When to keep your kids entertained:
I need to keep my kids entertained sometimes. There are many activities I want my kids engaged in such as clean-up around the house, ministry opportunities, and making dinner. And then there are activities that I need them to be entertained for such as writing a blog, handling schoolwork, or when we have a bible study in our home. There are also times that I am flat-out tired or in the midst of pregnancy and just need a second to rest. (For ideas on 30 Ways To Announce Pregnancy To Family In Person or Things New Moms Need For Themselves, go here!) So what do I do to keep my kids entertained in the meantime when mama has things to do? First, here’s why we handle entertainment the way we do!
Why keep your kids entertained?
Directed free play is what we’re talking about here. When my kids have “true” free time – I mean absolutely nothing to do, they often get in arguments. This is not what I want to start out dealing with when I need them to be quiet for an hour. So, instead, we do something that we call “directed free time”. They get to choose the activity and play with it. Reputable programs including Harvard and UNICEF have done studies on the benefits of free play. Benefits of free play promote growth such as:
- Intellectual development (content knowledge, critical thinking, creativity, counting, creating patterns, telling stories, etc.)
- Emotional development (learning and practicing self regulation)
- Physical development (dexterity, spacial awareness, pushing physical boundaries such as running or jumping)
- Social development (reenacting social cues they observed throughout the day through the stories they make up in play, learning to work things out with siblings, etc.))
How to keep your kids entertained:
(This post may contain affiliate links and I may earn a small commission when you click on the links with no additional cost to you! So, as an Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This income helps this stay-at-home mama provide for her family!)
I keep my toys organized in buckets. You can see how I handle that here. Each set of toys has its own “home” as we call it, and they must put away that bucket before pulling out another one. This makes it that toys are not accessible at all times and the privilege of getting to play with them is that much more exciting. My kids will happily play with a toy bucket for an hour or so because they don’t get to play with them all the time. So, it’s like a brand new toy each time! Here is a list of toys we keep in buckets as well as our favorites on Amazon!
- Lincoln Logs
- Magnets (New favorite!)
- Figurines (This includes animals, little people, barbies, etc.)
- Doctor set
- Dress up
Puzzles are a fantastic way to keep your kid’s little minds and hands busy. For a while, we used wooden puzzles. Those were great! And then my girls started getting older and it just wasn’t keeping them busy. As a result, we do wooden puzzles for the toddlers and regular puzzles for the bigger kids. However, little pieces get lost, and I have no idea how it happens. I don’t want to continually replace expensive puzzles so I started shopping at Dollar Tree! They have SO many fun puzzles there that are perfect for 4 to 6-year-olds! I bought 15 puzzles a year and a half ago (for $15) and my kids still use them all the time! I’ve only had to replace 2. But, if you don’t have time to hit up the Dollar Tree, (I feel you!) here are some favorites on Amazon!
My kids love art- I also want to encourage them to be creative and artistic. BUT, when I am busy and need them to be entertained this also means I don’t have time for tons of clean up. So, I opt for mess-free art. Our favorite no-clean-up art materials are paint-by-stickers, color wonder, and WikkiStix! My kids have access to coloring stuff on a daily basis so things like color wonder are a super exciting distraction.
Pop up tent:
My kids love forts and could play “house” for hours in them. A few years back we were blessed with a couple of inside tents for our kids and they LOVED them. But, they took like 35 minutes to put together! So they quickly became items for the “when mama has a free day” pile. And that’s when pop-up tents entered our life. Finally, I have a set of 3 tents and 2 tunnels that store in one little bag! It’s magic! Basically, You open the bag and the tents pop open just like that! My kids will play an entire day with these things up! They drag all of their pillows and blankets and make splendid bedrooms fit for a king. And then I fold the tents up and put them away for a few weeks down the road when we need them again.
Also, we don’t do the balls. We just use the tents!
When our oldest biological daughter was 1-years old we were trying to figure out ways to keep her entertained. She wasn’t a baby toy fan and she thought my kitchen bowls were the best thing ever. We decided to get her her own little kitchen set and 5 years later it has been one of our most used and loved toys. We liked the idea of keeping it near the actual kitchen so that they could cook when I cook and that’s where we have kept it! Also, a perk of the IKEA kitchen is that marker, paint, and crayon wipe right off and stickers peel right off!
I know this is kind of a silly one but it deserves to be said. Playing outside is incredibly beneficial to children. My husband and I recognized a few years back that we asked our children to play outside but honestly, there wasn’t much out there. So we decided if we wanted them to spend significant time outside, we should add some things for them to do. First, we added this plane teeter-totter because we thought it was the best thing ever. But next, we added a handful of things to (you got it) a bucket of outdoor things! Bubbles, bug-catching kits, and shovels were a few! My son in particular LOVES to catch bugs, lizards, and frogs but never has anywhere to store them. Last year he caught a tarantula! He keeps them in his little big catching kit for a little bit and then lets them go.
I know, another no-brainer. But, as my kids have gotten a little older I have taken stock of what books we had and I just wasn’t happy with the quality. For example, I wanted high-quality books that were rich with values, life lessons, and Jesus. So, my husband and I started to intentionally buy books for our kids. Books that were filled with interactive activities, full of Jesus, and packed with art. Now my kids will grab a book and swap them out as they read. They genuinely enjoy looking at the pictures and picking out letters to sound out.