Wouldn’t it be great to buy some time, rest for a while or get some things done, even though your kids are there and demanding attention? This is something every parent dreams of, and thankfully, you can achieve this with a little practice and some tricks to keep your kids occupied. All children initially demand to be entertained or immersed in exciting activities, and those who know how to entertain themselves from a young age are very rare. That’s where the practice part comes in: with a little encouragement and guidance, you can help your children learn how to keep themselves busy and enjoy activities that expand their attention span, stimulate imagination and get them to learn new things.
Anything can become an art project when it comes to kids aged 3 and up, keeping them occupied for quite a while. You just need to provide the resources, and that can also be anything you get your hands on, from coloring materials to yarn, play-doh for sculpting, glue, paper, and scissors (for older kids, of course) etc. Designate a space for art projects so kids can create freely and be encouraged to experiment in their own little “studio”. This can get messy (and it should!) but it’s also a good opportunity to teach older kids to clean up after themselves in order to maintain their creative space.
Store away Halloween costumes every year so you can pull them out at any time. You can add old clothes or fabrics to the pile and you’ll see kids getting creative and feeling like it’s Halloween any time of the year. Playing dress-up is one of the best ways for kids to occupy themselves independently because it usually evolves into more than that and they end up acting out characters and making up stories to go with the costumes. Basically, dress-up is a great way to stimulate the imagination.
This one is for children aged 5 and up and it’s a lot more fun when there are at least 2 participants, so if you have an only child, consider it an activity worthy of a playdate. Encourage them to create a story together and in order to keep things vibrant and inspired, give them drawing material so they can illustrate it as they go. Wonderful, hilarious scenarios can be born from this, and you might want to get in on the story later. Better yet, the story may turn into a play for them to act out.
This is an activity that’s not only imaginative but also a great way for children to learn how to communicate during a creative process. Most children love telling stories and get lost in the tales, but it might be difficult to get them started sometimes, so inspire them by giving them themes and roles or asking “Do you know any great stories about….” Those that know how to read can read stories aloud and expand on them as they wish.
If the weather is nice, taking playtime to the backyard will keep them happily occupied for hours! Hoselink suggests even the smaller children can get earthy with kids’ gardening sets, whether in a sandbox (if you have one) or on a patch of grass that you don’t mind getting dug out. During the summer, splashing around the backyard with hoses or garden showers will help them cool down and provide an enormously joyful, yet safe time.
If you don’t have a large backyard, even the driveway can be a place of art and inspiration! You will need Zip-lock sandwich bags, corn starch, food coloring or liquid watercolors, vinegar and baking soda (you see where this is going) and paper towels.
- Make a mixture of cornstarch, food coloring, and vinegar and fill the sandwich bag with it about 1/3 of the way.
- Then, take the paper towel and put baking soda in the middle. Fold it and form it into a little ball, then place into the bag.
- Shake hard and a few minutes later, boom! The driveway will become a colorful masterpiece! The kids will love it and want to try again, or they might want to add to their canvas with chalk drawings.
Brainteasers and educational games
Let’s get brainy! Make sure to have at least one book of riddles, mazes and/or puzzles, as well as some hands-on brainteaser toys. This can keep kids busy and their minds active for hours, especially on cold, rainy days. There is a wide variety of them out there and they’re all appropriately adjusted for different age ranges, so have your kids pick out those that interest them most, or surprise them with one that you think they’ll enjoy.
Also, children, today are tech-savvy so downloading educational games and apps on a computer or tablet will definitely keep them happily occupied and learning at the same time. This is where we won’t add “for hours”, as you probably know the importance of limiting screen time. They’re very happy and engaged in front of a screen but this can easily go too far, so designate half an hour for electronic games, just enough time for you to get something crucial done.
When it comes to toddlers, keeping them busy gets quite tricky, but it can definitely be done. As for older children and the activities mentioned here, always remember that you can rely on their imagination greatly; it just needs to cultivated and encouraged. The important thing is for children to learn patience and independence through various everyday activities, and this takes time. Along with the typical brilliance all children exhibit, these trained skills will get them knowing how to stay safely occupied all on their own.