5 Simple, Fun, and Educational Activities To Keep Toddlers Busy While Preparing Dinner by Nyetta

Hey MWC Mommas,

I'm so excited to feature our first ever guest blogger, Nyetta Holyfield. This mama is an expert on STEAM activities for the kiddos, and an overall queen! I often refer to her Instagram when I am looking for some ideas on how to keep my toddler busy. To learn more about Nyetta, check her out Insta, and in her article on the MWC Momma Interview Series. I know you'll love her as much as I do ! Here she goes!

Cooking with Toddlers

by Nyetta Holyfield

We all would love to prepare dinner in peace, right? This is not to say we don’t love and adore our children, but it seems impossible sometimes to get a decent meal on the table. If you are like me, my children are usually yelling, screaming at each other, and then the 12-month-old is usually pulling at my legs while I am trying to get him back away from the stove to a safe area.

Dinner is usually a circus, and I am the opening act! It does not have to be like it. Do you want to know how I’ve gotten dinner done without the things mentioned above? Keep reading because it’s quite simple, and it works (most of the time).

Activities. Yes, activities have saved me at dinner time. It keeps the kids busy and entertained while I cook dinner. It works for multiple kids and multiple age groups. Best of all, all five activities are screen-free. That’s a bonus for moms that limit screen time. I have five simple, fun, and educational activities stored somewhere in the kitchen or a place the kids can reach the materials. Let’s get into these activities.

  1. Sorting and Patterns Activity

This activity is effortless, but my toddler spends at least 30 - 45 minutes playing with this. It’s a multipurpose activity because you can do so much with it. Materials: - floral foam blocks ($1 at your local Dollar Tree) - popsicle sticks (I highly recommend colored popsicle sticks) - colored markers (optional)

Activity ideas:: 1. Give the sticks to the kid and leave them alone. 2. Use the markers to put lines on the box and have the child do color matching.

3. Use the markers to create a pattern for the kids to follow.

4. Use all sides to create different instructional activities. For example, one side is sticking the sticks in the box, and on another side, give your child a number, and that’s how many sticks to use.

  1. Edible Sand

The kids love this one a lot. It can get messy, so I recommend putting something up under the area where the kids will use the sand. I did not because when I created this activity, ⅔ of my children cried at my leg, and dinner was on the stove. Needless to say, this takes about 2-3 minutes to make but endless fun with the kids. Materials: - cereal of your choice ( I used cheerios) - blender

- container or table to hold sand (we used aluminum cake pans)

Tip: If you don’t own a blender, you can put the cereal in a ziplock bag and smash it up using a kitchen utensil.

Activity ideas:: 1. Give the kids the sand with medium-sized toys buried underneath. 2. Give them items such as measuring cups to pour the sand back and forth.

3. Let them explore on their own. My kids built sandcastles and cakes

4. Let them write letters and numbers in the sand as you call them out.

  1. Rainbow Walk

Depending on your child, this activity requires a little more assistance from an adult in the beginning. It also involves a lot of patience from the child. My toddler was so excited, and she sat at the table for 30 minutes, just staring at the cups.

Materials: - 7 glasses or clear cups

- 6 paper towels

- water

- food coloring (primary colors only (red, yellow, and blue))

Tip: Make sure the paper towel is large enough to fold sideways (hotdog style).


1. Line the cups up side by side.

2. Pour water into every other cup, filling the cup about ¾ full. 4 cups should have water (1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th cup).

3. Add four drops of red coloring to the 1st and 7th cup.

4. Add four drops of yellow coloring to the 3rd cup.

5. Add four drops of blue coloring to the 5th cup. 6. Fold the paper towels lengthwise and then in half again.

7. Place the paper towels in the cup so that half is in one cup, and the other end is in the next cup. Repeat this step with the rest of the paper towels.

8. Water will start to travel up the paper towel into the empty cups.

Tip: It took about 30 minutes for the water to travel to the empty cup. It took a total of 60-90 minutes for the water to travel to complete the experiment.

Activity ideas:: 1. Guess how long the water will take to pour into the empty cups. 2. Create a game and guess which color will win the race.

3.Predict what will happen.

4. Guess the colors.

  1. Sticker Stories

Toddlers love telling stories. We are only required to listen to the story once done.

Materials: - construction paper ( or any type of paper)

- a variety of stickers

- crayons (optional)

Tip: If you need more time for dinner, I would add a ton of stickers.

Activity ideas:: 1. Let them create something to share with you after dinner. While dinner is simmering or in the oven, create your own story to share as well. My kids loved it when I participated.

2. Give them an idea for the story.

3. Tell them to create a pattern with the stickers.

4. Create numbers and letters using stickers.

  1. Cup Activity

This activity is usually mind-blowing for some people. All you need is cups. That is it! This activity creates a lot of laughter and fun times. Materials: - cups (I used hard plastic cups) - balls (optional)

- paper

Activity ideas:: 1. Teach the kids how to bowl using a ball and the cups. 2. Create a game of who can stack the cups the highest.

3. Use paper to create levels and stack a tower.

4. Hide something under the cups and let them guess where the item is.

That’s It!

All activities listed above are straightforward and worked for my household. It may work with your kids, but If all else fails, a dance challenge will do. Turn on some music and throw the kids off with a back in the day dance move.

I hope you’ve found this helpful. If so, please share it with friends and family. Author bio: Nyetta Holyfield (Cocoa Mom+3) is a Human Resource Specialist who turned into a Stay At Home Mom. She helps parents create fun and STEAM-related activities for children 0 - 5 years of age. Subscribe to her blog for free activities to do at home.

A note from Nas,

Thanks so much to Nyetta! I'm proud to call you part of our mom family! Check her out ladies @steamwithcocoamom