You know those moments: your child is on the verge of a meltdown, you’re away from home, out of food, running late, and you’re tired and cranky as well?
They suck, right?
Even seasoned parents get caught off-guard, and we still have moments, but we’re getting better at dealing with it. Beyond bringing water and food with us (plus numerous washcloths and clothes), we try to also have little extras to engage the youngest. Paper and pen, little toys, her doll… But all of those things are familiar to her.
So I have the “papa bag”. Actually the “special papa bag”.
The special papa bag is just a little canvas bag, about the size of a cellphone case, that lives in the console of my truck. It has saved our ears from a shrieking two year old on many occasions. The contents of the bag varies, as it must in order to remain effective.
The items that go into the bag have to be:
- things that they haven’t seen before – not new, but new to them. I find all kinds of random hardware, most of which is kid-friendly once washed.
- things that they don’t usually get to play with – a tiny flashlight, or tiny tape-measure, some keys or a tiny lock.
- things that are part of your world, but not part of theirs yet – I put in a tiny level that was a gimme from the hardware store, and when it came out of the bag, it spurred a family conversation that lasted the entire drive, and the toddler was entertained solely by the bubble in the level.
- things that “do something” – could be anything that moves. I have a length of bicycle chain just long enough to be fastened into a circle. It’s too big to get stuck on a finger, and too small to go over the wrist, so it’s toddler safe. Even adults pick it up and play with it. Go figure.
- things that have buttons – a tiny travel alarm clock, or a dead cellphone, or a tiny solar-powered calculator.
- things that can be done and undone over and over again – I have a tiny screwgate carabiner for my pocket-watch, and my daughter spent the better part of an hour last week learning to screw it open and then closed again.
- things that you may think are boring, but can be re-spun to a kid – Credit card offers with a fake card inside can become your child’s very personal mail (open it and “read” a funny letter addressed to them, handing them the card as a membership in the wiggly ears club, or ???) Junk mail can be re-spun and then recycled afterwards, so it’s re-used and recycled.
The main rule of the papa bag is that it doesn’t come out until every other option has been exhausted, and you’re ready to engage them for two minutes with a sense of humor and wonder at “What’s in the bag?”
I started mine with a mints tin (you know the one), some magnets, a weird piece of hardware and a tiny rubber chicken. A jaw harp and a harmonica were popular for a while, and binder clips and rubber bands had their day, but some of the simplest random found objects were the favorites for the longest.
Get a small container, one that’s easy for kids to open, and fill it up with things from your life, random cool stuff, and stash it in the car or at work. Have one at home as well, and you’ll be way ahead when the diaper hits the fan.
The special papa bag has saved the day numerous times, allowing us to at least make it to our own house before totally freaking out.
Make yours today.
Related posts on Parenting Toddlers:
- Talking About ZZZZs- How Many Hours Of Sleep Does My Child Need?
- 3 Ways to Inspire a Preschooler to Be Green
- Mother’s Milk: Breastfeeding Olympics with your Toddler