Any activity that lights up your toddler's face can give you joy too (unless it involves permanent marker and your walls). But, while she's content to build and rebuild the same block tower for hours, you can't help but feel restless. Seeking out activities that entertain you both isn't self-indulgent. When you're mentally engaged and enjoying time with your toddler, you can both feel secure in your bond.
Sign Up for School
Someday her class schedule will leave you scrambling to relearn geometry so you can help with homework. For now, classes can provide valuable social interaction. Check in with your local gym or YMCA for movement or gymnastics classes aimed at toddlers. A local art studio or swim school might offer toddler-appropriate classes. KidsHealth says that participating in musical activities helps tots form important neural connections. Pick one that lasts no longer than 45 minutes, and repeat class activities at home.
Set Up a Silver Screen
No screen time is just fine for children younger than two, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Older tots, however, can enjoy an occasional movie. Pick a toddler-friendly flick with jokes and messages that appeal to you, too. Pixar classics like "Finding Nemo" and "Cars" are ideal for audiences of all ages. Snack on flavored corn puffs—popcorn is unsafe for toddlers—and snuggle together. The AAP recommends parents watch media with their children to teach tots to be selective about screen time.
Make a Date
An advantage of play dates is you'll get to talk about something other than potty training, and your toddler gets to work on social skills. Aim to schedule one a week with other moms you know and like. If you don't have a roster of play date companions, chat up parents of similarly-aged kids at a children's museum or park. Arrange play dates in public places while you get to know each other. And don't limit yourself to moms with toddlers—if you need to catch up with a childless friend or empty-nester, invite her over for coffee and snacks. Your toddler will keep busy showing off her toys and introducing your friend to her stuffed animals, and once she goes down for nap you can continue your adults-only chat.
Get Down and Dirty
It's a toddler's job to get messy. Rather than worrying about the cleanup, find a task that you'll both enjoy, and that will also provide a fun mess for your kid. Fill buckets with soapy water and have a bubble fight with your toddler while you wash the car, or enlist your toddler as your co-gardener in creating a backyard veggie patch. Use your hands to scoop out dirt and plant seeds. Aside from being a tension reliever for you, messy play helps a child develop coordination and stimulates language development, says Scholastic.