When a family gathers for a reunion, older members enjoy reminiscing and catching up on the latest family doings, but high energy toddlers can get bored. Keeping tots happy becomes even more of a challenge if the weather prevents them from going outside. If you plan some toddler activities before the event, you’ll likely find yourself in charge of toddler fun, but it’s better than having a reunion marred by whining little ones.
Toddlers typically enjoy story time — and often enjoy it even more when they can take an active part in the storytelling. Bring a selection of familiar stories and costume materials to make your story time more interactive. Begin by giving a few brave tots parts. For example, you can have a little Goldilocks tasting the porridge — and then three bears return to their beds. Let the kiddos make up their own dialogues — and take the story in whatever direction they like. They might even gather a group of cheering and laughing adults, who end up enjoying the story even more than the tots.
Simple games are typically a hit with toddlers. A music player and a small ball can set the stage for an active game of Hot Potato. Have the kiddos sit in a circle. When the music starts have them begin passing the ball, or “hot potato,” around the circle. When the music stops, whoever is holding the hot potato is out. The last one left in the circle wins. You can play musical “chairs” in the circle, too — even if you don’t have a bunch of little chairs. Use small washrags or towels to indicate seats. Set down one less seat than the number of tots. When the music starts have the tots walk around the circle — and when the music stops, each tot must sit in a seat. The one who doesn’t have a seat is out. For every round, remove one “seat.” The child who takes the final seat wins. Duck, Duck Goose is another popular circle game with the toddling set. One tot is “it” and walks around the circle. As he walks, he taps the heads of the other tots, saying, “Duck” with each tap. When he says, “Goose” instead, the “goose” gets up and chases the “it” toddler around the circle, trying to tap him before he takes the “goose’s” seat. If the “it” tot reaches the seat without a tap, the “goose” becomes the “it” tot and gets to tap a “goose.” Another game idea is to can hide small trinkets around the room — and then challenge the tots to find them. Hide them in low, rather obvious places — and provide good “hints” when needed.
A box of craft supplies can ensure that the tots have something to do at the reunion — and something to take home for memories. Ask the other parents to bring a supply of crayons, cardboard rolls, glue and safety scissors to make sure there are plenty of supplies for all so you didn’t have to buy or bring supplies for everyone. You can print out coloring pages, puppet figures and paper-folding activities from websites such as DLTK Growing Together, Activity Village or FirstPalette.com. Alternatively, you bring along some inexpensive toddler activity books and cut out pages, to ensure everyone has something to do.
Most families will bring at least a few toys in the car to keep the tots busy on the trip, so take advantage of what’s at hand. Set up a play area for the tots and ask the parents to bring in some of the toys from the cars. Unfamiliar toys can keep tots interested and busy for quite awhile.