It probably isn’t news to you that waiting patiently isn’t a skill that toddlers are born with. Meeting challenges like a toddler’s sometimes-nonexistent patience with a sense of fun and humor can make the waiting a better experience for both of you, so it can be good to go into a waiting room experience with ideas for a few games to play tucked into your metaphorical (or literal!) back pocket.
If your waiting area has space so that Baby can move around, even a little, it can help keep little hands and feet from getting too restless. Games like “Simon Says” with examples like “Simon says pretend to chew like an alligator!” Or “Simon says be a tree swaying in the wind!” can encourage your toddler’s sense of imagination (and maybe their giggles) without getting them riled up enough to start to cause trouble. You can encourage your child to be a little silly and fun with commands like “Simon says stand on one foot and sing your ABCs!” or “Simon says touch your toes with your nose!”
Speaking of songs, toddlers love physical songs like “The Wheels on the Bus” or “Little Cabin in the Woods” but even “Old McDonald Had a Farm,” which, tragically, doesn’t have an accompanying dance (unless you and Baby make one up!) can be entertaining and take up some time, if you’re in a space where it’s okay to fill the silence. Encourage counting with a song like “5 Little Monkeys Jumping on a Bed” or “The Ants Go Marching,” or practice your rhyming with songs like “Apples and Bananas,” or the name game.
Another quiet activity is playing a modified game of telephone with your child. Ask your child to whisper a song or a letter into your ear, and you make up another phrase to go with it. For example, “Happy Birthday…” could turn into “Mappy Thursday to a few…” or “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star…” could be “Wrinkle, wrinkle fiddle car…” and so on.
An old stand-by is “I Spy,” which can also be an active game, if you encourage your child to bend down to look under tables or walk around a corner to look out of a window. If movement is not easy, like at a doctor’s office, use the magazines to “spy” orange items or things that are round, for example.
If you happen to grab a small notebook, or even a stack of sticky-notes, on your way out the door to stash in your diaper bag, you can find a million different ways to entertain a little mind. Draw half of a happy face and have your child draw the other half. Draw and talk about bunny ears versus puppy ears, or turn circles into balloons or flowers, triangles into pizza or a clock. Trace your hand and then your child’s hand, and trace other small objects. Make a connect-the-dot picture for your child. When you’re finished drawing, use the paper to make airplanes, if you think it’s appropriate enough for the setting that you can get away with it.