Our daughter is now 20 months old and I can happily say that she doesn’t yet know how to use the phone or any other screen device. By that I mean, that she isn’t aware that a phone (or a laptop) can be used for things other than talking to people. Actually, that’s not right. She knows that we can sometimes have a video chat with some family and that there are some photos that she can see on the phone (or laptop). And that mumma and papa use it for work.
While talking to a friend, who has a similar aged daughter as ours, I realised that most parents actually don’t know how to entertain their toddlers if showing them a screen is not an option. This becomes especially true while feeding a child or while on a holiday (when the parents also want to relax). In an age where Peppa Pig, Baby Einstein, and ChuChu TV are every toddler’s friend and personal entertainers, our daughter has no clue that such things exist.
Other than the usual suspects of taking her to the park everyday and giving her extended baths, here’s a list of activities that we have been doing with our daughter to keep her busy and entertained.
Involve her in the kitchen
Since she was a baby, we would take her to the kitchen whenever any of us would cook. As we washed and peeled vegetables, we would tell her what is what and then keep talking to her as if reading the instructions aloud. As she grew up, her place in the kitchen moved from her pram to the kitchen counter. She now knows how an omlette is made, what goes in tea, names of a lot of veggies and almost all fruits, and can identify most of the things in our fridge. She even insists on rolling a chapati! And we let her do it when she says she wants to.
Dance with her
Our daughter has always listened to normal music that we listen to. That means that we never play nursery rhymes on any music device. We play “our” music and dance with her everyday. Her current favourite songs are “You spin my head right round”, “I like to move it move it”, and “Big rock candy mountain”.
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Read to her. Tell her stories.
We spend at least an hour everyday reading books. Most of this reading happens around mealtimes, but recently she has started to ask us to read books at other times. We’ve been doing this since our baby was born. While reading a book, we spend enough time taking out the sounds of things and enacting what the characters in the book are doing. In fact, this is what she most looks forward to. We also tell her stories (and sometimes rhymes) before she goes to sleep.
Whether it’s peek-a-boo or proper hide-and-seek, babies love it. And it’s so cute when they hide behind that chair where only their face can’t be seen. Of course, it gets boring for us when she keeps hiding at the same place every single time. But, her giggles on being found more than make up for it.
Run and jump around
This is the most fun. We let her run behind cats and dogs in our apartment complex (under our watch). She is now on first-name basis with most of the cats and dogs in our complex. We also let her explore the play area (in the park) by herself, while we watch from a close distance.
Involve her in other chores
We let her help around and she loves that and being called “helpful”. When we put the dustbins out, we let her carry the lighter one. She has her own dusting cloth and takes it out whenever one of us is dusting around the house. While putting laundry in the machine, she takes clothes out of the laundry bag and then again hands them to us, while we put them out to dry.
Using videos to entertain toddlers is a slippery slope, because a two year old will not understand the concept of screen-time. Of course, the activities that I listed above can be and are very tiring. And they take up a lot of our time. But hey, no one said that bringing up children was a walk in the park.
The author is a public policy enthusiast, mom and avid reader. To read her work, visit https://medium.com/@nidhi1902