How to maintain SANITY and a BUDGET while entertaining an 18 month old

My child is now 20 months old. Is it okay to still calculate his age in months?? It makes me feel like he’s still a baby, so I think I’ll continue to refer to his age in months (how will he like that when he’s 168 months?? I don’t careΒ ) πŸ™‚

This age between 18 months and 2 years has proven the most difficult for me by way of entertaining him. He’s too old for baby toys, but not yet old enough to pretend on his own. If left to his own devices, he’d watch Charlie and LolaΒ or old Sesame StreetΒ episodes (we’ll discuss why I despise newer Sesame Street episodes at a later date…) all day, while working shape sorters, playing memory match games and Monkey Preschool Lunchbox on his my iPad. He’s a smart cookie, so I’ve struggled to find new ways to pique his interest.

After scouring Pinterest, blogs, and toy shelves, I found some success – mostly without new toys!
Here are some ways I’ve discovered to keep him entertained and out of my cupboards (and the dog bowl) Β πŸ˜‰ :

No dog food was eaten during this picture πŸ˜‰

1.) Melissa and Doug toys. I mean, where have these been all my life?? They make the classic wooden toys without the annoying flashy lights and crazy music (mostly). His favorites? The sound puzzles, shape sorters, ice cream cone set, and a magnetic “fishing” puzzle.

All of these work on hand-eye coordination! We work on shape and color recognition and problem solving with them, as well. We also use them for pretend play πŸ™‚

2.) Rice. Rice, bowls, cups, and spoons. My little man LOVES “wice,” so he jumps at the chance to play with it. I sit him in his high chair with it while I’m prepping dinner, and he plays quietly, sneaking mouthfuls of uncooked rice while I’m not looking πŸ˜‰ ha. But best of all, it can be easily vacuumed and put away.

3.) Water. Just like rice, he’ll play with water and two coffee cups for a long time. Of course, this always necessitates towels and, in the beginning, a change of clothing, but I’ve learned to only give small amounts of water and refill it only when he spills or drinks it all. The more often he’s practiced, the better he’s become at keeping the water in the cups, stirring and pouring, so there’s little clean up now.

4.) Flour and a colored plate. We work on drawing our letters in the little scoop of flour spread on a colored plate. My man doesn’t like anything on his hands, so I gave him a plastic baby knife – he loved it. He drew letters for quite awhile. This, though, is messier to clean up, but it bought me 5 minutes to unload and load the dishwasher without my “helper” touching every dirty dish and grabbing every sharp utensil I loaded πŸ™‚

5.) Crayola Color Wonder products. This is something to buy, but my guy loves them. Since he doesn’t like anything on his hands we’ve put away the finger paints and pulled out the paintbrush. We focus mainly on the color and his coordination now. We have such fun! He’s a fan of purple, so I have lots of “abstract” purple pictures for my walls πŸ™‚ These can be messy, but only sticky, not stains. He uses LOTS of the paint, so I may need to invest in plenty of refills πŸ™‚ His favorite right now is the Paint Palette:

6.) Stickers. My child has discovered a love of stickers. I can stick one on his arm and he spends a few minutes playing with it – taking it off, putting it on, losing it between the couch cushions… πŸ™‚ He also likes to decorate cards and pictures with them (as long as he can stack like stickers on top of one another… πŸ˜‰ ).

 

7.) Color Wonder markers and a cup. Literally, he played, on and off, all morning with these. I say Color Wonder so that your furniture, carpet, and clothing are saved from stains. He takes the lids on a off, fills the cup, and spills the cup over and over. Cheap and easy!
8.) Food containers. I washed out an empty plastic coffee creamer container and a gummy vitamin container. Hehas Β played with those two containers more than any plastic pretend food I have purchased at a store. It’s unreal, but he loves them. Aforementioned markers, rice, stickers, and water, all join these containers in play. So, instead of throwing away those big plastic containers, wash them out and replace some toys with them!
9.) A key to entertaining my child has been to rotate his toys. I’ll post pictures of his toy storage later (I strive for my house to still look like a home and not a daycare…), but he has a basket full of toys on the bottom shelf of the entertainment center. He pulls out that basket, empties it and sits in it, and plays. πŸ™‚ The toys in this basket, and all other baskets, rotate every few weeks (sometimes sooner if he’s bored). This keeps him interested and his toys seeming like new! I’ll rotate his toys from room to room, so the toys upstairs, which aren’t seen as often, become new when brought downstairs. I rotate his books on his shelf in the family room. This keeps him interested in the books and keeps me from buying WAY too many books (my downfall).
I have plans for crafting a few more projects for him – my “FunMommy” pinterest board is stuffed with ideas. If you’re not following along with me on Pinterest, I’d love for you to find me! We’ll share ideas to keep our sanity while enriching our littles!

 

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