ideas to keep kids busy

Ideas to keep children busy

One great thing that I remember learning at babysitting classes to help keep children busy is to create a surprise box.  A surprise box, is just that…..a “surprise.”  When you go to someone else’s home, the toys are all familiar and  the children may be bored with the same old stuff.  But when you show up with a brightly decorated box, suddenly their eyes open wide and they are excited to be able to see what is inside!

You can put a variety of things inside your surprise box.  I would think crafty.  You can put construction paper, foam sticker pieces, scissors, crayons or markers—make sure they are washableJ , and any other neat crafty thing.  Depending upon the age of the children, you probably want to avoid things like paint, glitter, liquid glue, or anything else that will make a big mess. Keep it easy on yourself.  You can even buy prepackaged craft kits to assemble with little ones.

You can also make up your own play dough.  Here is an easy recipe that you can make yourself.  Use any color food coloring to dye it and add any scent to it.  You can add vanilla extract, cocoa powder,  cinnamon and nutmeg, or even Kool Aid to give it a different scent.

Homemade play dough

  • 1 1/2 cups cold water
  • 1/2 c salt
  • 2 T cream of tartar
  • 2 T vege oil
  • 2 c flour
  • flavorings or colorings

In a saucepan boil the water, salt, cream of tartar, and oil.  You can add your food colorings at this moment.  Sometimes I add a packet of Kool Aid.  Makes a great smelly play dough.  Then I add my flour.  I like to add it with a wooden spoon and stir it in as best as I can.  It will be quite chunky and sticky but will get spongy as it cools.  I then flop it onto the countertops and as I can stand kneading it, without scalding my hands, I knead.  As the dough cools it gets spongy.  As I am kneading it, I also add my scents and colors, depending upon if I didn’t already.  Store in a closed container.


You can put together play dough kits by placing the following together:

  • Cupcake kit—$1 store muffin tins, cupcake wrappers, pony beads-for sprinkles, birthday candles, glitter—if you are brave.
  • Ice cream kit—ice cream scooper, colored ice cream
    • green with toothpaste for mint
    • brown with cocoa powder for chocolate
    • white with vanilla extract for vanilla
    • pink with strawberry flavoring for strawberry

Put the play dough into rectangle style deli meat containers to resemble ice cream. You can put two “flavors” together.  Create a cute label with construction paper. Make some ice cream cones out of thick corrugated cardboard. Cut out a trapezoid shape, draw cone lines on them, roll up and hot glue them together.  You can put beads in this for sprinkles too.

  • Under the sea. Make some blue Kool Aid play dough and include some tiny glass decorating beads, small sea creatures, and seashells.  All these can be found at the dollar store.
  • Construction set. Buy some inexpensive dump trucks and scoopers and put these into a rectangle sized box.  Include some popcorn seeds for scooping and some play dough for building.  You can include some twigs or real stones from outside as well.

These are just some suggestions to give you something new and different to play with.  Make sure to take them home with you so that they have something to look forward to when you come back again.


Keeping children occupied in a pinch

Here are 15 games that will help you keep children occupied for a time.

  1. I Spy.   Choose an object within view and using the phrase “I spy with my little eye, something ___” Provide a descriptive word about what you see and let the children guess what it is. Then let them pick something and you try to guess!
  2. Would You Rather.  You ask some random questions to each child.   For example, “Would you rather have arms so long they hung to the ground or three legs?” Or, “Would you rather be a bird and fly the world, or a cat in someone’s home?” Or, “Would you rather eat a chocolate covered ant or frog legs?”  These questions can vary to the ages of the children you are watching.
  3. Rock, Paper, Scissors.  The rock is a balled fist. The paper is a flat palm. The scissors are the pointer and middle fingers sticking sideways. Rock beats scissors. Paper covers rock. Scissors cut paper. Simply say “Rock, Paper, Scissors…go” and everyone throws their choice into the center of the circle.
  4. Name That Tune.   One person chooses a well known song and hums the tune. The other players try to guess the song. The person that guesses gets to hum the next song.
  5. ABC game.  Choose a topic like songs, animals, names, etc.  Then go through the alphabet and say a different name for the topic that you chose.  For example, the first person says Ant, second says Bee, third says Cow, etc, etc. There is a clapping rhythm part that you can learn to go with this.  You take both hands while sitting and tap your legs two times, then clap two times, then snap your right hand, then your left, then say the word that begins with your letter.  Repeat these motions and the next person then says their letter.
  6. Went To Market.  The first person starts, “I went to market and bought a _____.” Say it’s a cake.  The next person lists what has been said before, then adds something. “I went to market and bought a cake and a doll. Person three: “I went to market and bought a cake, doll, and a bat. See how far you can get in remember the items.
  7. Simon says.  This game can be played anywhere, even in a car or other small space. One person is Simon and starts by saying, “Simon says, jump’” Everyone must then do the action. However, if Simon makes an action request without saying, “Simon says” to begin the request, anyone who does that action is out. The last person still playing in the end will be Simon for the next round.
  8. Play duck duck goose.  Have the children sit in a circle facing each other.  Choose one child to walk around the circle.  As they walk around the circle have them touch each child’s head.  As the child says “duck”, he or she has to tap heads until they tap one head and say “goose” instead. The goose must get up and chase the duck around the circle. The duck has to try and run around circle and sit in goose’s spot.  If the duck gets the goose’s spot, then the goose becomes the duck.  If the duck fails to get the spot first but is caught by the goose and tagged, the duck must be the duck again.
  9. Hide the ______.  We usually play this game and use a favorite toy to hide.  You can say to the child if they are getting hotter (closer) or colder (farther) away from the object.
  10. Red light green light. With enough room, this game can easily be played inside. One person is the traffic light at one end, and the other players are at the other end. When the traffic light faces the group, he or she says, “Red light!” and everyone must freeze. The traffic light then turns his or her back and says, “Green light!” while the group tries to get as close to the traffic light as possible. The traffic light turns around quickly, again saying, “Red light!”, and if anyone is spotted moving, they have to go back to the starting place. The first person to tag the traffic light wins and gets to be the next traffic light.
  11. Mother may I?  This game is set up in the same way as Red Light Green Light. One person in the group asks the person in the front, “Mother, may I take <insert number> steps forward?” The person at the front then says, “Yes, you may.” or “No, you may not.” You can vary your requests by including options such as taking baby steps, spinning steps, leaps or whatever creative steps they can come up with.  Again, the first person to tag the person in the front wins and is the next person in the front.
  12. Hot potato.  Players sit in a circle facing each other.  You pass an object, maybe a rolled up clean sock, or stuffed animal and they pass it quickly to each other while you hum a tune.  The person holding the object in their hands when you stop humming is out.  Continue playing until there is only one person left.  You don’t have to hum a tune, you can just say “stop.”
  13. Hand clapping games. The first hand-clap game most people have played is Pat-a-Cake with their parents. Songs and patterns get much more complicated from there. Usually there are two people involved, doing a series of clap patterns on their own and each other’s hands while singing or chanting a rhythmic song. There are many rhymes listed online, but if you can learn from someone else or see it in a video, that is best, so that you can get the notes of the song and the rhythm of the clapping.
  14. This is actually a board game, but you can play a version of it with some paper and pen.  Choose something to draw and let your children guess what it is you are drawing.  Very simple.  Depending upon their ages, you can be simple and draw objects or be harder and choose songs, books, or videos.
  15.  If you were able to have access to a deck of cards this game is fairly easy.  Shuffle the deck of cards up evenly among each child. At the same time each person puts down the top card from their deck. The person with the highest card wins those sets of cards.  Continue doing this until your hands are empty, then reshuffle with the cards they won in the “war.”