Enter the fascinating world of dried beans. Since Ez and I teach the preschool Sunday School class at our church, we often have random stuff lying around like pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks and -- you guessed it -- giant bags of dried beans. (You know, for making musical instruments and whatnot...) One evening after work last week, I dumped some of the beans in a basket, gave her a firm lecture on never ever ever putting them in her mouth, and handed her some bowls and spoons to dig around with. This is obviously not an earth-shattering original idea, but we played in that basket together for a solid hour and a half -- scooping, pouring, dumping, stirring -- and she cried when it was time to go to bed because she wasn't ready to quit. Success!
(Note: She has never been one to put things in her mouth, but obviously this is not an activity that I would ever let her do with my back turned even for a second. Even when she just pretended to taste some bean soup we were stirring in her bowl, I was all over her. So this is basically a 110% supervised activity.)
A few days later her interest is starting to wane a bit, but I'm pretty thrilled anyway. For an investment of zero dollars, she got to try something new and work on her manual dexterity at the same time -- and we had several evenings of a happily occupied kid. In a few weeks I'll get them out again and see if her interest piques again. Until then, I'm having fun trying to think of new free-or-almost-free adventures we can have to keep her engaged during those relatively short but precious hours we're just hanging around at home.
Next up: homemade Play-Doh. This picture is several weeks old now, but this is basically the face she made when I told her. Kid loves her some Play-Doh.
Parenting is fun. And if you have any fun toddler activity recommendations, please let me know!