A friend asked me recently (okay, back in February, but I've been meaning to post this since then) for some ideas for entertaining her 2 1/2-year-old daughter. Since most of our children have been or will be two, I thought this was a topic of possible general interest, so I thought I'd post my response here. This family lives in India, so my comments as to "available there" refer to that fact.
Ah, children's toys/activities. How did you know my weakness? We've never had "bristle blocks," "waffle blocks," or "tinker toys," but just about everything else non-electronic . . .
I don't know what all you would have access to there, but I'll list several things, and hopefully, you'll hit the jackpot on some. Or something will look promising enough to be worth the time to make, if that's an option.
- lacing cards (threading a shoelace through holes around the edge of a shape; could be made, if necessary)
- Duplos/MegaBlocks (large/extra-large legos)
- cardboard bricks (these come flat and then you assemble them, so it's possible to bring them over in a suitcase/trunk)
- instruments, like shakers, cymbals, drum, etc. (although, then, you have to deal with the noise :-)
- dollhouse (Melissa & Doug makes a folding one that is relatively compact, but you could probably find something locally or make something out of cardboard boxes)
- dolls & doll stroller, plus doll blankets, doll bed, etc.
- dress up clothes (if you have a used clothing bazaar, this is good for stocking up; also, buy scarves, etc., locally; they're great for dress-up, plus it ties the kids into the culture)
- wooden puzzles
- Mr. Potato Head
- magnetic playsets (search for "magnetic playset" on christianbook.com; they're backgrounds with figures to play with on them; also great for travel)
- play food and dishes
- wooden blocks
- books (if you can, train her to look at them by herself, especially ones she's been read enough to know the story line)
For an electronic options, iTunes has a great selection of PBS shows. At that age, Little Einsteins and Blue's Clues (okay, so that's Nick, Jr.) are good options. We tried to steer clear of Dora, with the goal of mastering Arabic before we added Spanish, but that's just a personal preference.
Similarly, pbskids.org and nickjr.com have some simple games that P might be ready to get started on, if you have a desktop computer you're willing to let her play on. Or if you want to attach a mouse to a laptop (that would work for some 2 1/2-yr-olds, for others, it would be a recipe for disaster :-).
If you have a video iPod, audible.com/kids is building a collection of children's audible books that show the illustrations on the screen as the book is being played. Under "categories" at the bottom of the page, look at "with synchronized images." Kids books can be kind of short, but if you teach her to navigate the click wheel or she listens/watches nearby with you to help, it might buy you a decent chunk of time. (Man, I did *not* need to look at that site again. I'm a sucker for children's books and gadgets. This is the perfect marriage of the two. :-P)