Parenting

4 Ways to Entertain Your Toddler Without Getting Up from the Couch

Just when you think you’re in the clear, your toddler pulls an all-nighter. Mine’s been battling a cold the last few days and, last night, just couldn’t settle. He’d sleep for a while, scream for a while, sleep for a while, scream for a while. On and on and on. From 10:00 p.m. until 6:30 a.m. when he stood up in his crib, rubbed his eyes sleepily and called out calmly, “Mommy, Mommy, come in please!”

I stumbled blearily in and found him waiting patiently for me, smiling. “How are you doing?” I asked. “Good!” he chirped. “Really??” “When someone says ‘How are you doing?’ you say, ‘Good!’” he said. “You can also say, ‘Exhausted,’” I muttered, carrying him over to the changing table. “What we do today?” he asked.

The problem with toddlers is that they’re always raring to go. It doesn’t matter how much sleep they got (or didn’t get) the night before, come 6:30 (or whatever their usual wake up time is) they’re set to jet. Sure, they might need an earlier nap and they’re definitely going to be extra cranky as the day progresses, but lying around on the couch all day because you’re both so tired? Sorry, Mom, no dice.

So, what’s an exhausted mommy to do? Other moms probably suck it up, drink some coffee, and get on with their days. But where’s the fun in that? Me, I took up residence on the couch, announced “Mommy’s tired,” and proceeded to invent every crazy game I could think of that would buy me a few more minutes before I had to stand up.

In case this sounds intriguing, here are a few of the things I came up with:

1. Finding game

From the couch, describe an object you know your toddler can find (the further away the better). Have him run and get it and bring it to you. He can put it next to you on the couch, or on the floor nearby. The clues shouldn’t be too tricky, you don’t want him to get bored or frustrated. But you don’t want them to be so easy he finds the thing in two seconds and is ready to move on. You could say, “Find a stuffed animal that likes to eat honey.” Not, “Go get Winnie the Pooh.” You could also give clues that could yield multiple items. Like, “Go find something red,” or “Find something that you build with.” When he gets bored with this game, have him return all the items to their proper places. This will allow you a little extra couch time.

2. Snuggling

In general, my son isn’t a big snuggler. He likes to give hugs, but he’s much too busy to stick around. But, when he’s sick, he slows down a little. And he needs a little extra TLC anyway. So, share the couch. Have him get his blanket and favorite stuffed animals and make it a party. A quiet party, that may include a nap. Sing songs, tells stories, ask him questions. Anything to keep him entertained and you on the couch. You could also ask him to bring you books to read while you snuggle, which would send him off on a book-finding mission from which (fingers crossed) he might get distracted and play on his own for a minute. See if he’ll read to you. My son likes to recite sections of books he knows. That way you can even close your eyes for a minute. I wasn’t asleep!

3. Obstacle Course

No set-up required. Just invent a list of things your toddler needs to do. Like, “First, crawl under the coffee table, then hop on one foot to your bedroom, spin around once, put the basketball in the hoop, hug your stuffed Simba toy, and come give Mommy a kiss.” Or whatever. Have him do the same series of events as many times as feels interesting to him, and then change it up. See if he can invent his own list of things to do. He might even get distracted and wander off!

4. Simon Says

Nothing fancy here, just the old school-yard game. From your nest on the couch, call out commands to your toddler: “Simon says, touch your head!” “Simon says, stick out your tongue.” “Simon says run into your bedroom and play with your toys while Mommy takes a nap!” (Just kidding on that last one.) He probably won’t understand the whole if-Simon-didn’t-say thing, which is probably for the best since, if he loses, the game is over, and you want this to go on as long as possible. So Simon can just keep “saying.” Go head, Simon, do your thing.

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Incredibly lazy, or incredibly resourceful? You decide. I’m going to go lie down.