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What happens when your officer works the night shift, needs to sleep during the day, and you have children? All too often, you find yourself going crazy trying to entertain the kids while your officer gets some much needed shut eye. And, instead of having Pinterest worthy mom moments, you end up having huge meltdowns. Sometimes, even the kids throw a tantrum!
If you have little ones at home and an officer that works long nights and needs to sleep while everyone else is awake, I have made this list just for you. I have compiled activities that keep my toddler occupied without losing my sanity, without giving in to copious amounts of screen time (actually, none of these activities involve screen time), and, best of all, they don’t wake up Mr. Troop.
1. Go outside
This one is a no-brainer. If the weather is nice, outside wins every time. Go for a walk. Collect sticks. If it’s summertime, take your kiddos to parks or school playgrounds. I learned this one from my mom. She used to take us to school playgrounds all summer long and there were so many to choose from that we never got bored. It was a new adventure every time we piled into the car. You can pack a lunch, visit a zoo, go to a botanical garden, etc. There are so many options when the weather is nice, and many of them are free!
2. Finger painting
I know, I know- this can be so messy depending on the age of your children. I suggest for younger children that you squeeze some paint into a Ziploc bag and tape the top portion to a piece of printer paper. This gives them a background if you want to practice letter making or drawing shapes. You can give them q-tips or paint brushes and they can squish the paint around to make pictures and then wipe the bag and start all over. At first, D wasn’t really into it but now that he’s a bit older, he really enjoys squishing the bag and drawing different shapes and letters.
3. Sensory Bins
My mom was a teacher of tiny humans. She told me all about the sensory tables and is always giving me ideas that would be great if I owned an entire preschool building full of supplies. But, since I don’t have those resources at my fingertips, I simply bought a Sterilite container from the store. We’ve had the same container for about six months now, and I’ve never changed the contents of it. D asks to play with it about once or twice a week and it literally only contains: dry rice, a big spoon, a funnel, some small Ziploc containers, and a Matchbox dump truck. However, you can get crazy with these things! Sand, water, ice, snow, rice, Cheerios: the list goes on! If you’re struggling for ideas, I highly suggest you hop on over to The Busy Toddler and check out her suggestions for sensory bins. She’s got a ton of great ideas that you can use to keep kids busy indoors. And, she’s the reason I love number 4 so much!
4. Name Games
D is only two and a half. I’m not pushing him to learn his alphabet or spell his name or do his multiplication tables. However, I do love encouraging him to attempt new things and if he learns some letters along the way, more power to him! The first thing I came across on The Busy Toddler was
this post. D loves stickers, so I went right out and bought some dot stickers. Right now, we just do one letter at a time because he’s got a shorter attention span, but he’s working his way up to some larger projects. We just use printer paper. I draw one letter of his name on each separate sheet of paper, and he goes to town placing dot stickers on the lines to create each letter. Bonus, we even take these out to eat with us and use place mats to draw pictures and put dot stickers over as well!
Another great idea from my mother. We have bins of tiny, plastic animals: dinosaurs, sea creatures, zoo animals, etc. For this activity, you do need to prep a little. Fill up an ice cube tray, drop an animal in each cube slot, and place it in the freezer. Not that bad for prepping a fun game! When the time comes and you need an activity, take the tray out of the freezer and pop out each of the ice cubes. Give your little something to break the ice or chip it away little by little, and they’ll love to discover each animal that was ‘frozen’. If this is too noisy, you could always try having a race to see which animal is freed in a cup of hot water. Or, if you have older children, you could turn it into a science experiment and see what household items would free their animals the fastest: salt, hot water, vinegar, etc!
6. Obstacle courses
You could have them jump from pillow to pillow, tape string across a narrow hallway and have them duck under or go over it (Mission Impossible style), or create something using their toys where they have to go around and save a favorite stuffed animal without stepping on other toys. There are so many possibilities with either of these.
What kid doesn’t love a fort? I don’t think either this needs much explaining, but I’ll give you some quick ideas to get you started. First off, pillow forts and blanket forts. D loves when I push a chair next to the couch and drape some blankets over them. He could sit in there for hours and just play with his toys or read books.
This one can get a bit messy, but I like to exchange the word ‘messy’ for ‘creative’. Messy always makes it sound like the activity was bad or the child was misbehaving. However, they’re just always learning and being creative comes with a big dose of clean up. It’s never too early to start teaching your little ones how to safely work in the kitchen. D loves making cookies (note the flat cookie picture… he doubled the sugar when I went to get the next ingredient. Lesson learned!) and helping cook sausages. He’s always so eager to get out ingredients and bring them to the counter so he can help with each step of the process. And, it doesn’t hurt that he gets to be the first to sample the finished product.
Side note: My dad made an awesome learning tower so that D can safely help with any task in the kitchen. I highly recommend having one of these bad boys. They are an absolute blessing! Thanks, Dad!
9. Salt Dough or Moon Sand
D isn’t a huge fan of Play Doh at this particular age. However, he loves a good batch of salt dough to make Christmas ornaments and other goods. And, if you’re not wanting to bake something after you’ve created it, his favorite thing to get creative with is Moon Sand. It’s so easy to make. Seriously, it’s two ingredients. Three if you want to make it colorful. Here is a good link to follow if you’d like to see how they used food coloring. It’s flour and oil. Which means, if you have adventurers like D or very little ones who are figuring out what they can and can’t eat, you don’t have to worry because it’s completely edible. It sweeps up quickly if it gets on the floor, and, I have to admit, it’s one of my favorites because I love the texture. You can pack it together and make sand castles and then crumble it right back to the start!
10. Toy Hiding
This one is great for littles that are crawling or just learning to walk as well as older toddlers. They love hide and seek, but sometimes it’s hard to always be the one hiding if you’re taking care of more than one. So, hide some of their toys or animals and have them go on a hunt. This can be great for teaching spatial awareness and following directions. You can even have the kids hide toys for each other.
So, here are ten new activities to try the next time your officer needs to get some rest. If you haven’t tried them, let me know when you do!
What are some other activities you do with your kids to help occupy them without waking others up? Drop your favorite kid-friendly activities in the comment section!