18 Ways to Entertain Your Toddler in the Kitchen

Pop quiz: Which has a shorter attention span, a goldfish or a toddler?

It’s probably a goldfish but sometimes it seems like it’s your toddler. We’ve probably all been there: you’re trying to finish your morning coffee or trying to frantically whip dinner together while your toddler winds around your legs, begging for you to entertain them. Somehow, they are bored of the large variety of toys you provided for them and they need something new.

If you can relate to that, this list is for you. It’s a list of 18 things that you can entertain your toddler with, right in your kitchen. It’s perfect for a busy weeknight or a long, rainy day stuck inside. These activities are things that they can do on their own (with supervision of course.)

1. Let Them Stack “Blocks”

Don’t have any blocks? Don’t worry! Find some unopened pasta boxes and let your child build a skyscraper, and knock it down. Build a skyscraper, and knock it down. You get the idea.

2. Spice It Up A Bit

Pull out your spice rack and let your child remove and rearrange your spices. All the better if your spice rack is one of those spinning ones. Your child will probably also enjoy shaking and banging the spice jars, so be careful if they are made of glass. Also make sure they can’t get the lids off!

3. Teach Them Their ABC’s

Fridge magnets are a classic childhood toy that I think every kitchen should have. Your kid can play solo by taking the magnets on and off or rearranging them to form “words.” You can also tell them the names and sounds of the letters or teach them to spell their name. Having a small container near the fridge to put letters in can be fun too. Last night my daughter filled up my husband’s shoes with letters!

4. Bring Out Their Inner Explorer

Designate a cabinet for exploration and fill it with unbreakable items your kid can’t get hurt with or choke on. Let them poke around and discover new objects. Switch it up occasionally to keep it fresh and interesting.

5. Encourage Them To Wash Dishes

Set up a wash basin with some plastic dishes and utensils, soap and water. Provide them with a scrub brush or wash cloth. You may want to strip your child and surround them with towels, because they will make a mess. Guaranteed.

6. Start A Mariachi Band

Fill some plastic water bottles or pill bottles with rice, beans or lentils. Tape the lids on so they can’t make something else for you to clean up (or eat too many uncooked beans) and let them shake the night away.

7. Train A Future Rock Star

This is a classic. Line up some pots and pans, give your kid a wooden spoon, and let them drum up some fun. Grab yourself a pair of noise cancelling headphones and your kids will be entertained for an hour. (Ok, maybe five minutes. But at least you were able to finish your coffee, right?)

8. Create A Teething Station

Grab your wooden spoons and rubber spatulas and put them in a bowl. Let your child chew to their heart’s content.

9. Make An Obstacle Course

If your child can cruise, set up some chairs that they can maneuver around to explore their environment with. If they’re not at that cruising stage yet, set up a low table where they can stand and play with toys. This used to be my daughter’s favorite activity.

10. Design A Sensory Bin

There is a good reason that there are a million and one ideas on Pinterest for sensory bins: they are a cheap way to entertain your kid for hours. And, it’s easy to keep your kids engaged because you can change them up daily or weekly. Here’s a fun one from Swaddles n’ Bottles.

11. Turn The Kitchen Into A Dance Floor

This activity is super easy. Turn on some tunes that you and your child like and rock out. They can dance and you can chop your veggies to the beet. (Sorry, had to sneak a bad veggie pun in there.)

12. Veg Out

Give your child an array of fruits and veggies to explore. You can even give them a magnifying glass. Depending on the age, though, they may try to eat them skin and all. I gave my daughter a banana once and she started eating it through the skin! Obviously I stopped her, but yuck! Moral of the story? Be vigilant!

13. Whip Up Some Water Shakers

Fill empty water bottles or spice containers with water, food coloring, oil, glitter and whatever else you can think of. Make sure the caps are secure and watch your child enjoy sloshing the colorful, sparkling water. Here’s some ideas from Preschool Inspirations.

14. Get A Little Slimy

If you don’t mind a little (ok, a lot of) mess, whip up a batch of slime! You don’t need any fancy ingredients to make a safe, non-toxic slime or playdough. Once again, Pinterest is your friend here.

15. Sweep Like Cinderella

Kids love to help with chores. And, it’s good for them. Dress your toddler in their favorite princess costume and put them to work with a dustpan and broom. They might not do a great job, but they will have fun. Plus, it will pay off later when they can sweep the floor on their own while you kick your feet up for a well deserved rest.

16. Swab The Deck

Similar to number fifteen, but possibly more fun because it involves water. (Kids love water.) Give your kid a washcloth and a spray bottle and let them wash the floor. (Kids love spray bottles, too.) You might need to teach them that they can only spray the floor, not the family cat.

17. Work On Fine Motor Skills

Provide your child with some cheerios, pasta, or other food item with holes. Then give them a pipe cleaner, a shoe lace, or a string with some tape on the end and teach them to thread the “beads” on the string. Depending on what you give them as “beads,” they may just end up snacking. But that’s okay too, because the goal was to entertain them, right?

18. Wear A Baby Backpack

If all else fails, wear your baby. My mother-in-law used to put my husband in a backpack (when he was smaller of course) and wear him around while cooking. He loved hanging out with mom and watching her do things. These days there are many great baby carriers and wraps that you could use to serve the same purpose. We use an Ergo baby carrier or a BabyWombWorld wrap. Just be smart if you’re working in the kitchen please!

How do you entertain your toddler when you need to get things done? What are your favorite go-to activities?


Do You Do These Five Things with Your Kids?

A couple days ago when I opened up my browser, I spied an article from titled, Want to Raise Successful Kids? Science Says Do These 5 Things Every Day by Bill Murphy Jr. As a new parent, that naturally caught my attention and so I read it. I really loved the five science-backed suggestions it gave on how to raise a successful child, and it caused my husband and I to reflect on our own childhoods and the things that our parents did, or didn’t do, with us. It also encouraged us to make some changes in our own parenting plans.

The first habit the author recommends is to set high expectations for your kids. He cites a British study whose conclusion was basically that your kids find it annoying when you nag them and set the bar high for them, but they do listen and your efforts pay off. The study found that British teens whose parents set high standards for them were more likely to attend college and less likely to become a teen mom, be unemployed for long periods of time, or to have a low-wage, future-less job.

I think my parents did a good job at setting the bar high for me. They always told me to “do well in school so you can go to college some day.” They also encouraged me to stay away from drugs and alcohol through their personal stories about the negative impact that it had in the lives of their friends and acquaintances.

The second habit Murphy suggests is to praise your kids the right way. This is actually something that I heard about recently on a podcast. Research has shown that if you praise your children based on their effort, rather than for their abilities, they are more likely to be successful. Why? Because you are either teaching them resiliency by showing them that they can work to overcome challenges, or you are teaching them that there is nothing that they can do to grow or change because they are the way they are.

I don’t remember how my parents praised me, but somehow I developed a good work ethic and the desire to succeed and overcome challenges. I think it was because my parents put me in gymnastics at a young age, which is a sport where individual effort is important and hard work pays off. I remember that I always had great coaches that had high expectations for us and praised us for our efforts.

This is one area where I know we will have to put some conscious effort into making some changes in our parenting. Having high standards for our child has never been a problem for us, but we are definitely guilty of using ability-based praised, rather than effort-based praise. I’m glad we found out now though, rather than down the road, because the consequences of your style of praise take root in early toddlerhood.

My parents did a great job on the third habit, which is to get your kids outside as much as possible. It’s been shown that kids who spend more time running around outside demonstrate better outcomes math and reading skills. While I have no way of knowing if getting outside made me smarter, I’d say that my parents helped me develop good habits of physical fitness by taking us on a nature walks and bike rides. I can’t say I always enjoyed it a kid, but now as an adult I love physical activity and spending time outside.

The fourth habit of raising successful kids is to read to your kids and to engage them in the story. Let them turn the pages and ask them open ended questions about the plot.

While I don’t remember my parents reading to us in the way this article describes, I can personally attest to the impact that reading can have on a child, because from an early age I developed a love for books. I remember my parents taking us to the library and letting us pick out a huge stack of books. They would read to us at dinner and before bed. We moved from picture books, to chapter books, to classics like Treasure Island and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I was constantly reading as a child and I think that helped me to become a better writer and communicator, as I developed a broader vocabulary and a better understanding of how to logically communicate ideas which is useful for public speaking and teaching.

This is another area where we will be making some adjustments in our current routine. We love reading with our little one before her naps and sometimes during the day, but now we know the importance of being intentional about actively engaging her and asking questions. While the article didn’t explain why reading in this way contributes to a child’s success, I would imagine it develops their imagination and critical thinking skills.

The final habit is one that both my husband and I wish our parents had forced upon us, and one that we are already planning on incorporating into our little one’s life: doing chores. Because my parents did everything for us, I had no idea how to do basic things like cook a meal, wash clothes, or clean a bathroom when I went off to college. I had to figure it all out on my own later. That’s one reason chores are important, but there’s another. Chores not only teach kids valuable life skills, like how to cook and do laundry, but it also cultivates their work ethic. Having a good work ethic is essential for success in every area of life.

So there you have it. The five things that, according to science, are essential for raising “successful” children. Now what do you think? Do you do any of these things with your kids? What might you start to do differently?