Activities that keep your kids engaged, so you can take a break.

We spend a lot of time with our kids, especially now. We love them...we really do, but sometimes we just need 20 minutes to drink a cup of coffee, mindlessly check our social media feeds, read a book, or just stare out the window uninterrupted. Here is a collection of ideas from parents to parents on ways to keep your kids engaged so you can have some peace and quiet.

Some tips before we get to the list:

  1. Be okay with a mess.

  2. If you aren’t okay with mess, set up activities outside. The activities listed below have been assigned a MESSINESS scale (1 = no mess, 5 = cataclysmic mess).

  3. Make sure items that the kids will play with are safe and that you are confident they can handle independently – if your kid can’t handle a screwdriver without stabbing something or someone… don’t let them use a screwdriver.

  4. Prep them: “This is something you get to do all on your own – there is no right or wrong way to do it. Just have fun.”

  5. Set a timer and explain that you will check in on them once the timer goes off.


Blanket Fort (3.5 on the messiness scale)

Give your kids the supplies they need to make a blanket fort: blankets, pillows, cardboard boxes. Instruct them to use the chairs, couch, tables, and other furniture to build a fort. Depending on the age of your child, you may need to assist them with fort construction, but once it is built they will be content to sit in the fort for quite a while especially if they bring toys and books inside.

If a fort is just too messy, purchase a simple, small pop up tent that can be used indoor or outside.

Makerspace (2 on the messiness scale)

See what your kids can create using a collection of recycled materials like toilet paper or paper towel rolls, empty plastic bottles, lids, egg cartons, pipe cleaners, and tape. There are many things that can be added to this list that you have at home.

Tape will be everywhere, but as long as you don’t include paint or markers in the makerspace the mess won’t be too bad.

Scavenger Hunt (1 on the messiness scale)

Provide your kid a list of things to find either inside or outside. There are free printables on the internet that fit the age and stage of your kid. IF your child is not reading yet – then print out a list with pictures. If they are reading, then print a list with words. Don’t have a printer? Simply tell your child the list of 3-5 items that they need to find or create the list yourself using scratch paper.

Homemade Playdough or Silly Putty (4 on the messiness scale)

There are simple recipes all over the internet for playdough and silly putty. There is a strong chance that playdough may end up in the carpet. To reduce the chances of unfortunate silly putty disasters, join the kids. You will be surprised at how therapeutic and relaxing playing with playdough can be.

Take it Apart! (3-4 on the messiness scale)

If you have old, small appliances lying around in the garage, bring them out, provide a screwdriver or other small tools and let your kids take them apart. Make sure you remove plugs and that there are no sharp bits or glass on the items they will be taking apart. See tip number 3.

Arts and Crafts (5 on the messiness scale)

Fill a box with paper plates, construction paper, magazines, crayons, colored pencils, paints, safety scissors, glue sticks and let your kid’s inner artist shine! If you feel like living on the edge – throw some glitter in there. The mess may be cataclysmic but it may give you a chance to read more than one page of that novel that has been sitting on your nightstand for the last year.

Painting with mud (5 on the messiness scale)

Send the kids outside with a bucket of mud and have them paint the fence or the patio with mud. Then let them bring out the hose to clean it up.

Everyone is an author! (1 on the messiness scale)

Staple some paper together and encourage your child to write a story. Depending on their age, this might mean they are drawing squiggles or pictures. Have them “read” the story to you when they are done.

Make chores fun! (1 on the messiness scale)

Let your kid do the dishes, sweep the floor, organize the pantry, but make it fun! Turn on music, provide small rewards, or turn it in to a game.


Containers! (2 on the messiness scale)

Save your oatmeal container and cut a lid in the top, then provide pom poms, cards, balls, etc and demonstrate putting the item into the container through the hole. Adapt this to whatever you have at home.

Sensory bins (5 on the messiness scale)

Place cooked or dry noodles, rice, shaving cream, etc in a shallow container and let them experience new textures. You can add cups, funnels, spoons to the container to keep it even more engaging.


Do you have some tried and true activities that you want to add to this list? Share them on the Welcome Baby Facebook page!

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