If you are like our family, we are looking for ways to be productive at home AND are trying to limit screen time, especially for my youngest child. Here is a list of 40 activities to let your kids try while you get some work done or emails answered.
I think the key to success with a lot of the items on the list is to ask the kids to choose their favorites, make a list, and set a time limit. It is often better to end an activity slightly early, while it is still fun, so that kids will want to do it again on another day. We often also rotate a choice between each child, for example, pick numbers to see who goes first, then let the first child choose an activity, then the second, then the third, and then back to the first, etc.
We also sometimes keep a list of things to do for the week, doing them in blocks of time each day.
To get started, if I am not in the same room, I either do a short “training” while setting expectations or leave an older sibling in charge. Always try to anticipate what might go wrong and make sure the kids are safe!
40 Productive Ideas for Kids to do Independently
- Try some new Hair-do’s. We get out the brushes, hair clips, ties, rubber bands and go to town creating a crazy, although it doesn’t have to be, hair-do. I will tell you that I have been at the in-home salon and have had to remind my young hair stylist to “be gentle.” Oh, and no scissors!
- Train the Pets. We have 2 dogs that could learn to sit, shake, lay down, come, and stop barking at every living thing that goes by. Our young dog will follow a piece of rope around the house for an hour. What does your pet like to do?
- Dance Party. My girls will often set up a playlist with alternating music choices and then dance. Sometimes they even choreograph their own dance to a song and show us after they have memorized it.
- Organize Something. Start with a drawer, bookshelf, closet, or a small space, and start sorting! Check out this post to get started.
- Listen to an Audio Book. We have enjoyed listening to so many audio books, from Harry Potter to How to Train Your Dragon, The Misadventures of Maude March to Matilda, just to name a few. The choices are almost endless and most libraries let you download audio books right to your phone or computer.
- Clean Something. There are always items around the house that need to be cleaned, like dishes, toys, or anything that will fit in the sink. Pull up a step stool, fill the sink with suds, and let the kids enjoy the process. They could also clean things outside like the patio, driveway, or outside windows.
- Trace a Drawing. I often tape a picture to the window with a clean sheet of paper over it and let the kids trace the picture. It is a great way to start to learn to draw and to pay close attention to details.
- Color a Picture. Kids can color with crayons, colored pencils, markers OR they can color using only different color lines, different shapes, or mono-chromatically (using lighter and darker versions of the same color.) Make a game out of it: if you have 3 children, take 3 different coloring pages, rotate the pages every minute in a circle and let the next child color the sheet. It will make for interesting designs!
- Read a Book. My kids would often have reading time when they were younger. They would choose a book, or lots of books, pick a couch or a bed to sit on, and then read for 1 hour quietly. Sometimes older siblings can read to younger siblings for a specific amount of time.
- Build with Legos. My kids really like to follow the directions when they were building with Legos and it felt like we were building a 3-D puzzle. This is such a great way to teach attention to detail and develop logical ways to build things.
- Put together a Puzzle. We started with 24 pieces when they were young, then moved up to 50, and then to 100. If you think it will take more than an hour, you might want to find a place to leave it, ie, a coffee table, where you all can work on it in your free time.
- Sort and organize clothes. Suggest getting rid of clothes that they don’t wear or fit into, but have a fashion show first. Make sure they have a plan for putting the give-away clothes in a bag and neatly returning the clothes they are going to keep.
- Clean the Laundry. My youngest daughter loved to push all the buttons on the front loading washing machine when she was young, so I taught her to put the clothes in and push the right buttons to get the laundry started. She still does most of her laundry on her own and helps me with towels.
- Exercise Challenge. Each child picks an exercise (plank, wall sit, pushup, situp, jumping jacks, etc) and they see how many they can do.
- Making the Weekly Menu. I often get in a rut, cooking the same meals over and over and over. Let the kids brainstorm the menu for the week. When we have done this in the past, they are much more likely to help in the kitchen and eat what was prepared.
- Do the Dishes. All my kids seemed to like standing on a step stool in front of the sink half-filled with water and lots of suds. They were helpful and entertained.
- Set up a Domino Knock Down. If you have dominoes, they can plan the arrangement and then try it out. It usually takes a few times to get them to fall down smoothly. If you don’t have dominoes, try it with books or even recycled boxes (which we have plenty of from eating at home.) Really anything that stands up and is fairly consistent in size will work.
- Picture Scavenger Hunt. Give them a list of things they have to photograph in the house, or for older kids, around the block. Make sure they know the pictures need to be in focus (not blurry) and an interesting composition. I know this is using a screen, but it is more like an activity, than watching something.
- Vlog the Day. This would be a great way to document an historical event, “A Day in the Life of a 2020 Student.” They could plan what they will do for the day, who will film, and who will make comments. You could all watch at the end of the day.
- Take your Child to Work at Home Day. Is there anything that your child could help you with in your work or get ready for the school year? File or sort papers or bills, organize your desk, test markers and pens to see if they still have ink, sharpen pencils, or throw away broken crayons?
- Practice Spelling. Give everyone a list of words. They can be the same or different, depending on the age of the children. Have them use letter tiles from Scrabble or Bananagrams to spell words. You can also print letter tiles on card stock and cut them out for this activity.
- Design a Board Game. Let them build a board game with cardboard and some paint or coloring supplies. They will need to come up with rules and can even use other games for parts or inspiration. The best part is that when they are done with their design, they can play the game!
- Learn a New Skill. How about learning to jump rope or hula hoop? Are there other activities that your kids would like to learn or get better at? Set aside time each day to practice.
- Develop some Balance. Make a straight line on the floor with painter’s tape to be the balance beam. To promote balance and creativity, have them come up with a routine.
- Make Home Decor. Do you need a personal touch piece for your home or for a gift for a relative? The kids can create something with their hand prints, fingerprints, or paint some cardboard for a matting around their photograph.
- Write a Note. Everyone is delighted to get mail. Think of relatives that may not be able to get out, people that live by themselves, or even start writing to a pen pal.
- Ride Bikes. As my kids got older and older they could go further and further from home.
- Chalk the Sidewalk. Think of designs or games that they can draw on the sidewalk.
- Catch a Bug in a Jar. Watching a bug for a day can be fascinating and then letting it go. Fireflies are fun and challenging to catch too!
- Photograph 5-10 Animals, Birds, or Bugs. This is definitely more challenging than just photographing a still object, but great practice. Extra points for pictures in focus!
- Make a Hopscotch Path. We have made hopscotch squares to 50. Sometimes the squares circle back, sometimes you have to put a hand down too, or sometimes the squares are not touching, so you really have to leap to get to the next one.
- Water the Plants. Whether playing in the sprinkler or using the hose to water the plants, be prepared for wet clothes!
- Work in the Yard. Sweeping, pulling weeds, and raking are all good options for yard work and I am not opposed to paying a little cash for these jobs.
- Blow Bubbles. Bubbles can be so fun for younger kids. They can blow them or you can get one of the bubble blowers to do some of the work for them.
- Identify Plants. Can they find 10 different kinds of leaves, seeds, or flowers? Do they know or can they find the names of the plants?
- Play with Pets. Our dog is always up for a walk or someone to throw the ball with him in the yard.
- Swing. Go outside and play on the swing set.
- Wash the Car. The kids can put on their swimsuits and have fun washing the car. It is a great way to cool off too.
- Paint a Unique Piece of Art. Try getting a canvas and paints with the colors that match your home. Let the kids paint some abstract paintings with the coordinating colors. Or they can start at the top of the canvas and let the paint drip down to the bottom. The paintings are often good enough to display.
- Let your Kids Brainstorm Ideas. I have often been amazed at the ideas that my kids come up with when we brainstorm ideas of things they can do without supervision. We have been able to do a lot of their ideas.
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