I have an active toddler that has a hard time sitting still when at church, the Dr.’s office, restaurants, road trips, pretty much anywhere we ask him to stay still and quiet. These activities have saved my sanity many times. We usually tote a few of them around in a bag or he likes to bring along his toddler backpack and carry a few things himself. We try to only bring out most of these special quiet time activities when we really need them so they are still fun and exciting to play with.
(This post contains Amazon.com affiliate links. I only recommend what I love and use. See my disclosure statement.)
1. Melissa & Doug On the Go Water Wow! There are several different books. They come with a refillable water pen. You “color” the page with the water pen and it changes from white to a colorful picture. After a couple minutes, it dries and you can color it again. These last a few months if we only use them once a week or so. I get them on Amazon.com.
2. Bendaroos. My 3 year old loves to bend and twist them into different shapes. He especially loves it when my husband or I shape them into airplanes or cars for him to play with. These are great for older kids too. We put a handful of them into a Ziplock sandwich baggie so they fit anywhere.
3. Lauri Shape and Color Sorter. My toddler has enjoyed playing with this since he was just under 2 years old. He likes to sort them by color the most but you can also sort them by shape or they can just have fun playing with them however they like. It has plastic pegs with rubber shapes. The pegs go into small holes in the base piece. It came in a cardboard box but that’s too big to tote around and easily rips so I store all the pieces except the base in a quart size Ziplock freezer bag. Lauri makes a lot of other great toddler and pre-schooler quiet time activities.
4. Magnetic Fun Cars, Planes, and Trains and Noah’s Ark Magnetic Tin. There are lots of other magnetic tin sets as well. These are compact and easy to tote around. Since they are magnets, they are not good for small children that are still putting things in their mouths.
5. Color Wonder. We have loved and used Color Wonder for many years for our last three kids. It is a fun mess-free activity that you can take anywhere. The Color Wonder markers only color on Color Wonder paper and coloring books so you can feel safe letting your little one use markers.
6. Coloring Books. Good old fashioned coloring books are always a great activity. Crayons and coloring books are cheap and they make larger, washable crayons for toddlers that don’t break as easily.
7. Fun books to read. We always have a couple of my 3 year olds favorite books stashed in a tote bag. He’s starting to outgrow board books, but some of our favorites are the Sandra Boynton books, “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury, “DK Readers: Big Machines“, “Dinosaur’s Day“, and “Rumble in the Jungle“. We frequently switch out the books we stash in his bag so he has different ones to enjoy.
8. An older Kindle, other tablet, or the new $49 Kindle Fire. When I upgraded my Kindle Fire, I got a strong kid case for my old Kindle Fire and put a bunch of toddler learning and fun play apps for my 2 year old on it. My Kindle recently stopped holding a charge and we greatly miss him having his own Kindle, so we got him the new inexpensive Kindle Fire. I like the flexibility of being able to purchase (or get free) any toddler apps for android and not worrying about him using and possibly breaking or getting dirty our more expensive tablets. Turn the sound off or leave the sound on really low and it’s a quiet activity that lasts a long time.
9. Small toys (like Matchbox cars). My son likes to grab a few of his cars and stash them in his toddler backpack to carry around and play with when we are in the car or waiting somewhere. They are cheap and easy to carry. His backpack is made by Skip Hop Zoo. I bought it on Amazon.com. The backpack is especially great because it has a removable toddler safety harness that can be attached to the back, which is helpful if we are letting him walk around on his own in a busy place. We have used it at crowded places like Disneyland, when he has insisted on walking instead of using the stroller.
10. A quiet book. My mom made my toddler an amazing quiet book with lots of activities including numbers that snap on, laminated pictures that stash in a flower pot, and a Noah’s Ark scene. It easily buys us 15 minutes of quiet time, which is a lot for a little one. We had the quiet book pictured below for my older kids when they were little and it was great as well.
BONUS IDEAS: Not quiet, but great for road trips:
Fisher Price Laugh & Learn Laptop. This is great for toddlers ages 6 months- 3 years. There are two sound settings. It has 9 colorful buttons in different shapes and it teaches numbers, shapes, colors, and has fun songs.
Leap Frog Learning Tablet. We have an older, discontinued LeapFrog tablet that my older son and my now 3 year old have loved. It has fun learning games, including learning the alphabet. The new LeapFrog LeapPad Glo Kids Learning Tablet looks like a really fun upgrade for ages 3 and up.