How to Keep a Toddler Busy Until Dinner is Ready


If your household is anything like mine, the time between daycare pickup and dinnertime can be STRESSFUL. On a recent Monday night, with a toddler asking for dinner, a newborn in my arms, and the oven timer beeping, I needed a quick activity to keep my 2 year old busy for a few minutes.

Sitting on our cluttered kitchen counter were 2 brown paper bags from takeout we’d had the night before. My first thought was “ugh I need to get those in the recycling.” But my second thought was “Let’s reuse those for something!” I grabbed my trusted Sharpie and my daughter’s crayons, and instantly had an activity that kept her busy for ten minutes while I finished dinner. As an added bonus, she was able to work on naming her colors, and the large scale of the paper meant she burned off some energy while she slid her body around the floor.


  • paper bags or boxes
  • black marker to draw doodles
  • scissors to cut bags/boxes
  • Your kid should grab their favorite crayons or markers

The quick and easy steps

  1. Use the scissors to cut open the paper bag or box so you have a flat surface for drawing
  2. Use the black marker to draw some familiar and friendly shapes or doodles. We did this around the holidays, so went for Santa, Christmas trees, hot cocoa, and other winter items. Very little art skill is required!
  3. Set your kid up with their crayons or markers and let them go wild. If they’re young and need to be supervised, set them up somewhere you can see them.
  4. Easy clean up means throwing it all away. Keep in mind that in some places, drawings with crayon should not be recycled.
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Jenny grew up in Central Massachusetts and after more than a decade living out of state and in Boston, she recently moved to Maynard. She lives with her husband and 2 young daughters. She’s a staunch introvert with a love of trail running, swimming, good books, and podcasts. She is a research administrator at a Boston hospital, with a focus on women’s health research, particularly endometriosis, as well as grant management. She’s passionate about raising confident and kind daughters and learning from and alongside other moms.


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