October 29

7 Simple Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers

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I have struggled with this thing called being a mom. There’s just SO MUCH information out there on the subject. It’s borderline paralyzing.

Except that you can’t be paralyzed when you’re a mom. You have to take action, and often very much in the moment. You kind of have to have a plan, but sometimes getting out of bed and dare I say getting dressed and putting on a splash of makeup (before they all wake up) are just about all the plan that you can manage for the day. 

I have felt pulled in a thousand directions on what to do as a mom since our first baby girl was born. Recently, I have been reeling it in a bit and have been starting to gain clarity on what parenting a 3 year-old and 2 year-old can be without having to do EVERYTHING. Like EVERY idea on Pinterest. Or the internet in general.

I have gravitated towards the Montessori-style of parenting because it’s the style I feel most connected to. But even within that genre of parenting, there’s a lot of pressure to do it all. 

As a working mom, I have found it impossible to do it all. Even doing some of it has been daunting. I have recently come to the conclusion that I absolutely do not have to do it all.

I have been thinking A LOT lately about doing less. Like, how can I get away with doing less and still pass as a wife, mom, employee, human being? As a work-at-home mom, I’m seriously just trying to figure out how to make it all work while stealing a few joyful moments for myself along the way. 

So I thought I might round up, just for fun, mostly for myself, a quaint little list of Montessori-inspired (for we’ll say the 2 to 3 year-old age range) activities that don’t require you to buy anything special (mostly) or have any special skills or do any planning ahead. Because I personally need this simple list. I love a complex list and a complex plan, but I genuinely NEED a simple list and a simple plan.

Coloring with Crayons

When our first baby girls was maybe 18 months, we had a babysitter come over for the evening and she brought crayons and a coloring book. I was certain she would try to eat them…and she did. So I did not re-introduce crayons for a while after that. 

But now that they are 2 and 3, they ask to color with crayons everyday. Sure, we’ve had a tabletop or curtain or two that got scribbled on, but it’s all washable. Crayons and construction paper are now my simple, non-Pinteresty, don’t require me to be crafty or have a plan, go-to. And it’s magical. At least sometimes.

Reading a Book

Ok. So I know there’s like a ton of data out there on the importance of reading for a good amount of time on a daily basis to your child. I’m super on board with the data and the reading, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen, ok? And I don’t think that makes me a bad mom – anymore. I used to feel super guilty if I noticed that we weren’t reading as much as I knew we could. But now I just try to read when the mood strikes right and I know the girls will enjoy it and I will too. 

Anyway, this isn’t my “you shouldn’t be doing screen time” rant because I would never.  This is my “It can be as easy as reading a book every once in a while – if all the stars are aligned and no toddler is throwing a tantrum” preach. Just to be clear.

Going for a Walk

Ah, going for a walk. We have the absolute best double stroller that I barely ever use because either I’m working or it’s too hot here in Phoenix or I genuinely don’t want to deal with it. But now that we are in fall mode, we have been enjoying a quick walk here and there. We go to the mailbox to grab the mail and they love it. I do too.

Learning to Cut with Scissors

I learned about this one from the Montessori eCourse that I took not too long ago. I honestly put off teaching the use of scissors because I anticipated that it would not be a peaceful lesson. I was right! But I enjoyed practicing with the play dough scissors first. Somehow the tiny, cute play dough scissors and the use of them on play dough versus paper was a less intimidating experience for me. 

We are definitely still working on the proper use of safety scissors and it is not a daily activity suited for all moods, but on occasion it feels like a productive and worthy use of our time at this stage of life.

Learning to Use a Glue Stick

Speaking of the basics of crafting, hello glue sticks! We are still working on it but glueing is in our wheelhouse of skills-in-progress.

Cleaning Up After Yourself

Taking clothes to the hamper, putting (throwing) dishes in the sink, picking up toys. All perfectly acceptable, and oftentimes cute, uses of time. I particularly loved when Claire would mispronounce hamper as “camper”.

Doing NOTHING

Yes, you heard right! I have recently become passionate that the art of doing nothing might be getting lost and I personally cannot let that happen. Seriously, a few weeks ago I was on my last big day of potty training and our 3 year old was TRYING me. And I was DONE. 

I was done with TV and activities. I only had the heart to allow 2 graham crackers, and then I was off to my own world of actually reading my own book just for me while I left our 3 year old to her own devices (with no digital entertainment to speak of). 

As shocked as I was to discover this, she was genuinely ok. Like, she had plenty to explore, discover, atune herself to. As in, she didn’t need to be entertained by all the sensory bins on Pinterest, or TV, or a puzzle or other activity. She was perfectly content to just BE. 

I seriously had no idea this was an option until 3 years into motherhood when I reached a breaking point of being done with the whining and I just needed a moment and had no other option than to stay in the say room as her but give her no entertainment. And I had the sneaking suspicion that it very well could have been the best thing for her. 

There are so many more fun Montesssori-inspired ideas out there, and I particularly loved the Montessori at Home eCourse I took by Ashley of Hapa Family Vlog. Most, if not all, of these ideas are derived from that course. I love that The course breaks down activities by age so you can have an idea if an activity is developmentally appropriate or not. That is an area of parenting that I haven’t felt completely confident in, so I was so happy to have found a resource that would help guide me when I wasn’t sure of myself.

I would love to know – which of these activity ideas is your favorite?

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  1. It is important to realize that toddlers and pre-schoolers need to do activities differently than the bigger kids. They can still have fun and do a lot, but we must adapt to their skill level.

  2. So true it’s impossible for us to do it all. These are great tips and things for us to consider.

    1. Thanks! I do my best to choose to do the things that require more planning when I have the time and energy, and keep it simple when I don’t have extra time.

    2. This resonates with so many topics I’ve been working with–homeschooling with less, worries to let go of, what your toddlers REALLY need (it’s not all. The. Stuff). Love the simplicity and kindness you be out out there.

  3. Cleaning up after yourself is one that I love abs I think my daughter would love to learn to use scissors! Great post!

    1. Thank you! Yes the scissors is a work in progress for us. It was a wild ride the first few times but I can see that it’s coming along with each new time we pick them up 🙂

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