30 answers

HELP!!! Need Ideas for Keeping a Toddler Entertained!

For those moms who stay at home with their children...what do you do all day with your kids??? My daughter and I are driving each other up the wall lately. I'm 5 months pregnant and so exhuasted that it's hard to find the energy to entertain her. She is super clingy to me and doesn't play well independantly. I wish she had kids her age to play with but we don't know anyone who also stays at home with a toddler.

We go to the library on Fridays which she loves. I want to go to the park every day but lately it seems it is either 95 degrees out or pouring down rain and we can't play outside in either. To make matters worse, we are really really strapped for money so I can't afford to enroll her in any type of class or participate in any paid activity.

I love having structure and routine but it seems that since she turned 2 (last month) and I get further along in my pregnant, our lives have become boring & subsequently she has way too much contained energy.

Any ideas or care to share what you do? Oh...I live in Jacksonville.

Thanks a bunch!!!

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thanks so much for all the great advice!!! I have gone to the Avenues Mall early before it opens and that has been great. We are able to walk around without worrying about crowds and she can play in the kids play area and it isn't crowded! A great way to get exercise and let her have fun, no matter what the weather.

I also joined jacksonvillemommies.com and am looking forward to meeting some moms on there! I have found some activity ideas also on Jax4kids and found places I didn't know existed so that was great too!

I am trying to get out of the house everyday to get her plenty of exercise and to keep us from getting stir crazy. I'm also making sure that we do some sort of indoor activity too. I am finding that if I focus on doing things WITH her throughout the day (where she & I are really doing something together) that she is more apt to play independently for a little while. I guess she gets her "mommy" time that way!

Thanks again!

Featured Answers


Have you looked into any local play groups or SAHM groups? I think you can locate some online. Good luck....

I am kind of in the same boat but I have a 2 yr old son and just had my second son 9 weeks ago. Before the baby was born, we did the park almost every morning (or swimming) then lunch followed by a nap.
Then the afternoon was just playtime at home or running errands.
What side of J'ville do you live in? My son is always looking for new friends.

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I know this sounds funny, but I used to take my toddlers to places like Target and WalMart and even ToysRUs and play in the toy section. It's quite possible that this is one of the reasons I can go shopping with them now at ages 9 and 10 and I don't have to hear "can I have this? will you buy me this?" because we would go and play and not buy anything. The bonus was when it was time for birthdays and xmas presents I had a good idea of which toys they'd really want! (Tip= go after lunch so you aren't tempted to spend money on snacks or drive thru, so aside from the gas to get there it's a 100% free day!)

On days you are home all day, try making yourself a schedule. Keep it flexible since from one day to the next her attention span for an activity will fluctuate, but make a list of things like Art Time (can be just blank paper and crayons one day and markers another day, you can get brave and use washable paint, and you can look online and do a cheap super simple craft once a week-- you can recycle products like toilet paper tubes), Reading Time (check out 5 books when you are at the library on Fridays and read only one new book a day-- or check out 10 and read 2 a day-- so reading time is special. You can re-read the same book more than once plus read some favorites that you own if she wants more reading time), Academic Time (you can use toys that you have or make learning materials of your own-- but focus on whatever is age appropriate and keeps her interest-- like shapes, colors and intro to letters or even just animal sounds. You can play simple games and I'm sure you can find some ideas on line), Mommy Time (you can start a project together like go through old magazines and cut out pictures, then make a book for her by simply writing a letter on each page using construction paper and glue pictures that start with that letter, or you can use Mommy Time for her "helping" you with chores like while you do laundry she can stuff the socks into and out of a paper towel roll or whatever, or you can just sit and play with blocks with her), Music Time (you can play childrens CD's and/or sing and dance around), Exercise Time (whatever you can do that's active for her to run down her energy and keep you from being a couch potato)......
Anyway, use your imagination to come up with sections of time. Then make a simple chart. You can use magnets or velcro on the back and each section of time (or class or center or whatever you want to call it) can be written along with a simple drawn or printed picture. Then you can show her the order of things you will be doing that day. For example, let her know that after breakfast you will be doing Exercise Time, then Craft Time. You can also let her know that after Mommy Time, it's {Fill in Child's Name} Time, which is time for her to play by herself. If she isn't good at this, train her how to play by herself! Have a box or corner of the closet up high where you keep special toys that she can play with independantly (go through the toys she has now and think of which ones she really can play with by herself) and stay close by at first, then try slowly leaving the room for a few minutes each day until she is able to play by herself for 20 minutes or so in a safe place like her own room (keep checking on her!)

3 moms found this helpful

have you tried to join a local playgroup? Most are free to join, and they can have LOTS of great things to do!

go to www.yahoogroups.com and type in your town and playgroup, and a list will come up...Choose one that sounds right for you and enjoy!!

What area of Jax are you in? I may be able to point you in a good direction!! There is a great one near Arlington, ICW, Beaches called Jacksonville Kids
In the mandarin area, there is Jax 30 and over
and on the northside there is Jacksonville Tots playgroup

Let me know if I can help you! :)

1 mom found this helpful

Hi M.,
I have 4 children(ages 7, 4, 3)-the fourth is going to be 2 in Sept. so I will just share with you what we do all day and hopefully it will at least be a little thought-provoking. After breakfast I kind of just let them have free-play time; i.e. the t.v. is on and they OCCASIONALLY stop for a second to watch while just playing in their rooms, bringing books to me to read while I read the paper, etc. Then we have a moring snack and get dressed for the day. After that we either go swimming, go swinging, go for a walk-something to get them outside so we don't ALL go crazy. On the days that it is super-hot even just being outside for 30 minutes really does seem to work wonders. Then, if it's lunch time we eat and my favorite part of the day begins-NAP TIME!!!! But, if it is too early for lunch or too hot we stay inside and color, or play with playdough, or I play with them in their rooms, read books, have a tea party, etc. They don't even care if I PLAY with them as long as I sit in there with them and talk to them while THEY play. Another option for a rainy day/too hot day is the play area at the mall. Sorry this was so long but I hope it helps a little.

1 mom found this helpful

we are the same as you!!! i am eight months pregnant and staying home all the time now. i am so tired and my girl does not nap!!
being outside is miserable unless you are in the water. there is a splash park in winter springs, and in lake mary.
monkey joe's off of howel branch is only $6.
we have a yearly membership to the science center and zoo. the mall play area is good too. it seems dirty and the kids can get rowdy but it is a great way for your little one to play with other kids.
we also started doing crafts in the garage. painting and coloring.

1 mom found this helpful

I'm in the same boat as you hun. I have a two year old and am 6 mths pregnant. I also have a 4 year old, but she started pre-k so I get a break from her for a couple of hours, but then my son has no one to play with and clings to me like crazy. I live in Saint Marys and have the same weather. I wish we lived closer together then we could get the kids together and let them run out their energy. I guess I really don't have any advice, but wanted to let you know your not alone. If you get anything good let me know cause I'm about to pull my hair out here. LOL.

1 mom found this helpful

I am not familiar with the Jacksonville area, but do you have a mall with an indoor play area close by? I have become a HUGE fan of these (it doesn't matter if it's pouring rain or 100 degrees out!) I would also recommend checking with local churches. Many have mom's day out programs and toddler playgroups- usually for no fees. Also check on www.mops.org to see if there is a chapter that meets nearby. This is a national organization for "mothers of preschoolers" that often offers free childcare (where the kids can socialize with their peers, make crafts, etc) during meetings. I remember being pregnant and tired with a toddler to entertain :) On the days I just didn't have the energy to get out, I'd go to the Sesame Street web site and print out coloring pages and follow a "lesson plan" based on the letter & number of the day from the show. This way, at least my 3 year old had some stimulation & was learning! Best of luck to you- hang in there!

1 mom found this helpful

We rotate toys. Serves many purposes. First, it "helps" keep the house looking like you don't actually think anything brightly colored and plastic is considered chic decor. Second, it helps your child from becoming overwhelmed with too many choices. Third, it makes it seem, to them, like you are constantly buying them new toys. Even though they've had them all along. Every couple months (or whatever time schedule works for you) we put away the toys that are accessible and get out a different set of toys that have been sitting in the closet. They rediscover toys they already own.
I've also heard that many parents put away Christmas gifts as well. So that you really don't have to buy new toys when they get so bored with the ones they have now. *there are 5 children between myself and my husband, so we don't have money to get them all a lot every year*
You can have music time. But the rule is to make music with household items. *may not be all that great when the new baby comes home though* put uncooked rice into a plastic bottle, etc.
In case of emergency, turn on NOGIN. There are times when mommy just needs a break. TV works. I don't care if people yell at me for saying it. My boys love NOGIN and Veggietales. It can buy me time to shower without someone popping their little head in the door or get some dishes done. Fix dinner, etc.
Just try to remember, boredom never hurt anyone. It's not your job to continuously entertain someone else.
Oh... one thing all my kids loved is going into a dark room with flashlights. Making shadows on the walls and just playing with the lights. Supervise that because they will try to open them.

1 mom found this helpful

Do you have a pool in your backyard for her to play in? That is the only thing that worked for me when my daughter was two and i had a newborn. She would play in the blow up pool and I would sit at the back door and have the baby.
Check out the local Moms Club. go to momsclub.com or mops.com. They have play groups and group activites each week that cost nothing. All you pay is a annual fee, like $25.00. I also got my daughter some simple peg puzzles that she would play with for a while also a doll house with little people and furniture. I swear she would play with that for hours and i would lay in the floor while she played. I got it cheap at a local consignment shop.

1 mom found this helpful

I don't have a solution for EVERY day, but something to add in to the mix once in a while.

Grab the chairs from the table and drag them into the living room and put a blanket over them... make yourselves a fort... then read a book, or color, or build lego towers under it. Just having the "setting" different makes the old toys more fun. You can set it up right next to the sofa (so you can have something to lean on for your achy back, too!).

You can also set up an indoor obstacle course for her. Pull out chairs for her to crawl under interspersed with pillows for her to crawl over and a laundry basket to go around... or some variation... Then offer to time her with your watch.
You get to sit, she runs off energy... (I still pull the "time you" trick on my 7 and 10 yr olds in the swimming pool).

My son didn't play well independently at that age either, and I was miserably sick pregnant. Sometimes just sitting on the floor and talking them through their own play helps them stick with stuff. (Can you build the tower out of ONLY the YELLOW blocks? what about the green ones?) It's okay if your house isn't spic 'n span right now. You can just sit there.

Also, my son didn't do naps, either. I found that if I laid down on the bed and held him, he would go to sleep--- and usually so did I, and I think I needed it more than he did.

I, too, used to take my son to stores that had "toy aisles" and "browse". I might pick up a thing or to that I needed in other departments, but I'd grab an item or two for him, let him explore them, then put them back. His hands were clean, and we didn't do it when he was ill, and nothing was damaged. It was a change of scenery for him, and got me out of the house where you can go stir-crazy.
Good luck to you.

1 mom found this helpful

We go to library when there is a preschool reading time. The kids love it and I get to talk to other moms who have kids the same age. Maybe you can set-up a playgroup that way.

Mornin! I have Baby First TV that is about $5-$6 a month and it is SO worth it! I know a lot of moms are anti-TV, but all of the programming is developmental and my daughter loves it. I can actually cook dinner without having to entertain her too. The only difference is your little one is 2 and it not be as beneficial or entertaining as it is to an 8 month old. If your tv service offers it, you might want to look at the Baby First TV discription online to get a better idea if it is worth it or not. Seriously, I don't know what I would do without it!

Hey M., I joined a moms group on meetup. The group I am in is the SW Orlando Sunshine Squad but there are plenty more if you want to find one closer to you. You can also check yahoo groups.

I know this group was a lifesaver for me and now the days when we don't meetup seems crazy. My daughter has made some great friends as well as myself


Hi M.!
You need a moms club! Check out http://www.momsclub.org to find one in your area--they are a support/social group for stay at home moms! Lots of things to do with your toddler and a way to meet other SAHM in your area! If you can't find a chapter near you on the website, PM me with your zip code and I'll contact the coordinator in your area and get you hooked up.

Hi M.,
Congratulations on your baby on the way! It is certainly a handful, but well worth it. =) Although I do not have the luxery of staying home w/ the kids, when I was on mat-leave, I kept my 2yr old entertained when we couldn't play outside a bunch of different ways. When i was pregnant w/ #2, as I did small preparations for the baby, I had him help. Like wipe the baby toys clean, organize baby stuff, shop and pick out baby things. This got him to welcome/accept the baby when she came, w/o being too jealous or regressing bec he wasn't the center of attention anymore. We talked about how he's be the big brother, and he talked to the baby/my belly all the time. We also played w/ interactive toys together-- Discovery Toys (I actually sell them now on the side if you are interested). They are GREAT toys to engage both you and your child, without a whole lot of mess and tons of learning to help your child grow! We have singing time, reading time, clean-up toys time, cooking time, etc. I don't really want him to be too hooked on TV, but when I did need that sanity/alone break besides during his naptime, I had a bunch of Little Einsteins, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and Sesame Street episodes recorded that I could put it on demand while I took care of something else. I think those programs are safe and good for toddlers to watch, and they will still learn a lot. I also had activity books. They were kinda advanced preschool stuff, but they still worked. Now that I am back to work, he still does all these activities w/ the nanny, and continues to help/play nice w/ the baby. Hope some of this is helpful, and good luck w/ #2! =)

I am kind of in the same boat but I have a 2 yr old son and just had my second son 9 weeks ago. Before the baby was born, we did the park almost every morning (or swimming) then lunch followed by a nap.
Then the afternoon was just playtime at home or running errands.
What side of J'ville do you live in? My son is always looking for new friends.

We do lots of crafts, playdoh and playdates. I recommend MOPS (Moms of Preschoolers) there are 5 groups in Jacksonville. Go to MOPS.org and on the right side click - join a group and put in your zip code. Some groups charge for the kids program but they do have sponsorships.

I would look into finding Moms Clubs in your area - we are a small town and have 3 different moms clubs where you can meet moms. Cafemom may have a Jacksonville section.

There are days when we are crazy regardless of what I plan!!!

M., I feel your "pain". I am a full time stay at home Mom and really the key is ~ get out of the house LOL...STAY there as little as possible...haha. I come home for lunch and naptime...otherwise...the gym, the zoo, SeaWorld, Chick Fil A or other indoor playgrounds, also schedule a playdate at a friends house, maybe 3x a week...so that you can also have some time to chat with your girlfriends...congrats on the baby to be. God Bless and Good Luck.
Love, B.

I have two ideas for you, going to chick fil a for lunch and let her play on the play equipment with other children. You can sit and rest and hopefully she will play with the other children. Cheap entertainment for her. Also, you might want to try a web site called craigslist.com you can post adds for free. You choose post an add, then community, then childcare and you can put a post on saying that you are a SAHM and would like to find some playmates for your daughter. You never know, maybe someone else in your very own neighborhood is in the same situation.

Hope this helps!

There is a nice, fun park across form the Metro park in Jax called Kids Kampus. We took our kids this week and they had a good time. There is a sm water park there as well so a good way to cool off. And it is FREE!

When I was in your situation, I went to the library & took out any book that said "toddler activities" -- "1,0001 things to do with your toddler" These books had ideas I never even thought about. I would do just the simple activities since I was pregnant every other year (3 children -- each 1 1/2 apart).

Also, joining a MOMs club is a good idea for the days you just run out of ideas & can't stay home anymore.

Splash parks -- any park -- to run out her energy.

Oh, and the dollar store -- for inexpensive cheap activities.

Congrats on your new little one to come!

I M.,

I would go to www.Meetup.com and join a Stay At Home Mommy Meetup Group. I am the Organizer for one in Orlando. They are a great way to meet other moms and your children to get out and meet and play with other kids.

M. - I just had a baby boy 2 months ago so I totally understand how you feel. When I got pregnant our first son was just under three and as my pregnancy progressed things got very hard. I had horrible Hyperemesis Gravidium and spent many days, including his third birthday, in the ER. Then I was on bedrest, then after all of that I broke both my ankles. It was a mess.

I found a couple of things worked for me. First we got him some very entertaining and educational DVDs and my husband set up a special TV area in our bedroom so he could lay with me and watch it. He really enjoyed movies with music in them, and musical programs. The Disney sing a long DVDs were great for one. And even tho we were watching tv it was great to interact with it together.

We also got him some MoonSand. This was something he could sit and play with on his own without my constant attention. MoonSand unlike playdo will not stick to anything but itself so even if your lil one spreads it everywhere it is an easy cleanup with a vacuum cleaner.

Walmart had these books that you "paint" with water. When wet the images would colorin like painting. When they dried the color went away so he could do it again and again.

My son loves the tub so I bought some special tub toys and crayons/paints made for the tub. I can see him from the bed in our room so I could set him up in the tub, have the water running at a trickle so he could play with it, and watch him without having to stand right there. When it would get half full or so I would shut it off and let him continue to play. he loved that.

A bit of good news is that as you enter your sixth month youshould start having some great energy. That is about the time I started nesting, and although I was not able to move around like I would want I still had the energy to deal with things I could not possibly have dealt with before. After getting permission to walk in my casts I was all over the house, I was about 7 1/2 months pregnant or so, and I was doing stuff like crazy! So you should be getting closer and closer to the place where you will enjoy getting out again with your 2 yr old.


INDOOR PLAYGROUNDS!!! I used to live in OP, so I am familiar with Jax. I think OP Mall has one. Also look online for mommy groups. They have that at meet.com, just type in your city and there should be a few listed. Good Luck!

PS. Just was in your predicament, she's starting soccer in the fall! You can enroll them here at 3. (haha)

Have you looked into any local play groups or SAHM groups? I think you can locate some online. Good luck....

Hi, do you have a Mcdonalds with an indoor play area. My daughter was the same way about being very clingy and I started taking her here and she began playing with the other children and becoming less clingy plus I could sit in the air conditioning and visit with other moms. Chik Fila has a playground too but it is seperate from the eating area and my daughter does not like this as well. I love in Port Orange and we have a great Mcdonalds right off of 95-if you are ever in teh area call me and we can meet there. ###-###-####. S.

You could take her to the mall. Or Chick Fil A usually has indoor play areas. Jumping places are fun too, like Jump N Party or Bounce U. Maybe see if you have a Gymboree with open play time so she can just go play. Barnes and Noble usually have story times twice a week. If you go to church you could see if there are other SAHM that want to get together. Maybe the church would be willing to open the nursery and allow you to start a playgroup through the church. If you have a fenced in backyard you could tell her to go play outside by herself and you could sit inside and watch her through the window.
At home, I would suggest you put her in her room and tell her it's Mommy Time Out time and that she has to play by herself until the timer beeps. (start at 15 minutes and gradually increase the time, do this several times a day) She may revolt the first few times but now is the time to teach her to learn to play by herself. It takes a while but it would be better for her to learn to play by herself rather than learn that when she's bored she should come find you so you can entertain her.
Best of luck to you!!

When my son (now 15 years old) was about the age of your daughter, I had trouble entertaining him AND getting my housework done. So, while I was cleaning, I would offer him some new thing to do in the room I was in. For instance, In the kitchen, I would take a cup of cornmeal or rice and pour it on the floor, give him spoons and spatulas for "bulldozers" and he would sit there forever. With your daughter being a girl, you might try putting it in a bowl and let her "make a cake" etc. Sounds messy but it really wasn't. I just swept it up when we were ready to change rooms. He even thought it was cool if I let him vacuum it up. If only I could keep him occupied that easily now :)

Have you checked cafemom.com or meetup.com to see about finding a playgroup in the area with toddlers? I WISH I lived in Jacksonville, as I know I'd have more to do (I live in Lake City) once my DD gets older. I'm pretty sure there are some free or inexpensive things to do at the MOSH or the Hands-on Children's Museum on Beach Blvd. You could also do a craft during the day or encourage her to dress up for you (using your clothes if she doesn't have dress up stuff) and put on a show. Does she have interests like drawing, etc.. you could do at the house with her (dress up would be an interest there as well)? If you haven't already gone the Gymboree at the Avenues Mall gives your first class free, so that could be a one day thing and I think there's a place in Orange Park that does the same (not Gymboree, another name). If you have a backyard or yard area even letting her run in the sprinkler on a hot day would be fun for her and you could possibly sit and have her do different things (jump backwards, sommersault, etc...). Blowing bubbles in the house, fingerpaints (if you can handle the mess). This site has other ideas: http://www.fisher-price.com/us/ms2/toddler-games.asp

Hope it helps! Let me know what you find so I can entertain my LO when she gets that age! :-)

You need to join a mom's group. You can't keep her entertained all day. She needs to play with and be around her peers. Try "meetup.com" and look in your area for SAHM groups. I'm sure you will find plenty. Many meetup groups are free or have a minimal charge ($5 or $10 per year) and have frequent activities for mom and baby.

Good luck and congratulations!

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