We’ve all been there. At your father-in-law’s retirement party, school presentation day, your daughter’s ballet recital.
You are paying attention, but your smallest child is not.
None of the above scenarios are conducive to keeping kids entertained.
Here are some tips from parents on the best tools of distraction that will fit into your handbag - and not a device in sight!
1. Kitchen utensils/ equipment
Don’t underestimate the value of the mundane. As long as it can fit in your handbag, and isn’t too heavy, you may hold the secret to distraction in your own pantry.
Deb carries around a pair of small kitchen tongs that can be used as a crocodile, musical instrument or a “grabber/catcher/squeezer thingy”.
And while Kirsten accepts they have dubious environmental credentials, apparently straws have helped her out of a sticky situation or two.
Rhonda’s mum used to carry a plastic pastry-cutter in her bag. “My memory is that we used to run it over the carpet at church, making tracks.”
Parents of small children seldom leave the home without a million bags of ‘stuff’. Including lunch. But apparently food can also be a form of distraction – that handily fits inside your bag.
Mum of two small girls, Shobnna says, “Biscuits. Three different types at all times when we leave the house. And when they are totally over them and are really losing it, I pull out my last resort: a life-saving box of SULTANAS! And today I found chocolate covered sultanas at Aldi. God is Good!!!”
Karen says that a few sneaky lollipops are essential for an instantaneous five seconds of silence.
3. Good ol’ arts and crafts
You don’t always need to reinvent the wheel. Kids love a bit of colouring and drawing, and there are plenty of handbag-sized art utensils you can use to keep the kids occupied.
Illona likes to keep a small container of textas from Muji in her handbag with a notepad, so they can draw or make a chatter box (see image above). She also says her son loves this little chalk book by Minejima and Co.
Kylie swears by paint with water books. All you need is a glass of water and voila! Hours of entertainment.
We all know how Lego can engage children in hours of industrial work. It’s even fun for adults! But how do you keep Lego in your bag without losing it amongst the detritus of keys, phones and mints?
Madeleine came across a clever solution that stores Lego neatly in your bag. Jilly Jumbles has a number of handy little travel options for toys, but the Lego storage has to be a winner.
Then again, Rosemary says a small Tupperware container of Lego does the trick too!
Wherever possible, keeping their bodies and brains busy is a great option.
Mum of three boys, Meryn says she doesn’t leave the house without a tennis ball.
But if your children need to be more confined (and there are breakables in your vicinity), Kirsty suggests a simple visual card game called Spot It. The advice on the label says ideal for seven-year-olds, but Kirsty has road tested it on children as young as four and says it’s a winner.
6. Stuff that’s already in your handbag
You can’t always be prepared with extra stuff for the kids. But who says you need to be?
Alysia says that when she’s stuck, she just pulls six to eight things out of her bag and plays a game of Memory with her kids.
Liz has a mirror and a small brush that she gives up to her little one for the purposes of distraction.
And of course, the final option might be to hand your kid the phone and be judged by every adult in your location.
But as long as your kid is happy, quiet and you can get to the end of the retirement speeches without screaming like a banshee at your little runner to get off the stage … well, then everyone’s happy, aren’t they?
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