toddler tools entertaining toddlers

Essential Toddler Tools: Keep Your Toddler Entertained Anywhere

Having a toddler can be one of the most amusing but also the most stressful times in a parent’s life. You think that having a baby is hard work until you realise that they don’t wreak as much havoc as a crazy toddler or require as much entertainment. Keeping a toddler entertained can be tricky.

Toddlers Entertained at a Moments Notice

Something to grab at a moment’s notice (to avoid that inevitable tantrum or melt down) can be a life saver. We hear Mum’s expressing all too often how they were caught short (not the toilet type) in a traffic jam, at a wedding, supermarket queue or relatives house when they just wishEd they had something they could whip out of their bag to entertain a restless toddler.

Toddler’s minds are like sieves – they are so excited and interested in something one minute but that interest dwindles extremely quickly. What happens when that sieve is empty? All hell breaks loose – and you’d do anything to avoid that?

The Tools to Entertain Your Toddler

We have done some research and come up with the essentials. A few bits and bobs a parent must have in their toddler utility belt. Feel a little less ‘at sea’ in certain situations with these toddler essentials. Flick through our ‘quick look’ images and click on the title or scroll down if you want more information on how/what/where to use them!

1. Bubbles

“I’m not entirely sure why these weren’t a staple in my nappy bag until recently!” Mum of two, Jessica explains.

“The amount of times I have saved a near-tantrum situation from the brink of collapse using just a teeny pot of bubbles is extraordinary!”

Jessica D. Mum of 18 month and 4 year old.

We would agree – bubbles are like toddler crack – just a few puffs and you will provide many minutes of bubble-popping joy for your toddler.

You can buy multipacks of small bubbles (like the ones you get in party bags) but if you are conscious of being green and not using too much plastic we would suggest something a little less disposable. Our favourite bubbles that are easy to transport around are the bubble blizzard. It creates a blizzard of bubbles and doesn’t require much blowing exertion (this is our main reason for liking them!)

2. Marbles

Marbles, stones, pebbles, precious jewels; anything small and colourful will have your toddler mesmerised. Choking hazard? It depends on your child, so we wouldn’t advise any unsupervised play until they are older. If you have a pot to put them in, even better. This can create a great activity keeping your toddler entertained and amused for a while.

Magnetic marbles are a good option as you are less likely to lose them all. Take a look at this set here – they are fairly inexpensive so won’t break the bank.

3. Cotton Buds

Known as Q-tips to our American friends – these plus a small cardboard box or container with holes to push them through can provide a great game in a confined space.

“We were trapped on a train once – there was an issue with the line so we weren’t able to move. The one colouring pad I’d had on me ceased to interest LB and she started getting a bit aggitated so I had to improvise. I had a few cotton buds loose in my handbag and a box of tissues. I turned it upside down and punched a few holes in it  – she spent ages pushing the buds in and out! It provided a surprisingly lengthy game.”

Mariella, Basingstoke.

4. Belt Buckle/Clip

You could use an old one from an unused bag or belt or, if you have one on your bag already even better. Just unclipping, clipping, unclipping, clipping – you get the picture. This will keep your toddler entertained for a decent length of time. Just mind their fingers!

5. Goo, Play Doh or Plasticine

You may be dead against this one – and we would understand completely if you are! Not to be used unsupervised, a small pot of goo or play dough can be great fun. Maybe try and use a small tub and keep it inside to avoid any unnecessary mess. Remember, if this is an ‘out and about’ activity you need not worry about dough being squidged into your own carpet at home!

6. A Mirror

Just a small vanity mirror – it is as simple as that. If you have one inside a little case this is a bonus, as they can open and close the case or even put things like coins or marbles inside. Just make sure you remove any make up if it is a powder compact!

7. A Small Torch

This one is a toddler entertainment surprise to most – but you will honestly be astounded at the amount of fun one toddler can have shining a light around. This can also be doubled up As a game to create shadows and teach your little monster all about creating shadows with light. it will be like a very simple science lesson so educational too. And that is always a bonus when keeping the parental guilt at bay.

8. Tegu

Recommended by a lot of parents we spoke to – Tegu is a magnatic block system. They come in all shapes and sizes, but the one we were told about by a number of different people was the travel pouch. The pouch contains a number of different colourful wooden blocks which connect using magnets – perfect for any situation. They also pack neatly into a cute little pouch so are easy to slip into a nappy bag or handbag. They aren’t super cheap – but won’t break the bank at under £20 and let’s face it who would put a price on a life-saving toddler tool?

You can find more info on these sets on the tegu website here.

9. Drawing

Whether you keep a pen or pencil in your bag, or some crayons (the little free boxes they give out a restaurants are handy) this is a staple of toddler entertainment. A small notebook can be a simple option – and will take up less space than carting a colouring book around.

Mess-free colouring

A miniature ‘Etch-A-Sketch’ or magnetic drawing board are also really engaging alternatives. There are a lot of different ones out there. We found a pair for under £15, which is great if you have more than one child. You can find these on Amazon here.

Crayola also have a range of mess free colouring pads – with lots of different editions containing all your little ones favourite movie characters. These are a really good options as the different markers (you have to get specific ones to go with these books) create different colours on the page, so their creativity is not limited! You can find the Crayola range here.

Water colouring options are a cheaper alternative to the Crayola mess free range and also great if you want to avoid any mess. They involve a pen you fill with water and a book containing pictures where the colours ‘appear’ when wet. This is especially good for really young ones and the beauty of this option is they are reusable! There are a lot of makes out there – just search for ‘Magic Water Colouring’ and you will find an abundance of books. We have tried and tested the Melissa and Doug ‘Water Wow’ series which is nice and compact.

10. Stickers

So the location in which you whip out a sticker book may be one to consider (some restaurants and cafes may get a bit annoyed to find their furniture covered in stickers). But, generally speaking stickers can entertain for a reasonable length of time. The sticker books that give you places to stick the stickers would be preferable if your little one is likely to redecorate their surroundings!

11. Wallet

Find an old wallet and fill it with little things they can play with. The zip or poppers alone can be entertainment. One Mum we spoke to laminated little pictures and put them inside in place of the cards. She mentions ‘two sets’ which is a great way to turn this into a matching game.

I printed two sets from our visual ‘timetable’; so pictures of her doing things like painting and playing with friends and family…

J Mckechnie, London

12. Stamps

We aren’t talking about the postage type – just the satisfyingly creative type. Self inking stamps are a great way to pass the time. Make sure you have a notepad or paper handy though – as (like stickers) you don’t want to be responsible for a redesign of wherever you happen to be!


Have you got any other fail-safe toddler entertainment ideas?

Don’t forget to share your ideas with us or tag us @theplayexperts