This post originally appeared at https://www.fatherly.com/play/game-easiest-way-keep-toddlers-engaged-play/
‘Toy Drop’ is a game I inadvertently discovered when my twin toddlers saw me picking up their toys and dropping them in a box ⏤ and then volunteered to help out. They were too young to actually clean up their own toys upon request, but their natural impulse to mimic kicked in and before I knew it, they started grabbing and dropping everything in sight. What would normally be reserved as a two-minute activity at the endof play time became the game itself. And not only is a perfect game to both build motor skills and work on communication, but it’s also a nice way to kill time and tire out toddlers when there’s nothing else to do. Even better, it’s as simple as showing them how to drop objects in a bucket.
Prep Time: 2 minutes, or enough time to grab a container (or two) and some objects to drop into it
Entertainment Time: 15 to 30 minutes, depending on age
Energy Expended by Child: Moderate physical, mostly from running back and forth collecting objects; Moderate mental, both from finding the objects and navigating the hand-eye coordination to drop them in.
What You Need:
- A container. It can be a bowl, a jar, a Kleenex carton, a crate, a bucket, a Wet Wipe box, doesn’t much matter.
- A dozen or more objects to drop into said container: Blocks, balls, marbles, Goldfish crackers, coins, Legos, we could keep going.
How to Set Up:
Setup is as simple as finding a container and placing objects around the room. The more objects and the farther they are spread out, the more time and energy the game takes. A jar with a fairly small opening can also be more challenging and interesting to younger toddlers, as it’ll take more effort to figure out how to get items in and back out.
How to Play:
For the first game or two, parents should enthusiastically show children what to do and how fun it is. Simply pick up a few random toys, walk or crawl over to the container, and drop them in. From there, encourage them to jump in and start picking up balls, blocks, or whatever objects you’ve laid around the room. Much as a fire starts burning after the kindling catches, once they get to collecting and dropping you can usually step out of the action and supervise (or read a magazine, do the dishes, really depends on how focused your kids get). That said, it’s best to keep tabs to ensure they don’t get frustrated ⏤ either if they can’t fit all the objects into the container or one gets stuck coming out ⏤ or suddenly lose interest.
Another way to play is to go Easter-Egg-hunt-style. Spread the objects around the room, line the kids up along a way, and set them off on a race to collect as many objects as they can as quickly as possible. With multiple children and containers, this can simultaneously become a combination race and game, and help expend more energy in the process.
Finally, for slightly older children, differences in the objects can add another twist. For example, you can task one child with collecting all the red blocks while another is responsible for blue. This can help them learn colors too. Or, different sized balls can be paired with different sized containers for sorting and learning about sizes. Animal toys can be used to learn the names (or sounds) of different animals as they are collected, and so on.
‘Toy Drop’ may seem like an incredibly simple game, but with some creativity and preparation, it can occupy toddlers for a good bit of time while giving parents a much-needed break. And while eventually, kids may not be excited about clean-up-as-play-time, as long as they don’t sit down and start playing with the toys instead, it’s a great way to keep them both moving and engaged. And an entertained and occupied toddler is a well-behaved toddler.