Got water and some basic supplies? Here are the easiest, least messy ways to keep your little ones entertained.
If you’ve got little ones at home, you know these days in self-isolation can feel like time is ticking backwards. There are only so many episodes of Daniel Tiger you can watch in a day, and if you can’t get outside, the options of things to do feel so limited. Luckily some clever and creative parents have come up with plenty of easy ideas for the rest of us!
These activities use very basic supplies, are easy to set up, and create minimal mess. And your little one will love them! Even older kids can join in the fun for most of these.
If you’ve got water, some kitchen utensils, and any kind of tray or box or cookie sheet, you’ve got an engaging activity. Water play makes everything better! And if it spills, no worries – your floors will get cleaner!
Bath time is a great way to pass the time when it feels like the clock is ticking backward, and you can greatly extend the fun with new toys and activities while your kids splash around. DUPLO in the bath is a classic.
When was the last time you washed your kids’ toys? Never, if you’re me, but it turns out kids LOVE to give their toys a good scrub. Grab some soapy water, washcloths or scrub brushes, and a bunch of waterproof toys. Boom, you’re in business. You can make it even easier by having the kids wash their toys in the sink, so there’s zero set-up.
Kids love Popsicles (who doesn’t?) but they can get so sticky and messy that it doesn’t seem worth the hassle. Popsicle bath solves that problem and is a fun, relaxing, special experience for little ones. Give it a try!
“Creation station” is a cute name for what should actually be called “dump the recycling bin on the kitchen floor and let the kids have at it.” The beauty of this activity is that you can use literally anything you have on hand. Markers, stickers, glue, safety scissors: Any craft supply works. And the thrill of getting to tear apart recyclables and rebuild them into a new playtime creation is a surefire way to ignite your kids’ imagination.
This is “creation station junior” for the toddler set. Toddlers love to rip up books and paper, as my poor mistreated home library shows. Give them a chance to indulge that fun in a way that’s totally harmless.
Scooping, pouring, playing with ice … it’s a preschooler’s dream! And you don’t need any special supplies: just water, ice, and something for scooping.
This is a brilliant way to knock out a household chore and keep your kids happily entertained. You can use apples, potatoes, carrots, or any other sturdy produce.
9Bread in a Bag
Any kind of baking recipe would work, honestly. Kids love to knead dough, measure and dump ingredients, and especially mix everything together.
So simple yet so brilliant, this activity is a beloved favorite in my home. Dump ice on ground. Invite kids to smash the ice. That’s it! Yet somehow it keeps them entertained so well. It’s best outside, but you could do set it up in a plastic bin inside as well.
11Bubble Foam Baking
Got some liquid soap and basic baking utensils? You’ve got all you need for a crowd-pleasing activity. Let the kids have at it with no worries about the foam getting on your floor: It’s just soap!
12Bobbing for Apples
Out of apples? Use limes, lemons, toy balls … whatever you’ve got on hand that’s round (ish) and will float! Add water, tongs, and a muffin tin, and you’ve got a great little project for preschoolers to strengthen their hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.
13Freeze Toys in Blocks of Ice
I did this activity for the first time ever with my kids last week, and I couldn’t believe how much they loved it. Now they ask me to freeze more toys for them every night.
I put the ice block on a cookie sheet next to a bowl of very warm water, and my kids drip the water onto the ice to “set the toy free.” You could use a pipette, syringe, squeeze bottle, scoop, or just a spoon. I still can’t believe how much my kids love this super simple activity!
14Shaving Cream Writing
As I compiled this list, I went to the experts for advice: I asked my kids (ages 5, 3 and 1) for their favorite activities we do at home to share with other families. My five-year-old said, “Tell them to play with shaving cream!”
Shaving cream is a staple for plenty of fun crafts (puffy paint, learning to write) but you can keep it simple and just let them squirt it everywhere in the bathtub, or out in the backyard on a hot day. Guaranteed to be a hit!
15Stuffed Animal Houses
Cardboard boxes never disappoint for imaginative play, and this activity taps into kids’ creative abilities wonderfully. Between constructing the house and decorating it, it’s the perfect STEM project.
16Giant Rain Clouds
Rainy April is the perfect time for this simple science experiment.
Put to good use those plastic eggs leftover from Easter with this activity that’s so simple yet entrancing to little ones.
18Dinos and Eggs
This activity has so many variations: Any toy that’s waterproof and small enough to fit in an Easter egg is fair game.
19Egg Grab and Drop
Another great use for Easter eggs and an invitation for creative play and fine-motor strengthening.
20Build A Fort
A classic of childhood games, you can’t beat a good old-fashioned play fort in the living room.
It’s like a bubble bath, but in miniature in the kitchen, and with the bonus of turning junk-drawer odds and ends into an engaging activity.
Matching is a great educational activity, and assigning the job of matching socks to your preschooler lightens your laundry load a tiny bit too.
Setting up a toy hospital is a great way for kids to practice empathy and creativity. I remember playing “hospital” with my baby dolls decades ago; it’s an old one but a good one!
Creating some snail mail is a great way to brighten a loved one’s day. Have your kids scribble away on paper and just pop it in an envelope.
Pro tip: Ask your preschooler what they’d like to say to your loved one, and take down *exact* dictation. Their stream-of-consciousness words will be hilarious to read, and a sweet keepsake.
This is a sweet way to encourage kids’ nurturing side with soapy, splashy fun.
Here’s hoping these activities my own children love will help you get through these days of quarantine!