My husband is taking a generous amount of time off work to be at home with our new addition, but soon enough he’ll return and I’ll be juggling the responsibilities of a toddler and a newborn on my own.
The part I’m most concerned about? Breastfeeding.
My infant daughter is still at an age where she’s often nursing quite frequently, which means mama’s tied to the couch for significant amounts of time—much to my energetic toddler’s dismay!
So I wracked my brain and consulted the best kid bloggers I know to compile this list of 35 simple ways to entertain a toddler while breastfeeding a newborn.
I’ll be referencing this list quite a bit over the next few weeks. I hope it’s helpful for you, too!
(Please note that the success of the ideas and activities listed here will depend on the exact age and development of your unique toddler. You can always modify the activities—making them easier or more difficult—to be more suitable for your particular situation.
Additionally, some of these require a bit of set-up, which you can do ahead of time before your newborn starts his/her hungry cry. Others require no preparation at all!)
Ways to Entertain a Toddler While Breastfeeding a Newborn
1. Sing songs that require your toddler’s participation, either through motions (think Itsy Bitsy Spider) that your toddler can do while you sing, or through words/sounds, like in Old MacDonald.
2. Set your toddler up with a box of crayons and some coloring pages—or better yet, with a giant cardboard box to decorate!
3. Puzzles! For younger toddlers, these simple DIY puzzles from Toddler Approved would work perfectly. My older toddler is onto 24 and even 48-piece puzzles, which hold his attention for almost as long as it takes my infant to eat a meal.
4. Play a round of I SPY.
5. These reusable Water Wow books from Melissa and Doug are a great learning tool for toddlers. And since they’re mess-free, you don’t have to worry about cleaning up after you’re finished breastfeeding!
6. If appropriate, encourage your toddler to have a snack too. Keep a stash of healthy snacks in the pantry or fridge within their reach, so they can grab one and bring it over when you’re nursing.
7. Set your toddler up with this simple fine motor activity from Hands on : as we grow. All your child does is put rubber bands over a can, but it really holds their attention!
8. Make this easy DIY Sticker Seek and Find game from Left Brain Craft Brain for them to play!
9. Have your toddler weave pipe cleaners either in and out of a colander, or through wiffle balls.
10. Your toddler can easily play independently with a magnetic play set. My son loves this Tangrams Mini Tin Magnet Set!
11. Set your toddler up with a pasta sorting activity, like this one from See Vanessa Craft.
12. Indeed, you can have your toddler match and sort all kinds of things. My son currently loves to match socks, so he can help with the laundry while his baby sister eats! Double win for Mommy!
13. Create a special nursing basket or nursing box—like these great examples from When at Home and Rainy Day Mum—filled with toys and treats your toddler can only use when you’re breastfeeding. That adds an element of excitement, to the point where your toddler might just jump for joy the next time your infant gets hungry!
14. Read, read, read. This is especially easy if your toddler is old enough to hold the book and turn the pages while you read it aloud.
15. Play a round of Simon Says.
16. Have your toddler do a color sort with pom poms, as described on The Imagination Tree. For additional fine motor work, have your child pick the pom poms up with a set of kid-appropriate tweezers.
17. Encourage your toddler to sit beside you and snuggle too!
18. Tell your child an oral story (preferably one with him/her as the main character), as suggested by Planning with Kids.
19. Set out a set of blocks and let your toddler build independently.
20. Try this mess-free idea for painting in bags from Teaching Mama. You can tape the bags to a window or just set them on the floor or a table next to wherever you’re nursing.
21. Dominoes! Scatter them on the floor before your breastfeeding session, then encourage your toddler to line them up, match the dots, or find other ways to play with them—a great idea from Hands on : as we grow!
22. Save any screen time for when you’re nursing. Perhaps during one feeding per day your toddler is allowed to watch TV, play with the iPad, etc.
23. Make this awesome toddler-friendly sewing basket from Childhood 101 for your child to play with while you nurse your newborn.
24. Make your toddler a set of these Velcro Dot Craft Sticks from Powerful Mothering, then encourage them to make all kinds of shapes, letters, and designs.
25. Ask your child to fetch things for you! Toddlers love to be helpful, and most of us inevitably forget something when we sit down to breastfeed, be it our water bottle, a burp cloth, or a pillow.
26. Lacing cards are a great fine motor activity for toddlers to work on independently while you nurse. These printable DIY ones from Activity Village are super cute!
27. Have your toddler play an independent game of balloon tennis, as described by Toddler Approved. Some children may not like playing this with themselves, but I know my toddler would have no problem playing this solo while I watch and encourage.
28. For older toddlers, spread out books, cards, and other items that contain words and have them search for and find different letters. For younger toddlers, modify this to colors, shapes, or whatever your child is currently learning.
29. Set your toddler up with a shape sorter—either a store-bought one or this neat DIY version from Teaching Mama.
30. Play restaurant! If you have play food and/or a play kitchen, place your order with your toddler as you sit down to breastfeed, and let him/her pretend to prepare and serve you your meal.
31. Encourage your toddler to feed a baby doll or stuffed animal while you feed the real baby.
32. Make these reusable, dry erase funny face photo drawings from Mama Papa Bubba for your toddler to play with next to you while you nurse.
33. Instruction cards! Make a bunch of cards with fun instructions for your toddler to follow—things like make a monkey face, point to something blue, find something that’s a circle, touch your nose, etc. Use your free hand to randomly draw cards and have your toddler follow the instruction.
34. Another great fine motor activity from Mama Papa Bubba that your toddler could work on independently is playing with these button-up foam craft sticks. You can make bracelets, shapes, chains, and more! (Just keep an eye out so that no button accidentally comes loose and becomes a choking hazard.)
35. Set up a tea party or picnic on the floor for your toddler’s dolls and stuffed friends! No doubt the pretend play will continue throughout your nursing session.