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  1. #1

    Default Creative Hands On Activities for Energetic 18 Month Old?

    I'm currently in the weeds trying to find creative hands on activities for my 18 month old daughter who refuses to sit for more than 30 seconds (mostly bc she has just started to walk).

    If I allow her to play with her older sisters she tends to wreck havoc whether its sensory play or something simple like drawing. So I have to pull her away from her siblings and give her an activity to do on her own but nothing is seeming to grab and keep her attention.

    I've tried a few Pinterest ideas and they have all gone south.

    Just wanted to know if there were some tried and true activities that will actually work for her bc I'm losing a little sanity trying to keep her entertained.

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  3. #2


    Life with a toddler is....messy to say the least lol!

    I had children very close in age as well, they are all teenagers/young adults now. But when they were all little, I tried to embrace the mess and chaos rather than fight it. I gave the little ones messy activities that I knew would keep them happy long enough to get something done. I would put them on a towel on the kitchen floor with a dishpan of water and let them "wash dishes" with a little rag and some plastic dishes. I put them in a high chair with a bowl of pudding and let them make a royal mess with it. I would give them a box full of play silks and let them scatter them about the living room. And if all else failed, I was not above putting a video on for a little while and hope that they would take a little nap if they sat still for 5 minutes. Of course on the messy activities, I had to clean up later but if it bought me the time I need them to be entertained, it was worth it to me.

    In addition to that, I also started training them at 1 1/2 to 2 years old, to play quietly and entertain themselves. You start small, praise her for even 5 minutes of independent quiet play and then wait it out 10 minutes before you give her praise. Have a blanket on the floor that you designate as the "quiet blanket" and when you get the quiet blanket out for her to sit on, she may only play quietly and only on the blanket. Practice it with her like a game before you try to get something done with her on the quiet blanket.

  4. #3
    Junior Member Newbie
    Join Date
    Oct 2018


    Here are 2 ideas that kept my son busy at that age:

    -Water beads in a big mixing bowl with whatever kitchen tools I grabbed - ladles, measuring cups, etc. He could scoop and dump on a big towel on the floor for an hour. The beads sometimes roll away, but that's the worst of it unless he dumped the whole bowl (which he only did once). This only worked once he stopped stuffing everything in his mouth.

    -"Science" - mixing bowl with ice cubes, a shaker of salt or baking soda, a spray bottle of warm water or vinegar. Turkey baster, oral syringe, anything to squirt or pour water. For my son, adding a bowl of water to any play bought me three times the quiet. Sometimes he washed his toys in the science bowl, sometimes he just squirted and dumped. To contain him, sometimes I put the whole project in the (empty) bathtub to keep the floor dry.

    Aspiring homeschooler with two little people (almost 4 and 8 months)
    Part-time special education teacher
    Part-time tutor

  5. #4


    I really like all of your ideas, they seem very doable. I've been avoiding messy activities every since I tried to let her play with a sensory bag filled with oil, water and food coloring (thanks to Pinterest). Followed the instructions perfectly and somehow she found a way to burst the bag open and yes it was a hot mess.

    But I'm definitely going to try the water play idea bc she does enjoy playing in water - will try to post an update to let you all know how it goes.

  6. #5


    Quote Originally Posted by mamayarah489 View Post
    Followed the instructions perfectly and somehow she found a way to burst the bag open and yes it was a hot mess.
    To me at least, there is a big difference between an unintended mess and a controlled mess. I try to let my kids make controlled messes as often as I can tolerate it, especially in the toddler/preschool years. By controlled mess, I mean that I let them make a mess, with my approval, on my terms. They can only make a mess in this area. They can only use these items I provide them to make the mess. They cannot bring anything else into the mess that I did not approve. That way, it's not a "Surprise Mommy! We made a mess for you to clean up!" kind of mess that makes me irritated to clean up. They get to make a mess and I get to control how much and what kind of mess I want to clean up after. I found when my big kids were all little, if they knew they could make a mess at specific times, they were less inclined to make surprise messes.

    Some messy activities we've done...

    Play car and bike wash outside in the summer with the hose and all the dollar store dish soap and torn up old towels they wanted.

    Finger paint, either outside or in the bathtub

    Bubble machine in the shower, not messy per se but it keeps the slickness from the bubble liquid in the tub instead of on the floor for someone to slip on

    My girls particularly liked to play with dollar store makeup and hair products to play beauty shop... even though I rarely wear makeup and never go to the beauty shop for anything really... not sure why they liked it so much but they did... After they were all dolled up, we would go to the "spa" (aka the bathtub with a bath bomb or some bubble bath) get all cleaned up

    The Crayola Color Wonder markers and paper are a fun treat for little ones with less risk of a huge mess. They get to feel grown up with markers and they don't leave marks on most surfaces.

    Cornstarch and water to make goop is fun, messy and not too bad to clean up. Any that you miss should be able to be vacuumed right up once it is dried.

    Cool Whip is a good alternative to shaving cream if you are afraid of them eating too much of the shaving cream and not too bad to clean up.

    I always kept on low cabinet with plastic dishes in it without a child lock that toddlers could empty at will. They are going to make a mess, at least this mess was on my terms. You can teach them to put them back in so they can dump it all out again and they think it's a game. Put something new in there every once in a while to keep their interest.

    A small spray bottle of water and a little rag and let them "wash" the windows or the walls or floors in the house. Get one with an easy to pull trigger and a fine mist to reduce the mess.

    A chalkboard or dry erase board is always a hit just make sure that everything for a few feet around it is washable.

  7. #6


    Love it! Especially the "beauty shop" idea. I never would have thought of that. Thank you so much for the wonderful suggestions.

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Creative Hands On Activities for Energetic 18 Month Old?