sit down and play!

14 simple ideas for making the most of your time with your toddler before baby number two arrives.

This pregnancy has been harder for me than the last. Overall, yes, it’s been fine and I’m very grateful. But I’ve also had a lot more pain (PGP) and have found my mobility extremely limited, which I didn’t experience at all with my first pregnancy. I’ve also been tired—no, exhausted—since day one, excruciatingly so.

Limited mobility plus exhaustion plus having a toddler don’t mix very well.

Sure, Levi can easily now entertain himself… but does he want to? Usually not. My busy little bee would much rather have mama’s participation in every. single. thing. (And of course that only adds to the exhaustion.

He’s also at the age where he’s working on perfecting his whine and perfecting his tantrums when he doesn’t get his way. And the whining and tantrums often come as the result of him not having my undivided attention, which of course he thinks he deserves at all times.

Even though this season is incredibly demanding and tiring, I want to make the most of it, I really do. As excited as I am for baby to come, it makes me a little sad to think that I’ll never get this exclusive time with Levi back again.

So how do I maximize it while I have it while taking into consideration my limited ability for walks, trips to the park or aquarium, playing chase in the yard, taking bike rides with the toddler trailer, or any other physically demanding activity?

Here are some of the things that are working for us right now, keeping in mind my current (very pregnant!) physical capacity and energy levels:

1) Story time at the library. It’s fun to get out of the house, read books, sing songs, and of course interact with other kids.

2) Swimming lessons. Even though it is physical, the weightlessness of being in the water feels great on my aching joints… and of course Levi has a ball.

3) Coloring. Levi loves coloring – not by himself necessarily, but definitely with a partner. This is a great sit-down activity.

4) Playdough. I have a wonderful homemade recipe that I’ll share one of these days.

5) Stories. Levi has always loved reading, and I do too. He’ll sit for ages with books and when I most need a physical rest this is my go-to activity!

6) Painting with water. This can be done inside or outside. I give Levi a cup of water and a brush and then he gets to paint object with it. Paint the swing set, paint the table, paint the fence, paint the wall, paint toys, paint mama’s toes – just about everything is fair game and he loves it!

7) Blocks and legos. I think I enjoy playing with blocks and legos (mega-blocks) nearly as much as Levi does. I can sprawl out on the floor on my side and we practice stacking them and knocking them over… stacking them and knocking them over… stacking them and knocking them over…

8.) Songs. Having worked at a preschool for four years, I’ve got a lot of children’s songs under my belt. And I’ve never met a little kid that doesn’t like singing silly songs – especially when they have hand motions! Kids don’t care if you can carry a tune or make up the actions as you go along. They just love music and singing and Levi is no exception. This is definitely one of my favorite things to do with him, especially now that he’s singing along and doing the actions as well.

9) Guitar. My little music man loves the guitar – always has. I get out my guitar and we play together with my fingers on the neck making cords and him strumming away to his little hearts content. I do admit though, sometimes I just wish he’d sit back and sing with me and let me play without his “help”. But apparently his own little guitar just isn’t as appealing as Mama’s. Maybe that’s because mine is in tune…

10) Baking. I’m not much of a Susie-homemaker-type and I admit that I don’t normally enjoy cooking or baking (with the exception of holidays and special occasions, which I adore). But I do like to eat cookies and muffins, so every once and a while I get my baking groove on. Levi loves to help put ingredients in the bowl and mix things. Although I do let him help with my bowl, I usually give him his own bowl and spoon or whisk to play with, which he finds much more fun. He gets to sit up on the counter next to where I stand and he thinks he is awesome!

11) Swings. We have a small swing set in our backyard set up with a toddler swing. I can easily set up a chair near the swing set and push Levi from a seated position. He loves it and it doesn’t bother him if I’m sitting or standing to push. He just likes that I’m there and involved and focused on him. (And we often practice counting on the swings too using high-fives, toe grabs, and other little informal games.)

12) Mini sand box. I fill a shoe box lid up with sand and give him a few small objects to play with in the sand: a spoon, some toothpicks, a milk container lid, measuring cups – whatever I can find. You can also add some small animal toys or trucks if you have them. Make designs together, shift sand around, pour it from one container to another, etc. I put Levi in the highchair while doing it (to contain the mess) and pull up a stool next to him so I can fully participate.

13) Finger painting. Yes, it’s messy… but it’s so much fun. We do it in the highchair or on the bathroom floor where clean-up is quick and easy.

14) Bubble baths. We have a tiny bath that’s the size of our shower stall. It’s big enough for a little baby or small child, but not really suitable for an adult unless you only want to be sitting with your knees crunched up. But still, on particularily fussy days I will fill up the bath and jump in with Levi. He loves the bath so this is always a sure winner. I have to sit cross-legged with him on my lap for us to both fit, and I certainly don’t last as long as I used to now that my mobility is more limited… but still, it works for now and we have fun playing with cups, splashing, and sticking foam letters to the wall.

As all moms, my days are filled with making meals, cleaning up after meals, changing diapers, doing laundry, putting things away, errands, and emails. I also have my part-time teaching work, writing goals, and other responsibilities so it’s not as if I sit around for hours on end playing with playdough and baking cookies. Sure, I’d love to spend all day giving Levi my full attention, but most of the time that’s just not possible.

I find that making sure I have at least one chunk of the day to do some sort of structured activity helps preserve sanity… and makes a huge difference for both of us in keeping our mood up. On days when we happen to have time for more than one of these activities it’s a bonus, but there’s no pressure to achieve more (which most moms just don’t need!). This doesn’t mean it’s the only time in the day where I give Levi my attention. Only that at least once a day I try to have more structured, intentional focus… with no multi-tasking!!

Dear friends, what are you doing to give your little ones some undivided attention each day? And if you’re expecting another baby soon, how are you trying to maximize your time with your first-born? (I’d love some more ideas.)

having fun playing,

About Author

Adriel Booker is an author, speaker, and advocate based in Sydney, Australia who believes storytelling, beauty, and the grace of God will change the world. Adriel has become a trusted voice in areas of motherhood and parenting, Christian spirituality, and global women's issues. She's also known for her work with the Love A Mama Collective—serving under-resourced women in developing nations through safe birth initiatives—as well as her years spent as a Bible teacher and leadership coach. Her latest book is Grace Like Scarlett: Grieving with Hope after Miscarriage and Loss and she's made the companion grief journal available for free. Find Adriel across all social media platforms at @adrielbooker or sign up for LoveNotes, Adriel's 'secret posts' that aren't published anywhere else online. ✌️


  • Carol
    21 September 2011 at 12:47 am

    Great ideas! We use the shoe/sand box often. My girls also love to play with the garden hose, fill buckets and dump them out, over and over again.

    When I had my 2nd, I was really concerned that the first wouldn’t get her share of attention, but I was mistaken. I forgot how much babies sleep and just go with the flow. My first got the same amount of attention as she always did. It wasn’t until #2 started walking/talking that there really became a balancing act.

    • Adriel
      23 September 2011 at 11:42 am

      Oh, the garden hose! Yes!! It’s getting warm enough here to pull that one out again. Such a great form of entertainment. LOL.

  • Alicia
    21 September 2011 at 4:04 am

    What wonderful creative ideas!! I am looking forward to my daughter experiencing play dough some day soon, but she still tries eating her crayon’s, stickers…etc… so I’m hesitant. Music is a big hit in this house. My daughter loves dancing around.

    • Adriel
      23 September 2011 at 11:43 am

      Yes, just the other day we were finger painting… and let’s just say I’m glad I bought non-toxic ones. 😀

  • Lindsey
    21 September 2011 at 9:54 am

    These are all good ideas, and I use many of them! I’ve got about five weeks until #4 arrives, so I’m trying to make the most of it with my three, mostly outside while it’s still warm. I’ve made sure to train them all to walk with me and behave in stores, etc. because it’s only going to get tougher with another one.

    • Adriel
      23 September 2011 at 11:45 am

      Sounds like you’re ready! I’ve been refusing to pick Levi up as much – things like making him walk up and down stairs by himself. It’s hard though… he’s still my “baby”… but not. Hope things are going well for you Lindsey. Not long now!!

  • Jen L
    23 September 2011 at 12:25 pm

    My son loves puzzles. We just got a new one that has magnetic pieces hidden behind doors. It’s easy for him to manipulate because the pieces don’t have to go in “just so.” And he loves when I do the puzzles with him.

    We’re expecting our second in about ten weeks, and I’ve experiencing the same fears for our first-born. I just keep reassuring myself that everything really will be okay — people do this all the time, and kids are way more adaptable than we give them credit for. Here’s to a happy and healthy transition for everyone!

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos
      24 September 2011 at 8:10 am

      LOL – amen and amen! 🙂 And yeah, Levi really likes puzzles too. I forgot that one – a great sit down and rest activity for preggo mama and toddler! Thanks for chiming in. 🙂

      Hope your pregnancy is going well. May those last 10 weeks go fast… but not too fast! x


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