When I was a teacher I was always trying to think of ways to make the most of transitional times like walking through hallways, waiting for dismissal or assemblies, etc. I used to play games with students to work on letter sounds, math facts, and other skills that the students were working on. I felt like a more effective teacher knowing I used my time wisely.
As a mother I am trying to do the same thing with my son and the other toddlers I watch with him. I try and make the most of their time in car seats and shopping carts. Obviously there are times that kiddos need down time, but I’ve found that especially in the car and in stores my son is much more pleasant when I help occupy him with educational activities. Here are some FREE toddler activities that I have tried.
Car seat fun: (Obviously paying attention to the road is most important!)
-Have a stash of books handy in the passenger seat. Pass a few back for your kiddos to read. This has been one of my son’s favorite things to do. As he flips through the pages I’ll hear him make animal noises or truck noises and I will ask questions like, “Oh you see a dog?” “Are you reading about a truck?” Sometimes he just flips through the pages quietly and that is time well spent as well.
-Speaking of animal noises, my son is quickly learning a variety of sounds that animals make and I find it funny to ask him what each animal says. He loves it too. Animals to try: cats, dogs, monkeys, birds, elephants, pigs, roosters, sheep, cows, and so many more. I only ask him animals that I know he’s seen and we’ve talked about before.
-Use the senses! Try and notice what you hear, see, smell, and feel while driving and point that out to your toddler. For example, talk about the cool breeze, the hot sun, the smell of fall leaves, the smell of your morning coffee, the sight of the trucks at the construction site, the sound of a fire truck, and whatever else you notice.
-Sing songs! Make up silly versions of ones you know. My son likes it when I sing the wheels on the truck instead of the bus.
-I spy! My son is not quite old enough to play, but we will play when he understands the game.
-Activities listed above work while shopping too, except maybe singing if you’re shy
-While shopping there are never ending things to talk about. Just pick up any package or food item and talk about the shape of it, what color it is, how it feels, what pictures are on it, etc.
-For an older child, reading signs and packages is a fun way to get a little reading in. Or, before shopping have your child help write a list and make them in charge of crossing items off as you get them.
-Categorizing items is a fun way to work on early organization. Sort the items in your cart by color, shape, frozen or not, food groups, etc. My son is too young to do this independently, but I talk about the different categories of items as I sort them myself. For example, “Oh here’s an apple. Let’s put it with the other fruits.”
A lot of these activities can also be fun in a stroller or other place with limited freedom to explore!
Check out more budget friendly toddler activities from The Activity Moms!
Written by Adrianne