Help! I need activities to stop my toddler’s TV addiction!


So many of us mums can relate. The kids get attached to one or two programs, and then it’s on for young and old when you tell them they can’t watch their favourite show. Mum Alex recently wrote on the NSM Facebook Group:

I feel really embarrassed to write this so please no judgement, I’m just asking for help. My two-year-old boy has fast become a total telly addict (well, to ABC Kids TV shows). I feel bad because it’s my fault. I shouldn’t have let it get to this point, but the fact is it has and I don’t know how to get us back on a better track again.

My harsh realisation is that I don’t know how to play with my little man. But I don’t want him to be in day care five days a week (he has recently started two days a week). I want to do this. I just don’t know what to do!

What do you do with your two-year-olds, especially when there are no other siblings involved? I’d love some ideas to try with my little man – please help this mum who wants to do her best but just doesn’t know how! Thank you!

Activities for toddlers

Thanks to 30 of our North Shore mums, Alex now has loads of activity options!

1. Bel: Swimming lessons. Music, playgroup, park, beach, garden, pool. We have a zoo and aquarium pass so go there for treat. Also, long walks and get a smoothie.

2. Kathryn: Lots of park visits, playgroups, swimming. At home we do drawing and painting, play with Duplo, read books. My son gets to watch TV in the morning while I’m getting ready and at night while I’m making dinner.

3. Rebecca: Don’t fret! It’s great you want to play with him. I have a three-year-old and our day is a bit like this.

  • Breakfast with Daddy
  • Chat with me while I do chores for 30 minutes
  • Morning tea with me (this is my breakfast)
  • Morning ‘educational activity’ eg craft, painting, drawing, reading
  • Outing of the day (pool, park, playgroup, excursion). Usually have lunch while out. This is where I do the most creative play such as be pirates etc!
  • Return home and it’s ‘learn to play by yourself’ time or help mummy with baking/dinner. He usually helps me, but sometimes gets caught up in his own games
  • Nap (now I am lucky because he does a 2-3 hour nap)
  • Dinner
  • Playtime with Daddy
  • Daddy gives him a bath
  • Family dinner with Mummy and Daddy (we eat our dinner and he eats his second dinner with us)
  • Bedtime routine with Daddy

Hope this helps! As you can see I’m very fortunate the husband is blooming fabulous and spends a lot of time with DS. They have their own games and DS and I have our own.

4. Karen: Try Gymbaroo! Also, while at home try some ideas to play with him. We have fun putting tape on the carpet in different shapes. We do car parks for the cars, roads, balls to pretend there are puddles etc. Buy some puzzles, does he like drawing ? We build houses or other things with LEGO, and we build houses with cardboard. You can make play dough with him. Some sticker books are great – the ones that have stories to complete with stickers. Borrow books from the library if you need something new, walk with him and you can collect something with him like sticks or flowers. Put some music on and play with him. Good luck.

5. Elizabeth: Redirection to other activities is key – going outside is a good start. Take him grocery shopping and just engage with him in that situation. Get him involved with picking out some fruit and vegies and don’t worry if you end up taking home some strange choices – roll with it. Back home get him helping with unpacking and bribe him away from the TV with snacks and talk to him. Look for signs from him as to what else is grabbing his interest and then expand on that.

6. Laura: Just involve him in everything you do really … have yourself a little helper. Groceries, doing the washing, cooking dinner etc etc.

7. Dianna: Maybe try few little things first like: let’s bake cookies (Pinterest had great simple ideas for toddlers) and he can help you mix or tip into the bowl. I usually put everything into blender and get him to press the button. Or make your own play dough. Since it’s getting warmer, finger painting is lovely, too. Go to the playground together? My son loves trains so sometimes we just go to the train station and watch trains go past!

8. Anna: Going outdoors is a great way to break the TV cycle. Scooter, balance bike, playgrounds, bring a ball, walk, sand play, beach play.

9. Daniella: Bucket of water and paintbrushes, then you paint the house, fence. Play-doh, painting, crazy dancing, singing, reading stories… Write down a list the night before and get everything out and ready. Also, making mud pie’s! My kids love it!

10. Alexandra: Maybe try include one activity per day – play dough, cooking, Lego, nature walk, puzzles etc – then you can build up from there. I’m sure you do an amazing job.

11. Penelope: Please be kind to yourself first of all; it does feel weird playing like a child at times, so if it’s not your cup of tea, don’t panic! There will be some things you’re happy to play and other things your child can play themselves. Just let them know it’s just not something you’re interested in but you’re happy to watch/fold washing etc while they play! It’s good for him to know everyone has different preferences! We went out a lot to sports and other organised activities, plus library story time and borrowing books, play dates, groceries followed by sushi lunch date.

12. Marina: Painting, play dough, reading, puzzles, water play (just need some buckets and plastic cups), local park, ball play. Remember, you are the parent so you are in control.

13. Jeanne: Montessori activities – see Pinterest.

14. Jess: We do lots of small crafts – this can be as simple as some paper and textas, then we might switch to gluing things onto paper the next day with a glue stick. We do lots of sorting activities – if I’m doing laundry, she sorts the legs, or I ask her to find all of the socks in the laundry bin, etc. She likes to vacuum with me and follows with the mop or a toy pretending to do it. We bake – or if I don’t feel like baking, she gets things to mix in a bowl. We sort and play with recycling. Get outside a lot. Point out trees, bugs, rocks. Collect things. Listen for birds. In summer, lots of water play.

15. Yvonne: Grab some matchbox cars and get on the floor with him. He will tell you want to do.

16. Caroline: Build Lego towers or wooden block towers and knock them down, make play dough shapes, draw shapes/pictures and ask them to guess what they are. Numbers games, sing nursery rhymes.

17. Elizabeth: You can use some ideas from the shows to transition to play activities. For example, making some of the things they’ve seen on Mister Maker or on Play School. Or you can download Play School and The Wiggles songs that they can dance to without the TV on.

18. Rebecca: Cubbyhouse under the dining table with a big bed sheet and bring toys underneath. Also, sitting opposite one another to read a book there. She holds it and points and I make up a short story about what she is pointing to. Jigsaw puzzles are also good.

19. Emma: Kids love simple things, maybe a tea set, so you guys can pretend to make tea outside with water or inside with make believe. You can buy bubble machines in Kmart – my kids love chasing the bubbles and I used to chase them when it first went on so they knew what to do. We have diggers to use outside in the stones, plant a garden together – if you have shaving cream and a glass shower put shaving cream on the glass and draw with your fingers with him. Go outside and look for bugs and lizards birds.  Just remember, at two the attention span is not always great. Try get out to playgroups – you might find it strange at first, but it will become normal after a few weeks.

20. Fianna: Painting and imaginative play like doctors, shopping, hairdressers.

21. Katie: I’m not much of a sensory play person, so our favourite activities are trampoline (it’s a little 4.5-foot one), swing outside, reading, Duplo and parks. I also find the more toys I pack away, the more creative she gets with the ones she has available, so she does a little bit of imaginative play, too.

22. Alison: We used to walk around the block with a sand bucket and collect things like cicada shells, flowers etc. I do no TV days or afternoons if my kids are behaving badly, and after a little bit they’re fine and play very creatively and often together! Maybe try to cut down or only watch a particular show. If you can record the show, you can watch it whenever suits.

23. Darcy: Sometimes I’ll just walk out the front door and say we are going on an adventure and we will look at bugs, sticks, flowers, stuff on the ground. Just remember you don’t need stuff to entertain and play.

24. Domina: My son loves water play and watering the garden. I also cut pictures out of catalogues and he pastes them onto paper. Sometimes we have a birthday party for one of his toys and make a cake out of play dough, complete with candles.

25. Sarah: I find going to my local gym with a creche is a good way to get him interacting with other children.

26. Alicia: My son loves being pushed around the neighbourhood on his trike.

27. Pru: We would often go walking with the dog (and pram) along the beachfront, have coffee and a swing. All casual and easy. Can put a blanket down and have a picnic, too.

28. Felicity: I put my son in the car and drive on main roads where there are trucks to see, and go past train stations. Also, any building sites I drive past so he can see bobcats and excavators. He loves this activity and it’s super easy!

29. Penelope: You might find it better to put a ‘two-program limit’ on TV or something like that (or a timer – but even with these kids find it tricky to understand when it runs out). And be consistent! When you notice the last program is coming to an end, have an activity (fun – even if it’s that you’re heading out the door to something fun), so the transition from TV isn’t so appalling. I work with kids, plus have two little boys and know how it feels re screen-time ‘addiction’… Im not going to say don’t let him watch, we’re human and doing the best we can, so give yourself a break and just try to change it up. Even make some ‘choice cards’ so he can choose the next day’s activity the night before.

30. Jacqui: Try your local library for reading groups, or just pop to a park.

Have you tried any of the above activities? Or do you have your own successful TV deterrent? Let us know in the comments section below.

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