Keeping Little Ones Entertained

— Written By Christa Gibson
en Español

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It’s been a rainy week- no fun in normal times, but even harder when we are all staying in place. One of the amazing moms in our virtual parent learning group shared with me that she had a ‘flashlight party’ with her kids yesterday. They made a little fort and got out flashlights. Simple- but endlessly entertaining for her little ones!
As such, we thought it was an appropriate time to share some tips for keeping little ones independently engaged. We hope that these are helpful to you!

Getting Started

Before you set your child up with an activity, make sure that there aren’t any impediments to success. Check to make sure that your little one isn’t hungry or tired and that they’ve had enough physical activity. By taking care of these things before you set them up for independent play, you’ll be much more successful.

Break Up the Day

Instead of looking at each day as a big, huge chunk of time, break up the day and look at it in smaller time chunks.

Help Your Child with ‘Time Management’

Try setting a timer for how long your little one should try a given activity without a grown-up. The time increments should vary based on the youngsters’ age- with shorter independent playtime periods for younger children.

Sample Activities

  1. Create a game box. Fill a box with things like coloring books or easy puzzles that your child can play with independently. When you need to keep your little ones busy, give them the box. The more you give them the box, the more they’ll accept “game box time” as part of their routine.
  2. Have them make their own cartoon. Give them a piece of paper and some crayons, and ask them to draw you a hero and a bad guy. When they’re done, let them come back and tell you their story.
  3. Chores! Let your little one help you with simple tasks when you are cooking or cleaning around the house. Again, the complexity of the task will vary based on the child’s age.
  4. Give them an important task. Give your child a task, and make it a really big deal. If they think it’s an important job, they won’t complain about working on it independently.
  5. Create an idea box. Let your child help you think of ways that he/she/they can keep boredom away. Write down their suggestions, and put them in an empty box. The next time they are bored, have them pick out one of their own suggestions.
  6. Offer creative toys. Toys like Legos, puzzles, or Play-Dough let children create and stay engaged independently.
  7. Design a treasure hunt. Hide something like a coin or a sticker somewhere in the house. Give your kids a clue, and let them run wild trying to find it. If you make it a bit tricky to find, you’ll build up their resilience and their ability to find things without begging for your help.
  8. Encourage outdoor play. Don’t forget how your parents kept you busy. Just give your child a ball and a stick, and let them run wild. If you’re worried about their safety, just keep them in sight.
  9. Give them a box: Make use of the deliveries we’re getting these days. Give the cardboard box to your children to design and play in.
  10. Lock it up! Next time you’re at the dollar store pick up 4-5 lock and key sets. Give your child the locks and keys and try to get all the locks unlocked. For more of a challenge, give them a time limit or have them do it blind-folded.

Other Resources

*Real Simple magazine has a great article with ideas that are fun for kids!
*Hands-on As We Grow also has many great ideas for kids!