Bellamy is independent whenever I don’t need her to be. Like when she wants to make cookies all by herself. Or reorganize the entire refrigerator at 5 a.m. Or when she wants to put all the laundry in the washing machine when I’m washing a load of towels with bleach. All of these have happened.
When she’s not great at being independent is during our unstructured play time. Now, if you’re reading “unstructured play time” thinking we actually have any structure in our life, guess again. This unstructured time is when I’m at my wits end of her “help” and I just need her to entertain herself for 20 minutes.
I’m always trying to find a non-electronic option. Bell is very creative and loves arts and crafts, but can’t be trusted to not color her entire body with markers and or paint. Or glue. Or glitter. All of these have happened.
Whenever I find an activity that captures my daughter’s goldfish-like attention span I feel like I have won some parental lottery and want to share my good fortune with the world.
These have especially been useful to us in the last few months when we moved from Idaho to Arizona. Extenuating circumstances provided us with multiple 10 hour+ drives for the move as well as holiday travel. Which left a frazzled mama who was desperate for any scream-free travel. Again, we try to avoid excessive screen time. So a lot of these suggestions were perfect for the car as well.
We also live with our in-laws currently and my anxiety doesn’t like the idea of Bellamy painting with any kind of “washable” paints at her table. We’ve already had incidents with a marker on a new, white, leather couch and crayon on the window sill. Needless to say, if you’re anything like us right now, mess free is our #BFF. 4Eva.
Here are our favorites:
Painter’s Tape – $2.97
OK, maybe you’re laughing right now, maybe you’re thinking I’m a psycho. Either way, trust me on this. I easily feel ganged up on now that I have two kids. Add any additional children if I’m watching a friend’s kid, and I’m a nervous wreck. This tape has saved my life on numerous occasions including babysitting, road trips and color blocking. (Color blocking not recommended for toddlers.)
This tape is perfect because it won’t rip the paint off yours (or your in-laws) walls. I pull off little strips and let Bellamy go crazy. She can stick it anywhere. We’ve also made little roads for her hot wheels cars on our kitchen floor. Toddlers are pretty fun. You know, unless they’re not.
I don’t think I’m being dramatic when I say I would cease to exist without these markers. That’s how amazing they are. Bellamy LOVES coloring. She demands the paper to be torn off her crayons, then she breaks them. She can’t keep a colored pencil sharpened for more than a minute. And she literally colors every inch of her skin (inside and out) with regular markers. So this leaves me with a lot of frustration and very little options.
I found these before a long (solo) road trip with Bell and my life has never been the same. They are a bit more expensive than normal markers (this is one of the better deals I’ve seen) and I was hesitant to purchase them at first because of the price, but they are worth every penny. And they are good quality. She colors with them multiple hours a day, several times a week and they are still in great condition.
Bell has let a few of the markers dry out for several days. I ran the tip of the marker under water, put the lid back on and presto. Working marker. Happy, busy kid. Perfection. You do have to purchase the Mess Free coloring book (pictured below), but still. It’s totally worth the extra cost to not have to worry about my free-spirited daughter creating a mural on my in-laws’ white couches.
Look and Find Book – $4.99
These look and find books are awesome. We love them for church, the car and for potty training. Some trips to the potty take a bit longer, if you know what I mean, and Bell was having a problem sitting still while waiting, which resulted in a lot of poop everywhere it should NOT be on a toilet. We have a set of these books and they have been awesome and keeping her entertained and focused on the potty. We love them!
Reusable Sticker Book – Melissa and Doug – $4.99 and under
Bell loves stickers, and I don’t love them all over our doors. Behold, the prefect compromise. These stickers are durable, a great size for toddler hands, and fun. I love how they help spark her imagination and storytelling. She has spent hours playing QUIETLY with these, which has got me like: TAKE MY MONEY.
Water Wow! – Melissa and Doug – $4.99, average
Most parents know about the joy of these books. They are perfect for toddlers who want to paint, and parents who would rather die. Bell especially loves the makeup and manicure one. Again, hours of enjoyment. I will say, don’t lose the water pen. If you’re daughter is a weirdo like mine, she likes to use the pen for a little drink while painting and well, it means we lose things. Whatever. At least she’s cute.