15 Quick Activities to Keep Kids Busy While You Work

There are a lot of perks to working at home and one of them is being able to spend time with your kids. But there are definitely days when that just isn´t in the books and you need some time to get your work done . . . without the help of grubby little fingers and cute giggling mini-yous. :D So, with that in mind, here are 15 activities that won´t take you long to set up but will keep your kids busy for a while.

1. Playdough. Salt dough is something that really works for any age. Older kids will enjoy making actual items out of it, while little ones just smoosh it around for fun. My boys, 1 and 2, love it. Mix it in a Ziploc bag and you don´t even have to wash a bowl later!

Recipe: Dump 4 cups of flour and a cup of salt into a bag. Pour in 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and about 1/2 c. of water. Seal bag and squish around until it forms a dough. Add more flour or water as needed. Use food coloring to color, if desired. Shapes to keep can be air-dried or baked.

2. Tents. Get out some old sheets, drape them over a couple of chairs or bushes to make a tent and give your kids some snacks to eat in their new tent. They can haul some blankets and stuffies in there, too and turn it into a hiding place.

3. Mazes. Print out some mazes from this site and let your little ones have at it. There are mazes for all ages, so this works for anyone from preschool on up.

4. Water. Kids love water for some reason. And, as the days get warmer, this can be the perfect way to keep them busy. All you need are a few bowls, a plastic tub (a baby bath works well) and some cups and spoons. Fill the tub half way with water and let the kids play in it with the utensils. Older kids might want to bathe dolls or wash doll clothing in the tub. Add some bubble bath for more fun. I´d suggest doing this outside, in a place where you can keep an eye on the kids. Though, really, if water gets all over the floor . . . it´s just water and can be mopped pretty easily!

5. Rubbings. Older kids can really get into this fun activity. Get out some crayons and peel off the paper wrapping. Then start handing out sheets of paper. The kids need to find stuff with a raised texture, like a wooden alphabet block or a heavily veined leaf. Lay the object on a hard surface, put the paper over it and then rub the long edge of the crayon over the paper above the design. The color will only appear on the raise parts of the design. Trust me, once they have done this once, they´ll be running everywhere looking for things to try rubbing.

6. Stilt cans. Remember these from when you were a kid? You´ll need two sturdy cans (paint cans work well) and some string, plus a nail and hammer. Punch a hole in either side of the can and thread the string through, tying a big enough knot that it won´t pull back out, to form a loop like a handle. The string should be long enough that your child can stand on the cans and hold the string comfortably just above their waist.  Then have them practice walking around, lifting the cans with the loop of string.

7. Appliances. No, you´re not going to electricute your kids, though that might keep them quiet for a bit. Give them an old phone or mixer that no longer works and is sitting in the junk pile. Along with a screwdriver, you´ll find that this can keep curious children busy for a good long time taking the object apart and seeing how it works. Heck, you might even get a fixed appliance out of the mix!

8. Bubbles. Bubbles are always a good way to keep kids busy, but I´ve found that they tend to be time consuming since they usually want YOU to blow them. So here´s a better way to go. Take a jar and pour about half a cup of water into it. Add 2 tablespoons of dishsoap and give kids a straw. Have them blow into the mixture to create a jar of bubbles. These can then be scooped out and more can be made. Just make sure that you child is old enough not to suck the soap mixture in.

9. Newspaper. Depending on the age of your children, they might just want to rip the newspaper into shreds and laugh about it, or they can make balls out of it and have a “snowball” fight, try their hand at newspaper origami or make their own butterfly wings.

10. Cleaning. Give each kid a spray bottle with some watered down soap (or even just water) and a rag and let them clean the doors, walls, fridge, etc. They´ll have fun doing it, you´ll get a slightly cleaner house and some time to work.

11. Lily pads. Cut a bunch of random shapes out of construction paper and toss them on the floor. Add numbers or letters if you like. Then have the kids take turns standing on the color and number that is called out. If you must, this can be done by you as you work. It´s not too distracting to call out “Red 2!” every few seconds. :)

12.  Memory. Put 20 items on a tray (anything you can grab from paperclips to spoons) and show it to your kids for 1 min. Cover it up and let them write down as many items as they can remember in 5 minutes. Then they can uncover the tray and check their answers. Having a few trays made up ahead of time makes this super easy and very quick.

13. Circus. Get your kids playing circus, indoors or out. You´ll need a hula hoop, a board and two pieces of wood or bricks. Lay the bricks on the ground and place the board on top so it´s a couple of inches off the ground. Have kids practice walking on it. They can also pretend to be circus lions and “jump” through the hoop, held by a sibling, or do a dance inside the hoop laid on the floor.

14. Board game. The board games in your cupboard might not be as exciting anymore, but that doesn´t mean you can´t have a new one. Give kids a piece of cardboard or an old game board covered with paper and let them create their own board game. This can take quite a while as they work out the design and rules and make cards for the game.

15. Scavenger hunt. Make a list of random things that can be found around your home outside. Make some of them a bit harder, such as “a piece of blue plastic”. You´ll want at least 15 items, more if you want them to stay busy for longer. If you have 2 or more kids, divide them into teams. Non-readers can be paired with readers. Set a time limit and send them off to find everything on the list. This could easily buy you 30-60 min. of peace! And they´ll have a lot of fun.

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    38 Responses to “15 Quick Activities to Keep Kids Busy While You Work”

    1. Genesis says:

      Very good point, John! Parents need to make sure that they are letting kids handle safe stuff.

    2. John says:

      While I like the appliances idea many electric and electronic devices contain capacitors that may hold an electric charge sufficient to kill a child.

    3. Barb says:

      wow Now that I am reading the appliance one. Now I know why mom gave me random things and my tool box as a kid… Hum… I wonder if my kids have my talent..

    4. Katie smith says:

      I tend use cleaning as my main bribe for an ice cream or treat. They also keep busying with the memory game but i tend find them bit lacklustre with the memory game.

    5. Verna says:

      Wow, incredible blog layout! How long have you been blogging
      for? you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your website is great, as well as the
      content!

    6. Amzmuke says:

      Hello just wanted to give you a quick heads up.
      The words in your content seem to be running off the screen in Safari.
      I’m not sure if this is a formatting issue or something to do with browser compatibility but I figured I’d post to let you know. The layout look great though! Hope you get the problem resolved soon. Cheers

    7. ash says:

      im 11 and i have to look after my little sister who is 2 while mum is mowing and dad is at work. good idea about the circus im about to do it now.

    8. Mr P Cunningham says:

      Great help, I loved this Idea of letting them clean everthing as it, it worked a treat and saved me doing it.

      Thanks

    9. A full season for Spongebob Squarepants should keep them busy.

    10. Jim says:

      I love your ideas for keeping the kids busy and happy. My kids love doing anything creative and messy!
      Well done on a great website!

    11. My son has his xbox 360. But I watch the time and he can only get 3 hours. After that, we go do something to give him and me a break. Thanks for the ideas.

    12. Z Z says:

      I love the mazes idea. Thanks for the wonderful list!

    13. I really do appreciate the help!

      I want my child/children to be as well adapted and stimulated as possible… I’m really excited about these ideas… :-)

      Thanks again.

    14. Genesis says:

      Darvin, it never hurts to plan ahead! I had a whole list of stuff to do with my kids before they were born. :)

      I would say tents and water are the earliest activities. Your baby can enjoy splashing in a bowl of water as soon as he or she can sit, so around 5-7 months. Tents are fun as soon as the baby can scoot or crawl. Newspaper is great for kids once they can sit and grasp things, as well. They will pull and crumple it, just watch to make sure the little one doesn’t eat it!

    15. Oh, I meant to ask… which of these do you think I could use the earliest (i.e., at the youngest age)? Perhaps the Lily pad or the Water ideas?

      Thanks in advance for your help!

    16. I’m a little “ahead of the curve” since my wife is still pregnant with our first child, but I am happy to be finding these wonderful ideas now.

      I work from home as well, and I know when the time comes, that I will be very grateful for these suggestions!

      Thank

    17. SheilaG says:

      I love these ideas!

      We did a lot of tents when my children were young. And we did the homemade playdough and water thing, too!

      I also found giving them glue and a whole bunch of fabric or yarn cut into small shapes would let them make endless crafts.

      As for water, I’d fill tubs with bubbles and then they’d make their own fun. Just line the floor with towels and let them go at it!

      It is tricky, but if you give them fun things, they’ll figure it out. And I let my kids play with old, broken phones, too!

      I’ve written a post on a strategy to realistically get work accomplished when you’re caring for young kids right here! You’ll find it helpful, too!

    18. Thanks! I love the lilly pad idea. I just began an article series on just this topic. I’ll be posting eighty ideas to keep kids busy while you work.
      @April, note the disclaimer! Children should always be supervised.

      http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-15855-Huntsville-Education-Activities-Examiner~y2009m7d15-Preschool-activities-101-TVfree-ways-to-keep-kids-busy-while-you-work-part-one

    19. Julie says:

      @april I’m glad you were not my mom!

    20. Nursing Top says:

      I work from home and these are great ideas for my kids. I have tried the playdough and they love making them and then playing with it.

    21. Octamom says:

      Great ideas! We’ll be putting quite a few of these in circulation around here!

      Blessings!

    22. Ira says:

      Oh April – pull the pine cone out of your ass. I think the blog owner assumes parents aren’t stupid enough to give thier kids a razor sharp blade or allow them to play unsupervised with a tub full of water. I bet you’re one of those frigid old women. Geez.

    23. Genesis says:

      @April, I´m talking about a mixer as in for beating eggs, not a blender or food processor. Obviously you would use discretion as to what age this is appropriate.

      As for water, you´ll notice I mentioned that you should do this “where you can keep an eye on them”, I certainly wouldn´t advocate leaving children alone with water!

    24. April says:

      What kind of a parent allows their child to play with a MIXER which probably has sharp components?! (IE: blades). Not to mention allowing a child to play with water in a baby tub – a child can drown in just an inch of water.
      This site gets a huge thumbs down from me!

    25. Ron says:

      My 3 & 4 year old boys love going bug hunting in the back yard. Also, anything where they can get dirty or slimmy makes them happy.

    26. [...] At Home Mom Blog » 15 Quick Activities to Keep Kids Busy While You Work [...]

    27. Great list! I love #12 and #15 the most. Toys and television definitely aren’t enough to keep the littles occupied or interested long enough. These activities are smart, fun, and safe. Thank you for this wonderful list. I’m trying the scavenger hunt next week!

    28. This is an excellent list for women who work from home with kids.

    29. Kinder-teacher says:

      The cleaning idea is one i didnt believe in at first, till the kids at my work started begging to use the spray bottles to clean up with! They even seemed disappointed if they didnt get to clean.

      i think it really is all about getting to spray out water.

      And I love the memory Idea!!!! I am interviewing for a new job and needed a quick activity, and I think this one will win them over… Another version that I might try is having them look at the tray of items, then removing one item and seeing if they can figure out what it was! I played this with my last group of kinder-folk and it was amazing how long they wanted to play the game!

    30. Jenny says:

      I gave my son play dough once. Boy, what a mistake that was. LOL

      But these are all really good ideas.

    31. WahMom7 says:

      Wow! You a great idea for any age group. You are right, kids do love water for some reason. They also love tents, even if it is just in the living room. Your ideas are so simple to work with too. Now that the kids are home all day, this variety of ideas will surely keep them busy, giving me a chance to get some work done during the day. Thanks so much.

    32. Tim says:

      Great ideas. These will come in handy this summer!

    33. Ben says:

      playing with kids is a great thing to do at when you’re out of office. I have tried some but that are on your list but i think i missed a few others like the stilt cans and the circus. I wonder if they would love the cleaning.

    34. Great list!! I’ve tried most of them at one point or another…

      Fortunately, I won’t have to deal with that issue any more – we are about to take off to ride our bikes from Alaska to Argentina with our ten-year-old twins. They will have LOTS of fun stuff to play with along the way – rocks, sticks, pinecones, and stones!! Those things will keep the boys entertained for hours on end!

      You can read about our journey at http://www.familyonbikes.org

    35. Brianna says:

      Wow, thank you for this! I’m always trying to come up with things to keep my 19-month-old busy while I work!

    36. Maryn says:

      I like the appliance idea lot. As we don’t have any old ones, I’m going to hit the swap meet and see what I can find. This should keep my 6 and 8 year olds busy for a bit this summer!

    37. Jo says:

      You really have some great ideas to keep the children busy during the summer vacation. #2 tents – my granchildren (two boys aged 5 and 7 years) love building their own tent and playing in it. They have a small bought pop up tent but they much prefer constructing their own.

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