A Baby GoodBuys reader emailed me and said:
I’m at my wit’s end! My 18-month old needs something to do every minute, especially when we’re not at home. I’m having a hard time finding ways to entertain him in the car and in the shopping cart at the grocery store, and I’m starting to feel like staying home is just the easiest option. Do you have ideas for keeping him entertained when we go out? I’m on a budget, so I’d like to avoid any expensive gadgets or toys.
Readers, I don’t want this BGB reader to be homebound! Do you have any ideas to help her keep her little one entertained? Please leave a comment with any ideas or suggestions you might have.
By the way, if you have a question and you’d like input from other Baby GoodBuys readers, please email me at babygoodbuys (at) gmail (dot) com. I’ll do my best to get it posted!
Christy Lee says
One thing I do is pick up small toys and games at yard sales, and keep them in a container in the backseat. I paid 25 cents for a book that folds out into a small play board and came with about 15 small dinosaurs. My son will play with this for hours. Of course, he's still a baby, so this type of thing might now work, but it's my best guess. When I have my youngest niece with me (18 months), we play a lot of "I Spy", and if we're at the store, I have her "help" me find things…an apple, some cheese, pick out the cereal, etc.
We try not to carry a lot of stuff, so our methods tend to be about talking with our son – also, he had some speech delays so we were trying to model language and engage him with words as much as possible.
We spend a lot of time in the car and we look at cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, talk about what color they are, where they might be going (the zoo, the farm, the city).
We also talk about animals – what noise they make, where they live, who their friends are (squirrels and hippos are friends – who knew?).
I tied a stuffed animal (in this case, Ernie) to his car seat with yarn (not long enough to choke him, just long enough to be able to pull the animal onto his lap when it falls). We use that to talk about body parts (Ernie bit your knee! Where is Ernie's nose? Where is your nose?), practice things we are learning to do, like drink from a cup (help Ernie drink from the sippy cup! Can you brush Ernie's hair?).
When we are out we use raisins to keep the peace. Our son is a good eater, so raisins always settle things down, and I don't mind him eating a few handfuls.
Finally, our trump card are photos – we keep photos of animals and trucks and family members on our ipod, and we look at those to keep him entertained while we wait. We once kept him still through a 20 minute ultrasound of his heart with this.
You can go low tech and put this together by inserting pictures into a plastic photo flip book. Easy, and he can look at them and 'talk' about what he sees. You can change up the pictures as he gets into different things (trains and cats, are currently BIG in our house).
Try using entertainment covers that keep the buggy clean and have little toys on them. Plain cheerios can buy you some time. Toys in the car that are only used in the car for travel so they stay interesting. Musical/interactive/ push the button to hear a sound books. Play kids music on the CD player in your car. Be sure to run errands/travel as much as possible when your child is not sleepy or hungry and try not to do too much in one day if possible. These things helped me and my son (now 9) has ADHD. He was exceptionally busy from the time he learned to walk up until now. These things worked well for my second son,(now 4), also.
I agree about garage sales, but you can get new toys for free as well. Ask friends to trade out small toys (particularly kids' meal toys or single pieces of broken games). You all get to clear out the toys your children aren't playing with and you get free new ones to entertain your child.
Keep them in a bag in the car that they can't access (unless you need car toys). That way, they haven't rifled through them all. So when you get to the grocery store or restaurant, all the toys are new and exciting.
This works wonderfully when traveling too.
Sounds random and maybe a bit young for an 18 month old… but masking tape. Friends of mine bring it along for car and plane rides – kids love to play with it, stick it everywhere and make things out of it. It removes very easy from any surface they stick it to (like airplane windows) and is obviously quite inexpensive and easy to carry along.
We did this with our daughter. We took an old wallet and filled it with coupons and other things (like keys on a ring) that she could look at and "pretend" with. I agree with the above post. Keep certain things for the car and store only so they are new and different each time. Snacks in containers work too.
Nanny Dee says
All the above ideas are great. I was thinking of masking tape also or even post-it type notes, which toddlers love to peel off and stick.
Also inexpensive — cookie sheet with magnets (any magnets as long as he does not put things in his mouth — alphabet magnets or even kitchen magnets from the dollar store.) This is great for the car because if a piece does fall, it's not a big deal.
Also if you can get your hands on one of those puzzles with locks and latches, that can keep him busy and nothing will fall from the carriage.
I agree to keep these special toys only for those times in the store or in the car, so they will not lose their appeal.