29 Ways to Tame Our Ticking Tantrum Time Bombs (Plus 5 Bonus Ideas!)

Another unearthed treasure from my closet and drawer clean-out last week was an article from Parents Magazine listing off 29 different ways to wait with your kid. It’s a great list, and because the date on it is 2008, I know that was something I ripped out well ahead of when I could have ever used it with T (he turned one-year-old in October 2008 and wasn’t walking until months later). Thankfully it’s survived this long, because now I can share it with you, RMT’ers!

Thanks to a semi-bad habit of hoarding article clippings from time to time, I am able to post and share some wonderful waiting tips for the wee ones with you today from Parents Magazine (October 2008).

Also, because the article is almost four-years-old, it does NOT involve my smart phone (thank god). Sorry, RMT’ers, but the last thing I want to do is to let my rowdy and more often than not animalistic boy-child play independently with my highly valuable phone because you know what comes next with that… a broken phone, missing apps, or – even worse – a missing phone! Um, yeah, no, thank you. I’ve even been forced to remove all the games off of my phone because of the insanity that ensues the moment that T plays a game just ONCE. The phone is addictive, man… says the gal who has an ongoing love affair with Facebook, Twitter, email, etc. I know, that’s not exactly setting the best example, but I am working on breaking my bad habit, even if my dear husband doesn’t think I am (sigh). Plus, the games listed below require us to interact with our kid(s) while we wait, and that makes the time go faster for us also! These games and ideas also aid with efforts toward self-coping by using socialization – not isolation – in the now and down the road, too.

The list is below; it is broken into two sections (games to play and things to stash in your bag as emergency back-ups). You will see that the ideas given are VERY easy and the props mentioned are extremely easy to find around the house, too (i.e., no special purchases required). Enjoy!

We all hate to wait, even babies and toddlers do, too. Hate the wait no more, RMT’ers! Play a game instead to pass the time!

20 Super-Fun Things for Kids to do in Totally Boring Situations


  1. PAPERWORK. One piece of paper. Let baby crumple it. Let baby play! Do it again and again with more and more paper! (Sounds like a good way to clean out a bag or purse to me!)
  1. WHERE’S THE BABY? No props needed. Kind-of like a reverse peek-a-boo or hide-and-seek.
  1. WHO’S THIS? One set of photos in a small snapshot-sized album or laminated and looped onto a ring. Flip through with Baby and go over who’s who in the pictures (or test them on who’s NOT who!).


  1. MIRROR GAME. One unbreakable mirror and one dry-erase marker. Watch your toddler turn into a caricaturist!
  2. BEAUTY PARLOR. One hairbrush. Let your child brush your hair! That’s it!
  3. LOOK CLOSELY. One unbreakable magnifying glass. If in a spot that the kid can explore, let them do so by getting a closer-up view. If not, they can go through your bag or purse (again, sounds like a way to get the purse cleaned out to me!).
  4. TALK TO THE HAND. One plain brown paper bag (lunch-sized). Talk to your child with it as if it is a puppet. Or pack two to have a “puppet conversation.” Add crayons and you can even decorate your puppets as you hang out!
  5. STUCK ON YOU. One roll of transparent tape. Tape is like paper on steroids, and toddlers love it. Even better, another activity suggestion is to let them de-lint your clothing (bonus)!
  6. EDIBLE JEWELRY. One string of Os cereal. Rather than packing a snack-bag or cup of Os, why not whip out a stringed necklace of the toddler treats instead?! Stringing the necklace can be a craft that you both do together before your trip to the unknown waiting zone. And please, adult supervision at all times with this one, RMT’ers (i.e., I don’t agree with the article’s suggestion to let the child have it in the car while you drive, for example).
  7. BIG SPENDER. One wallet, stack of old used-up gift cards or expired rewards cards (no credit cards!). Watch as your child inserts the cards into the wallet slots and removes them, over and over and OVER again! A deck of playing cards of a similar size to the other cards would work here also.
  8. TELL SECRETS. No props needed. Use hushed tones in a busy waiting room and whisper back and forth to one another. Kind of like the old “telephone” game but just between you and your kid. Shh!

Preschoolers now can play the wait out thanks to these wonderful tips from Parents Magazine!


  1. ART APPRECIATION. No props needed. Just check out the art already hanging on the waiting room walls together. Ask your child to make up a story about what they think of the picture, maybe ask them what the people are saying, doing, and feeling.
  1. VACATION TIME. One piece of paper and a pen. Tell your child you are packing for a day at the beach and you need some ideas of what to bring with you. When they run low on ideas, make some funny suggestions, like a snow sled or other non-beachy items to get them going again (or at least get a laugh).
  1. ROBOT 20 QUESTIONS. No props needed. This is just like the classic 20 questions game, but done in a “robot” voice and using “affirmative” for “yes” and “negative” for “no.” Bonus if your kid also gets into their own robotic role-playing while giving their guesses. Change roles.
  1. POLICE SKETCH-ARTIST. One small notebook and pencil. You the parent sketch something around the room for your child to guess. You can do other waiting persons or objects in the room instead (depending on your artistic skill or boldness I suppose!). Guesses in this game should be whispered not pointed or shouted out. Change roles.
  1. ADVANCED POLICE SKETCH-ARTIST. Like above, but with a twist. Rather than just drawing something around the room, one person describes what to draw to the other person, and then the drawing party tries to guess what or who they just drew. Again, use hushed tones to prevent rude or embarrassing moments, RMT’ers.
  1. TRICKS OF THE EYE. No props needed and/or one piece of paper. Simple hand games that play tricks on your eyes, such as the “Floating Hot Dog” (press two pointer fingers together close-up in front of your eyes and move forwards-backwards to see the “floating hot dog” finger) and “Hole in the Hand” (roll up a piece of paper and look through it with one eye, then with both eyes focus on a distant object and hold your other hand right next to the rolled-up paper and see the “hole” in your hand).
  1. MAGNETS. One or more magnets and a bunch of paper clips. Magnetize one paper clip by rubbing it on one of the magnets a few times in the same direction. Then have your child see how many other paper clips they can pick up chain-style without dropping any.
  1. PHONE HOME. Your real cell phone and/or an old one without battery for play. Either have your child call Grandma or Grandpa to catch them up on the latest news (check waiting room rules as pertains to cell phone use first!), or just have a pretend phone conversation with your child on your (locked) phone and their pretend phone. Or they can pretend call someone of their own (imaginary) choice. Works best when your kid is in a chatty mood (when aren’t they?!).
  1. HOW BIG? One plastic retractable tape measure (metal can cut!). Like the magnifying glass, if you are in a place where you can explore a bit, have your kid take measurements of the objects around you as you wait… or your arm or leg or their own! More advanced: Have them estimate how big something is then have them measure it to see how close they are to their guess(es).

I decided to go through the 20 games listed and compile the props needed from a scavenger hunt around the house. In about 15 minutes, I found almost every item on the list! The only things missing from the photo are a dry-erase marker (don’t have any in the house) and  T’s play magnifying glass (could not find it, but I did find a play pirate telescope that collapses onto itself for easy transport). Not too bad! Of course, don’t carry ALL of these at once; the point is that these items are around the house and easy to come by at almost every turn.

Well, I’m taking my own advice and making sure I’m prepared for my own waiting games with T. I called myself to task and dumped my bag of whatever I had in it at the time of this post. Looks like I’m carrying some mini-card games (from birthday favors), crayons, a freebie pencil-paper pack from a summer fest of some sort, and – of course – food. Again, not bad!

… and 8 Things to Have in Your Bag That Will Stave Off Boredom
1. EMERGENCY LOLLIPOP. Yum (again, check waiting room rules for no food-drink first!). Even better for post-doctor since the doctor or dentist rarely gives out candy anymore.
2. FAVORITE BOOK. The one they know by heart works best. For older kids, ask them to read it to you!
3. BANDAGES. Play doctor as you wait for the doctor!
4. TRAVEL-SIZE MAGNA-DOODLE. I’ve talked about the magic of Aquadoodle before, but magnet-based doodlers are wonderful, too, and we have a few around here for sure!
5. NOTEPAD AND CRAYONS. Always in my bag, and T’s!
6. AUDIO STORY. These are great for longer car rides or when stuck in traffic waiting to get to point A or B. Some of our favorites are Disney Song and Story recordings (I talked about that line of products last year in this post).
7. DECK OF CARDS. Play a memory, counting, or matching game together. They’re great for number recognition also, so have fun AND learn while you wait!
8. STICKY NOTES. Very fun, whether your write on them or not. Use different colors to make patterns or pictures on the table, wall, etc. Or, just let the kid stick them all over you… or themselves!

Source for above lists: “The Waiting Games” (Parents, October 2008)

I am still trying to figure out what number 29 is! Is it me, the Parent?! Or is it the child and their imagination?! Or, maybe it’s up to us to fill in this blank. Well, OK, then, I will!

In addition to those great, timeless ideas above, I got inspired and decided to share with you not just one extra but our FIVE favorite items to stash in a bag, car, and/or pocket when heading out the door and into the waiting zone with T in tow. Again, these are easy and cheap (or free), yet still full of fun for all!

RMT’s recommendations for five extra time-passing props: Play glasses, toilet paper tube, mini-flashlight, small bottle of bubbles, and a calculator.

RMT’s 5 Favorite and Easy-to-Come-By Props for Waiting it Out:

1. FLASHLIGHT. There’s dark corners in waiting rooms and in hallways indoors, and there are holes and dark spots under rocks or in trees to investigate outside, too. Light those up! What can you find?

2. TOILET PAPER TUBE. It’s small, it’s constantly turning up in the house, and it’s some of the easiest fun around. Use it as a telescope, color on it to make a wand, talk to one another through it, or just watch whatever it is your kid does with them, because it’s usually quite amusing.

3. PLAY SUNGLASSES OR OLD 3D GLASSES. OK, so maybe not for constant wear nor to be used as REAL sunglasses, of course, but those old 3D glasses from the movie you saw last week or the birthday party goody bag the other month are still hanging out in your bag. Lucky you, because those can provide an extra few minutes of goofy on-the-go, dress-up fun! You can wear them and make up a voice or two, or watch your kid take on a new personality of their own! Carry two pair to create improvised, interactive performances that don’t just entertain you but maybe keep others occupied around you, too!

4. CALCULATOR. My almost-five-year-old is FASCINATED with math and in turn, with this OG personal computer. Calculators are easy to come by at the Dollar Tree or from any convention floor booth really. Want to tell your spouse what to get for the kid when they go on their next business trip? Just tell them to make sure they snag a swaggy calculator from the aisles and aisles of booths and kiosks they wander through while out-of-town. Extra credit: It’s quiet, independent play, and great for restaurant waits, too!

5. BUBBLES. Especially awesome for outdoor waits (think large theme-park lines or other similar situations), bubbles just have a knack of putting a smile on faces old and young, and the littlest ones just love to see them go POP! I’ve kept some of the better of the smaller containers (read: ones that haven’t leaked on me, ever!) from birthday bags to refill for on-the-go use.

Please share your favorite waiting games and time-passing props with us, RMT’ers!

One response to “29 Ways to Tame Our Ticking Tantrum Time Bombs (Plus 5 Bonus Ideas!)

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