Across the country, schools are closing for varying periods of time to keep our little ones safe from the rapidly spreading coronavirus. And with social distancing being the number one way we can all help to halt this disease, not only are the kids home from school, but they can’t even go outside to play with other kids. I think it’s safe to say that lots of parents, myself included, are struggling to keep their little ones engaged and entertained throughout the day. Below are some of the things I’ve been doing with my three-year-old son to pass the long days…and I would love to hear your ideas so please share them in the comments below. (An aside: I also believe in letting kids get bored. My son comes up with some of the most creative games and interesting ideas when he’s left to entertain himself without someone constantly managing his time, so don’t forget to factor that into your day, too!)

Home skills
While we rely on schools to educate our children, don’t forget that not all learning happens in a classroom. Use this time with your child to teach them valuable home skills. Kids as young as three years old can help with chores like cleaning up toys, sorting the laundry and setting the table with things like napkins, spoons and plastic cups. Let them help out in the kitchen while you’re making dinner. Kids love to be involved in ‘grown-up’ tasks!

Bake together
Over the weekend, my three-year-old son helped me make banana bread (this is my go-to recipe) and we had so much fun doing it together. When he’s helping in the kitchen, he stands in a learning tower (like one of these) so that he is safe and can reach the kitchen counter. He whisked all the dry ingredients and mashed the heck out of the bananas. I could tell he was proud to be such a big help.

Read, read, read
Fortunately, my son is as big a book worm as I am so his idea of reading is hunkering down with a pile of about 25 books. (The bigger the pile, the better as far as he’s concerned.) Here are some of his favorites:

Everything & Everywhere
A Day at the Airport
Babar’s Guide to Paris
The Octonauts Explore the Great Big Ocean
The Octonauts: Underwater Adventure Box Set

Watch together
Speaking of Octonauts, my son is positively obsessed with this show, which streams on Netflix. He’s already learned so much from it and I’m continually surprised by all the knowledge he’s picked up. Since screen time needs to be limited, we ensure that everything he’s watching is educational and without commercials (ie: streaming only and no YouTube.) Here are some of Jack’s favorite shows:

Octonauts (Netflix)
Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum (PBS)
Wild Kratts (PBS)
Blaze and the Monster Machines (Nick Jr.)
Super Why (PBS)
Let’s Go Luna (PBS)
My Friends Tigger and Pooh (Disney+)

Analog learning
Besides books, I use lots of other tools to engage Jack’s brain. Flashcards with words were great when he was younger but now that he’s three years old, he’s ready for more advanced concepts. I use this Kindergarten in a Box set, which introduces him to math concepts, thinking and problem solving, working memory and following directions. This 4-pack bundle includes 1,500+ challenges on 250+ cards. I’m also a big fan of Brain Quest decks, question and answer games that are challenging and lots of fun.

Digital learning
iPads are a source of stress for many parents but these devices aren’t just for binge-watching Paw Patrol. We love using the Marbotic Deluxe Learning Kit. You need to download seven apps for reading, spelling and counting and then use the wooden letters and numbers in the kit to interact with the content on the screen. Your child will learn reading, writing and math as well as critical thinking skills. Another great activity that merges tactile play with digital learning is Osmo Little Genius Starter Kit. Simply put your iPad in the Osmo iPad base and use the included play pieces to learn letter formation and phonics, create pictures and bring animals to life.

Me Reader
My son lives for story time but sometimes I need some time to work or get things done around the house (dinner doesn’t cook itself!) Jack loves his Me Readers, especially this World of Eric Carle 8-Book Library. He uses the electronic pad to choose which book he wants to read and presses the matching buttons to hear the story read aloud to him. It’s a different way to learn and makes him feel like a big boy because he’s ‘reading’ all by himself. You can check out all the different Me Readers here.

Usborne Sticker Books
A family member gave Jack his first sticker book (all about airports) when he was about one and a half and it was an instant hit. He still loves them today. So these days, we haul out his sticker book collection and he creates all kinds of scenes, placing the stickers on the appropriate pages. His favorites are anything related to airports, travel destinations, trucks, animals and ocean life. Each sticker book presents lots of opportunities to talk and learn about something. My recommendations are:

Airport sticker book
Jungle sticker book
Zoo sticker book
Building Sites sticker book
1001 Thing to Spot in the Sea sticker book

Drawing, painting and coloring
I have a big container of markers, crayons and paint brushes, a pack of construction paper and a sketch book with blank pages that Jack draws and paints in. He loves his Little Einstein’s activity book, which has coloring pages as well as stickers. He often asks me to draw things for him so we use the book My World, which has simple illustrations that I can easily replicate. He loves to supervise and give directions about my artwork! I also have a handful of drawing, painting and coloring apps loaded onto an iPad that he can use. His favorites are:
Baby Coloring by Bimi Boo
Drawing by Bini Bambini
Create and Play by Crayola

Fresh air
It’s impossible to not let the kids out for a bit of fresh air. We take Jack out for a walk and a ride on his scooter where there’s no one else around. He’s been using this Micro Mini scooter for the past year and can maneuver it like a real pro!

These are just some of the ways that I’m getting through the days with my three-year-old. (Fortunately, our seven-month-old is happy to play along with anything we do!) For more ideas and inspiration, I signed up to the PBS Kids Daily Newsletter, which offers up tips and tricks to help pass the time and keep kids engaged, educated and energized.

How are YOU entertaining your kids while they’re home from school? I’d love to hear all of your ideas. Leave a comment below and let me know!


Natalie DiScala

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1 Comment On "How I’m Entertaining My Toddler While He’s Home From School"
  1. Sherry|

    This 66 yr old Grandma face times with my 5 yr old granddaughter. I set up the game of Checkers on my table and focus my phone on the board. She describes which chip she wants to move (she knows the difference between right and left) and I move it for her. Then I do the same. It takes awhile to complete the game but we both enjoy the together time and it gives Mommy and Daddy some time to work at home undisturbed.
    She is also starting to read and reads to me utilizing FaceTime. She will even hold the book up to show me the pictures “just like her kindergarten teacher does.”

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