14 toddler activities for dinnertime are an absolute must if you have any young children! The crazy and hectic dinner time is enough for any mother of toddlers to go nuts! I know because I have a 3-year-old, a 2-year-old and a 3-month baby! It can be almost impossible to get dinner on the table in a timely and orderly fashion without a game plan.
Before I figured out that my kids needed to have special toddler activities for dinnertime, these couple of hours every evening were insane. Both toddlers were usually crying and whining because they were hungry (despite the fact that they had just had a snack 45 minutes before). Then of course because it’s the end of the day they are worn out and tired and once the sun goes down everything seems so much bleaker and harder and I really believe that children feel that way as well! So, that adds to their misery and makes them a little bit ornerier. Also the fact that you’re not giving them all the attention that they want you to give them because you are preoccupied with making the dinner, makes toddlers cranky as well.
Putting all of this together can make for 1 grumpy mama bear!
I finally realized that I needed to be ahead of my children! And, if you’re reading this post then I figure that you must also be realizing this need and you want some ideas for how to make this happen!
Well, in all honesty it’s really very simple to stay one step ahead of your kids. At times it can be challenging because you might have to give up a few things that you would rather be doing (i.e. browsing through Pinterest just 5 more minutes because you really don’t want to get going with dinner and the kids are still being quiet…) but with a little planning I’m going to have you rocking your dinner time with 14 toddler activities for dinnertime!
You are all too familiar with the following scene: the kids have just finished their snacks, they are planning fairly nicely together in the play room and you just want a little bit of a breathing moment before you have to tackle the dinner. So you sit down and browse through who knows what on your phone. All of a sudden, your kids start bickering, your baby wants to eat, one toddler needs help going potty and you haven’t a clue for what to make for dinner, everything starts becoming slightly overwhelming.
Take these 3 quick ways to beat the chaos:
1. Plan Dinner Out in the Morning – If you have an idea of what you’re going to be eating before dinner time rolls around you can save yourself a lot of anguish, frustration and children’s tears! Make up a meal plan for the week or 2 weeks and then each day, choose a meal from your list to make. Plan it out in the morning so that you have anything out of the freezer that you might need thawed by dinner time.
2. Work on Items when the Kids are Being Quiet – I know how hard it is to put what you’re doing on hold so that you can stay ahead of the kids. It takes a bit of discipline but when the kids are being quiet do a few things that are going to help you get dinner done on time so that when they are clamoring for your attention you can give it to them without being impatient! So, set the table or get out the dinner pans or do a quick clean up. Whatever it might be, taking advantage of the quiet minutes helps for dinnertime to go more smoothly.
3. Give Your Toddlers a Few Simple Chores – by getting your kids involved, you’ll empower them to take the beginning steps into responsibility. You could give them the silverware or napkins to put on the table. Ask them to pick up stuff on the floor. Just try to make it fun so that they are enticed to perform the task that you’re asking of them.
I’ve come up with 14 toddler activities for dinnertime so that you can easily rotate between these activities over the course of 2 weeks. That way, each activity will seem new and exciting because it only gets to be done once every 2 weeks. Now, if you want to do multiple activities in one dinnertime session, of course, be my guest.
Each one of these toddler activities for dinnertime is done in the kitchen because kids like to be near mom whenever you are making dinner. I’ve found that it’s also an easy way for me to bond with my kids and gives me a feeling of actually spending time with my kids and getting something important done at the same time!
1. Play with Pots and Pans – this is hands down a favorite toddler activity for dinnertime! I think my toddlers feel important getting to play with the pots and pans that mom uses! It gives them a sense of power. Now, if you store your pots and pans under your stove, let me suggest that you take them out and move them to a corner of the room where you are not going to be tripping all over them as your toddler plays with them.
2. Collect together oatmeal containers, sour cream, yogurt, egg cartons, raisin containers, ice cream bucket – Any odd and end container that used to hold food are loved by kids. Children are very creative and these items are all free, don’t have to worry about getting trashed and are plentiful in every household that they make awesome toys.
3. Have a special coloring book specifically for dinnertime – Maybe it’s an activity workbook or a superhero coloring book and some special theme that your child is interested in. However, with this toddler activity for dinnertime, keep the book specifically for dinnertime and hide it or keep it up high for all other times of the day. This teaches the child that it can only be done at one designated time.
4. Let them pull up a chair and watch you make dinner – for some reason, my kids love watching me make dinner and I’ve found that letting them stand on a chair next to me really keeps them out of trouble!
5. Have them play a memory game – I’ve found this to be a great toddler activity for dinnertime because it keeps kids relatively quiet and it’s easy for you to play along with them while you’re trying to get the meal ready.
6. Turn on some music and have a dancing party in the kitchen while making dinner – this is loads of fun to do with your kids and it’s a great way to bring some fun and excitement into the dinnertime routine.
7. Have each one pick out a couple of books, bring their blanket and pillow into the kitchen and read stories on the floor while you cook – like I said above, my kids just have to be near me when I’m making dinner so this is an easy way to make that happen. Plus it spices things up for them since they get to read books in the kitchen!
8. Play in a large cardboard box – if you have toddlers, odds are you’re probably buying diapers and those diaper box are great fun for toddlers to play in! Set some boxes aside for dinnertime only play!
9. Play with the measuring spoons, measuring cups, basting brushes – as long as these items aren’t breakable, they make great toys for toddler activities at dinnertime! And, if they are breakable, pick up some cheap ones at the Dollar Store or a yardsale!
10. Let them look through magazines and find pictures of food and cooking items to cut out – If your kids are too young to use scissors then you can cut out pictures and have them glue them on construction paper during the dinner hour.
11. Playing with spaghetti noodles, macaroni noodles, gluing them to pictures – kids love playing with food and noodles are super easy for kids to work with so let them get creative with macaroni!
12. Playing with Tupperware – put Tupperware (if it’s not glass) in a cupboard down low so the toddlers can have easy access to it. Open up the cupboard at dinner time and you've got an epic toddler activity.
13. Play in the rags and towels drawer maybe add a feather duster to the collection – Yes, your drawer will end up being a mess but this activity gives kids a zip to their dinnertime routine!
14. Play with magnets on the fridge – just make your kids perform this activity on the side of the fridge that you don’t have to access so they are not in your way.
I hope that these 14 toddler activities for dinnertime will help you keep your sanity during this challenging time of the day. Wishing you much success and many happy dinner time family memories!