Trying to keep a baby and a toddler happy and entertained all day can be exhausting and stretch your imagination to the limit.
Many toddler toys are not age appropriate for babies and you don’t want to leave your toddler in a separate room playing with their toy, while you’re off playing with your baby all afternoon.
My two are 21 months apart and my youngest is not quite yet walking at one-year-old, though she’s a very fast crawler!
This means the two of them do have quite different needs when it comes to playtime. Here are the things I do with both kids that are age appropriate and safe whatever their age. They also are not to testing for you, as a busy mum of two!
1. Lego or blocks
Even if your little one doesn’t have the coordination to stick the blocks together yet, they will still get lots out of looking at the different types of blocks.
My youngest tries her best to copy what my toddler is doing and to help with whatever building project she’s working on.
We also have a set of wooden blocks which they both enjoy stacking, though my toddler always wins the tallest tower competition!
2. Non-messy finger painting
Trying to finger paint with two small children is a risky business when you’re inside the house. One of them is bound to take off and smear paint on a piece of furniture that just so happens to be pretty valuable.
This no-mess finger painting is genius and you’ve probably got the items to do it with in the house already.
I used an A4 plastic wallet (the kind you add to ring binders), then I reached inside with some paint pots and dotted some blobs of paint around on the inside. I then sealed it up using a few strips of tape.
You then put this in front of your kids and they can smear the paint around inside the plastic wallet without getting it on themselves or anything else.
3. Tissue or wrapping paper
This stuff is so versatile and the beauty of it is you probably already have some sitting round the house in a box somewhere!
Your youngest can rip it, wave it, squash it, and just generally go to town doing whatever she wants, though you may have to make sure they don’t start eating it!
Your toddler could do the same, or you could encourage them to rip small pieces of tissue paper off the sheet and then stick these down on a piece of cardboard – cut it out into whatever shape your toddler wants, maybe a heart of a circle – to make a pretty picture. Remember to use child-safe glue.
4. Make slime
Use a mix of cornflour and water to create a non-toxic and gooey mess to play with. Simply mix to the consistency that you want, so that it’s not too runny and not too thick. Your child should be able to run it through the fingers.
Your baby will enjoy the feeling of simply sticking her hands in there, while your toddler will love getting messy!
Make sure you put some newspaper down on the floor though!
Alternatively you can make some fluffy slime with just three ingredients.
Once babies hit six months they love playing peek-a-boo. Your toddler probably loves running off to hide in little corners of the house. So combine the two, take it in turns playing hide-and-seek with your toddler, then get your baby involved by hiding behind a door or your hands to surprise them.
When hiding, if your baby is so great at being put down, you can always carry your baby to hide with you from your toddler.
6. Create a soft toy safari
By now you probably have a decent collection of soft toys from all the Christmases and birthdays. Get them out and arrange them around the room. Have them peeking out from the top of bookcases, tucked away under tables and curled up on a chair.
Then get your kids and go on a little safari of discovery to find all the toys.
You could encourage them to use any indoor ride-on toys you have and pretend it’s a Jeep for off-roading.
7. Get in the bath
If your kids are climbing up the walls, it’s raining outside and you have no idea what to do with them, consider chucking them both in the bath for 15 minutes.
It could save time during bedtime later as they will have already had a wash, and I often find the bath seems to mellow them out a bit as they come out a bit knackered from all the splashing.
8. Play with boxes
Keep toilet rolls, cereal boxes, milk cartons and other items of cardboard that you would have chucked out for recycling.
Your baby will enjoy flinging things about and exploring the different textures.
You could fill the milk cartons with stones, beads or anything else that would rattle and screw the lid back on tightly, then they can shake it about and make a noise.
For your toddler, get out a roll of tape and encourage them to stick things together to make stuff like a telescope using several loo rolls, or a robot using a cereal box as the body and a few loo rolls as arms and legs. Draw a face on the box with some pens.
9. Water play
This one may be best done in summer when you can simply strip them both down, fill up the paddling pool and let them go nuts.
However it can be done inside the home, just pick the room you do it in wisely.
Fill up a bowl or container with water, then chuck in some funnels, plastic cups and anything else they can use to fill and pour the water.
You could also teach your toddler a little science lesson about things that float and things that sink. So add a couple of corks to show them light things such as these will float, then add something heavy, say a metal spoon, that will sink.
10. Sock puppet theatre
Get some socks and draw on them with washable pens. Draw whatever faces you fancy and you could use tape to add cut out paper ears, whiskers or anything else your imagination comes up with.
Then put on a sock puppet theatre, where you talk to your kids and engage them in a little story with the sock puppets.
Your baby will find the activity interesting visually, and your toddler will enjoy making up a story about what the puppets are up to.
Read more playtime inspiration posts:
Do you have any other activities that suit a baby and toddler? I would love to hear about them!