Keeping My Toddler Occupied Without Toys

One thing that I really love about Elvie entering toddlerhood is that we don’t need to bring as much stuff with us when we leave the house. If we’ve got diapers and wipes and her pacifier is clipped to her shirt, we’re good to go. Still, if we’re going to be some place where there aren’t toys readily available, I like to throw a variety of things into the bag to keep her occupied. I’ve been bringing a few books, some small plastic people and animals, and small stuffed toys. It turns out that it’s all been for naught. She doesn’t want to play with those things. Just like she prefers items at hand for teething instead of teething toys, if she’s amusing herself, she only wants two things, and neither is a toy. In fact, if we lost her favorite playthings, we’d have a hard time getting home.

Whether at home or out and about, Elvie wants my wallet and my keys. She wants to open my wallet and take everything out, inspecting each item as she goes along, and then she wants to inspect my keys, ending with a final jingle before returning to the contents of my wallet. Of course, I can’t have her losing my wallet, its contents, or my keys, so I’ve figured out some workarounds. Now she can stay busy for up to an hour, just by playing with two things I always have with me anyway.

I really can’t have her removing every item from my wallet; if we lost the debit card and my bus pass, there would be some serious issues straightaway. But I discovered that part of her joy is unsnapping and unzipping the wallet. Now I make sure it’s zipped and snapped, then put it into a zippered pocket in my bag that’s a bit tough to open, but not impossible. I just keep an eye on her, and once she’s managed to remove the wallet, unsnap it, and unzip it, I take it back from her, zip and snap it, and zip it into the pocket again. She sometimes gets a bit upset when I do this, so I distract her with her other favorite item, my keys, knowing that when she’s done with those, she’ll go for the wallet again.

The keys were a bit more tricky to keep track of when she’d want to play, but then I started carrying my open-topped tote all the time, and my problem was solved. It has three places to clip keys inside, so I can even switch around where I put them to keep her guessing. As of yet, Elvie can locate the keys, but she cannot get them off the clips. So she can inspect, shake, and pull at the keys all she likes, and they are still safe in my bag. If I am really on top of my game, I’ll clip one of our spare sets into the bag as well, for twice the key-playing fun.

I know that what Elvie really likes about playing with my wallet and keys is that she knows I use them, and she likes being able to do whatever I do. I’m sure those things won’t be interesting to her forever, but for now they keep her busy wherever we go, and my bag is lighter for her preferences. For me, that is a win-win for sure.

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