sometimes come with having pets - he has learned the proper way to approach animals and is not afraid if he hears a dog barking.

OP, how old is your LO?

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#17 of 25 Old 06-06-2010, 11:38 PM - Thread Starter
 
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OP, how old is your LO?
19 months

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#18 of 25 Old 07-07-2010, 12:30 AM
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Really loving this thread - I'm not sure what to do with my son all day, ever day after working nearly every day for the past 3 years. Bumping for more suggestions! These are great!

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#19 of 25 Old 07-07-2010, 10:32 AM
 
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This water table (cheap!) along with measuring cups for pouring has been a big hit.

Before the water table we used a big bucket (free). We put it under the spigot outside and set it to a slow steady drip. Dd waters the lawn,the plants, our feet, the pavement, washes her toys

The other thing that has worked well is I buy those small playdoh 10 packs (for like $5) and let DD play with them outside. The neighbor kids come over too and we don't hear a peep from anyone often for a good hour as they work.

I will blow up a few balloons and we'll play with those however DD wants. (Supervised b/c they do pop eventually).

We have a cheap kite that we fly on windy days.

Bubbles are always popular.

I've been teaching DD the Hokey Pokey too.

Our zoo has free community days once a month.

Our city has free outdoor concerts on Sunday night in the summer that we try to get to as often as possible. DD loves to dance.

We have a donation only nature center that makes a great outing; it's relatively small with a kids play area and a huge hollowed out tree log for crawling.

The park.

Libraries--we try to visit new ones since they all have different set ups and toys.

The mall (and do the quarter rides)

As a family we've been going to a local state park that has a nice swimming area with a sandy beach.

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#20 of 25 Old 07-07-2010, 11:01 AM
 
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Our fabulous local nature center is free. There are small animals inside and outside there are some trails and a nice natural materials playground (tunnel made of branches, sandbox, small (artificial circulating) creek to throw rocks in, etc).

Several nearby local libraries have story times, sometimes with music and songs. Local playgroup friend found a free movie showing for kids at one theater.

Here's a funny one, my toddler LOVES the car wash!!! There is one nearby where the car goes through by itself and you watch through a window. He would stay there for hours if he could! I have taken him just to watch, and he loves it. We then re-created one at home using a cardboard box and construction paper. Hours more of fun.

Watching the train go by. We go to a local railroad crossing (commuter train that passes frequently). He loves watching gates open and close. Sometimes we get out, other times he'll just sit in the car and watch. We then simulate gates at home out of everything from sticks to chopsticks. Also use youtube to find videos of gates. Even gates in parking garages are a thrill. Did the same thing with drawbridges in FL.

Free concerts at local arboretum (haven't done this yet but looking forward to it)

We go to the pool a lot with this heat. It's not free here, but it was where I grew up (TX)!

Small blow up pool outside with measuring cups, buckets, shovels, etc. We just leave the water on very slow, and he plays with the water (don't ever actually really fill the pool more than a tiny bit). Sometimes washes his cozy coupe (curbside find), "paints" the deck using a big paintbrush and water, waters the plants, set up the sprinkler, etc.

On a rainy day, splashing in puddles.

I love the burying things in the dirt idea. Unfortunately our backyard is mostly not shaded so we are limited to the driveway for outside activities (way too hot in the sun). I also like the bring a book and a chair to the creek idea! Thanks for posting, everyone -- it's great to get new ideas!

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#21 of 25 Old 07-08-2010, 10:28 AM
 
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I'm always looking for more free ideas, this is a great thread!!

Visit DH for lunch

Go to the playground -- we go to a different one each day

Meetups/playdates

Visit the local farms to see/feed the animals

Go to museums on the monthly free night

Go apple/strawberry/whatever-fruit's-in-season picking

Mall or stores just to explore -- yesterday we went to the Bass Pro Shops... very cool inside (lots of waterfalls & stuffed moose & fish pond etc.) also there are a few casinos nearby that are fun to explore (weird I know, I don't even gamble ) or sometimes just walk around Target or something to get out of the heat & DS looks for all the 'pup-pups' (that dog mascot on all the signs)

We minimize our time at home because it makes me antsy & DS cranky, but when we are home we do things like coloring, music time (with instruments), I made him a game with a coffee can with a hole in the cover that he pushes dry noodles through, computer games (that's a special treat), look out the windows, jump on the bed, etc.

ETA: Our zoo is nowhere near free but we discovered the membership price is equal to about 2 family visits -- not always the case but it was this time, so it made more sense to get the membership if we planned to go more than once a year!

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#22 of 25 Old 07-13-2010, 11:09 PM
 
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storytime, playart at the library, free splash parks, playdates, playgrounds, just playing at the library. My mom gets a membership to the zoo every other year, and the childrens museum is reasonably priced too. My girls also like to have a picnic and then go on a hike. We take rubber gloves and grocery sacks and clean up all the litter while we walk. Kamille has a tree that she has to visit every time and get her picture taken in front of. At home we have some board games, card games, preschool workbooks, playdoh (making homemade playdoh is fun too) Musical instrument marching band, and since Kamilles last recital they have been picking a song and costumes, and setting up "recitals" in our living room.

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#23 of 25 Old 07-14-2010, 10:28 AM
 
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these are such great ideas! We just bought a house with a large yard and it seems after living in an apartment my son doesn't know what to do with a yard. Keep the ideas coming, looking for more outseide play ideas
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#24 of 25 Old 07-16-2010, 12:03 PM
 
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Our library has passes to get into many zoos, museums etc for free.

Outdoor play- do you have clover? Hunt for a 4 leaf.

play gym- pretend it a a rocketship, a fishing boat, a tree house.

The sand box was always a favorite. You can add animals or cars & trucks.

My rule though is once something has been an outside toy it stays outside.
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#25 of 25 Old 07-25-2010, 06:15 AM
 
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