So, here we are, in the middle of a history lesson. We are experiencing productivity at its finest. My six-year-old is coloring quietly. The four oldest are sitting around the table filling out history timelines while I read aloud. Occasionally someone asks a questions that sparks some interesting discussion. The toddler is---wait a minute! Where is the toddler?!
A short investigation uncovers the toddler happily playing with piles and piles of toilet paper---an entire mega roll of toilet paper---unraveled on the floor. Whew! At least he wasn't dipping it in the toilet and sucking on it like one of the other kids did as a toddler!
Entertaining toddlers while Mama is busy can be...interesting. Alright. It's downright challenging. And the more kids we have, the more challenging it can become. I try to incorporate my little ones into as much of my day as possible. (For more on this, see our three-part series Teaching our Children to Work.) This allows me to interact with them throughout the day, keep up on behavior and character training, and keep them out of the toilet. ;-) However, there are times when a little one cannot be involved in what the older ones are doing. Keeping them productively occupied and relatively quiet for hours a day while older ones are doing school or while we mamas complete tasks they can't be a part of requires some creativity.
One solution I have used effectively are play kits. I keep several different play kits, some of which are themed, in a closet and pull a different one out when I need a little one to play quietly near me while I am occupied. These are off-limits during normal playtime; I save them for school time or quiet time. Because they are only available at certain times and kept on a rotation, they hold the child's interest for a longer period of time. I also purposely choose non-messy items that can used independently.
Some ideas I have used in the past are:
Once I found a set of plastic dinosaurs at a thrift store. After taking them home and cleaning in a bleach/soap solution, these went into a tote in the closet. They have entertained 4 children through many a quiet time.
Several months ago I needed a gift for a toddler's birthday party and decided that, since my own kids have had so much fun with our doctor kit, I would make one for my friend's daughter. So I created some fun doctor-themed printables and then took a trip to the dollar store for a cute tote and inexpensive medical supplies.
The entire kit cost about $18 to make and I was really pleased with the results:
Since the doctor kit was such a big hit, I thought perhaps others would enjoy making one too. I changed the printables so they were not personalized (the original files I created as a gift had the recipient's name on them).
Here's what you'll need:
The green jars were empty hair product containers I had saved. (See printable download for an assortment of labels.) I washed them, printed my labels, and glued them on with rubber cement glue because it holds well and won't pucker.
Having a doctor kit in the quiet time rotation has not only encouraged hours of imaginative play, but also saved me immense amounts of toilet paper!
If you make a doctor kit, let me know how it turns out!
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