Things to do at home to keep the kids busy
This is our second blog filled with things to do at home - the first one you can find here - and this one is overflowing with suggestions, links, ideas and inspiration!
This is a great option for kids of all ages and you can be so flexible based around things you already have at home and cater to the child's interests.
For preschoolers a great 'go to' is just a tub filled with some form of sensory material like rice, coconut or lentils (anything food based and dry is ideal and that will be easy to vacuum up if the kids make a mess and also non toxic and not a choking hazard) and add a few cups, funnels, scoops and sit back and relax while they scoop, pour, measure, tip and rummage their hands in the tub. (pic source busytoddler.com). Step it up by 'hiding' a bunch of small plastic animals and send them on a mission to find them all. These Wild Republic animal sets are great value to add to sensory play of all kinds. For older kids sensory play can mean all sorts of things! Bi-Carb soda on a tray with droppers and coloured vinegar in ice cube trays is awesome - just be sure to supervise. A great one if you want the hassle taken care of for you is our Sensory Sand kits - available in two sizes here and are a ready made all in one solution!
A skill that some kids develop earlier than others is playing independently, and while it's certainly something that just happens more and more as they get older there are ways to gradually increase the time your kids will spend on an activity alone. Our best outcomes have been when there is a clear intention or activity and not just a general 'go and play'. So you might find you spend time setting up activities throughout the day or getting things ready but this is all part of the children developing their own skills.
A great starting point is an activity with a clear purpose. For pre-schoolers things like stacking and sorting games, puzzles and threading & lacing all work really well. Give them clear instructions and leave them to it. No doubt that they will rush back and want to show you something, ask a question or wonder where you went, but over time and with redirection back to the activity to do the next thing, another thing or a different thing - will reinforce that they actually can play alone. This stacking game is a great one to start with as are any threading and lacing activities.
Puzzles are another one that are perfect for any age. The older the child the better able they will be to complete it without guidance or help and if you really want that little break then make sure you pick one they can do without help no matter the age, rather than making it a challenge. We often encourage challenge puzzles as its better value for money long term but there's also a place for 'quick and easy' achievable puzzles which allow you and them that solo time. Check out our kids puzzles here and the collection includes everything from 2 piece wooden puzzles, floor puzzles like the world one shown here, peg puzzles and right up to puzzles for 9 year olds.
Single Player Games are another way to encourage the kids to work things out themselves and Smart Games are very good at making games for as young as three year olds, in themes that are appealing and age appropriate and right up to adult brain teaser challenge games. The important part is to initially sit with them and show them the game, explain the process, the rules and how to work through each level - the kids pick it up pretty quick but often skip to the 'play' before actually understanding how to which can lead to frustration just like trying to put Ikea furniture together without looking at the instructions!!
Art & Craft
Art, making, building, creating are all great ones to have in your back pocket but it's good to think ahead and plan for it as they can often be messy either in terms of things like paint or just mess and clutter!
We've found over the years that half the fun is actually making the mess, so for younger kids embrace the mess, consider it part of the activity and just be ready for clean up at the end. Half the fun with my kids was washing the paint off their bodies in the bath tub and watching the bath water change colours!! Start keeping old sheets to lay on the floor under messy activities, cardboard boxes for box creations and get a stash of paper or card that can readily be created upon and turned into cards and gifts for relatives.
Our biggest successes were things that had multiple times you could use them in creative ways. So we'd bring out some boxes for stacking, using as car garages or doll beds and that would get you one round of play. Next time grab the paints out and paint them. Next up use a marker and draw detail on them like eyes and faces or doors and windows and make a play world. Then lastly use them for a vigorous activity of ripping, stomping, throwing and destroying and then into the recycle bin once they are well and truly done.
Playdough is always a winner, if you are time poor we have some Australian made playdough here and we love that you can add small animals, gems, rollers and tools to add to the experience. One thing that we love is getting a book and making things that match the theme or illustrations in the book.
Two related things we adore is using chalk outside (mostly as the rain or a hose just washes it away!) and also doing full body drawings. So this time round we combined the two, the kids drew whatever they wanted, I drew obstacle courses to follow with the chalk, and I loved tracing the outline of their body and then they fill in, decorate and illustrate their own bodies. Some times they end up as butterflies or animals, other times with purple hair and pirate boots - so much fun and imagination and time spent outdoors. (pic source two clever mums)
Games deserve a blog of their own, so stay tuned for that one, but in the meantime check out our blog on our Single Player Games here that I mentioned earlier and Co-Operative Games here and I'll publish a full Game Time blog soon.
Lego is a great resource for kids who are at home. You just need to tap into what it is about Lego that they love and focus on that. If you are new to Lego, figure out what your kids like doing already and find a way to incorporate Lego into that to start with.
For little ones Duplo is the first step, and we suggest you start off with plain Duplo bricks and a few animals or accessories. Then build into whatever they love from there.
For older kids it's always good to focus on a theme they like, but our biggest suggestion for keeping them engaged is setting them Lego challenges. Lego are great at this on their social media channels or you can make up your own.
Hope this gives you some new ideas to try.
thanks for reading!