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Toddler Talk: 15 Quiet-Time Activities

Toddlers are known for being rambunctious balls of energy with speedy little legs and often-bruised foreheads. They’re curious explorers and daredevil risk-takers, with too many things to see and do in a 24-hour period. (That’s why, naps? Noooo.)

Yet that insatiable curiosity can be satisfied in ways that don’t involve outside voices and bloody lips. If you’re lucky, your little busy-body can channel that energy into something…quiet.

For those days where you need them to just SIT STILL PLEASE SHHH, try stocking up on some of these quiet-time toddler activities. You can never be sure what your child will be interested in (that day, that minute), but these are some safe bets:

1. Puzzles and Activities

From about 18 months on up, I always had a few puzzles out in his play area or in the living room, only because it was such a sure-fire way to get him to settle down and quietly play. I added more quiet-time activities as the months went on—like these Kid O magnetic letters and counting/tracing activity books.

2. Painting /Coloring

Noah got an easel for his second birthday and it was one of his all-time greatest presents. Not only is it how we discovered that painting is his thang, but OH the countless hours he’s stood still, silently painting. Now if your younger toddler would most likely go on a painting binge the minute your back turns, then the scrubbing and reupholstering might not be worth the few quiet minutes. Your call.

3. Books

Picture books, picture books, picture books. Just have stacks of them lying around—one is sure to catch his eye. And there’s nothing I like more than to cuddle up with a toddler on my lap and read stories.

4. Interactive Book

If your older toddler is having trouble sitting still for books, try an interactive book like “Press Here” by Herve Tullet. It has no electronics whatsoever—just old-fashioned interactive directions, which has kids twisting, turning, and shaking the book. I read this to Noah in Barnes & Noble, and a crowd of kids circled around us within minutes, laughing and playing along. That’s when I knew I had stumbled on something special.

5. Building Blocks

Everything from LEGOs to wooden blocks to those big cardboard bricks—all sanity-savers, I tell you.

6. Walks/Strolls

Whether you pack the kids in a stroller or just head outside into nature, there’s typically enough going on—planes flying, birds chattering, leaves blowing—to keep your little one stimulated. Grass, rocks, and dirt alone is enough to quietly occupy the little ones. And don’t get me started on sticks.

7. Play Clay

Whether you go for the store-bought variety or make your own, even adults can get sucked into a quiet clay-molding session.

8. Cardboard

They can paint it, climb in it, and shoot off to the moon. They can turn it into a fort or a car. The possibilities! We even have this giant cardboard house that Noah spent weeks coloring and playing inside.

9. Chalk

Once the weather warms up, chalk can calm down even the feistiest toddler.

10. Magnets

And magnets! Never underestimate the mesmerizing allure of a pile of magnets.

11. Baking

Get the kids into the kitchen with some age-appropriate baking—like measuring, dumping, and mixing. And, of course, chatter-boxes can’t chatter with food in their mouths (at least not as much).

12. Big Helper

Break out a mini toy vacuum when you’re cleaning up the floors, or hand your little one a rag to help clean up. Many toddlers will eagerly want to be a big helper!

13. Play Cars/Figurines

This has been the #1 source of quiet-time play in the Horton house—and I especially love listening to his imaginary scenarios and dialogue.

14. Train Sets

A combination of building (tracks), magnets, and play figurines—no wonder train popularity peaks in toddlerhood.

15. Some Screen

When all else fails, break out the digital books and iPad games—the most effective tool in the history of parenting. And enjoy that sweet, sweet silence.

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