Parents and caregivers: You know as well as I do that the hours between naptime and bedtime can be excruciating to fill. Toddlers are usually more moody and finicky in the last few hours of the day, and the adults are just trying to make it to the bedtime finish line. On a typical day, it can be really hard to tire out a toddler before bedtime.

Unfortunately, this dilemma is only worsened by social distancing and stay at home requirements for COVID-19. Here are a few activities to occupy and tire out a toddler at home by the end of the day.

1. Have a Virtual Playdate

I work from home part-time, which means my daughter and I are usually together and looking for fun activities to occupy our time.

Before social distancing began, I loved inviting friends to come to our house after naptime. These late afternoon playdates quickly became our favorite part of the day. Instead of demanding to watch TV or expressing boredom, my daughter enjoyed parallel play with her toys alongside her friends. I had fun too, as it’s obviously more enjoyable to parent with another adult around. Even if just for 30 minutes to an hour, social interaction is a great way for everyone to quickly pass the time.

Even though COVID-19 has interrupted our plans, it won’t keep us down! For the last few weeks, we’ve hosted virtual playdates via FaceTime and Zoom. It’s surprising how much these virtual playdates can feel like the real thing. Sometimes we just casually chat with friends, and other times we participate in a themed activity. Last week, one of my friends asked everyone to bring a teddy bear to show on camera, then read the Teddy Bears’ Picnic book and played the theme song while the kids danced on screen. A fun playmat can be a helpful place to focus activity as it is soft for little hands and feet.

This is a difficult time for everyone, but virtual playdates help us feel connected even when we have to be apart.

2. Tire Out a Toddler with a Scavenger Mission

Under stay at home orders, I am itching to get outdoors at least twice a day for some fresh air and exercise. Fresh air can be key to help tire out a toddler. However, now that my daughter is almost two-and-a-half, she will only tolerate the stroller for a limited amount of time. To motivate her to walk longer distances without demanding to be picked up, we go on made up scavenger hunts. As soon as we leave the house, one of us will announce what we’re looking for. Some days it’s roly-polies. Other times, it’s pretending to search the neighborhood for her favorite television characters, like Daniel Tiger. No matter what we’re looking for, the activity turns her imagination on and keeps her attention for at least an hour.

3. Burn Off Energy in the Backyard

We normally love going to the botanical garden or a neighborhood park in the afternoons. With these destinations temporarily closed, we’ve made our own fun in the backyard to tire out a toddler. We lather on the sunscreen, turn up the music outside, and fill a small baby pool with water and water-friendly toys. She recently spent two hours jumping in and out of her pool and joyfully dancing on the driveway. Normally a reserved child, it was wonderful to see her personality blossom in the afternoon sunlight. By bedtime, she was more than ready to hit the hay.

4. Tire Out a Toddler by Bringing Toys Outside

Even the most beloved toys tend to lose their charm when you’re cooped up inside. We gathered up her beauty bag, medical kit, and tea party set and headed to the front porch. For some reason, the toys became a lot more appealing in an outdoor setting. She was content as we played together and FaceTimed Grandma.

I hope you and your families are staying healthy and safe during COVID-19. I’d like to thank all of the heroes of this pandemic: Health care workers, those in the grocery industry, and delivery drivers. We appreciate your service and personal sacrifice very much. To those of you staying home, thank you for doing your part. Hang in there and remember we are all in this together.

Feature photo credit: @rachaelburgessmusic

Author

Katie McCall is a lifestyle portrait photographer, content strategist, and producer based in San Antonio, Texas. When she isn’t behind a camera or laptop, she's exploring the world with her husband, darling one-year-old daughter and tiny pup. If you’d like, please follow their adventures on Instagram (@hersideproject)!

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