Overwhelmed: How do you keep 18 month old busy?

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  • Jennymalone

    Hi! We recently had our 5th, a baby girl, who is now 3 weeks old. Life is a bit (or maybe a lot) crazy and chaotic right now, and among other things, I’m struggling with how to keep the small, smiling, curly haired tornado of an 18 month old occupied during school time.

    She is an absolute sweetheart, but she is so busy. She wants a purpose in life, and LOVES to help, but if she doesn’t have something constructive to do, like helping me unload the dishwasher or throwing away trash scraps for me, she occupies herself and makes such a mess. It’s extremely hard right now to maintain any sort of order and neatness in our home atm, and the wake she leaves behind her is making it impossible. Lol.


    I’ve tried giving her activities, like taking pompoms out of a whisk, playing with blocks, pouring and scooping water or rice, but usually, unless I am literally standing over her like a hawk (which obviously isn’t happening while I’m doing school with the other kids) it ends up making an even bigger mess than if I had left her alone, because the pom-poms end up scattered all over the floor, the water gets dumped, etc.

    during the summer, she will play in our fenced in sandbox while we do school out on the porch. Right now it’s so cold and rainy though, this isn’t really an option.

    She loves books, but although I have been working on the habit of putting one away before getting another out, it’s not firmly established yet, and every time I let her go by herself it just reinforces the bad habit of getting out a pile of them and leaving them scattered all over the floor.

    I will take any tips right now that you can give me on what to do with my busy little sunshine girl! I hate going through the day just telling her “no” all the time.  I really want to keep a positively occupied. I’m just really struggling with how to do that.


    This sounds familiar. Our 5th is 12 weeks old and then there is a 2.5 year old. The 2.5 yr old is a very cure busy girl too. Also our 5 year old has much shorter lessons then the oldest two. Keeping a baby happy and cuddled and fed and a toddler happy and out of trouble is a lot of work. I don’t have a great solution yet;) Here are a few ideas I’m currently using.

    Give each older child a designated short activity to do with the toddler (cut and paste page, color a picture, read a story). This gives them a short =<15 break and helps the toddler be constructively occupied for a time.

    Involve the toddler in the next oldest childs school time. It is easy to give her a few counters or sandpaper letters or alphabet coloring page and tell her a few things in the midst of a 4-6 year olds lesson.

    Let the living room (or whatever play area is within your sight during school time, but preferably not the school room) get somewhat messy during school. Work towards the rule if you dump a bin pick it up before you dump a 2nd one. Small organized bins of little sets eork great for this. Either right before or right after lunch everyone pitches in to tidy it back up again. It is not overwelming if everyone works.

    Pray each day before school!:)


    Thank you for the suggestions! I think the most helpful has been setting aside times for each of the other children to spend time with her. That’s been working fairly well, and I think it’s good for her brothers, too. 🙂


    Thank you for taking the time to respond! I hope that you stay encouraged and keep figuring out things that work for you.

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