When you’re stuck waiting somewhere – for the doctor, in line at the DMV, on the subway, or just for brunch – keeping an energetic little one occupied can be a major challenge. Have no fear. We’ve got a list of awesome, do-almost-anywhere activities that will keep you and your baby busy and keep wait room crankiness at bay. Try a couple, and watch the minutes fly by.

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 Photo Credit: Colin Bowern via Flickr

Copy Cat

Mimic the sounds your baby makes – coos and ba-ba-bas – mixing it up by stretching them out a little. Try making a few funny faces, and watch as your baby pushes her lips to copy your fishy face. With older babies, you can add in gestures and body movements – lifting your arms, clapping, nodding your head from side to side, or stomping your feet.

Peek-a-Boo

This classic gets extra special from a kiddo’s perspective if you just toss a blanket over your head and wait for your baby to pull it off. Or, when traditional peek-a-boo gets old, try hiding a toy instead. Grab a stuffed animal, hide it behind your back or under a blanket, and see if your little one can find it.

Crinkle Crinkle Paper Ball

Paper’s available pretty much anywhere, from the place mat at a restaurant to the paper cover on the exam bed at the doctor’s office. Hand that good stuff over to your little one to crunch, crinkle, and rip to shreds. You can even scrunch it up to make a ball that you two can toss back and forth.

 

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s a Flying Baby  

Bounce that baby up into the air and swoop her around. Add in a few spins and you’ve got your own mama-powered thrill ride. Flying babies are happy babies.

What’s in the Bag?

Textures are fascinating for little ones, especially when they’re unseen. Find a small bag or an empty tissue box, slip different objects inside (soft fabric, a sippy cup, a spoon, smooth rocks, a teething ring), and let your baby reach in to explore the invisible wonder.

 

Ice cubes

Photo Credit: Oz Spies

Ice Ice Baby

The next time you’re waiting in a restaurant, try this: dip a spoon into your water, and scoop out an ice cube. Put it on the table in front of your kiddo. Watch her fascination as she touches and tries to catch the slippery wonder.

Build and Crash

Stack up a few things and encourage your baby to stomp (or crawl) over, Godzilla-style, and tip them to the ground. A tissue box plus cotton balls at the doctor’s office, a stack of board books, plastic spoons – anything that can balance precariously for a few moments and then tumble to the ground is great fun for little ones.

Nursery Rhymes

Great for literacy development, there’s a reason they’ve never gone out of style. Sing a little Itsy Bitsy Spider with your best preschool teacher-style enthusiasm. If you don’t know the hand motions that go along with the nursery rhymes or want to learn a few new ones, check out this resource created by librarians.

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Photo: Alessandro Lucia on Flickr creative commons

Dip into Your Bag of Tricks

A small container of bubbles can take you far if you’re outside and waiting around – keeping one in your diaper bag means you’ll always be prepared for fun. Cheerios, when handed out one at a time, give your kiddo a chance to work on fine motor skills and extend interest longer than handing over a full snack container. You can even create a new challenge by slipping a single Cheerio inside of or underneath a clear baby bottle cap and asking your baby to retrieve it. And now’s the time to pull out anything that makes noise – if you have a small music-making toy that drives you nuts at home, keep it in your diaper bag to pull out when you’re on the go.

Watching the World Go By

Furry creatures are endlessly fascinating. If you’re stuck somewhere with a window, peek out the window and hunt for dogs or cats. Or try counting trucks as they drive past. Your enthusiasm is what will make this one: if you exclaim with fascination about the animals or vehicles you see out there, there’s a good chance your baby will get on board.

Funny Stuff

If all else fails, put a shoe on your head. Find something random, pretend it’s a hat, and do your best Three Stooges-style pratfalls. Toddlers are sure to dissolve into giggles.

How do you keep your baby busy on the go? Share your secret methods in a Comment.

— Oz Spies