I am by no means an expert at keeping my kids happy and entertained all day. Some days we have major success and other days nothing seems to go right but I have found a few simple ideas that seem to work most of the time to entertain and keep kids happy. I thought I would share a short list of ideas for young children in case you need help coming up with things on the fly. Most of these are simple and easy to put together in minutes and don't involve you as the mom having to play endless rounds of duck duck goose (not that there is anything wrong with that, I am just saying I don't have the energy for it).
1. Water buckets, sand buckets, old cups and spoons. Put these in front of your kids outside and don't worry about them getting dirty and they will be in heaven.
2. Make a simple treat-something that involves stirring (my girls love to stir). They just want to spend time with mom, they want to sneak a taste of the batter or dough and they want to dump something. No bake cookies, rice krispie treats or even a packaged cookie mix where they can help add 3 ingredients. Usually my girls have had enough cooking/mom time after they've dumped a few things and stirred and are happily on their way.
3. Puffy paint. I made this paint using shaving cream, Elmers glue and a bit of kids poster paint. I didn't measure any exact measurements. I sprayed in the shaving cream and added a bunch of glue, then a blob of paint and let my girls do the stirring. Then they painted, and painted and painted (they have never painted so much before). When one color ran low I turned it into a new color (I only did 3 colors cause any more is too overwhelming).
They loved it and yes it was messy and I just let it be that way and then after they were done I took 10 minutes and cleaned it all up and they played together happily.
4. Puzzles-simple, 25 piece puzzles (preferably with a picture of something kids like). If the girls seem to need mom time then I suggest puzzles (not too often-I like things to still be a novelty and not old hat) We sit on the floor and put together 4 puzzles and they are content and ready for something new. And you can buy all kinds at the dollar store so it's not like you have to break the bank or anything. Just keep them small and easy-I don't want my kids to hate doing it because they can never finish.
5. Pillow mountain. To do this activity you need to get every pillow you can possible find in your house and put them all in a huge pile in the living room and let your kids climb over, under and through them. That's it-and it is so great to get to make such a mess with every pillow-even the ones from mom and dad's bed.
6. Love bugs. I made a set of these for valentines day but you could make them for any season. I painted little bugs on a bunch of flat rocks and then when they were dry I put them in a bucket. One person takes a turn hiding them all over the room and someone else gets to find them and then hide them. It has been a big hit at our house.
7. Build a water blob. This is a two person job and requires painters plastic (the heavy duty kind) and duct tape. I saw this on Pinterest. You basically form a package out of plastic, sealing the edges with duct tape and leave one small opening to fill it with water. Once full you seal off the opening. I wasn't sure how my girls would like it so we didn't fill ours extremely full and it was like a squishy water bed/slip and slide. They were unsure at first but really got into it the more they realized they could slide all over it and jump and splash on it and you know when it actually became the most fun: when it got a hole in it and water would come out-then it was even more exciting. We left ours up for 2 days and it got well used and demolished by the end of the second day. I would for sure make one again.
8. Get some of these:
They are a little tablet that you drop into your bath water and it turns it blue or red or yellow (or you can mix two and make purple or green or orange). My girls love these. They don't irritate skin, they don't stain but they do make your bath water turn red and what kid wouldn't find that cool and you get to be the cool mom cause you have the magic stuff to make that happen.
9. Invest in a blow up air mattress. We have one that is a queen size that we bought about 4 years ago. The girls love to have it blown up just so they can jump on it. It is like a huge indoor trampoline. They can jump off the couch onto it, roll across it, do belly flops, dance etc. It has been flopped on by every family member and is finally starting to not hold air like once did. We will have to buy a new one but I think we may actually get two (one just for jumping and one for camping). It was such a good investment and brings tons of joy to the girls. It is great for cold weather outside and perfect for watching movies on as a family. I might get one of the girls one for their birthday I am thinking.
10. Cardboard boxes. We had these, I was going to throw them away but the girls were crying and I suggested they each get in a box, then dad and I pushed them around on the carpet for a few minutes, bonked them into each other and then finally filled them with pillows and made them into little nests. The next day they stayed around and were a bed and a playhouse. Small fry poked a bunch of holes in one and eventually ripped off the one side. They hid under them and filled them with stuff and on day 3 they went to the trash. Cheap, easy and fun and I didn't even have to build it into anything. I just planted the idea in their minds of one thing they could do with them and they took over from there.
I'll share another installment another day but I hope these ideas are helpful to someone.
For more really great ideas read this fantastic post. I was super inspired and found a bunch of new ideas I had never thought of.