I prefer instead to try and keep him engaged doing something and fun, but it's not always easy to come up with activities that captivate his interest. I often look for ideas on Pinterest, and there are great resources as well on other mom-blogs, like Chelsea's post about toddler play at home.
I noticed that there are a few things that Riggs always enjoys doing that keep him entertained for quite a while. I thought I'd share some of them here for other toddler moms looking for ideas. None of them are groundbreaking, amazing ideas, but they are easy to do and almost so simple you might not think of them.
1. playing outside/taking a walk
This is the best thing ever as far as keeping Riggs entertained. He literally would play outside all day long if he could. We spend a lot of time outside as a result, probably about half his waking hours on average. Steve and I love to be outside too so it just fits for us as a family (if you've read my blog for very long you'll already know this since half of my posts are about our outdoor adventures, like this, this, and this). But even if you don't necessarily love being outside, I would still highly recommend scheduling at least one daily walk into your current routine. It is so important for kids to spend time outside to explore the world around them and get lots of fresh air. I heard on NPR last week that the average American child spends only 4-7 minutes in unstructured outdoor play a day but spends more than 7 hours a day in front of a screen (source). I think the best way to change this staggering statistic is to get our kids outside for longer periods at younger ages. Being active and spending lots of time outside are lifelong skills that we can teach our kids young if we make it a priority from the beginning.
2. reading a good book
Riggs loves books and will often sit for 5-10 minutes 'reading' and looking at books by himself. But most of the time he would prefer if Steve or I read the books to him. He will sit in our lap listening to us read book after book. I'm so thrilled that he loves books so much, and feel lucky too, since I know there are plenty of toddlers who just aren't that interested until later.
3. playing with Tutka (our black lab)
Obviously, this isn't possible if you don't have a dog (or a cat). But if you do, this could be a great opportunity for your child and your dog to have a little entertaining bonding time. Riggs and Tutka are only 1 month apart (we brought Tutka home when Riggs was only 3 months old), so they have literally grown up together. They play together all the time and it's hard to keep them apart sometimes, but I always stay close to make sure that Riggs isn't hurting Tutka (he likes to point to his eyes and nose, but sometimes he gets a little carried away and pokes him in the eye). Tutka is very gentle with Riggs, and I know in my heart he would never purposefully hurt him, but I still don't ever leave them alone together. It's never okay to leave a pet alone with your child, no matter how much you trust them.
4. build a fort
I really don't think this one needs too much explaining. Everybody loves forts! You can build one with anything you have around, and no matter how lame the fort is your child will love it. We throw a blanket over Riggs' little wood table usually, and he plays for the longest time, crawling in and out of it. You really can make a fort out of anything too, just this afternoon I rolled up my yoga mat into a sort of half circle and stood it up on the ground and Riggs had so much fun just hanging out under it. Very easy and oh so entertaining.
5. playing with cars or trains
This one might seem super obvious, but it always works for us. Riggs often plays with cars by himself, but if he's getting a little bored and needs extra 'help' playing, I build him a track somewhere different, like in the living room or kitchen. For some reason the change in location makes it more fun for him. I also set up little places for him to play with his trains that are different and stimulating - his favorite is to play on a fold out card table while he sits in one of our recliners.
6. bathtime in the sink
This is an activity that needs to be supervised, you wouldn't want them to fall out of the sink! But it's a great way to let them play while you work nearby, chopping vegetables, unloading the dishwasher or whatever else you might need to do in the kitchen. Riggs loves it and has so much fun 'stirring' with his whisk and 'washing' some dishes I give him.
7. painting/art projects
I left this one for last because it's one of the 'hardest', since it involves a tiny bit of set up and clean up. Despite the extra work it's always worth it to see how much fun Riggs has and how proud he is of his 'art'. We keep it simple with large sheets of butcher paper and one or two colors of washable paint, or simple crayons and paper. Then I always hang up his artwork above his little table so that he can see them and show them to daddy when he comes home from work.
So there you have it, the seven fun and somewhat educational things I do most often to keep Riggs entertained and engaged. If you have any great ideas for me, I'd love to hear them so be sure to share in the comment section!