Are you looking to keep your toddlers and kids busy at home while you work from home– or just need a few minutes to yourself to just get crap done.
Here’s a big list of things you can do with your toddlers to keep them busy indoors without tv or screens that will keep their attention on toys, activities, and fun instead of you!
Here’s how to keep your toddlers busy at home while you get crap done with so many fun kid activities!
Big ‘Ol Box
A box is so many things and can keep toddlers and kids busy forever!
Yep. What toddler can resist a gigantic box?
Just grab markers, crayons, scissors, construction paper, glue, or nothing at all, and see what amazing things can come out of a box.
That’s it, easy right?
My kids love boxes of all shapes and sizes for creative play and self-play! I don’t have to get involved at all with box play!
If you have a young toddler, you can just throw them in the box too with crayons or whatever, so they won’t escape!
Just save those diaper boxes and random boxes for days you really need a break!
Big Paper Roll and Markers
There’s nothing like laying a huge roll of canvas paper on the floor with markers, crayons, etc. to invite creativity.
I got a big paper roll at IKEA for cheap, but you can score a long paper roll at Michael’s or even Amazon if you are looking for it at your doorstep.
I also sometimes will save the big brown paper from our packages and will have my kids’ color on that as well and it can always double as wrapping paper for gift wrap as well!
You can also just do big poster boards with crayons and/or markers as well, but the big paper rolls definitely last the longest and you can just roll it up for another day!
Prepared craft kits are great when you need to get crap done.
Just lay the prepared craft down and let the kids get to work!
I love Alex Toys craft kits, especially the big busy box! There are a few different crafts, and a lot of them are individually packaged, so you can just pull one out for your kids! Some are super simple too, and perfect for toddlers!
You can also find prepared craft kits for kids at Michaels and other art stores! If you go a few days before a holiday or a couple of days after, you can usually find great deals on craft kits at Michaels as well! I usually try to scoop them up on clearance!
You can also make your own craft kits when you have time and then stash them away for a rainy day.
My kids usually do better with crafts when they have a kit and have some direction (and it’s less messy usually) than just free-flowing the art projects, but everyone is different.
Magnetic Tiles are hands down my (and my kids, of course) favorite toy!
If I could pick just one toy for my kids, this would be it!
They play with them every day, and usually for a while too! There’s so much to do with them– and engage both my 2.5 and 5-year-old!
Magna tiles can get a little pricey, we actually don’t have any of the original brands, but we do have a few knocks that work just as well!
We have Picasso tiles and PlayMags and another random brand. I like the PlayMags a tad better if they are the same price, but Picasso tiles and other brands are fine too! The different brands also work fine together, I think as long as they look like they will work together, they will.
Note: I did try to get another set to add to my collection and totally didn’t pay attention and got a “mini” tile. The picture made it look like the real size, but they were tiny, so just double-check to make sure you don’t make my mistake!
Magnetic tiles are definitely my favorite toy and perfect for days that I’m exhausted and need to get things done because they get hours of play with them!
Playdough is one of those activities that I always pull out when I need an extra few minutes to cook dinner, wash dinner, or just need a minute of quietness.
I usually opt for the easy option of store-bought play dough with some tools to go with it, however, you can also make play dough too.
I’ve had a few Pinterest fails when it came to homemade playdough, but I know many people make it with no problems! Even better, you get an activity making it and then an activity with playing with it!
I just hope you have a little more luck with finding a great homemade playdough recipe– mine always comes out too sticky and messy! (I’ll link when I find a good one though!)
Playdough is such a fun and easy activity for indoor play. Make sure to tuck it away and use it on days you really need it to make playdough more fun.
Depending on the age, you may want to consider marshmallow building! Throw some marshmallows down with toothpicks (if they can handle it) or spaghetti pieces, and have them get to work!
You may need to build a square or something to get their creative juices flowing, but my kids loved the freedom to build and play with food. They would also eat while they played, which kept them extra busy!
I love laying this activity out on the dining room table when I need to work on the computer next to them or while I’m cooking dinner!
You can find more about marshmallow building from my another post by me here.
Busy Boxes is the only thing on the list I don’t do super frequently. I’m just too lazy to prepare busy boxes and I’m just not that creative. Plus, my kids just don’t keep activities for too long, plus adding sand and rice can sometimes get messy in my house.
However, you can throw whatever in a box and hand it out and the idea is that they keep busy with whatever toys or activities are in the box.
I will sometimes take a clear tub and collect all the “crap” we get from birthday parties, kid events, Halloween, etc. and then give that to them instead of just tossing it all in the trash. Sometimes the small toys can keep them busy for a minute, and then when there’s a huge collection of them, it makes it a little bit more interesting.
There are so many things you can do with busy boxes to keep it interesting.
There are now more store-bought Busy Boxes too so you can always buy a busy box as well if you don’t feel like making anything.
Forts are a great way to keep kids busy because they may not want to leave their fort when it’s built. Word to the wise though, make that fort a steady thing or you will be constantly be rebuilding.
You can also place a tent indoors and let them play in it, or even just throw a few blankets over the crib and let them play.
I think sometimes it’s the novelty of the fort and tent, and the construction style. You can always change it up to make it somewhat new and fun too.
I *sometimes* removed the cushions from the couch to make it more fun and keep their attention longer. Gasp!
Silly Bath Tub Play
I am doing this currently as I write this post! My boys (2.5 and 5) are in a bath with LOTS of bubbles, their legos, and with their stuffed animals too! I’m just sitting here on the floor next to them as they have fun!
My kids love taking a daytime bath because it’s just so silly and I will add toys in there to keep their attention longer!
You can just do bubbles, legos, toys, or really whatever you want. You can even do a bath without even adding water– just toys!
I like to add toys because they clean they also get clean in the water and it’s nice to get all those germs off everything!
Also, you save yourself from doing bathtime later on in the day!
Spark Sink/Water Play
My son could stand in front of the sink forever and play with the water!
So just grab a tub and fill with water– it’s even better when it’s nice out so you can do this activity outside!
We also love the Spark Kitchen Sink because it has a REAL WORKING FAUCET.
Just be forewarned though, it doesn’t last terribly long. The pump actually lasted longer for us than others, but it won’t last forever. I think it lasted around a year for us, with on and off play. But I do know someone who’s pump broke within a few days of play.
The sink will also randomly start working again for a few minutes after not working for months, and then die again.
But for $20, you should get your money back pretty quickly in babysitting money.
My son played with this FOR HOURS.
Just make sure to put a big towel underneath it, as it gets a little wet and messy, but not terribly so. Or just bring it outside if it’s nice out.
The Spark Kitchen Sink is a Walmart exclusive I believe, but you can find it on sites like Amazon too, but you will be paying more than retail for it. There are also other brands that also have a real working faucet as well, I just didn’t buy those brands of sink in my house and I think Spark was the first to introduce it.
You can find a knock-off version at Burlington Coat Factory, T.J. Maxx, etc. call Just Like Home Kitchen Sink and it’s a similar price, if you can’t find the spark one or would rather shop in stores.
Water Play is always a hit in our house and I don’t really engage much, just watch!
Those Apple Pouches are great. They are quick, healthy, and great in a pinch. They are great for on-the-go and in a rush as they don’t take too much at all!
I love the apple pouch but sometimes we need the exact opposite. The all-time-consuming snack.
The snack that takes forever. The snack that will entertain your kids for awhile. The kind of snack that keeps them busy so you have a break.
I like to do long snacks that can also be an activity.
For Example: Crackers + Peanut Butter + Do It Yourself.
I give my kids a (safe) butter knife, crackers, and peanut butter and they love making peanut butter sandwiches. They are also learning motor skills as they are buttering the crackers themselves.
It’s not terribly messy either– a little messy, but manageable.
They keep themselves busy + I’m getting work done.
There’s a lot of other long, time-consuming snacks too, so it doesn’t just have to be peanut butter crackers or crackers and cheese!
The Novelty Activity
All Hail The Novelty. You know that item that super random item that will keep your kid busy forever for that moment in time and then they will never see or play with it again.
The novelty item is just a great way to keep a kid busy when you are exhausted or really sick.
Some you would never even give your kids on a regular basis but you are exhausted for some peace in quiet. A novelty item is great for this.
Not all novelty items are not the same and may work again, and some will just never work for your children, because all kids are different.
Here are a few “novelty items” that worked for my kids:
- Bubble Wrap
- Spin Tops (Grampy usually brings one to restaurants & keeps them busy)
- Light or Glow Sticks (be careful if you have a biter)
- Contact Case (just be careful with this one since it’s so small)
- Tupperware with lots of covers and lids
- Ice Cream Scoop, Pans, Rolling Pin, etc.
- Whisk (you can put pom poms in it for more curiosity)
- Spray Bottle
- Window Clings
- The Big Toy Book (I grabbed a few a Target at Christmas time to bring out
Let me know what your favorite novelty items are and have worked well for you– I need more!
Make a scavenger hunt for your kids! It can be a formal one or a casual one! (I usually do causal ones and just hide stuff!)
I sometimes will just hide legos all over the living room for the kids to find all the parts. Super easy and it keeps them busy.
If you want to get fancy, you can make list (with words or pictures) for your kids to find certain items listed.
You can find a lot of scavenger hunt ideas here if you’re looking for something organized.
If you’re looking for something quick and easy, just hid pennies (depending on age) all over your house. That’ll keep your kids busy for a few if they are little!
Something about ice cubes make them really fun!
Sometimes all you need is ice cubes, a tray and a silly tool to pick them up with.
One time I tried to “paint ice cubes” that I found on Pinterest where you take paint, a paintbrush and ice cubes and my 4-year-old was not impressed. “Mom, THIS is the activity”.
So, make sure the ice cube activity is age appropriate and fun!
However, I find that just taking out ice cubes are fun and easy! I usually do it outside on the deck when I can!
I will also freeze their small toys like dinosaurs and have them dig them out of the ice! Depending on the tools you provide, it can keep them busy for a long time!
Play then Walk Away
“Engage, Play, then Walk Away!”
Start an activity, show them how it works and play with them for a few minutes. When they are totally engaged, walk away!
Chances are they are still going to play! I find this works well with my kids, because I have two and they continue to play with each other instead of me.
I do this a lot with magnetic tiles and other building toys, I’ll start the frame and they will just take it from there!
A great way to play with my kids, but also a chance to get some things done because they continue to self play!
My kids no longer take naps, so I don’t get that blissful afternoon break. I use to do quiet times, but truthfully, we don’t do it anymore.
I used to put them down for a nap like they were actually going to sleep, and they would sit up in their cribs and play with their toys for an hour or so… once in a lucky moon they would fall asleep.
But quiet time can just be placing them in their beds, or putting them in a quiet place with books or quiet activities.
You both need a break, and quiet time is a great afternoon break for you both to recoup.
FaceTime with Grandparents or Friends
Can’t take advantage of in-person babysitting? When I feel completely done for the day or need to get stuff done, and my kids have SO much energy, I’ll call or FaceTime my parents or in-laws.
Have the kids talk to grandparents, friends, aunts, uncles, or whoever they love talking too, and have them “watch” them for awhile.
Obviously, you can’t run an errand or anything like a real babysitter, but it’s great just to sit next to them and have them keep busy and bonding with family at the same time.
I love not keeping every single toy out for instant play and instant messes and will rotate toys in my house.
Toy Rotation is just that… keep some toys and bins tucked away, and rotate toys for new ones. I keep big bins in the closet and will just take a bin for a day, and other times I’ll completely rotate the toys in our living room.
The nice thing about toy rotation is that “new” toys will appear. I feel like my kids will play with their toys longer when they haven’t seen them in awhile.
If they always see the same toys, and can access every single toy, they will play less. They get overwhelmed and bored. At least, I feel like that’s the case with my kids.
I like to keep totes in a closet and will take them out and rotate toys or even just pull out a toy or two when I feel like they need something else to keep them busy.
When I’m really tired, I’ll have “an ace” toy tucked away nearby and will bring it out when I need it. It’ll keep them busy, and the toy is “new”. It’s usually building related with my boys because they love to make and build things.
Sorry, but if you need to get things done, screens do the trick. If you want to feel less guilty, PBS has so many great educational shows and your kids will learn while you get a break and/or get your own crap done.
However, there so many different things you can do, so if you don’t have to pull out the screens either!
I find the more I switch things up, the more engaged my kids are! They tend to forget about activities, so rotating them works best for the most engagement and effectiveness!
What are you favorite things to do with the kids when you have to get crap done?
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