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Home Daycare

Simple Ways To Keep A Toddler Busy

Keeping a toddler busy can be about as easy as nailing Jello to a wall.  But there are ways to capture their attention for a few moments that don’t involve children’s music or draining your cell phone battery.  And when you need a few minutes of quiet – like when you’re on the phone or when you’re at church – these activities will fit the bill perfectly.  Not only that, but the tasks involved will work on your child’s fine motor coordination, and any number of other skills (colour matching, counting, adding & subtracting, letter recognition, etc).

Pick up these supplies at the dollar store:

-pipe cleaners


-pom poms

-plastic toy links

-crazy straws

-zippered bags or pencil cases to keep everything organized

Rescue this from the recycling bin:

-plastic parmesan cheese container or other dispenser that has holes in the lid

Assemble your activities:

1. Clothespin Squeeze: Show your child how to open the clothespin and hang it on the crazy straw.  Then show them how to take it off again.  Extra points if they can slide the clothespin along the straw!



2. Spaghetti and Meatballs: Show your child how to drop the pipe cleaners through the holes, and how the pom poms won’t fit.  Then show them how to open the larger hold on the other side of the lid to drop the pom poms into.

ToddlerBusyBag43. Linkies: Show your child how to link the pieces together and make chains, necklaces and bracelets.  Then show them how to pull them all apart again.


4. Twisty Letters: Pipe cleaners are so versatile, but I use them for letters and numbers.  Show your child how to bend them into the letters of their name, or various numbers (their address, phone number, the year, etc).  Or, just let them create people and animals or whatever they like!

ToddlerBusyBag2Once your child knows how these materials can be used, you can pull out a bag whenever the phone rings or you need to get some work done as a special activity to keep them occupied.


What are your favourite ways to keep your child occupied when you need some “keep quiet” time?

Article written by:

Megan is a WAHM to 3 (and then some) kids, who spends the majority of her time working as an Administrative Assistant, blogging and washing dishes. She loves to write about her adventures in parenting, running a home daycare, adoption and whatever else strikes her fancy!


  1. Robin Rue (@massholemommy)

    Those are all great ideas. My kids were always happy with cardboard boxes and paper towel rolls. You know, free stuff 😉

  2. Tiny Steps Mommy

    Yes! Great ideas. I run a daycare and it’s amazing what children can find amusement with. I’m always looking for new ideas so thanks. Oh and I also love pipe cleaners for making letters.

    • Megan Elford

      It’s always the simplest things that kids enjoy so much! I used to do Tot Trays with my daycare kiddos too — same idea but they were designed to work on specific skills (Montessori-style).

  3. swellconditions

    Oh my gosh too funny about nailing jello to a wall!! When my son was little I’d let him have at it with the tupperware drawer (it’s not JUST tupperware, that’s what we call it) and that drawer was close to the floor so he’d go digging around. it kept him entertained while I was busy in the kitchen! Thanks for your tips!!

    • Megan Elford

      That’s too cute, my mother-in-law was the same way with my oldest! She had a cupboard specifically for him with plastics and pots that she didn’t mind getting dinged. So sweet 🙂

  4. Kungphoo

    Those are good ones.. and not just for toddlers.. lol my 10 year old likes to make things out of pipe cleaners.

  5. justamom8225

    These are great ideas. My one year old loves to play with the lids of boxes and tupperware containers. She’ll spend a good ten minutes (which is truly an hour at least in toddler time), just putting stuff in the lid and taking it back out/

  6. Abi at Joy In My Kitchen

    Great ideas (and so nice that the Dollar Tree has such supplies). Using them when the phone rings is genius! Where did you get the little storage pouches?

  7. Tina Ernspiker

    I have a four year old and a one year old. I may need to buy some of these supplies now! Thanks 🙂

  8. the pinterested parent

    Great activities. My daughter loves pipe cleaners as well.

  9. Erinn S

    i used to pull out bowls and utensils as I cleaned cupboards and let him have at playing and measuring all the food I was going to toss anyway

  10. listen2mama

    Great ideas. We spend so much time and energy buying expensive toys and gadgets, and they love paper and cardboard boxes! My daughter was obsessed with plastic tupperware bowls!

  11. maggiesblog2

    These are all great ideas! My 18mo loves playing with boxes!

  12. Rosey

    Yep, these are all great ones. I still like to do the linkys and I’m grown. 🙂

  13. Yona Williams

    lol…”nailing Jell-O to the wall” made me snort. That was really funny! I’ve always turned to art and creative projects when I need to distract a toddler (or any other lil’ one for that matter).

  14. Eliz Frank

    All good ideas for keeping the little ones busy… If all else fails, a turned off smartphone gives one a few minutes to do something else. 🙂

  15. Chelley @ A is For Adelaide

    This is great! I love playing with pompoms and clothespins as paint brushes!

  16. Veronica Lee

    Great ideas!
    Hi! Stopping by from Mom Bloggers Club.
    Have a nice day.

  17. Virginia Gudiel (@LovelyVirginia)

    Awesome ideas! Cardboard boxes were always a hit! lol

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