Childcare experts at KidsHealth recommend that toddlers “shouldn’t be inactive for more than 1 hour at a time” – as if an hour of inactivity were at all possible for most toddlers. That said, the best outings for your toddler are those that do involve physical activity. Moreover, every activity gives you time to interact with your child if you participate fully and refuse to check your phone even once.
Going grocery shopping, visiting friends or doing errands can be thrilling adventures for your toddler. The overwhelming number of choices in stores may wear you down and you may have seen your friend’s house a million times, but for your toddler, the visual stimulation is exciting because even at 2 years old, she can distinguish visual details. Make the most of everyday outings by slowing down and enjoying the colors and shapes with your tot; let her walk alongside you and talk about what you see.
It’s impossible for your child to be inactive at a gym designed just for toddlers or at a playground inside the mall. Gyms typically have classes led by trained staff as well as free-time periods when you can bring your child and supervise him yourself. Spend time at these sites leading your child in activities, and then spend some time hanging back and letting him explore for himself and make new friends.
Most libraries have a toddler story time, with staff reading books and leading interactive activities. You’ll probably want to stay and watch though — and some libraries will require you do — on the chance that your sweet child suddenly decides to turn into a monster halfway through the program.
Interactive learning activities also occur at most museums. Even if most of the activities are designed for older children, you’ll know when you see those for inquisitive toddlers – think water tables showing tide flows, water pools with starfish to touch, blocks to stack showing the food chain or simply areas for drawing.
There’s nothing like playing in water at a swimming pool or at an indoor water park to wear a toddler out so bedtime isn’t a major trauma. You’ll get a good workout too, since you will need to be actively playing with your child or within reaching distance the entire time you are around water. Take your toddler on frequent potty breaks or have her wear swim diapers if she is not potty-trained, and dry her ears well after you get out, tilting her head to help water escape.