You’ve got three different pies baking, presents to put together for all 312 people on your list, a 10-mile-long grocery list to get to and your in-laws are showing up in a few hours. Ah, the holidays! So much merriment, so many relatives in your home and so many “Mommmmy, I’m bored!” cries coming from your little one. Well, you could plop your tot in front of the TV to watch a caroling cartoon character. But that’s not exactly your style. Check out these creatively cool ways to keep your toddler busy — minus the glassy-eyed stare!

kids baking cookies

1. Mixing and Math-ing: The sprinkle cookies aren’t going to bake themselves. Stop the solitary cooking, and invite your toddler into the kitchen with you. Obviously, you’ll need to keep her far, far away from any sharp utensils and anything hot (like the stove). When you need to measure ingredients, have your kiddo help you out. Don’t worry about the halves, thirds and fourths. Ask her to look for whole numbers on the measuring cups. Even at age two, she can point to the number “1.”

2. Kitchen Colors: While you’re in the kitchen, go ahead and add an artsy exploration! Turn plain old white frosting into an emerald green concoction or vanilla buttercream into sugarplum fairy pink. Start small with a spoonful of frosting in a bowl. Help your little artist squeeze a drop or two of food coloring into the frosting. Then let her play with color mixing. Give your child the primary colors (red, blue and yellow) and let her experiment by mixing them to make new hues.

3. Tinkering Tray: Your toddler wants everything to do with the brand-new tech gadget that Dad opened as his pre-pre-Christmas present. She’s all about the buttons, the touch screen and, of course, the cord that’s plugged into the wall outlet. Give her something that’s much more age appropriate (and safe!) to tinker with: a tray (or a shallow bin) with everything from wet sponges to wooden peg dolls and fabric scraps to explore! Avoid anything that’s a choking hazard, such as (but certainly not limited to) marbles, small stones, beads, beans and mini bouncy balls.

4. Snow Studio: Watercolors, anyone? Swap in some snow for a cup of water. You can even do this one if there are palm trees and an ocean outside of your house (just use shaved ice or grind up ice in a food processor). If you’re really daring, take your bundled-up tot outside and paint directly on the snow!

Baby girl opening presents on her first Christmas

5. Gift Wrap Bonanza: Yeah, you’ve got gift wrap galore. Not only do you have rolls upon rolls, but you also have all those leftover scraps. Hand those over to your child and let her tear them up. Seriously, it’s messy. But it’s also an awesome fine motor workout. When she’s done, give her a glue stick and a piece of poster board so that she can collage a wrapping paper masterpiece.

6. Pine Playland: The glistening lights. The shiny ornaments. The fact that Mom said, “Do NOT touch it!” What do they all have in common? They’re the reasons (along with a superhuman sense of curiosity) that your tot wants to play with the Christmas tree. If this is an issue in your house, keep those little hands busy with her own pine playland. Don’t worry if you don’t have a tree (or don’t celebrate Christmas at all). Mix up a batch of your favorite DIY play dough, add a drop of green food coloring (or have your child mix together yellow and blue) and stick in a few loose pine needles or twigs to create a forest scene.

7. Place Setting Origami: We know your toddler can’t really “do” origami. That doesn’t mean she can’t practice her creative folding skills. While you’re busy measuring the exact distance of the dinner plates from the dessert plates, your child can help out and fold the napkins. She can create her own swans, frogs, dogs or whatever she sees in the folds (think of it like finding animals in clouds). Yes, you’ll need to refold the napkins when she’s done. But she’ll have a blast, use her creative side and stay busy!

What’s your favorite way to keep the kids busy during the holidays? Share your idea and tweet us @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)