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A father and son build a structure with magnetic tiles. Image Credit: Pexels/Rodnae Productions

Finger paint on the walls and curtains, a ‘fort’ made of your favourite imported linens, blocks afoot – quite literally – and seeming to multiply every hour until they are all over the floor… keeping children entertained and engaged at home is not for the faint-hearted.

And when schools are out and there are long, empty hours to fill before bed time, mums everywhere rack their brains on creative ways to keep them occupied without wrecking the house.

It’s something I’m currently dealing with, as a mum of a three- and a one-year-old. Luckily, I’ve found some real gems on Amazon that have helped make life a lot easier, by giving my children a place to put all their energy, without necessarily giving me extra housework. Since I’m an Amazon Prime member, I usually snatch up my favourite deals and have them delivered by the next day. This week, many of the toys on the website have a 10% discount coupon that you can use to get them at a great price.

If there’s one item that’s an essential in my home, it’s Play Doh. I hoard the stuff and always have a couple of extra cans in my purse, when I take the kids out. The non-toxic modelling compound gives fidgety little hands something to focus on – they can roll it around, stamp it down, make shapes with it, and get creative.

Play Doh 10 Pack of Non Toxic Modeling Compound

Play-Doh Sparkle 6-Pack of Glitter Play-Doh Compound

You can also get a set of tools that can help your little ones turn into artists. It’s especially great for preschool children who are developing their hand-eye coordination every day.

Toyvian 1 Set/20pcs Kids Clay Tools

When she’s not playing with clay, my toddler is stacking blocks. I started with bigger LEGOs to avoid choking hazards.

LEGO DUPLO Classic Brick Box Building Set with Storage

LEGO DUPLO Number Train Toy Learning Numbers for 1.5 - 2 Years Old

But I recently found that there’s a whole world of creativity in store for toddlers who use magnetic tiles. Similar to LEGO bricks, magnetic tiles or blocks can be stacked, but they come in various shapes – a great opportunity to teach toddlers their triangles from their squares – and encourage mechanical learning, motor skills and problem-solving.

Magnescape 100-Piece Magnetic Tiles

Faylor 146-Piece Magnetic Building Blocks

Limmys Magnetic Building Blocks

It’s interesting how children transition so easily from smaller structures to larger ones. When my niece asked my toddler to help her set up her indoor fort – made with sticks rather than blankets and mattresses (far easier to clear up, in my opinion) – she got the hang of it really quickly. Their fort even glowed in the dark!

KIDSAVIA 88-Piece Tube 3D Blocks, Construction Fort

Kids Fort Building Kit Glow in The Dark

We threw on a bedsheet on the whole structure to make it snug and cosy. Once inside, I gave them another go-to toddler essential I love to have around – art supplies! Colouring books, and washable crayons and paints, to be precise – I don’t have the time or the energy to get on my knees and scrub the colours off walls and floors. A quick wipe down with a wet wipe or a disinfectant wipe, and it comes right off.

Crayola Ultra Clean Washable Color Max Crayons, Standard Size (set of 48)

Crayola Ultra Clean Washable Markers

Crayola Washable Finger Paint

Crayola 64ct Ultra Clean Washable Crayons

Although fort-building is a great activity to keep children occupied for hours, it can take some time and patience to set up. If you feel your child isn’t ready for that level of concentration yet, they can enjoy playing in a castle, without the hassle of building it. All they have to do is colour it – an activity most kids love, and can do for hours on end.

Colour Your Own Castle Playhouse

Easy Playhouse Gingerbread House

The best part is, they’ll forget about drawing on the walls of your house and redirect that artistic energy to their playhouse.

In fact, if your child generally loves to draw on walls, and you’re tired of telling them to stop, it might be worth changing strategies a little bit. Try dedicating a wall space in your child’s room to a chalkboard sticker or decal and let their imagination run free.

SKEIDO 60x200cm Chalkboard Removable Wall Sticker

lyCampbel Large Chalkboard Contact Paper Roll – 6.5 Feet (5 Chalks Included)

Fis Dustless Colour Chalks

When the day winds down and bed time approaches, I try to add in a reading hour for my toddler, who – to my horror – isn’t as keen on books as I hoped she would be. I try to make the activity exciting for her by allowing her to pick the book. We have a selection of fairy tales and early learning books that help settle her down for the night.

First 100 Board Book Box Set (3 books)

I Love You to the Moon and Back

Peppa Pig: Bedtime Little Library

The Wonderful Things You Will Be

18 Bulk Books for Kids Toddlers - Assortment Includes 18 Disney Books, Bedtime Stories

And then tomorrow, we begin the fun all over again!

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