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Resource centre - Toddlers & Older Kids

Ways to survive waiting with toddlers

Supermarket checkouts, airport terminals, paediatricians' waiting rooms ... if you're a parent, you know about trying to entertain kids when it seems time has stopped. Here are 10 easy ways to keep waiting times tantrum-free—and bearable for both of you.

1. Keep Tiny Toys on Hand
It's easy to tuck away a few playthings in your purse for those moments when your kids need to be occupied: just about anything you might find in a goodie bag is sufficient for distracting toddlers.

Easy-to-tote items include toy cars, small dolls, transformer-type toys—even scotch tape or a roll of old address labels can safely entertain your child for a few minutes. A small cosmetics case can carry your little diversions.

2. Tell (or Read) a Story
A few good books (and good imaginations!) can make long waits bearable, says Sherry Conway Appel, author of On the Birth of Your Child: From Mother to Daughter.

• Keep a small book in the car to bring to waiting rooms, etc. as necessary and read to your child while waiting.
• Make up a story as you're standing there, using elements of the situation you're currently in: "Once, there was a little boy who was king of all the post offices in the land ..."
• Have your child tell you a story.

3. Hand Out Healthy Snacks
What errand isn't made more tolerable by a handful of yogurt-covered raisins or some mini-pretzels? Keeping a yummy treat in your bag at all times may just spare your child a crankiness explosion (or a low blood sugar meltdown of your own).

Of course, this isn't the answer if your child isn't at all hungry or if a sugary snack may cause more restlessness. (Plus, keeping your kids busy with unhealthy snacks can be a very bad habit.) Stick to healthy treats and distribute them only in moderation—or desperation.

4. Draw or Colour
A mini notebook and a four-pack of crayons may be the best dollar-store purchases you make. Unearth these as you're waiting for your child's entree to arrive or your oil change to be finished.

(Think your child is too young for crayons? Think again!)

5. Start Talking No goodies on hand?
Pick an object in the room and discuss it. How many leaves does that office plant have? Which is the tallest bookshelf in the room? Does he like that poster? The key here is to get your child engaged in what is happening right then—not what isn't.

6. Be the Tour Guide
Kids are naturally curious about their surroundings. Serve as a tour guide, especially at a place like a restaurant, and you'll occupy bored children. While waiting for the food, go outside and look around. As you're walking together, point out what you see: signs, bushes, sparkly sidewalk cement, and so on.

7. Play a Game
Even this waiting room is full of "I Spy" fodder. When (or if!) that game gets old, try "What/ Where/ Who Am I?" for a version related to your child's favourite things, places, and people. Describe just a few attributes of his babysitter, play date pal, favoured pizza place, etc. and see if he can guess correctly.

8. Get Laughing
Make silly faces at each other. Softly sing the words to a song your child knows but sub in a wrong word: "Mary had a little frog..." Or exaggerate where you'll go once you're out of this bank lobby: to the moon, Cookie Monster's house, etc. Your child will inevitably join in the goofiness.

9. Acknowledge the Wait
"Yup, this sure is taking a long time." Sometimes acknowledging the wait and talking about how much you can't wait for it to be over and get onto the good stuff can help you bond with your child. Talk about how many other people might be waiting for their number to be called, what your afternoon plans together are, what to make for dinner—anything to remind you both that this wait is only temporary.

10. Teach Patience by Being Patient.
Waiting is a part of life. You can actually use the instances where you have to wait with your child as teaching moments. "Many times parents try to help their children skip over the difficult parts of life rather than teaching [acceptance]," says April Masini, advice guru, author, and syndicated Ask April columnist. "It's not natural for children to be stimulated 24/7," she adds, but it is natural for all people to be bored sometimes. Hold your child or let him sit on your lap and just be quiet and patient together.

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