In my previous post on mat time I wrote about how to use and introduce mat time to your little ones, including the benefits that mat time brings to you and your child. Mat time allows you to go anywhere and place a simple boundary on the ground for your child to play quietly in while you can relax knowing they are safe, quiet and happy.
How do you cater for mat time when you are out and about though? I like to keep an activity bag in the car or near the front door with some special toys inside that are used only for this purpose to keep interest levels high when I do pull them out. I don’t have enough commercial toys to put a whole bunch out of circulation so I like these toys to be simple hand-made activities or items that won’t be missed. I have a small mat that also stays in the bag, acts as the boundary and gives the children something comfortable to sit on.
I put everything into little bags, containers or boxes as this doubles the interest factor. Once we have finished with the toys I do have to spend a few minutes returning everything to its own container but as I don’t use them all the time, I’m happy to do that.
I use the following categories to help me come up with ideas of what to include:
- vehicle (dinky car, Duplo)
- stacking toy (plastic containers, cups, bowls)
- containers to open and shut (bags, boxes, zippers, flaps, press-studs, drawstring, handbags)
- something to wear (hats, necklaces, bangles, scarves )
- something textured or unusual to handle, tip or put into the containers (shells, rocks, pegs)
- construction (Mega-blocks, Duplo, magnetic blocks, stickle bricks, train tracks)
- pretend play (teddies, dollies, bottles, dishes, cups, clothes, food)
- posting toy (a hole in the top of a small cardboard box with something to post like noodles, blocks, pipe cleaners, straws or pegs)
- household (I wander through the house looking for items they are currently interested in like hair brushes, hats, shoes, cleaning cloth, tea towel, hair clips)
With a small amount of preparation and some training at home, you can have a toddler who happily sits down for an extended length of time to focus and play quietly with their own toys. Perfect for Grandma’s trinket filled house or a coffee date with the girls.