It has been 2 years since I wrote the original Keeping Little Ones Busy post (you can read HERE) where I shared different ideas to keep my then 3 year old and 1 year old busy while we did our school lessons.
Even though it has been 2 years, here I am again with another 2.5 yr old and 3 month old baby. 😆 This time we are working through 1st grade and Kindergarten, while trying to keep my little ones occupied.
Over the years I have come up with even more ideas to entertain them. And now having 4 kids they need to be quick to put together and not create the biggest mess.
Here are 10 simple and quick activities you can put together using items you might already have on hand. If there are any items you need to purchase, I get EVERYTHING from my local dollar store! 🙌🏼 (Make sure your child is mature/old enough to do some of these activities as many do contain small parts/pieces.)
1. Macaroni sensory bin: I LOVE sensory bins (as do my kids,) but I do not love the mess after. Using large macaroni or pasta is way easier to clean up rather than rice or beans. Add empty toilet paper tubes, spoons, measuring cups, etc. for them to scoop and play with. This keeps my son entertained for a long time. 👏🏻
2. Plastic cups: Pull out a stack of plastic cups. They will stack them, build with them, put toys in them, etc. It amazes me how much my kids imaginations soar when I give them some plastic cups to play with. If they need a little guidance, you can also hide puzzle pieces under or inside each cup for them to find and put on the puzzle. (Makes old puzzles exciting again!)
3. Pom Poms: I have a bin of large pom pom balls and an old Gerber Puff’s snack container that he puts them in. He will sit and play with these pom poms for a while putting them in and out. You can use any container or plastics cups as well as add some small tongs (also from the dollar store) to work on some fine motor skills with grabbing.
4. Toothpicks: A bin full of colorful toothpicks and a parmesan cheese shaker to stick them in makes for a great activity that keeps them busy. Also great fine motor practice!
5. Save the animals: Tape a bunch of small toys or animals to the table with masking tape. Have them work to peel the tape off and “rescue” the animals. You can also add a bunch of rubber bands to larger animals and toys, having them work at getting them off to “rescue” the animals. This is my 2 year olds favorite activity!
6. Color matching: If you have an abundance of hot wheels cars, trains, magna tiles, or other toys like my kids this is a great one to keep them busy. On a large piece of paper or poster board color in large squares with different colors. Have them line up and match all the toys of the same color to see what color “wins.”
7. Popsicle sticks: Grab an empty egg carton and add colored dot stickers to the bottom (or color them with a marker,) and cut a small slit. Using colored popsicle sticks have them match the colors by sticking the popsicle stick into the slit. They can also use the popsicle sticks to drop down into a large container similar to the toothpick activity.
8. Beads: Let your child thread beads onto pipe cleaners. For more advanced/older kids you can create simple pattern cards with markers for them to copy and create using the beads and pipe cleaners. Great fine motor activity!
9. Dry erase sleeve: Stick a plain sheet of paper or a page from a coloring book inside a dry erase sleeve. Give them dry erase markers and an eraser or cloth to color and wipe off over and over. You can find a pack of dry erase pouches HERE.
10. Tape toy parade: Stick large painters tape/ or masking tape on the ground in different lines. Have them line up animals, blocks, Legos, or small toys for a “parade.”
My biggest tip is to only pull out these activities when you need to keep them busy, like when we are ready to do our school lessons. They will stay busy longer when it is a new, fresh activity just for them.
You can pick one or two of these ideas per week and then rotate them with others to always have easy activities at hand. I also give one of my older kids the task to play with the little ones when it is not their turn for lessons with mom. It has been amazing to watch how they care and nurture the younger ones, as well as try to teach them new things.
I hope these are helpful for you and your family! If you have other great ideas, please drop them in the comments below!