Toys

Activities for Toddler Twins FAQ


Are your kids whiny and irritable? Can't think of things to do with them? Afraid they're watching too much TV? Does the thought of watching that purple dinosaur one more time drive you up the wall?!

Nadine, a mother of twins, writes "My daughters are almost 2, and I can't say that I've had an opportunity to join the *I Hate Barney Club*....who has time for TV?!"

Read further to find out what fun activities Nadine and other parents of twins have found for their toddlers to do. You'll find suggestions on outdoor activities, games for the backyard, and excursions that are affordable and manageable. Also ideas on things to do in the house, and tips for making things at home. We also list books and web sites that have been recommended by members, where you can find more ideas.
Please send questions or comments to the list maintainer Twinfaqs@yahoo.com


Contents:
  1. Outdoor Activities
    • Affordable Excursions
    • Backyard Fun
  2. Indoor Activities
  3. Recommended books
  4. Other websites

OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES


Affordable excursions


Mallwaking. Kathleen: I thought I would pass along something that got me through last year's winter in Annapolis, MD with two toddlers. (My children had just started walking after Christmas.)
Many large indoor malls in the states have "Mall Walker Clubs" where people can walk around the climatecontrolled mall for exercise prior to the stores opening. Our mall in Annapolis opened at 7:00 a.m. but the stores didn't open until 10:00 a.m. Quite a few of the mall coffee shop type eateries were open early, though, to serve coffee, baked goods, etc.
Since the mall was only 5 minutes from me, I used to go three or four times a week with the children. It was a great way to get exercise. And, of course, it is always amazing how just getting the children out of the house calms them so (tons of new input!). I would do several laps around the mall pushing the children at my pace. Then I would let the children out of the stroller to walk at their slower pace. All the lights and the brightly decorated storefronts captivated the children. But best of all, all the stores were closed (even the Kiosks in the center aisles were covered) so the children couldn't get into trouble or get lost. And, the walkways are wide enough that you don't get in anyone's way.

Almost 2year olds. Nadine: During the summer I take every opportunity to make sure the girls get outside everyday in the morning, and sometimes after naps, if it is possible. We go to different playgrounds, to the baby water part (sprinkler system with no poolamazing place and free!) or go visit friends. We go to the library, shopping malls, museums (lots of areas are extremely childproof and they have a blast!) and basically play tourist. Since we are on a limited budget, we do things like take a bus ride or subway for novelty. Check out the firestation, a pet store, a petting zoo virtually anything that is FREE!

Grocery shopping. Libby: You might think its more trouble than its worth... but there are days when you NEED to get fighting/whining/miserable children out of the house, so may as well do errands at the same time. The change of pace is good for everyone, and you have one less chore for evening/weekend time. I have been taking my triplets grocery shopping with me since they were babies. Keys to success... go after meal/nap time. Have preschoolers go potty before you enter the store. Keep the kids away from the food in the cart if you can. When my triplets were babies, I would push the triple stroller and pull the shopping cart. Pull the cart from the front so it is going the direction it was meant to go. Keep babies/toddlers belted or harnessed in! When the girls started pulling each other's hair and fist fighting, I would take the child out of the middle seat and put her in the seat of the shopping cart. Less room in the cart, but worth it. Later, when they all wanted to sit in carts, I started pushing one cart and pulling another. Two children in the seats of the carts and 1 in the back of another cart. The child who was the most compliant with remaining seated got to sit in the back. If they were all being really good, we'd rotate and change seats. Now, I only have to take one cart, and 1 will ride while 2 walk with me. If one of the walkers strays too much, I just grab a second cart. One of the stores I go to has "cookie club" for kids, so the girls know if they behave they'll get a cookie. At another store the employees got to know me, and they almost always opened a line when they saw me coming.
Other places to go. Jeannine: the zoo; a park; an outdoor symphony or jazz concert; any sporting or other event with lawn seats; Discovery Zone; a drive-in movie; a noisy restaurant; rent a pontoon boat on a lake (and infant life-preservers, of course!); a children's museum; a restored pioneer village, where volunteers dress up and play the part of villagers.

Backyard fun


Water Play. Claudette: We got a little swimming pool ($7.00 at Toys R Us) a "water table" (a picnic table that you can open up and fill with water and the kids can float toys in) and a sandbox and my son and his buddy from next door play for hours. The water tables are *great*...you can also use them for eating.

INDOOR ACTIVITIES


Simple playhouse. Shelly: I thought I would pass on an inexpensive idea for easy entertainment.
This past Christmas, we made a playhouse frame from PVC pipe. PVC is usually pretty cheap, we used 1" pipe, and simple to cut and put together. The thing I like about it is that we can take it apart when they get bored with it and bring it out again later when their interest is renewed. Also, it can go to grandma's with us. At first we just threw a sheet over the frame, but later I sewed a cover to fit. Either way, the girls loved it. I have thought about adding extras, like a mail bag by the door, a puppet theater in the back, and clear vinyl windows.

Fun games for 1 year olds. Dawn: Last night my husband discovered a game that the girls lovefollow the spot light! He turned out the light and used a flashlight on the floor and walls. The girls were besides themselves trying to catch the ball of light. They had a blast. Also, they really like to put things into containers and pull things out. I have 2 small crates that I keep their socks in. I put these crates on the floor and they keep occupied for a few minutes taking the sock in and out the crate. Anything that keeps them busy for more than a few minutes is wonderful.

More for 1 year olds. Amanda: We put up a nice swing in our livingroom. The babies enjoy being swung and seeing the other baby swinging. Even a change in room can help change their moods. Try to give them objects to play with which they don't usually come in contact with. Maybe they'd enjoy sitting in their high chairs by the window for short periods.

Activities for toddlers. Andrie: When my 15.5 month old girls become irritable, we figured out it was because they're bored. They definitely seem happier since we made a concerted effort to introduce new games and challenges. So far we've had success with...

Activities for 15 month old toddlers. Jill: I remember a few other things my children enjoyed little handbrooms with dustpans (I got these at K Mart years ago, in three different colors!) nesting cups and/or measuring cups in a nice soft plastic little tote bags and more plastic things to put in them (like those toothbrush holders now add soap boxes, big tooth combs or soft bristle brushes, cups, and other safe realistic sundries all in different colors) a doll/teddy high chair (we had a great Little Tykes job) and when you're truly desperate, fill one of those big RubberMaid storage containers (for storing sweaters or whatever) with rice or oatmeal and use those measuring cups mentioned above. It's not too much messier than the sudsy water, as long as you have a good vacuum cleaner.

Alternative to trampolines. Andi: My dad and his wife spent the night here, and we inflated a queen size airmattress for them to sleep on...come to find out that our girls (20 months old) had a BLAST playing on it. We've now had it sitting in the middle of the family room for over a week, and I've never seen them stick to one "toy" for so long before. It's in the middle of the room where they can't hit any furniture, if they fall off it's only 6 inches to the carpeted floor, and it bounces great! I don't know if anyone else has tried this, but it's loads of fun, and so far has been incredibly safe (I'm an antitrampoline person because of the safety issues involved). It can also be taken outside in the yard on a nice day for some outdoor bouncing. It's vinyl so it cleans up really well, too. Just thought I'd pass along this idea, it's wonderful for toddlers as far as I can tell, and I'm actually having a bit of fun myself being "bounced" by my two little Tigger's.

Activity Garden. Claudette: When looking for indoor play ideas the activity garden from Little Tikes is excellent. We have had it from the age of 7 months to present (18 months) and it still gets used every day. (While the rocking cow and the peekaboo tunnel collect dust.)

Activities for 2 year olds. Julia: Here are a few of my two year olds favorite activities:

Getting through the day with two-year olds. Nadine: I set up a "freeplay" time that is unstructured so that I can get some of my own work done. Then I might do some kind of interactive thing like a craft (paint, claydough, colouring) or we might turn on music and have a parade with different instruments; make a maze of soft furniture and pillows to crawl, jump, make tunnels, etc. All activities require that the kids clean up after each different activity so that everything can be found later, and there is room for the next thing. Sometimes they just want to do their won thing (have a tea part, or read, or whatever)and then I just follow their lead. We have snacktime, and then they might help me with some chores sweeping, dusting, etc.
During meal prep times, or whiny times, I have a few solutions...they sit at the table and do puzzles, pull out pots and pans and other kitchen gadgetry and "help me". I let them stand at step stools at the counter and let them stir and pour some things and they feel like they are part of the action. We sing songs, and generally try to switch from highstrung activities to lowkey ones. I made an "indoor" sandbox, which is a really great activity that keeps them occupied forever, and is fantastic when I am preparing stuff in the kitchen, want to keep any eye on them, but don't want them near the food prep/stove, etc. I also have a shopping cart that they love to use if I am preparing food (I open a cupboard, let them take stuff out and they go shopping, and then put everything back).
We have a box of playclothes for dress up. I also have a surprise bag for those really boring times that is basically filled with odds and sods of stuff that I find that amuses them. When I am stuck for ideas I rely on some books I took from the library on creative ideas for kids that are filled with simple and fun things to do.
So who has time for TV?

Beginning crafts. Christianna: My girls used to love (actually still do) construction paper, tape, scissors. They could play with this stuff for hours. In fact, every year, I give Sophia (now 5) a 6pack of tape for Christmas and she squeals in delight.
Here's some other ideas that worked for us when they were younger (and some still are favorites):


Messy trays. Daneen: How about what my day care center calls "messy trays"? Take a shallow aluminum or plastic rectangular pan and fill with beans, oatmeal, or pasta. Add spoons and small unbreakable cups and set them up at the table.
I've colored some of the special shapes pasta by adding tbsp of food coloring to a ziplock bag and shaking the color through the pasta. Measuring cups work well, or graduated stacking cups.
The great things is, when they're bored with it you can cook and eat the toys!

More for 15-month olds. Aliza: Other enjoyable activities at 15 months included:

Art for 2 year olds (& older!) Diane: A while back someone asked for rainy day ideas for the little ones. We went to a Children's Museum today & ran across a neat one.
They had an old garage saletype record player/turntable set up next to circles of paper & markers. The kids punched the center of the paper with the spindle, turned the record player on & started creating. The 7 yr olds made "bullseye" designs; I preferred the 2 yr old's random approach that looked it came from a Spirograph (which she can't manipulate). Kristen was THRILLED to get results comparable to the big sisters. Markers, rather than crayons, were definitely the way to go with the turntable's ridged surface. We happen to have a turntable that hasn't been used since CDs came out, but I bet it wouldn't be hard to come up with a Mom or Dadpowered alternative.
They also had an assortment of recycled materials (toilet & paper towel tubes, berry baskets, etc) & lowtemp glue gunskids had made some really impressive dinosaur figures out of packing peanuts & hot glue. HeyI already have this stuff in my house!!!

Crafts for 2-year olds. Jocelyn: The best idea for amusing 2 year old is claydough, which you can easily make yourself out of salt and bicarb soda and water so it's not toxic if they tend to eat it.
Also I found finger painting kept them amused for ages. You can use shaving cream for finger paint and its easy to clean up, but I wouldn't let them eat it. Lux soap flakes mixed with a little warm water and whipped up a bit also makes nice finger paint. You can colour it with a few drops of food colouring or powdered paint. Remember to cover the floor, surrounding areas as finger paint tends to get everywhere, but it does feel great squishing it through your fingers!
Also coloured rice is fun to pour into containers, bottles etc. Add a few drops of food colouring and stir through some uncooked rice. Make several different colours and then mix them together for rainbow rice. I put the rice in a large container (old baby bath excellent) on a sheet or table cloth to make cleaning up easier. Give them some spoons, funnels, plastic containers etc and watch them have great fun.

Activities for 21-month toddlers. Diane: I know you've gotten lots of suggestions, but one I didn't see is fingerpainting with pudding. I put blobs of different flavors on the highchair tray & let them go to townno worries if they eat the "paint" & just hose off later. Much to my surprise, Kristen loves MagnaDoodle (everything she "draws" is a kitty). For her erasing is more than half the fun.
We played a lot of trampoline-type games (jumping from couch frame to the cushions on the floor) & had a small slide that came inside for the winter. We'd use a sheet to make a tent or cabin out of the dining table & played lots of hide & seek (I coughed a lot so they could find me quickly).
Even in the winter water play is goodput a nonskid mat & an inch or 2 of water in the tub & throw in some cups, funnels, etc (and watch, watch, watch, of course).
Junk Mail. Debbie: We get a lot of junk mail that we know we don't want to read without even opening it. So I slit open the envelopes and let the kids take everything out and look at it and play with it. Most direct mail envelopes have lots of different-sized colorful pieces of paper inside, so it's fun for kids. When they are done, you can sweep all the papers together with a broom, then pick them up and put in recycling or trash. Adds Victoria: This is great to keep the kids entertained during car rides, too!

Discovering Smells. Debbie: Take all the condiments out of the refrigerator. Open them one at a time and let the children smell them. You can discuss what things are called, what color they are, how they smell, how they taste, who in the family likes what, etc. You can also do this with all the herbs and spices in your spice rack.

Sorting Games. Dawn: I recently discovered a couple of games to keep my 2-year old kids occupied - -they both require supervision, but the girls really enjoy them. 1. Playing with shells that were found at the beach..they look at them, put them into containers. 2. Putting coins into little bank, taking them out of hole in bottom and putting them in again. Again, supervision is required to be sure that these items are not swallowed!

Hide the Object. David: One game that I play with my 2- year old boy is "Where is Big Bird?" We bought some bubble bath that was in a jug shaped like Big Bird; the jug is empty now and we use it to play the game. He turns around while I hide BB and then he tries to find him. At first I put BB in obvious places but have gotten progressively more difficult. It is great fun for both of us.


RECIPES FOR CRAFTS


Tammy: I haven't tried all of these recipes. . .but can tell you that for the Bathtub Fingerpaints. . .it may be better to use baby bath or baby shampoo instead of the liquid dishsoap if you have younger kids. I used the dishsoap and my boys got it in their eyes somehow! STINGS! :( But they DID love painting with it! It did not stain either as I know some have asked about.



YUK!
Needed: Step 1: Mix together thoroughly 8 oz. white glue, 1 Tbls tempera paint* and 1 cup cold water.

Step 2: In separate bowl, mix together 1 1/3 cups WARM water and 4 tsp laundry booster. Make sure powder is completely dissolved.

Step 3: Pour step 1 into step 2. After about 5 seconds, stir mixture with your hand (yuk!) and pull out finished product. Carefully squeeze out excess water and knead Yuk till it firms up a little. Enjoy!

* tempera paint is suggested because it is non toxic.



PET TORNADO
Fill a 1 qt. jar three quarters full with water. Add to it: 1 drop blue food coloring, 1 drop of green food coloring, 2 tsp vinegar and 2 tsp. dish soap (liquid). Stir together gently. Close lid tightly. For best results, shake in a circular motion and 'watch' your pet tornado appear!



CHALK
Stir until thick like toothpaste. Pour into cookie cutters (placed on waxed paper) or into toilet paper tubes, etc. Dries in 20 mins. and is dustless!



SPRAY CHALK
Mix together and pour into spray bottles. Spray sand, sidewalk, snow!



WATERCOLOR PAINTS
Stir for 1 minute and add:



WATERCOLOR WANDS
Add: Glue sponges cut into different shapes to the ends of craft sticks. Dip into paint until covered. Let dry. When ready to paint, dip into water and paint on paper!



ALMOST OILPAINT
Mix together and paint with brushes, etc.



SAWDUST DOUGH
Mix all together and place into molds or mold freehand and let dry



COFFEE DOUGH
Mix and mold.



BATHTUB FINGERPAINTS
Put into ice cube trays to float in the tub! Dip fingers in to paint!



PUFFY DOUGH PAINT
Mix and pour into squeeze bottles (like catchup, etc.). Squeeze out onto paper and let dry



GOOP
Mix: Add Borax mixture to glue mixture and mix with hands. It will take a bit. This becomes like Silly Putty and will even take imprints from newsprint!



PLASTIC SUNCATCHERS
Mix and pour into a margarine lid, etc. Let set up and cut out with cookie cutters to make ornaments, etc. DO NOT EAT!



BALLOON ANIMALS
Blow up balloon beforehand to stretch it out. Let it sit a few minutes. ..do not tie. Pour plaster mixture into balloon using a funnel (a good funnel is the top of a plastic pop bottle cut off!). Let set up for about 15-20 mins. Mold balloon and wait until hard. Peel off balloon and decorate with wiggly eyes, yarn, etc.!



SOAP SHAPES
Mix until fluffy and put into cookie cutters, etc. They float too!



PEANUT BUTTER DOUGH
Knead together well. Good dough for small children as it's good to eat too! Store airtight.



More from Tammy: If any of you are like me, you are constantly trying to find things to keep your children stimulated and occupied at the same time! Art supplies can sometimes become costly, especially if you are always buying "multiple" sets of everything! I copied these recipes from T.V. and thought I'd share them with the group. Have not tried them out (except for the sticker glue) but I'm sure they would be just as fun to make as they are to use and kids will be amazed that you knew how to make such things! Good luck!

1. Sillie Putty (3 cents) Pour glue into a small bowl. (Glass custard cup type is good size). Mix in food coloring of choice. Cover with liquid starch. . .pulling away the sides of the glue. DO NOT STIR! Let this sit for 5 mins. Squeeze out the starch and knead until the right consistency.

2. Chalk (15 cents)
Combine the ingredients and stir until consistency of toothpaste. Pour into "molds" like cookie cutters ( if open-ended type, place on cardboard covered with waxed paper.) Can use candy molds, sandbox type molds, toilet paper tubes (slit open the side and roll up tighter and tape if you want to get the fat sidewalk type chalks). Dries in 20 mins. This chalk is virtually dustless!

3. Spray Chalk (5 cents)
Mix together and pour into a spray type bottle. Can be used on sidewalk, sand, snow! Washes off!

4. Watercolor Paints (40 cents)

Stir baking soda into vinegar. This will bubble up quite high. Mix and add food coloring, cornstarch, and corn syrup. Pour into small butter tubs, etc. This will get hard like regular watercolor paints.

5. Sticker Glue
Mix together and store in an old glue bottle, etc. Brush on and let dry. Can be used on the back of anything you want to make a sticker out of or homemade envelope closings! Just lick and stick!

6. Another "Claydough" recipe!

Stir in pan over low heat. Add jello or koolaid for scent and color! Store in an airtight container or plastic bag.
"Claydough" Recipes from "Feed Me, I'm Yours"

No Cook "Claydough"

Mix the above ingredients together. 1/2 cup water add food coloring to the water Add the water to the other ingredients slowly until you get the desired consistency.

Stove Top claydough
Put into a quart pot:
Add:

Stir over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes. It will look like a gloppy mess, but it will work. Once it becomes a ball in the middle of the pot, turn it out onto a floured surface.

Edible Peanutbutter Claydough


Shape, decorate with raisins, then eat! Store in airtight containers or plastic bags.

Koolaid Claydough

You can get the hot water by boiling a kettle or by running
your hot tap very hot, which is what I do. Dissolve everything
except the flour in the water. It has to be good and hot to
dissolve all that salt. Then add the flour, mix, and knead.
Resist the temptation to add a little more flour because it's
too sticky just keep kneading.

Second Stove Top Claydough

Cook over med heat for quite a while, stirring occasionally, it may seem like it's sticking but that's okay. Cool and use. She said it's good the first day but she hasn't figured how to store it without it getting sticky. Oh, I almost forgot, add 15 drops of food coloring to the mix before cooking to have the color of choice. Good luck.

Still another Stove Top Claydough...
Mix dry ingredients:
Then Add:
There's lots more salt and a bit less oil when I added more oil, I got a sticky glop. Cook over medium heat on the stove stirring. It will stay liquid for a while, and then go through a rapid change to something impossible to stir. I have found that leaving it sit on the heat for an extra 30 seconds or so after this insures that it's all cooked. If you don't cook this stuff enough, or add too much oil, you get a gloppy claydough that sticks to everything. You can wait until after cooking to add foodcoloring divide the batch up afterwards, flatten it, and then put some drops of food coloring in the middle, fold the claydough around it, and then knead/roll the color into it. The kids have lots of fun doing this, and you can produce 23 colors from one batch this way.

Microwave Claydough
The instructions given are for a 650 watt oven. Adjust accordingly: Ingredients:
* Mix ingredients as for pancooked claydough but use a large bowl suitable for microwave use.
* Cook at full power for one minute.
* Using potholders, remove it from the oven and stir well.
* Replace the bowl and continue cooking until the mixture starts to leave the side of the bowl and becomes very stiff approximately 22.5 minutes. (Stir at least once during this time.)
* Using potholders, remove from the oven onto a heatproof surface.
* Scrape out the dough with a wooden spoon onto a smooth surface.
Warning: claydough looks very tempting at this stage, but the inside will still be very hot, even when the outside has cooled. Before using, slice it in half with a knife and test it carefully with your finger.
* Knead it thoroughly until it becomes smooth and pliable and holds its shape well.

A Tip on Claydough. The recipes for the play dough are great. I have made it and it does last a lot longer. One tip that works great is the add the coloring to the water before you mix it with the other ingredients. The coloring mixes nice and you don't have to spend as much time kneading it.
Anything to save time right :).

RECOMMENDED BOOKS



Jennifer: I recommend "The Little Hands Art Book: Exploring Arts & Crafts with 2 to 6YearOlds" by Judy Press, (Williamson Publishing) which introduces youngsters to the basics of arts & crafts. The projects are simple and use basic household materials. The emphasis is on encouraging imagination and creativity. If you can't find the book in your local bookstore you can call the publisher directly at 8024252102 or 8002348791 (USA numbers.)

Meredith: When my boys were approaching 15 months I bought a book advertised in some catalogue called Games to Play with Toddlers by Jackie Silberg, published by Gryphon House (1993). It has many 1page suggestions for activities with suggested ages in 3 month blocks (1215 mos., etc.) from 1224 months. Each activity has simple directions and a box at the bottom indicating "What your toddler will learn" (e.g. coordination, language, etc.).

Diane: For inexpensive homemade toy & activity ideas for birth2yrs, I like a book called "No Bored Babies". It's by Jan Fisher Shea, Bear Creek Publications, 2507 Minor Ave E, Seattle WA, USA. Mine ('87) was $3.95. The dedication reads: To all those parents who spent hundreds of dollars on toys, only to watch their child play with the boxes. Let's get even."

OTHER WEBSITES


Look in these other websites for more creative ideas on activities for your children.
Family Planet
Family Com
Toddler exercises http://www.tnpc.com/parentalk/toddlers/todd26.html
The Toy Manufacturers of America Guide to Toys and Play http://www.kidsource.com/kidsource/content/toys_ply.html
Chameleon-- Toddler ActivitiesččLearning colors http://www.scientia.org/scientia/mall/chameleon/toddlercal.html Gryphon House Books--Activities from "Games to Play with Babies" http://www.ghbooks.com/activity/11144act.html
Gryphon House Books--Activities from "Games to Play with Toddlers" http://www.ghbooks.com/activity/16264act.html
Gryphon House Books--Activities from "Games to Play with 2 Year Olds" http://www.ghbooks.com/activity/14268act.html
Gryphon House Books-Activities from "The GIANT Encyclopedia of Theme Activities for Children 2-5" http://www.ghbooks.com/activity/19216act.html
Gryphon House Books--Activities from "Toddlers Together" http://www.ghbooks.com/activity/17721act.html
The Rainy Day Resource Page http://www.cp.duluth.mn.us/~sarah/
Stage Hand Puppets Activities http://fox.nstn.ca/~puppets/activity.html
Aunt Annie's Craft Pages--Project Index http://www.auntannie.com/prjindex.html
Aunt Annies' Craft Exchange Index http://www.auntannie.com/xindex.html
And more from Twinmom2:
Kids Crafts --Recipes for slime, fingerpaint, fake Gak & more. http://ucunix.san.uc.edu/~edavis/kidsčlist/crafts.html
Berit's Best Site for Children -- Games, activities, safety lessons & crafts w/hotlinks to other sites. http://www.cochran.com/theosite/KSites.html/


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