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Are you trying to work from home with your kids around? You need some engaging activities to keep your kids busy while you work. And I’ve got you covered!
Here are 50 of the things my kids enjoy doing while I’m busy working.
The activities on my list are:
- easy to set up
- perfect for independent play and discovery
My kiddos still at home currently range in age from 9 months to 17. Since there’s a pretty big age gap, these activities may not all be appropriate for your kids. Make sure you pick things that match their abilities.
Ready to keep your kids engaged while you write? Let’s dive in!
1. Toy Car Wash
Set out some toy cars. Have your kids turn a bucket of water and some towels into a car wash to get them clean.
You can even add a second bucket with soapy water if you want! Then they can wash in there and rinse in the clean water. My kids love using the larger O-Ball cars for this activity, as they are easier to hold and they don’t worry about them rusting:
2. Rainbow Noodle
Cook a pound of spaghetti according to the box directions. Then, drain it and add a little olive oil. Mix it up well so it doesn’t stick.
Divide the noodles into four bowls. Add a few drops of food coloring to each bowl. Stir well.
Let them cool and have your kids play with the noodles. Learn more about what my kids enjoy doing with the noodles in this post.
3. Train Tracks
Train track sets are so versatile! Your kids can set them up like the directions say, or they can do something completely new.
Coloring books aren’t just for coloring! They’re a great way to practice literacy skills. Read this post for more details, and get each child a couple of coloring books and a new set of crayons.
5. Make a Marble Run
Give your kids a marble and a container. Tell them their challenge is to build a marble run using whatever they can find around the house.
Here’s one my kids made a few years ago. It’s simple, but it worked – they got the marble from the start into the bucket. And they were creative while building it!
6. Read a Book
Head to the library and let your kids each pick out some books to enjoy. Then they can sit and dive into an adventure in the pages to stay busy.
7. Write a Story
Get your kids a set of age-appropriate story starters, and have them write alongside you.
If they aren’t old enough to write, or they want to try something different, they can:
- Draw pictures
- Tell a story to their stuffed animal friends
- Act out a story
- Create a sequence of the story out of index cards
Need some story starters? Here’s a post of mine with 65 to get them started…
Do you have a play set outside? Bring your computer out to the porch so the kids can swing and play. The fresh air will do you both good!
9. Create Nerf Gun Targets
We love a good round of Nerf gun fun! Let your kids create targets out of paper plates, cardboard boxes, or anything else.
They can even create flaps that flip over when they get hit by a dart. My kids like using straws and duct tape to help with this.
Need a solid Nerf gun for beginners? Check this one out:
10. Create a Board Game
Your child can create a fun game with a file folder for a board and Hatchimals for pieces. They can draw the spaces, use cut index cards to create the game cards, and figure out the rules.
11. Create a UPS Truck From a Box
My younger kids love creating a “QRPS” truck from an Amazon box. I turn them loose with crayons, and they decorate to their hearts’ content.
Then, they create “mail” for the other kids out of paper. When they’re finished, they hop in their truck and deliver it.
They like handing out mail, and this project keeps the kids busy for a long time!
12. Paper Set
Your kids can create their own play sets with a stack of paper, crayons, and scissors.
Mine have made BBQ sets with hamburgers and hotdogs. The different toppings were cut out of construction paper, and they made some to order for playing pretend restaurant when they finished making them.
If your children enjoy paper crafts, get them an origami book and let them turn paper into all sorts of amazing things.
14. Paper Dolls
You can either purchase paper doll sets, print some off from the internet for your kids to decorate, or let them create their own.
My eight-year-old daughter loves the Little House Paper Dolls. She’s played with them for hours before reenacting parts of the story or just telling her own adventures.
15. Extreme Dot to Dot
My older kids enjoy Extreme Dot to Dots. They got these books with their curriculum, and it’s something I never have to ask them to do! They just willingly sit and do dot-to-dots for a long time.
Here’s an example of the type they enjoy:
16. Create a Play Dough Creature
Set out some wiggly eyes, some spaghetti noodles (uncooked), and some play dough. Then, let your children try to create different creatures.
You can have all sorts of fun with play dough!
Of course, while this activity will keep your kids busy, it can be messy. So lay out some ground rules before they start and make sure they keep the dough on the table or another solid surface.
17. Solo Play a Game
You don’t have to play board games by the rules, especially if you’re playing alone! Here are five of our favorite games to play creatively:
18. Set Up a Store
The kids can gather shoes, clothes, books, or anything else and create a store. They can add prices, and bring a toy cash register to complete the scene.
After it’s set up, they can take turns buying and selling. After each round, they can practice stocking shelves and keeping the store clean.
There’s so much pretend play to be done here! And my eight-year-old recently bought this set with money she’d been saving. It’s added such a realistic flair to the stores they’ve been setting up.
Once, she even made shopping lists for the other kids to select from.
19. Make a Pattern
Use stamps and let your kids experiment with pattern making. How complex of a pattern can they make? Can a sibling guess the pattern successfully? Then can they continue it?
21. Build With Jenga Blocks
Jenga isn’t just for building towers! My kids love using the blocks to build barns, houses, and just unique buildings.
22. Paint with Shaving Cream
As long as you know your kids won’t eat the shaving cream, this is such a fun sensory activity! As a bonus, it cleans the table while they play.
23. The Invention Challenge
Give your kids each the same set of random supplies and let them invent something. Ideas for their supplies include:
- Paper plates
- Empty oatmeal container or box
- Construction paper
What will they create?
24. Make a Zip Line
Can your child create a zip-line with Legos to carry a mini-figure down some bailing twine? It’s a fun, creative challenge.
Here’s one my kids built. They tied the twine to a chair and set it up in the living room.
25. Write With Battleship Pegs
Did you know you can create messages with the game Battleship? Have your kids write short words using the pegs. It’s a great way to practice fine motor skills.
Want some other ideas on how to use Battleship creatively? Read this post:
7 Fun Ways to Play the Game Battleship
26. Scrub the Floor Pippi Style
Let your kids pour water on the floor and skate around on towels to soak it up. My kids enjoy this method of cleaning the floors! I like to play the song from Pippi Longstocking as they mop away.
(Of course, if you have floors that can’t handle water well, don’t do this!)
27. Match Socks
I hate socks. I especially hate matching socks up.
And we have an overflowing bucket of mismatched socks. I pay my kids a penny a pair if they sit and match them for me.
They stay busy and get paid. I get socks matched. Win, win! 😀
28. Balloon Play
How many times can your kids bop the balloon before it hits the ground? How many balloons can they carry before they start dropping them? Dancing with balloons is also fun!
29. Build a Fort
You can go classic, like a blanket over the table. Or, you can buy a cool set like this:
Your kids can read, eat a snack, or play camping in the fort. There are so many ways to extend this activity.
30. Create a Race Track
An empty pizza box can be turned into a fantastic race track. Add a couple of toy cars, and you have a project to keep the kids busy.
31. Make a Boat
What kind of boat can your child make from things around the house? Here’s a boat my then five-year-old made out of aluminum foils. It held several pennies before sinking into the water.
32. Sort Goldfish Crackers by Color
Get the rainbow goldfish, and let your little ones sort them by color. After sorting their handful, they can enjoy a little snack.
33. Create a Stop Motion Film
This one will keep them busy for a long time! First, they need to gather the supplies and props they need.
Then, they write a story and figure out what will happen. When they have that done, it’s time to move the pieces slowly. They take still pictures after each move. An app can be used to put them all together.
I reviewed this product with my kids for my homeschool blog. We really enjoyed using it! And now that more of my kids are bigger, they’re creating even better videos with it. Their favorite are Lego minifigure movies.
34. Make a Card
Who needs a little bit of handmade cheer? Your child can make a card and then write a note. They can address the envelope, put on a stamp, and make sure it gets to the mailbox to go out.
35. Make a Duct Tape Bag
Give your kids some colorful duct tape and challenge them to make something cool. Here’s a purse my daughter made by herself:
36. Make an ABC List
Can your child write down an animal that starts with each alphabet letter? What about a type of food?
ABC lists are a fun way to keep kids busy!
37. Paper Collages
Set out the construction paper, scissors, and glue, and let your kids make collages. They can be simple or elaborate:
Do your kids get super excited about using a feather duster like mine? They love tracking down cobwebs in corners and dust on the furniture.
Invest in some dusters and get your house cleaned while you work! 😀
39. Toilet Paper Tube Telescope
Set out some supplies and see who can build the coolest toilet paper tube telescope. My kids enjoy putting stickers on these. They’ve also cut out shapes from construction paper and glued them on.
40. Make Cookies
Depending on the age of your child, they can cook or bake. My oldest enjoys making lemon bars as an occasional treat, and I created this chocolate chip cookie recipe for early readers.
My third and fourth graders have been making them for years now. They love being independent in the kitchen, and as long as I’m working at the dining room table, I can keep an eye on things while I work.
41. Dress Up
Each year, right after Halloween, I head to the store and invest in a few costumes. Our dress-up collection has gotten pretty good over the years.
My younger kids really enjoy dressing up and playing pretend. Here are some fun collections:
42. Lincoln Logs
I bought several pounds of used Lincoln Logs on eBay. My kids love them! (Yes, that link is for Amazon for a new set. We bought used ones on eBay, so feel free to start your search there!)
Challenge your kids to build:
- A house
- A stable
- Two connected buildings
- A city scene
43. Calligraphy Practice
Hand lettering is a great skill to have! If your kids are interested, buy them a calligraphy book and supplies, and let them practice while you blog.
Or for the younger kids…
44. Make a Comic
Did you grow up reading Uncle Scrooge comics like I did? I loved those adventures so much!
Now my kids read Garfield and Calvin and Hobbes. No matter what comics your kids enjoy, they can create their own with some paper, a ruler for getting straight line, and some coloring supplies.
Or you can keep it easy and get a set like this:
45. Limited Lego Challenge
Take a plastic cup and scoop up a cupful of Lego bricks. They should be random pieces.
Each player gets one cupful. Then, challenge them to build something in a certain category. Ideas to get you started are:
- A building
- A vehicle
- Something from the room you’re in
- Something alive
- A stroller
You can also allow your kids to pick five pieces once they see what they got from the cup. That way, they know they can build something cool.
46. Domino Fall
Can your child use every domino in your set to create a build that will fall over when one is touched?
Since it is loud when the dominoes fall, having them build it in another room might be better. Tell them they can surprise you that way.
47. Cookie Cutter Play
If your cookie cutters are plastic, not sharp metal, they make a fun learning manipulative.
With them, your children can:
- Make a pattern by tracing cookie cutters onto paper
- Sort them by color, holiday, or size
- Put them into a bucket and take them out (great for youngsters!)
- Wash the cookie cutters in the sink
For even more ideas, see this post:
48. Create an Obstacle Course
What kind of challenges can your child come up with just by using items in the room? Could they jump from pillow to pillow?
Or weave in and out of chairs in a line?
Let your kids use their imaginations and devise different activities to try. Then, they can string them together into an obstacle course.
49. Match Letters with Letter Mat
This is the best toy for teaching kids their letters (in my opinion!)
- Pop the letters out and match them back in
- Make an ABC path on the floor and walk on it
- Build a house out of the letter frames and identify which ones are in there
- Hide the letters for a sibling to find
50. Create a Map
My elementary kids are enjoying our map studies in social studies. They’ve been having fun trying to create their own maps of our house, their room, or our property.
What can your child create a map of?
50 Activities to Keep Kids Busy While You Work
There you have it — fifty of my kids’ favorite activities to work on while I work.
Which one will your kids like the best? I’d love for you to tell me in the comments.
Want even more kid-friendly activities? Check out my eBook, The Ultimate Guide to a Successful Family Writing Time. You’ll find dozens of additional activities to keep your kids engaged while you write.
Lisa Tanner is a former teacher turned homeschooling mom with 11 kids. She's also a successful freelance writer. Lisa enjoys helping other busy moms find time to start and grow a side hustle of their own.