Entertaining a young toddler during a Hurricane

By Sunday evening, before the rain even started, daycare announced their closure for Monday. It became clear pretty quickly that Hurricane Sandy wasn’t messing around and we would be stuck in the house for at least a solid couple of days.

How do entertain a stir-crazy 1.5-year-old when you’re stuck inside all day? My kid is too much of a busy body to sit in front of even the most exciting cartoon for more than about a minute and a half. He has to move, touch, point, chatter, run, spin, play – you know, all the things that are tough to do inside a small rowhouse being battered by winds and rain.

My son also picked Hurricane Day One to be the day he would nap for only 45 minutes, not the two or so hours we usually get. So by about 3 p.m. we had gone through all his toys, colored with markers, stacked building blocks, and read stories. And we were bored. We were a bit unprepared in that I should have thought to stock up on craft supplies and Play-Doh. My son’s also a little young for some crafty pastimes, so we had to dig deep.

Of course, I asked friends and the Internet for ideas. Here’s what I came up with.

1. Channel elementary school science class with a cornstarch sludge. Shake about a cup of cornstarch into a mixing bowl, and slowly add just enough water (about a half cup) until it turns into a sticky goo. Set the bowl down in front of your kid and let him at it. It creates this awesome, gooey shape-shifting suspension that entertained my boy for a solid 20 minutes or so.

2. Make a water station. Put down a towel on the kitchen floor (or don’t), and lay out a few plastic vessels, spoons, a Neti pot, a bud vase, a small bucket. You get the picture. Give him some water and let him pour it from one to the other to the other to the floor and so on.

3. Put things in things. This is a particular favorite for my kid and if done right can occupy him for a while. It’s simple. Task him to put things in things – say, plastic dinosaurs in the empty oatmeal canister or Matchbox cars in the plastic bucket.

4. Build a fort with couch cushions and a mountain with pillows. Get in there and hide, climb, roll, and flop until you’re both tired.

5. Make-your-own finger-paints. A friend emailed me this recipe but we didn’t have food coloring, which seemed a critical component, so I’ll have to file it away for next time. But basically you whisk 2 cups of white flour into 2 cups of cold water. Divide the mixture up, and add food coloring. And paint!

As my son gets older, I imagine it won’t be as hard to find indoor activities to occupy his time. He’ll get more into crafts and puzzles, and I can continue to grow my arsenal of pastimes. In the meantime, we did a few of these, plus some dance parties and lots of stories. But even though we survived Sandy virtually unscathed, I welcome your ideas. Winter is around the corner.