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The Waiting Game: How to Quietly Occupy Your Toddler

by Dianna Graveman | June 19, 2012
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We've all been there. Your little one is sick and needs to see the pediatrician, but perhaps not sick enough to lie quietly in your lap in the waiting room. Or your older child is healthy and full of energy, but you can't entertain her while your other child isn't feeling well and needs your attention. Some pediatricians have waiting rooms fully-equipped with books, toys, and even playscapes for little ones, but even so, you may not want your well child playing in close quarters with the sneezers and snifflers who also occupy the waiting room with their parents.

Of course, then there are the times you must wait for services like renewing your driver's license or getting your car inspected--in less than kid-friendly places.

Here are some quick tips from mothers like you who have discovered ways to entertain their toddlers when waiting is the only alternative:

If you use an iPad or iPhone, use it!

If you have an iPhone, you already carry it with you--instant entertainment! The iPad may take more planning to remember to pack it, if you a re not used to carrying it everywhere. But plenty of apps for babies and toddlers are available for both devices. For your iPhone, try "Learn to Talk," which uses sights and sounds to teach basic vocabulary. "Peekaboo Barn" is a fun distraction for fidgety kids. The barn adventure teaches your toddler the names of barn animals and the sounds they make. "Parent Flash Cards" comes with packs that teach colors, numbers, shapes, and more. Of course, real paper flash cards work, too, if you don't have an iPhone.

Just a few available iPad games include "Monkey Preschool Lunchbox, which rewards toddlers with a dancing monkey and stickers when they correctly count fruit, assemble simple puzzles, and match cards; and "Clicky Sticky," which is basically a sticker book on your iPad with four scenes: outer space, the ocean, an African safari, and an airspace with planes and helicopters. Many, many more games are available through iTunes and range from free to .99. Very affordable entertainment!

Don't forget the obvious: books and snacks

For generations (maybe as long as books and snacks have existed), moms have packed a travel back with drinks, simple snacks, and books to occupy small children. Instead of packing books your child has already read or heard, consider keeping a small stash of inexpensive unread books packed for trips to the waiting room. Once you've used them for more than a few trips and your child has grown tired of them, cheap books can be donated or left behind in the waiting room for other parents and kids to enjoy. If you own a Kindle, you have a virtual library at your child's fingertips. But sometimes children like the independence of turning pages and holding a book or carrying it around, which may not be your preference with an expensive device. Good old-fashioned books are always an option.

I-Spy bags

Homemade I-Spy bags have become very popular among crafty moms. You can purchase them from other crafters and some toy outlets, but if you are a do-it-yourselfer, you can find some great ideas and instructions for assembling your own I-Spy bags at Homemade by Jill , Skip to My Lou, and many other sites. Simply do a web search for "homemade I-Spy bags" for tons of fun ideas and instructions.

Picture this:

Children love to look at pictures of themselves. A small portable picture album with photos of your child engaged in various activities will hold her attention a lot longer than most books will. Invite her to explain to you what she is doing in each of the photos.

Expect the unexpected

What about the unexpected wait? What can you do when caught unprepared for a wait with a distracted child? Any busy mom has a purse full of miscellaneous items: store receipts, hair ties, Band-Aids, and more. Older toddlers may enjoy telling you what each item is for and devising another use for the item: a hair tie becomes a stretchy bracelet, a Band-Aid becomes a piece of tape to hold two items together. If you're willing to disassemble the contents of your purse in public, even commonplace, everyday items can be come a distraction in a pinch.


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