Simple Ideas Entertain Toddlers For Hours


It was quite by accident that I discovered the perfect way to entertain a toddler. My grandson Skippy is almost 18 months old, and he is a ball of fire. I can’t decide if he’s hyperactive, “all boy” or merely a Welky. I don’t think he has Baby Attention Deficit Disorder or BADD (a condition I made up, so don’t try to Google it) because he is able to focus on something and play for a pretty long time.

But that “something” better be good. Real good. Like the Naughty Balloon game.

We were out shopping when a considerate clerk gave the Skipster a yellow helium balloon. We tied it to the cart. He batted it around. It was fun.

When we got home, Skippy wanted to hang from the door frame (in his swing… he’s not that wild), and I pulled up a chair because I knew that I’d be pushing him for a long, long time. And I did. I pushed and I pushed, and eventually I looked over and saw that balloon.

That’s when it hit me. I fetched the balloon and brought it over. I had Skippy’s attention. He stopped swinging long enough to watch me push it down to the floor and hold it there, saying, “OK, balloon. You stay down.” (“Down” and “up” are words Skippy must learn in order to watch his stocks someday.)

Skippy watched, fascinated, as the balloon stayed down. But then I removed my hand, and it floated to the ceiling. This was my cue to shout, “No, no, no! Stay down!”

Skippy laughed that deep-throated chuckle he has, and I pulled it back to earth. “That’s a good balloon,” I said. “You must stay down.”

I gave it a few minutes (every minute with a quiet baby is to be cherished), then took my hand away. “No! Stop!” I screamed. “Do not go up! You must stay down!”

Skippy was hysterical. There is just something about bad behavior that children like. You can see it in their favorite books — Eloise, Bad Mousie and The Poky Little Puppy, for instance. My brothers, sister and I wore those books out.

I pulled the balloon down again. When it took off this time, I yelled, “You naughty balloon! Didn’t you hear me? I said to stay down!”

Predictably, it bounced along the ceiling instead. By now, Skippy was delirious with laughter. For once, he wasn’t the one being told, “No, no, no!” He started screaming at the errant balloon as well. (Years of therapy might be in his future but, for now, it was enormous fun.)

We played this game until the leg holes in the canvas seat of the swing had cut off all circulation to his extremities. I was hoarse from yelling, and Skippy was hoarse from laughing. It was obvious we both needed some juice and a couple of graham crackers.

A word of caution: If you decide to play this game with your tot, make sure you hide the balloon the following day. The helium will be gone, so the Naughty Balloon will stay obediently on the floor.

And no one wants that.