New parents are always told that it gets easier. It's a complete and utter lie. It doesn't ever become any easier, it just becomes different. As great as it is to spend as much time as possible with the kids and teaching them about life, every mom needs a couple of minutes to herself during which she won't be bombarded with constant questions and requests.
While my son no longer cries every two hours for a feeding, he now instead throws tantrums when he's bored and requires a constant stream of activities to keep him busy. I love watching his mind grow every day but just like anyone else, I sometimes need a moment to breathe. Have you ever tried to do the dishes with a toddler trying to climb over the back of the couch every time you grab the sponge? It's just about the most frustrating thing in the world.
All activities require supervision but as long as he stays occupied and I can just watch from the sidelines. It's as close to a break as I'll ever get. Today I have some easy activities with little prep involved, and I'm so excited to share them with you. These activities will surely keep your little ones busy, and it's always nice to know they're learning while they play. Anything that doesn't involve a screen is a win if you ask me. Let's take a look at 20 creative ways you can keep your kids busy.
This Scoop and Transfer activity from Busy Toddler is so easy. I actually set variations of this up for my son almost every week, it's that good! He never gets tired of scooping things from ice trays and bowls. If your child is young like mine, you can use pom poms or something other than beans. Either way, it's a perfect hack for those busy days where your little one just won't let you clean. I'm personally grateful for this idea, and I hope it helps you as much as it's helped me! The best part is you probably already have everything you need at a moment's notice.
There are tons of Busy Board ideas out there, but if you're new to it, I just changed your life. Obviously, they require quite a bit more time to make compared to the scoop and transfer activity above, but once you have it made, it's absolutely a game changer. The trick is to not leave it out all the time. If your baby or toddler has access to it all the time, it's not nearly as interesting. Put it up in the closet when it's not in use and only bring it out when their normal toys are boring them, and you'll have one interested kid!
These Frozen Water Beads are perfect for the summer and they'll surely keep your little one busy for at least 30 minutes. I've noticed that water beads start to lose their appeal when you use them too often. When you freeze them, suddenly your kids will be interested in them again! It changes everything about the experience. They have fun not only while they're frozen, but as they're melting as well. They go from hard little beads to squishy balls of fun! As always, a big thank you to Susie from Busy Toddler. She always has the best ideas for kids!
This Alphabet Magnets activity is another super easy way to keep your kids entertained for a while. There's no set up required! Simply grab a handful of magnetic letters and numbers and a cookie pan, and there you go! My son is still way too young to spell things out and even he has a blast with this. He's fascinated by the magnets and different colored letters. Even once it starts to bore him, he finds new ways to play with them. Sometimes he'll experiment and try to understand why other toys don't stick to the surface, and other times he'll resort to banging on the pan. Our cookies might be a little crooked from dents, but it's totally worth the 45 minutes of uninterrupted cleaning.
Mother's Niche came up with these adorable printable play-doh game worksheets. There are several cute ideas, but my favorite is the octopus one shown above. The best thing about this activity is it allows kids to take control and be artistic. It combines fine motor skills with creative play and even color recognition. They can try to match the colors of the animals or make up their own rainbow scenes. It's one of the most unique and simple ideas I've seen in a while, and like all great hacks, it doesn't take time away from what you're doing. Simply pull the sheets and play-doh out of a drawer, and voila! You're good to go!
There's nothing better than an easy sensory bin. This Sensory Bin idea from Slay At Home Mother is the perfect activity for a busy day. And honestly, the crib sheet is a hack within this hack. What a clever way to cut down on the cleanup time! I don't know what it is about dry beans that gets toddlers excited, but they love them. All you have to do is grab a small plastic bin, add some dry beans and some toys, and they'll be busy for a while. The best part is the fact that you can leave everything in the bin and put it away for next time, as opposed to a big sensory table.
This Contact Paper Art is such a cute idea, I can't believe I've never thought of it before! I have almost an entire drawer full of contact paper. I seriously love the stuff. But it never occurred to me to make a play mat for kids to make art on. It's such a clever way to get your kids interested in art. Regular drawing can get boring quick, and the stickiness of the contact paper is just the sensory boost that art time needs. It's especially great for little kids who don't have the fine motor skills for tape and glue yet.
I've actually tried this Taped Toys Activity on several occasions, and it really does work! It's always the simple things that work the best, don't ask me why. I could spend an hour putting together an amazing sensory activity for my son, and all it does is overwhelm him and send him for the hills. Tape some toys to a piece of cardboard or the high chair, and he's all about it! Babies go crazy for it. It's a great way to get them interested in old toys. We all know how quickly they get bored of their toys. Add some tape, and it's like a whole new world!
This hack has been around for a while and I use it myself all the time. These adorable Button Sorting Cups are more well done than the ones I do, but hey, even these don't take much time to make. If you're feeling lazy like I am most days, there are a million different ways you can set this up for your toddler. Give them an empty water bottle and some pom-poms, or an old coffee can with a hole in the top and some pipe cleaners. However you decide to do it, your little one will absolutely love it!
How simple and perfect is this Sticker Line Up activity? I haven't tried this out yet, but I would imagine it only takes about 30 seconds to put together. You simply draw a squiggly line on a long piece of paper and give your kids some colored stickers and they'll spend a while concentrating on following the line. This is something I plan on using as soon as my son is old enough. I need all the no-set-up activities I can get. As nice as it would be to go all out with every activity, let's be real - no one has time for all of that.
Messy Little Monster came up with such an easy idea, I feel silly for not thinking of it myself! She's so clever. Most people have raw pasta noodles and a colander around at all times, so this can easily be set up at a moment's notice. I always have way too much pasta, actually, so if you're like me, it might be a relief to get rid of some of it anyway.
This activity would most likely be suitable for babies from 12 to 24 months, but older toddlers might have fun with it as well, especially if they've never tried it before.
This Card Slot Drop Game is similar to the button sorting cups, except there's only one container. There's so much you can do with this, though, that it definitely deserved its own spot on our list. Younger babies and toddlers will be amused simply by slipping the cards into the slot at the top, while older kids will likely enjoy it if you add some rules. Something as simple as asking them to add all of the cards of one suite at a time, or asking them to only add the "5's". There's so much room for growth with this activity!
This Hair Gel Sensory Play is one of my personal favorites. All you need is some hair gel (bonus points if they're pretty colors like the ones shown above) ziplock bags, and some tape. Taping them to the window allows your baby or toddler to play around with the light. It helps them discover cause and effect, as they realize that the spots they push down on turn lighter. I've actually done this with yogurt when I didn't have any hair gel, and it was still effective! Of course, as with most activities, your supervision is required, but at least your kids will be entertained.
This Animal Rescue Activity is so simple and so fun! Adding a few drops of blue food coloring to some water, and throwing in some sea animal figurines will keep your kids busy for a while. It's not always practical, because after all, you can expect some cleanup. This mama has the right idea with putting a larger container underneath the smaller ones, but even still - we're sure you can expect to wipe up at least a little bit of water. If you have younger babies or toddlers, it might be in your best interest to set this up outside.
Color Sorting games are fun and simple to set up. This mom went all out with purchasing little toys and cups that perfectly match. However, you don't have to do all of that if you're in a pinch. Since most kids toys are so colorful, you probably have everything you need to get this going. If you don't have little colorful cups, you can use any container and just add a few items of each color in individual bins. This will show your toddler or child that certain colors go in certain containers, and they'll take it from there. I do this with my son all the time, and he has a blast!
Powerful Mothering came up with an adorable busy bag idea. If you've never heard of busy bags, I definitely recommend making some when you have the time. These do take some setup, but similar to reusable sensory bins or busy boards, they can be used time and time again, making them worth the extra effort. The idea is that you get a simple activity together, pack it away in a bag, and bring it out when you need an easy fix for your child's boredom. The best practice is to cycle through several busy bags so they stay fresh.
I've seen several variations of Ice Block Treasure Hunting, and they're all equally fun. It's as simple as it looks! You take a tray, fill it with small plastic toys and water, and allow it to freeze for a few hours. Once it's done, you set your kids up outside with some tools and a container and let the fun begin! They love breaking the toys free as it melts and depending on how hot it is outside, it can keep them entertained for a long time. The more toys, the better! This is a great activity for the summertime, and it's worth the time it takes to freeze.
This Rainbow Painted Toast activity is fun and of course, edible! Stacy from Things To Share and Remember recommends using milk with a small amount of food coloring to make the "paint". It's so simple and yet effective. This is perfect for those busy mornings when you need your kids to entertain themselves while you get things done around the house. It combines breakfast and a fun art activity. Is there anything better than art you can eat? What's better is your babies and older kids will all like it, no matter how big the age gap. Those activities are hard to come by!
The pool noodle race track activity reminds me of a hot, fun-filled summer day with family. Cut a pool noodle in half, grab some hot wheels, and your kids will stay entertained for hours. They can experiment with which cars go faster down the track, and adding a kiddie pool at the bottom only adds to the fun. I don't know how this mama made the start sign, but it really adds some pizzazz to the whole thing. This seems more suitable for older kids, but I could see it being fun for their younger siblings with a little direction. When my kids are old enough, I'm definitely going to give this one a try!
The Tiptoe Fairy has some of the cutest activities for kids around. One of my personal favorites of hers is this fizzy sidewalk foam paint. It does require some setup, but it's easy and once it's done, you can sit back while your kids create all kinds of art pieces on your sidewalk or driveway. She mentions that you don't even have to use the bottles if you don't want. Add the ingredients to a ziplock bag and snip a corner if you're low on time or you don't have the bottles readily available. Either way, your kids will have a blast.
References: Busy Toddler, Huffington Post, Modern Homestead Mama, Mothers Niche, Slay At Home Mother, Teaching Mama, Laughing Kids Learn, About Family Crafts, Messy Little Monster, Mostly Under Control, Powerful Mothering, The Inspired Home, Things To Share and Remember, Ramblings From Utopia, and The Tiptoe Fairy.