You want your toddler to pay attention to their teacher in the classroom and do their homework properly.
You expect them to stay focused and not get distracted. But did you know that there are times when distraction can benefit your toddler to concentrate even better?
Distraction can be used as a discipline tool if your toddler has been acting out, gets unusually cranky, or their little mind gets stuck in a rut. If you’re asking yourself, ‘How do I divert my child’s mind?’ or ‘How do I redirect my toddler’s bad behavior?’, look no further.
Because in this article, we’re going to explore if distraction can help your child and, if it does, in what situations you should be using the techniques.
I’m also going to give you some great distraction strategies and tips that work especially well for toddlers.
Does Distraction Help Your Child?
Distraction is one of the most powerful discipline tools for toddlers. The other two are supervision and redirection. Since your child may not be old enough to understand the concept of cause and effect yet, saying ‘no’ doesn’t have much of an impact on them.
That’s where the power of distraction and redirection comes into play. Let’s say your kid is running around the house wearing dirty shoes when you just cleaned the place. Yelling is not going to stop them. But taking them outside to play treasure hunt will surely do.
So, is distraction helpful for your child? It certainly is when you’re trying to manage your child’s behavior healthily. You’re basically giving them an outlet to channel their energy positively. When appropriately used, distraction techniques provide a win-win situation for you and your children, and it makes raising a toddler a little easier.
However, distraction techniques in no way should be used to deny, discount, or suppress your child’s feelings. It’s a great coping mechanism that can help your child take a break and can focus better.
If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD (Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) who has trouble paying attention or staying focused, please talk to your child’s doctor before using any kinds of techniques on them.
21 Ways To Distract A Toddler
Here are 21 tried and tested ways for you to distract your child.
Watch Something Together
It seems like a no-brainer, right? Handing over the phone or iPad is one of the most commonly used techniques to entertain kids. Watching their favorite TV shows together is a great way to divert their mind.
On top of that, you can get some work done while their eyes are glued to the screen!
Don’t let it become a habit, though. You don’t want to reinforce the idea that throwing a tantrum will be rewarded with unlimited screen time.
Break into a Song
Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream! Or the ants go marching one by one! Or is it baby shark that rocks their world better?
Start whistling or singing these upbeat songs aloud and let them sing along if they want to.
Make a Fort with Them
Build an awesome indoor fort with your child. You can use a cardboard box, pillows, blankets, chairs, and whatnot!
Build around what you’ve got and let them bring their favorite books and toys to read and play inside the fort.
Give Them a Chore
We’re not talking about ‘child labor’ here. Just allow them to do tiny tasks around the house, for instance, organizing their toys and books after they’re done playing and reading.
Ask them to help with what you’re doing.
They can help you set and clear the table as well.
Let Them Color a Page
Let your little artist go wild with crayons and a coloring book. It’s a great way to distract your child and improve their focus and develop fine motor skills.
Let them draw or paint if they’re into it. Don’t worry about the mess they’ll make.
Try a Classic Treasure Hunt
You’ll need to plan for this one. But, rest assured, it will be well worth the time it’ll take. You can set up a scavenger hunt that can be played both indoors and outdoors.
Write down all the clues and hand your toddler the first clue. Let one clue lead to another. Place a treasure at the final stop.
Let Them Get Messy
Give your children an opportunity to play with textures and get messy. It’s crucial for your child’s early development and learning. If you’re outside, let them jump in the puddles, romp in the snow, or play in the fall leaves.
If you’re stuck indoors, try finger painting, playing in the bath, or set up an edible indoor sandbox.
Let Them Clean up The Mess
Once your child is done playing and exploring, let them be in charge of cleaning their mess.
Be there to guide them but let them do the work themselves and learn valuable life skills while they’re at it.
Play Hide and Seek
When everything else fails and you’re looking for a quick fix, give this old classic activity a try. Tell your child to close their eyes and count to 10.
This is one of the distractions that need no planning ahead. Playing hide and seek also allows your child to sharpen their sense of hearing and improves their memory.
Play Some Music
Toddlers love music as much as adults do, if not more.
So, want to distract your little one? Play their favorite movie soundtracks and turn it up.
Let them sing along and dance to the tunes.
Read Them a Story
Reading stories with your toddler is a great way to keep them distracted. It’s also an effective way to improve their vocabulary, communication, and grammar skills.
To make reading more fun, you can let your child choose a book and act out. Try different voices and accents for different characters.
Use Cardboard Boxes
There are endless ways to use cardboard boxes to distract and entertain your child.
You can cut open windows and doors to turn the box into a super cool playhouse that your child can decorate. They can color the box, make a plane/car or turn it into a tunnel to crawl through.
Change of Scenery
Does it look like your kid is having a hard time paying attention? Well, children get stuck too. To help them get unstuck and focus better, use distractions like a change of scenery. Take your child outside if possible. Otherwise, take them to another room so that they can look at something different.
Sit by the window and talk about what you see. Ask your toddler to name three things they see.
Need a quick distraction? Let your child play dress-up and be whoever they like to be. Create a dress-up box like a preschool classroom to encourage them to practice imaginative play while having fun.
For example, they can dress up like their parents, teachers, doctor, or favorite superhero character.
Toddlers love blowing bubbles. You can easily make your own bubble blowing mixture and use this easy distraction whenever you want.
Blowing bubbles is also a good way to teach your toddler cause and effect.
Let your toddler play board or card games with their siblings or invite some of their friends over. Do they like playing with puzzles?
That’s amazing. It’s a fun and great way to boost your toddler’s brain development. They can also go outside and play some fun physical games.
Play with Balloons
Ballons can easily be used as distractions. Blow up a few bright-colored balloons, and they’ll be busy with them for hours. They can punch, throw and kick them around. You can tie some of them together and let your kid run around with them.
However, please remember that balloons present a choking hazard. So, supervise them whenever they play with balloons and make sure to hide the deflated ones to avoid a meltdown because you don’t let them blow up the balloons as you did.
Playing with Lego
Children love playing with lego bricks and can do this for hours. Let them build whatever they like.
Building with blocks and legos is an excellent distraction strategy that helps them get more creative and build important life skills.
Playing with Playdough
It is a great distraction strategy and hours of countless fun. It also improves their hand-eye coordination, strengthens their fine motor skills, and encourages creativity.
So, let your kid squish and roll that colorful play dough.
Go for a Run
Parents can go out for a neighborhood stroll with their little ones and turn it into an adventure. Physical activity is a great way to distract your child.
It will help burn off some of their pent-up energy, have improved focus, and better school performance. It also improves their mental health and emotional well-being.
Give Them a Snack
When nothing else works, distract them with snacks. Give them a few healthy choices that are available in your fridge or pantry. Either keep pre-made snacks available or make one with your toddler’s help. Children love to hand you things. Use it to your advantage and distract them.
Let them bring the spoons, napkins, and plastic plates.
When To Use These Techniques
You can use distractions to take your child’s mind off what they’re doing and divert their attention to something else. Use these techniques when they:
- are about to throw a tantrum
- I haven’t been doing anything for a long time
- aren’t listening to you and doing whatever they’ve been doing for hours
- don’t want to take turns with their siblings or friends
- hogging the toys and don’t want to share
- are upset cause you took away the iPad
- has been watching Sesame street/ Peppa pig for hours
- need to get a shot or have treatment in the hospital
However, it’s not a good idea to distract your child when they’re already having a meltdown, hitting or hurting someone, or very hurt and upset. Instead of distracting your child in times like that, deal with their behavior.
Address the issue and make them understand that hitting someone or throwing stuff at people is totally unacceptable. Listen to them and acknowledge their feelings if they’re having a meltdown.
Distraction techniques can help you successfully manage your toddler’s behavior. Be flexible, see what works for your child, and use distraction in moderation. Overusing any discipline tool will make it ineffective.
Pay attention to your kids and keep an eye on how the distractions affect them.
As they get older, you might need to change or adjust the distraction methods accordingly.