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. 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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