25 Ideas To Keep Young Kids Busy
*Please note: Depending on the age of your child, you will need to take certain precautions or be with your child where there is a water or choking hazard. Also, this post contains affiliate links - you can read more about that below the post.
As a mom with kids of various ages, I used to find it a real challenge to keep my young kids busy, especially while working on something with my older ones. So I decided to research simple ways of keeping my little kids entertained and stimulated when I could not give them my full attention.
Young children need imaginative play to develop their skills for later, more structured learning. And which little one doesn’t get a kick out of sensory play! Here are some fun, learning ideas to keep your young kids busy when you are homeschooling, helping older kids with homework, or when you need time to complete your tasks.
I will caution you that some of these activities are messy, so you'll need to loosen up a bit if that scares you (that was me). Allow your kids to develop their imagination! You can set aside some old clothes for them to use as play clothes and use a large plastic tablecloth at the kitchen table or on the floor. You can also put some towels on the ground and allocate a specific area of the house to do messy crafts.
These activities should happen while you're around because some ideas entail the use of small objects or water. Please use your 'mommy instinct' to decide what is safe and age appropriate for your kids.
1. Token Fun
An empty coffee tin w/lid or
A plastic yogurt container w/lid or
A Pringles canister w/lid
Colored poker chips
Make a slit in the container lid with a switchblade and let your kids put poker chips through the slit. This is a great way for your kids to learn counting and if you use different colored poker chips, they can learn their colors too.
2. Dough Fun
Use Play-Doh or allow your kids to make a homemade dough by mixing:
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup water
1 cup flour
Few drops natural food coloring.
Method: Form ingredients into a dough
Allow your kids to roll, cut, and shape their play dough!
3. Painting Fun
Cups of water
Small paint brush
Color a few cups of water with different food coloring. Use a Q-tip, medicine dropper, or a paintbrush to make designs on the coffee filter.
Once the filter is dry, cut the center out of a paper plate and glue the sides of the filter to the plate to make a sun catcher!
This can be hung at a window by punching a hole in the paper plate top, inserting some yarn, and suspending it from the wall with a push-pin.
4. Chalk Fun
Dark construction paper
Your kids can color and make designs to their heart's content on dark construction paper. Erase and redo. Another option is to purchase blackboard paper that can be stuck to any wall surface.
5. Lacing Fun
Empty cotton spools
Punch holes in a pattern on a cardboard and let your kids lace the yarn through the holes or through old cotton spools. They can also draw a picture of a shoe and punch holes in its center to teach them how to tie a shoelace. Tape the first hole with the yarn or tie a knot to keep the yarn in place. I use a single hole punch to make this easier.
6. Water Fun
Wide, shallow container on a towel
Egg beater or baster
Let your kids use an egg beater and baster in the container of water to swirl and squirt water around. They can also use their bath toys and some measuring cups to have some more water fun.
7. Cutting Fun
Blunt-nose, craft, zig-zag scissors in various sorts
Paper plate or a cardboard
Let your kids cut strips of colored paper and develop their fine motor skills while they learn to hold a pair of scissors. Use the strips to make a collage on a paper plate or cardboard and show Daddy!
8. Etching Fun
Rice or cornmeal
Straw or popsicle stick
Put a layer of rice or cornmeal on a cookie sheet and allow your kids to draw patterns with a straw, popsicle stick, or just their fingers.
9. Sandbox Fun
Shallow box plastic or other
Put some clean sand in a box (clean sand can be purchased at a hardware store). Add trucks, cars and measuring cups or spoons. When using a plastic storage container with a lid, the sand can be kept for many days of play.
10. Tent Fun
Table or chairs
Clothespins or big office clips
Let your kids throw a sheet over a table or a couple of chairs, fasten with clothespins or office clips and add dolls and figurines for play underneath.
11. Stacking Fun
Different-sized plastic cups
Containers with lids and small objects
Allow your kids to stack the cups or seal their items in the containers with lids. Taking the lids on and off is another thing kids love to do. Leave the ideas to them.
12. Dressing Fun
Unused items or
Purchase some dress-up costumes
My kids love this so much! They use old handbags, hats, scarfs, and jewelry of mine. I buy costumes (fireman, ninja, princess etc.) when they go on sale after Halloween. The more outfits, the longer they play!
13. Bubble Fun
Small container of water with non-toxic soap
Purchase bubble and wands
Dip the straws in the soapy water and allow your kids to blow bubbles to one another. Or let your kids go outside and blow bubbles to see how many bubbles they can catch.
14. Measuring Fun
Plastic measuring tape or ruler
An assortment of different toys
Allow your kids to measure the height and width of different toys and lay them in a line from largest to smallest. Older kids can jot down the results on paper by drawing the picture with the number next to it.
15. Chain Fun
Yarn or string
Snacks with holes
Allow your kids to make bracelets or long necklaces by linking snacks or cereal with holes (eg. Cheerios) to the yarn. Let them enjoy eating their edible jewelry afterwards.
16. String Fun
Pastel construction paper
Dip string pieces of different lengths and widths in the thinned paint (watered-down) of different colors. Drop the string on a sheet of paper in different places to make swirly designs. So artsy!
17. Pebble Fun
Shallow cardboard box
Add paper to a box, dip a pebble in paint and put it on the paper. Move the box back and forth to roll the pebble across the paper to make awesome abstract design art in different colors.
18. Tube Fun
Empty paper towel tubes
Tissue paper tubes or food wrap rolls
Small cars or mini balls
Let your kids join tubes together with tape or lay tubes at a slant on tables. Allow them to put their cars or balls through it. The longer the tube, the more fun.
19. Street Fun
Draw roads, houses, etc. on large, flat cardboard and let your kids play with their cars and trucks on their homemade street on the floor!
20. Tossing Fun
Sock balls or
Crumbled paper or
Small stuffed animals (we use Beanie Babies)
A bucket, tub or clean wastebasket
Have a competition to see how many of these items can be tossed into a bin. Use a good amount of toys. It’s a great way to learn to count in a fun way too!
21. Magnet Fun
Straw or popsicle stick
String or yarn
Let your kids make a homemade fishing game by cutting some fish shapes out of construction paper. Push paperclips through the fish and put the fish in a box.
Make a fishing pole with a straw, string and a magnet attached and let the kids 'fish' for their paperclip fish.
Alternatively let your kids pick up washers, coins or paperclips out of a box with a magnet.
22. Toothpick Fun
Black construction paper
A sheet of paper
Layer the cloth, black paper and sheet of paper together and fasten with office clips. Then draw with a marker a simple pattern (heart, star, circle, square, etc.) on the top page. Let your child poke holes along the edges of the pattern with a toothpick on the top page.
Remove the black paper underneath, which has the patterned punched holes and tape it to a sliding door or window. Let your kids see the sunshine through the holes of their pretty patterns!
23. Tracing Fun
Marker or pencil
Layer a picture (from a coloring book or other) and then a sheet of tracing paper onto the clip of the clipboard. Let your child trace the picture underneath, then color if desired.
24. Fridge Fun
Different fridge magnets in a bucket
Give your kids a bucket of different magnets or make it more educational and use alphabet magnets!
Let your kids enjoy putting the magnets up on the fridge, taking them down, or making words. A favorite of my kids when they were young!
25. Magazine Fun
Let your kids choose four colors they love and cut out any items they see in a magazine in those colors. Then sort and paste the cut-outs on construction paper or cardboard according to color. One can use any other theme such as cutting-out food items, clothing, or shapes.
Many of these ideas can be stored in plastic containers for use over and over again. Remember that some of these ideas cause a temporary mess and can be easily cleaned-up with soap and water. As a mom, you will get so much more accomplished when your kids are busy.
If children are bored, they will be a bother, so don't be uptight about your home and decor. I’ve learned over the years to look at my material things as just 'stuff' and mean naught when compared to my children's development.
I always tell moms with young kids, that they should leave their fancy home decorating for when their children become older to give themselves less pressure. You will find it much easier to be a fun mom of smart, creative children if you are more easygoing about the little things.
Still need more ideas? Read 25 (More) Ideas To Keep Young Kids Busy.
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