MY GUIDE TO ENTERTAINING BORED KIDS!
Living in Canada, aka the land of snow and cold for almost half the year, means I’ve gotten pretty good at finding ways to amuse kids of varying ages. I like to thank all the years I spent working as a camp counsellor for it. This past week we ended up quarantined for the entire week with three kids that were going through Hand Foot Mouth disease plus colds while I suffered a horrible cold. My poor husband! While screen time is a pretty obvious answer when your kids need something to do even television and movies can become boring and overused.
So here’s a long list of ways you can beat boredom and manage entertaining kids when you’re out of ideas!
ARTS AND CRAFTS
I get it. Arts and Crafts are a daunting thought with the set up and clean up. However arts and crafts are awesome for your kids! They’re a great way to kill a block of time, most age groups can help you with set up and clean up and you’re helping them practice skills they’ll continue to use. I’m also biased because I’m a very crafty person. Remember: it’s not about how perfect it looks when you’re done it’s about the fun you have making it!
MESS FREE PAINTING
Mess free painting it awesome. All you need is a ziplock bag, paint and then something inside, like a canvas!
I’ve tried this before with printer paper (like you see in the photo) however it’s too thin and tends to rip when you try to remove it. I’d say use minimal amounts of paint in the bag if you’re going to use printer paper.
What else can you use?
- Wooden plaques
- Paper plates
- Cardboard box pieces
- Picture Frame Matting
- Wooden letters
With the youngest ones I do it finger painting style and they explore moving the paint around the bag with their hands and fingers. For the older ones I’ve added different objects to try and move the paint such as paint brushes and small kitchen utensils. Just keep in mind that anything too sharp will pierce the bag!
When you’re all done, turn the ziplock bags inside to wash, dry and reuse the next time.
DOLLARAMA CRAFT KITS
I learned to love the premade Dollarama kits when I was home with two newborn twins and had a toddler to occupy at the same time. While I like to keep things low waste as much as I can I also know that sometimes you just need to survive! The art supplies aisle will always stock craft kits but the seasonal aisle is good to check for really fun themed ones.
One think I love is how the craft kits can cover different age groups. Our toddler was about two and a half when the twins first came home and she was able to figure out the foam stickers on her own.
Seriously, this kid spent hours sticking halloween foam stickers onto halloween foam templates.
They do make kits that would be great for older ones too. You can find kits that involve painting ceramic figures, or foam houses that need to be built and then decorated.
I found some awesome ones in the regular craft aisle recently. I ended up grabbing a kit that teaches them how to hand sew while making hand puppets!
Aside from themed kits, your local dollar store is a great way to stock up on craft items in general. They sell craft packs that contain pipe cleaners, pompoms, googly eyes, foam stickers… Everything you need to get your crafty imagination rolling.
Don’t have a dollar store near you and/or prefer to shop online? Check out my amazon list of crafting essentials h e r e !
At first I thought this was a silly one to add. Then I thought about how much time my kids spend being amused by the puppets we own and thought eh, why not!
I think the main reason I always gravitate towards making puppets when I’m working with kids is their lifespan mixed with how easy they are to throw together.
The easier puppet to make is a paper bag puppet. Grab a paper bag, scrounge up some crafting supplies and you’re good to make whatever the heck you want. So then I started thinking of what else hangs around the house you could turn into a puppet and, well:
- A sock who’s lost it’s partner
- Paper plates leftover from a party
- A cleaned out Starbucks cup
- cardboard from the recycling bin
- A glove who lost it’s partner
Making a puppet can be a great way to teach body parts like eyes, mouth, arms and legs. If making both people and animals, it can be an activity where you learn what body parts animals and humans share, and what differences they have. When all complete a puppet becomes an amazing tool for imagination.
Have multiple kids?
Make it a fun activity where they each have to recreate a family member in puppet form – don’t be shy, join in too!
Have an older crowd at home? You can still make puppets.
This can be a quiet activity to learn how to use a glue gun safely or how to hand sew.
More Arts and Crafts Ideas:
- Papier Mache
- Easy sewing projects
- Paper chain animals
- Marble painting
- Paint a ceramic figure
- Paint self portraits
- Popsicle stick house
- Toilet paper roll animals
- DIY Puzzles
- Pinecone bird feeders
- Paint wooden name letters (Dollarama, Walmart and Michaels are all options to find them!)
- Paint a puzzle (Deserres sells blank ones, or you could DIY your own using cardboard boxes!)
- Paint a wooden birdhouse, frame or another fun item found from the craft aisle
- Pipe cleaner finger puppets
The time of day every parent looks forward to. The hardest part of quiet time in our house is getting the toddlers to stay on the quieter side while the younger ones nap. Even if there are no nappers in your house, I think a little quiet time is good for humans of every single age. So here’s some ideas to help enjoy it!
PHOTOS BY CREATIONS BEHIND THE LENS PHOTOGRAPHY
AND OPEN PLAY
I’m a huge fan of this category. In a world where we love screen time I fit in as much imaginative and open play as I can. In our house this category is also frequently independent play! If you can join in I highly suggest it. I believe imaginative and open play is just as good for an adult as it is a child’s (but don’t quote me on that).
Some of my favourite toys in this category are:
- Wooden blocks
- Classroom blocks
- Train tracks and trains
- Roadway pieces
- Toy cars
They’re my favourites for a few reasons.
First, they’re so versatile. The opportunity to play with them and endless and I still get excited to pull out the train tracks and make a new set up.
Second, you can mix and match them. You can have the road pieces in and around your train tracks. Then, build your towns with your wooden blocks!
Third, they’re reliable. Wooden toys like train tracks and blocks are (usually) made to last. You can start a collection at birth if you wanted to and slowly add to it as they grow. They’re also easy to find second hand!
Next in this category for me might sound silly, but hear me out:
Cardboard boxes and toilet paper tubes.
Some of the most underrated materials that many of us toss out every week! What can you make with cardboard? Almost anything you want!
- Build a castle
- Build a dollhouse
- Build a small treehouse
- Build a space ship
- Build a car
- Build a car wash
- Build a pirate ship
- Build a robot
The list goes on and on and on!
MORE PLAY IDEAS:
- Become super heroes
- Become princesses
- Become doctors
- Become veterinarians
- Become pirates
- Build a fort
- Play Dress-up
- Celebrate a teddy bear’s birthday
- Create a treasure hunt
- Host a teddy bear picnic
- Host a teddy bear tea party
- Play with a play kitchen and food
Your bathtub does not need to only be for bath time! There’s no rule that says you can’t toss those kids into a bath in the middle of the day for some fun. Also – don’t be afraid to join the fun yourself.
The bathtub is also a great place to do activities – especially messy ones that have a cleanup afterwards! Some ideas are:
- Ice cube surprise (freeze small objects into ice cubes and let them melt in the bath)
- Bath Slime
- Coloured yogurt finger painting
- Water sponge fights
- Shaving cream ‘painting’
- Blow bubbles
Being a parent with time to fill has made me very thankful for all the years I worked as a camp counsellor. Turns out kids can have just as much fun singing camp songs and playing games at home as they do in the summer time. Here’s some easy games you can play at home:
1 2 3 GO!
This is a game I play at least once a week. It’s simple: the kids stand at one end of the room, I count ‘3 2 1 GO!’ and on go, they run to the other side of the room.
It can last up to an hour. I wish I was kidding.
Bean Bag toss
If you don’t have the materials for a ‘real’ bean bag toss, you can cut holes into a cardboard box and throw rolled up socks!
Don’t have a kids bowling set at home? Use empty water bottles and a ball!
If you’re doing charades with toddlers, make it animal charades.
Couch Cushion Sliding
Sure, maybe I sound brave for suggesting cough cushion sliding. But where’s the fun in not suggesting something a little wild? I have fond memories of running and sliding on cough cushions. See also: turning the stairs into a slide.
(Make sure nothing valuable is around, and make sure your stairs are safe. Oh, and supervise of course)
Am I the only one who was super into cup stacking in elementary school? My brother was even on television for it! On a less serious note, take turns seeing who can make the biggest cup pyramid. Note: use plastic cups, of course.
Duck Duck goose
Hide and Seek (or Peek a Boo)
Puzzle Piece Hide and Seek
You know what my favourite part of this game is? You get to sit down and drink your hot coffee while they hunt. Pull out some board puzzles (like this Melissa and Doug Peg Puzzle), hide the chunky pieces around the playroom when they’re not looking and then let them hunt around the playroom to complete the puzzles! Repeat until they get bored (or your coffee is finished).
Red Light Green Light
Green light you can move. Red light you need to freeze where you are!
Stuffed Animal Hide and Seek
Very similar to the puzzle piece hide and seek. Collect an assortment of stuffed animals and take a photo of them on your phone. After hiding the stuffed animals, show them the photo and then let them go find where they’re hidden!
The Floor is Lava
Wander around the room. When you yell ‘the floor is lava!’ everyone needs to immediately climb onto something other than the floor!
Nothing beats the great outdoors! Heading outside for some fresh air is on our schedule every single day, weather permitting. Easy outdoor activities include:
- Go for a walk
- Hike the trails
- Hop Scotch
- Look for bugs
- Ride bikes
- Ride scooters
Outside of the usual activities, we also enjoy:
- Fence “painting”. Instead of paint, we use water and paintbrushes! Less fun in the winter, but an awesome one in the summer.
- Playing in a mud kitchen. There are a ton of varieties on how to do a mud kitchen. For a low-key mud kitchen, I would bring some bowls and kitchen utensils outside to play in the mud, dirt, rocks, grass, snow, leaves…
- Sand Toys and water table all year round! They work just as great with snow and mud as they do water.
Last but not least, try a Nature Scavenger Hunt!
Early Childhood Fun 101 put out this fun printable last fall and it’s been so much fun to use.
You don’t always need a printable though. Make a quick list ahead of time of items you know you’re likely to see and take it out with you!
MAKE CHORES A GAME
Nope, I’m not kidding. I’m 100% serious. One thing I’ve learned but continue to forget as a parent is how fun my four year old finds doing daily chores.
I think part of it comes from not forcing chores as a punishment and not complaining about them myself.
My kids watch me perform our chores on a daily basis and I always invite them to join in!
Sometimes it means saying yes to weird rules. Example: my toddler is currently obsessed with being the one to vacuum every morning but ONLY if she’s wearing her Banz Earmuffs.
My four year olds favourite chores include:
- Vacuuming the main floor of the house
- Helping wash the dishes
- Putting away the clean cutlery
- Loading and unloading the washer and dryer
- Helping prep and cook meals
If she’s in a good mood, she’ll also gladly put her own laundry away.
I will say that you do need to go into it with the expectation that it will take longer than if you did it by yourself. But make it fun! Throw some music on, grab that laundry basket and see who can put away the most t-shirts in 60 seconds.
ALL ABOUT SENSORY
I’m sure by now you’ve seen a fair amount of sensory bins and activities floating around your Instagram feeds. So here’s the thing: yes, they absolutely can look intimidating to throw together and no, they absolutely don’t have to be.
There are A LOT of different ways to do these and endless themes and ideas, so I’m going to share with you some of the easiest bases to use, some basic toys that are already around your house you can add in and a list of easy to find utensils too!
SENSORY BASE IDEAS
What the heck is oobleck, you might say?
Oobleck is a non-newtonian fluid. This means it acts as both a liquid and a solid. My usual way to show this to kids is that you can roll in into a ball and keep rolling it but once you stop it’ll “melt” through your fingers!
Basic Oobleck is made with two simple ingredients: water and cornstarch. That’s it! To make it, use a 2:1 ratio of cornstarch to water.
Since it’s made with all ingestible ingredients oobleck is a taste-safe activity. This means you can safely play it with babies or toddlers who are prone to putting their hands in their mouth without worry!
Oobleck is a very forgiving substance and an easy fix if you mix the wrong ratio. If you find it’s too solid, add a little more water. Too watery, add a little more cornstarch. If you’re adding a liquid additive, you’ll probably need to add a tad more cornstarch.
If you want to spice up your oobleck, you could:
- Add a few drops of food colouring
- Add some glitter (but for environmental reasons, I’d avoid a non-biodegradable glitter!)
- A little peppermint extract for a Christmasy oobleck
- A little pumpkin spice (or just cinnamon) for a fun fall oobleck
- Lemon extract for a lemonade oobleck
- Lavender for a calming oobleck
Read the full blog about our oobleck bins by clicking h e r e !
Moon sand – sometimes known as cloud dough – is an easy and edible version of kinetic sand. It’s made with oil and flour so there’s a high chance you already have what you need sitting in your pantry.
You actually have two choices: you can use baby oil or you can use an edible oil. If you’re doing the activity with kids prone to putting it in their mouths I’d go with an edible oil from your pantry. We did olive oil!
I will warn that I’ve had trouble with moon sand leaving oil marks in the past. This summer we played it outside and there were spots on the sidewalk until the snow arrived – oops! So I’d suggest having a placemat underneath or keeping it contained in a container during play, just incase.
Soap foam, you wonder? Yes, I basically mean recreating a bubble bath outside the bathtub.
All you need for this one is a blender, some dish soap and water. Foam sensory bins are always a hit and they’re so easy to throw together. Since it’s soap it’s also the opposite of a messy activity in a way (hello cleanish floors) – but you should be prepared to get wet!
The recipe here is 2TBSP of dish soap per 1/4C of water. Dish soap into the blender, then add the water into the blender and you’re good to go. When it’s ready and blended enough your foam will make stiff peaks!
But don’t be afraid to have a variety. The last time I did this I had one bin with stiffer foam, one bin that closer resembled a bubble bath. Having the water in the second bin just added to the fun of it all.
Ps – it’s a great activity to do on a day you want to skip bath time. Wink wink, nudge nudge.
ALL YOUR PANTRY ITEMS
Well, almost all of them.
Seriously though, when I find myself stuck for an activity base and think to myself, what do we have a lot of that I won’t need in the immediate future?
Your pantry is filled with ingredients that can become play time fun. Kids love scooping, pouring, mixing and stirring. Some common items that I’ve used in the past are:
- Steel cut oats
- Baby cereal
- Graham cracker crumbs
- Pie/Tart crusts
- Dry beans and lentils
Throw it into a bin, toss those kids some sand toys and/or kitchen utensils and watch the fun unfold.
Upsides to using edible ingredients from your pantry: a lot of them are cheap, they’re taste safe for those youngsters and you can add them to your green bin when you’re all done!
Check out my Taste Safe Construction Site Sensory Bin to see how I used graham cracker crumbs and steel cut oats.
RAID YOUR FRIDGE
Yup, it’s not just your pantry. Your fridge can have awesome ingredients to turn into sensory bin bases too!
I’m not going to lie I’ve made sensory bins purely from the fact items in my fridge were going to expire soon and we weren’t going to be able to eat it all. Which I know I’m privileged to say but I also wasn’t about to start giving half eaten tubs of yogurt to random neighbours either.
So what’s hiding in that refrigerator and freezer of yours? You could use:
- Whipped Cream
- Ice Cream
- Ice Cubes
- Frozen Breastmilk (Don’t judge , some of us ended up with huge stashes that can’t be fed anymore!)
- Sour Cream
Much like I said above, add your base ingredient and then add some fun. Whipped cream can quickly become an ocean, applesauce can quickly become quicksand that your kids plastic dinosaurs are stuck in…
Check out the Taste Safe Rainbow Sensory Bin I made to use up our excess yogurt one day.
SENSORY BIN ADDITIONS
So now that you’ve got some ideas on what kinds of bases to use in a sensory bin, how about things around the house you can add in?
I have a set of mix and matched kitchen utensils that I thrifted for super cheap. But really, the ones right from your kitchen drawer work too. Ones we love are:
- Measuring cups
- Measuring spoons
- Serving Spoons
- Cookie cutters
Something to keep in mind while raiding your kids toys for the sensory bins: how easily can they be washed afterwards? Some of the best toys are:
- Plastic animals
- Plastic bugs
- Toy cars
- Foam letters and numbers
- Boon Cogs
- Boon pipes
- Fisher Price people
- Fake flowers
- Dena Rainbow
I have a stash of recycled materials in the basement and I love it. Keeping this stash has both saved me money and saved materials from landfill! They include:
- Squeeze pouch caps
- Bottle caps
- Tylenol/Advil bottles
- Tylenol/Advil syringes
- Egg cartons
- Yogurt containers (Especially the Nano ones!)
SENSORY BIN IDEAS
Here’s some sensory bin ideas to give you some inspiration!
GARDENING SENSORY BIN
INSECT HUNT SENSORY BIN
BAKING SENSORY BIN
PUMPKIN PATCH SENSORY BIN
BUTTERFLY HUNT SENSORY BIN
OCEAN SENSORY BIN
ARCTIC SENSORY BIN
FRUIT SENSORY BIN