If I had to pick one word to describe myself as a parent, it would be “overwhelmed”. When the boredom strikes and the chaos starts – the running around, picking on your siblings, general mischief – my first instinct is to run away and hide. I’m SO not equipped to handle this.
But there’s the voice in my head telling me that I’m the grown-up, that I need to somehow take control of the situation. The voice that propels me to stick around and make an effort. So I ask myself, what would a real grown-up, competent parent do? Shouldn’t I redirect them to something more positive?
“Kids, can’t you just go play with something?”
“But Mo-o-m, we don’t know what to play with!”
“Mmm… Can’t you, like, play with some toys or something?”
Yup, that’s me. My mind drawing a blank. I know there are a gazillion things to do scattered all over the house, because I keep stabbing my toes in them every couple of minutes. But right then, in that stressful moment, I’m too overwhelmed to point to any of them specifically.
And the mayhem continues.
Until now, that is! This past week I FINALLY did what I’ve been thinking about doing for a long time. I compiled a giant list of things for the kids to do. This is a list of activities I can refer to and read off of when I need to come up with things for the kids to do right this second before it all falls apart! And I decided to share the list here in case you too sometimes get overwhelmed and could use my reference list. Or you could use mine as a starting point for your own list. All families and kids are different after all.
For the record, I have three kids – a seven-year-old girl and four-year-old boy-girl twins. I’m including some links in the list for tried and true toys and supplies – things that I feel have been well worth the investment because my kids at least have gotten A LOT of use out of them.*
And here’s the list of 50+ things for kids to do:
ARTS AND CRAFTS
1.Draw with crayons or colored pencils
2.Learn drawing techniques
- My older daughter likes books that teach you how to draw step-by-step, like this one, this one, and this one.
- My four-year-olds are obsessed with Crayola Color Wonder and Water Wow.
- My older daughter loves the Dover coloring books with more detail, like this one and this one.
4.Paint with water colors
5.Make a collage
- My kids like to use their little scissors to cut up pictures from magazines and brochures and glue them on paper.
- They also like to use scissors with different edges to cut shapes from colorful craft paper to make collages.
- I like to order play doh in bulk, but I usually only give the kids a couple of colors at a time, so we don’t end up with all of it going gray at once. 🙂
- Any stickers are fun of course, but we like these reusable sticker pads by Melissa & Doug.
- My older daughter started doing these when she was around 5 and let’s just say we have no shortage of pot holders. 🙂
- Oh, the hours of peace and quiet this set has gifted us!
10. Duplos or legos
12. Wooden logs
- I honestly wasn’t sure if my internet-era kids would be into these, but we got this set, and all three of them have developed into quite the little cabin-builders. Big hit!
14. Blow bubbles
- This is another one I like to order in bulk.
15. Do “yardwork”
- Pick up sticks, collect leaves…
16. Play cowboy
- We have some cowboy hats and stick horses left over from a birthday party and that’s all it takes.
17. Play in the sandbox
18. Play sports
- All you need are some balls.
19. Play tag
20. Play with the water hose in the summer
21. Ride bikes or ride-on toys
- My kids started out with dot-to-dots, letter and number tracing, and the Preschool Scholar series.
- My older one likes the Big Workbook series, starting out with the Kindergarten and First Grade ones.
- You can also find free worksheets online by googling.
23. Alphabet or number learning toys
- My kids have all liked the LeapFrog Leaptop and the LeapFrog Scribble and Write.
- For keeping little hands as well as little brains busy, we like the Alpha-Bots and Number-Bots.
24. Read books
25. Flash cards
- I like the Sight Words and Math In A Flash by Edupress, because they come with a ring, so the cards don’t end up all over the place.
26. Computer games
- Our go-to sites are ABCmouse, ABCya!, and PBS Kids.
27. Balloon party
28. Dance party
29. Exercise videos
30. Run laps
- Does this one sound weird? We actually have a route established for running laps inside the house. It’s the only thing that helps sometimes when they are SO full of energy and it’s already dark outside or the weather is bad. I sit on the couch and count while they run laps. 😀
31. Play games by yourself
- The little ones love Let’s Go Fishin’.
- My seven-year-old plays solitaire and these brain teaser games.
32. Play games with other people
- The first games my kids got into were Memory Match, Candy Land, and Chutes And Ladders.
- My older daughter likes Uno, Battleship, and the Game of Life.
33. Hide and seek
34. Hide the “…”
- One person hides an object (like a stuffed animal) and others take turns looking for the object. The hider says “colder” when the person looking moves away from the object and “warmer” when they get closer.
35. Play dress-up
36. Build a blanket fort
37. Play with baby dolls
38. Play kitchen or restaurant
39. Play doctor
- We have had this little set forever.
40. Play band
- Give your kids this set and put on your noise-cancelling headphones. 😉
41. Play with pretend people
- The Little People series of toys is aimed at toddlers, but my four-year-olds still play with them almost daily and even the seven-year-old sometimes joins in.
42. Play with things that move
43. Play with pretend animals
- My kids are fans of My Little Pony and dinosaurs. The ponies and dinosaurs go on adventures together. 🙂
44. Play with Shopkins
- I sort of hate including Shopkins, because was there ever a weirder toy invented? But one of my four-year-olds will spend hours upon hours playing with these things, so I had to include it.
- My kids fight over who gets to run the vacuum cleaner. I’m enjoying it while it lasts!
- My kids do some arts and crafts independently, but sometimes we do more advanced things that require adult participation. For example, my seven-year-old is really into this sewing kit and needlepointing, but she still needs a little help with those kinds of things.
48. Do yoga or stretch
- Our library offers awesome free classes and activities for kids. But the library is a fun place to go to just to borrow books too.
50. Nature hike
- Sometimes we’ll actually go to a park or nature preserve for a real hike in the woods. But sometimes we just go for a walk around our yard too. (We have a big yard!)
- Again, you can actually go for a picnic somewhere other than home of course, but often we’ll just have afternoon snack or even dinner outside in the backyard and the kids think it’s fun. Anything to break up the daily grind.
- We alternate among a few different nearby ones to keep it more exciting.
53. Read out loud
54. Take a bubble bath
- This is the BEST thing to do at night when the kids are still fired up but you are dead tired. Just sit nearby to make sure nobody gets in trouble and let them splash!
- This one totally would not happen if I was a single parent, but my husband takes the kids in his workshop to do little projects. We have this set of real tools and my older daughter got this for Christmas and loves it.
I intend this to be a working list that I keep adding to as I think of more things. Do you have any suggestions? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll add them to the list! 🙂
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