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A Blog from Your Kaiser Permanente Pediatricians in Northern California

How Do You Entertain a Toddler – Without Your Phone?

When you have a bored and fussy toddler and need to cook dinner, how do you entertain them? While we know it isn’t the best option to hand them a phone or tablet to watch PJ Masks or another cartoon – it sure is easy and effective!

It can feel overwhelming to figure out how to keep your child occupied all day, especially when you need to get something done.

Here’s a list of ideas for non-media alternatives. Have fun trying them!

  • Fill a drawer in your kitchen with fun, safe kitchen gadgets and containers so your sweetie can play while you work.
  • Make homemade playdough: Mix 1 cup flour,1 cup warm water, 2 teaspoons cream of tartar, 1 teaspoon oil, ¼cup salt, and food coloring, glitter, or scent. Stir over medium heat until smooth and thick. Place in airtight container when cooled.
  • Let your child make mud pies outside and give them safe kitchen tools to use.
  • Set up a small table in your kitchen or family area with paper, crayons, pencils, and other craft supplies.
  • Keep a box full of mail items – return address labels and envelopes from junk mail, stickers, and stampers to play post office.
  • Hide some especially fun toys and only bring them out when you really need some time to get something done – their “newness” will catch your child’s attention longer.
  • Have them play “bop the balloon” – the goal is to keep the balloon in the air as long as possible! Add more balloons when they get better at the game.
  • Let them “help” you cook. Put them on a chair or stool and give them some safe kitchen tools to play with, or let your child wash “dishes” in the sink.

When it comes down to it, phones and tablets can be powerful babysitters but frequent use of them is not good for your child. And many apps or toys labelled as educational – aren’t.

We know that one of the ways young children learn best is when they’re exploring the world on their own. So, these simple ideas may keep them learning, having fun, and out of your way for a few minutes!

Disclaimer: If you have an emergency medical condition, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. An emergency medical condition is any of the following: (1) a medical condition that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain) such that you could reasonably expect the absence of immediate medical attention to result in serious jeopardy to your health or body functions or organs; (2) active labor when there isn't enough time for safe transfer to a Plan hospital (or designated hospital) before delivery, or if transfer poses a threat to your (or your unborn child's) health and safety, or (3) a mental disorder that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity such that either you are an immediate danger to yourself or others, or you are not immediately able to provide for, or use, food, shelter, or clothing, due to the mental disorder. This information is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of specific medical advice or care you receive from your physician or other health care professional. If you have persistent health problems, or if you have additional questions, please consult with your doctor. If you have questions or need more information about your medication, please speak to your pharmacist. Kaiser Permanente does not endorse the medications or products mentioned. Any trade names listed are for easy identification only.