Calm down: ideas for screen-free quiet time for toddlers

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

True Confession time (again): I have been relying WAY too much on screens recently.

First of all: I don't actually think there is anything wrong with children watching TV. I think they can be a great learning tool. CBeebies has some really good, educational, fun shows. I think they can aid language development if used properly. I don't think TV is evil, nor do I think it's something parents should use as a stick to beat themselves with.

Also, sometimes, I watch TV for fun - and I think it's fine that my daughter does the same. Also I quite like watching Ben and Holly's Little Kingdom in the mornings

It's just that we've been watching too much of it. Recently, Jellybean has been hit with some mystery virus that leaves her tired and not feeling up to much, so she's been watching films with me. I rely on TV to help me get certain things done - like cooking, or having a shower, or having a manic tidy up before friends come round ... and so on. I think maybe it's been a bit too much.

So in conclusion - I am not about to go screen-free. I'm just in search of quiet things for Jellybean to do when I am tired or I need to get on with my own stuff. Things that need minimal set up and pack down, preferably. Jellybean is struggling with sleep at the moment, too. She fights it in the day AND night and sometimes she gets teary and stressed because she's so tired. So she needs a bit of quiet time.

Here are a few things I have tried:

1. Lentils

Lentils are the easiest sensory play in terms of set up and pack down. Splash mat + container + things to scoop and pour them into. Jellybean loves the noise they make (especially when poured into something metal like an empty tin) and the feel of them in her hands and so do I plus they are easy to sweep up and my hoover deals with them okay.

2. Sensory Balloons

I've tried a few things from Pinterest to occupy Jellybean - things like sensory bottles (she really liked these as a baby), pipe cleaners in a colander, pom poms dropped through a tube - and she does like them, but she gets bored of them after a few minutes. Still, a few minutes are a few minutes and I think children respond to things differently, so I am trying sensory balloons (idea from Creative Playhouse)

They are literally balloons with stuff in them from my cupboards. Ours have flour, couscous, pasta, rice, salt, and dried beans in them. They took about five minutes to make.

She did quite like feeling them for a few minutes so it was worth a try I guess!

3. Music

We love music. Sometimes I like to blast it out and dance like a madwoman just to make me feel a bit  more energized ;) but Jellybean likes to listen to kids music too.

If you have Spotify (or money to buy CD's!) you should check out Sticky Kids. They have collections of nursery rhymes with different themes and some good action songs. Jellybean loves them.

She also loves the In the Night Garden soundtrack. I know some parents don't like ITNG because the characters talk gibberish, but I'm not worried about it. The narrator speaks very well, and Jellybean really likes it. The soundtrack is nice because it's not just music - it's a narrated journey through the garden. Jellybean tells me what's happening because she remembers it 'Iggle Piggle going on walk in garden, Mama. Iggle Piggle fell down. Oops! Get his blanket!'

It has the added bonus of being quite calming. We used to play it in the baby room I worked in to help the babies go to sleep sometimes. And, as I write this, Jellybean is laying on the sofa quietly listening to it and hopefully nodding off

4. Puzzles

The key to all of these things, I think, is rotating them so that they don't get bored. I had the puzzles put away for quite a while because she lost interest in them. Now we've got them out again and they keep her occupied for a while.

5. Audiobooks/story CDs

Jellybean has a couple of these now. They are quite a nice, snuggly-up thing to do together on mornings when I am exhausted/not very well.

The Book People have quite a nice selection. Also I found a website called Story Nory, which is fab! It has hundreds of free audio stories for kids. They are too old for Jellybean but I thought I'd mention it if you have older children.

6. Spoons + random objects + cupcake tray

This kept a very tired and grumpy toddler quite happy today. I used things I found round the house of different sizes (dried beans, pasta, and some bits and bobs from her toys), some plastic spoons and some little tiny metal spoons (I bought these because I was going to make hot chocolate spoons at Christmas and forgot to do it).

Jellybean really enjoyed sitting down to scoop the objects from the tray into a bowl. Took two minutes to set up and allowed me to write some of this blog post.

I don't trust her entirely with those dried beans though so I watched her quite closely at the same time. But she really enjoyed them. Maybe I will try making this for her. One day. When I have energy again ;)

7. A box of boxes

This is what it sounds like: a shoebox full of different boxes and lids.

Basically I keep everything I can in order to use it some future activity/craft thing, so any interesting shaped cardboard/plastic boxes have been kept 'just in case' for a while now. And I still keep on keeping things. Because why throw something away if you can use it again?

#frugal #ecofriendly

Anyway I decided to give Jellybean all these boxes and lids to see if she would enjoy pairing them up and she did. I know of other kids far more box-obsessed than my own though, so I could see this working more for them. So that's my tip: keep hold of boxes!


I would love to hear your ideas for screen-free wind down time ... preferably low effort ones! Comments appreciated :)


  1. I love these tips. I had never heard of the sensory balloons before. I'll be trying that this week! #LetKidsBeKids

    1. Thank you! They were really fun and easy to make x

  2. This is great, I rely too much on the TV lately and it has definitely affected Monkey's behaviour. I have been trying some different quiet time activities too and I love your ideas. The best thing is that none have to be expensive or complicated. Simple things really do make them happy! X #letkidsbekids

    1. It's funny isn't it how TV affects their behaviour. Seems to make mine less patient! And you are right, usually keeping it simple is the best :)

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  4. Lots of fab ideas here. It can be tricky to think of quick easy ideas for quiet time, but these look great.
    Thanks for sharing #LetKidsBeKids

  5. Lots of fab ideas there, I might go and take a look on pinterest to see if I can get some ideas for my older ones!

    1. Thank you! Pinterest is usually the best place for these things ;) although sometimes I find myself getting a bit sidetracked by all the elaborate craft projects!

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