Activities to keep your toddler busy during newborn feeds

‘A toddler can do more in one unsupervised minute than most people can do all day’

Isn’t that the truth?! Are you finding breast or bottle feeding your newborn challenging when your toddler’s around? It’s even trickier if your toddler has suddenly become quite clingy, emotional, and unsettled with the big change that the new arrival has brought.

As soon as you sit down with your newborn, is your toddler magically starving, or wants to climb all over you, or needs you for some reason? Even worse, are they wandering off into another room, only to become suspiciously quiet?

With some planning and preparation, you can keep your toddler busy while you’re tied to the couch feeding (or during any other time you’re attending to your baby’s needs).

Here are 20 activities that are simple and quick to set up

Each activity will depend on your toddler’s stage of development, but we hope you find this list useful:

  1. Set up a teddy bear’s picnic on the floor near you with a rug, a tea set, and teddies. Ask your toddler to make you a cup of tea as well – it might be the closest you’ll get to a real one for awhile!
  2. Ask your toddler to bring you things, like your pillow, a water bottle, and burp cloth. Toddlers usually like the responsibility that comes with helping.
  3. Read to them. Keep a small box of books beside the couch, and if they’re old enough, they can turn the pages for you.
  4. Poke pipe cleaners into a colander. This one is a quick set-up, and often keeps toddlers busy for quite awhile. It’s great for fine motor skills as well.
  5. Puzzles. Rotate which puzzles you put beside you at feed times to keep it interesting and new.
  6. Play-doh on a tray, along with a different assortment of things like cookie cutters, chopsticks, plastic animals, or cupcake cases. Anything new will spark their interest and curiosity.
  7. Give them a cardboard box. You can either give them crayons to draw on it, or put some random kitchen utensils and containers in it.
  8. Stacking blocks are fun to knock down, or you could give them some cars or smaller toys to put inside or on top of the blocks.
  9. Stickers and drawing. If you’re concerned that they’re going to use the crayons on the furniture or walls while you’re busy with your baby, get one of those mats or activity pads that use a pen filled with water.
  10. Snack time! Whilst it’s not ideal to use food as a distraction, we need to remember that we’re in survival mode with a newborn, so anything goes. Keep some snacks handy for both your toddler and yourself, and sit and eat together whilst feeding your baby.
  11. A magnetic play set that just comes out at feeds should inspire your toddler to play independently.
  12. Create some busy boxes. It might sound like extra work in your already busy day, but if you have a few empty cardboard boxes (the nappy ones are great) or plastic stackable ones, just fill them with random things from around the house, and rotate them at each feed.
  13. Pom pom play is fun, and great for fine motor development. You could set up a tub of pom poms and some tongs, and ask your toddler to put them into different containers or sort them into colours.
  14. Sing to them. Encourage your toddler to sit beside you while you tell them an oral story or sing them some action songs.
  15. Sensory bottles or bags – see how to make them here.
    sensory bottles
  16. Blow up a balloon. Toddlers go crazy for balloons, so blow one up quickly before a feed, and watch them giggle with delight as they chase it around.
  17. Set them up with a shape sorter or a DIY letter box – simply cut a slit or a hole in a box and give them some pieces of paper or blocks to ‘post’.
  18. Give your toddler a doll or stuffed toy to feed with a bottle beside you. They may even mimic you if you’re breastfeeding, which is very cute.
  19. Put their favourite music on, and encourage your toddler to do different actions, like jumping up and down, touching their toes, or play a selection of action songs such as ‘heads, shoulders, knees, and toes’.
  20. Go outside to play! If it’s pleasant weather and you have a safe outdoor space, have some sand or water play set up for your toddler.
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