Entertaining a toddler without screens (because I just need to shower and brush my teeth in peace)

I have four kids.

Most of them are through the toddler phase.  They’re onto an age that lets them play safely on their own and give me a few minutes to myself (to say, you know, shower).  But my youngest just turned two. And boy did she turn two- she is sneaky and rebellious and into everything.  I can’t leave her alone. At. All.

Well, unless I want sharpie drawings all over the kitchen cabinets and toys in the toilet. 🙂

When I need a few minutes to myself, my default mode is handing her my phone with  Netflix playing.  (Please tell me that I’m not alone on this!)  Then I can quick jump in the shower… or make an important call… or eat a chocolate bar in the laundry room with the door shut… or anything else that doesn’t work with a toddler under foot.

But every time I took the phone away, she became angry and threw HUGE fits that left her exhausted and screaming on the floor.  And me, not quite sure what was happening.  This was NOT her normal behavior.  It was almost like she couldn’t safely come back to reality after having a screen stuck in her face for 20 minutes.

And that’s true.  Studies have found that kids under 2 years old cannot distinguish between reality and what’s happening on the screen.  They just don’t understand the difference.  This can cause multiple behavioral problems, such as, you guessed it- tantrums.

Bingo.  That was our problem.

I decided to find a way to entertain her WITHOUT screens.  My goal was finding a 20 minute activity that she could do by herself.  Without any help from me.

And I did it!  I dug deep and channeled the help of pre-smartphone moms.  I scrounged around the toy room for old toys that had been forgotten, shoved to the back of the shelves, hidden in the  back of closets.  I cleaned them,  organized them and put them in a big, black bin labeled: “When Mom Needs a Break”.  Well, not really, but that’s the label in my head.


Nothing fancy (and it cost me $0).She only gets it for 20 minutes at a time.  For example, when I’m showering once a day.  And then I put them away.  Up high, where she can’t even see them.

Every time I bring them out, it’s like Christmas.  She sits right down and starts playing.  And when I’m ready to join her again, there aren’t any tantrums.  No crazy jumps back into reality.  I just join her world of playing and enjoy her beautiful imagination.



How do you entertain your little ones without screens?  I’d love to hear your ideas!


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