• Busy Kids

    One of the challenges I always face this time of year is keeping Henry busy and engaged while I’m busy preparing, shopping, wrapping, and planning. There are all sorts of holiday crafts and activities, but I often find that they require a lot of adult help. Here are a few things my 4 yr old loves to do on his own:

    Play dough: Pull out the cookie cutters, butter knives, rolling pins, and garlic press (for spaghetti making!)

    Spin Art: Use a salad spinner and washable paint. My 4 yr old can apply paint, spin, and remove the paper to dry all by himself now. See my instructions here.

    Build and Draw: Building a simple structure with legos and blocks and then trying to draw the shape on paper.

    Cheerio Necklaces: Cut a piece of yarn and tie a knot on one side. Then I put a tiny piece of tape on the end so it’s easy for Henry to thread cheerios on to make a cheerio necklace.

    Puzzles: It’s hard to find the right puzzle that’s challenging enough for him not to get bored but easy enough that they can do it all on their own. We have one but I’m in the market for more (any suggestions?)

    Little Thinker Tapes: They’re technically cds or mp3s now, but I grew up on these wonderful stories. Henry’s not a huge drawer, but this is really engaging for him. You listen to the imaginative story for a few minutes and then they play music for you to draw what you heard. The pictures are piled up and then displayed in an art gallery for the family to visit.

    Body Tracing: On kraft paper as well. I trace his body and then he spends the rest of the time drawing the body parts/clothing on the body shape which keeps him quite busy.  A giant airport (or racetrack) is another fun thing to do with kraft paper that keeps them busy for hours (below).

    I’d love to hear your ideas though- how do you keep kids busy and happy while you’re checking things off your holiday to-do list?


    1. Kate said… November 27, 2012 5:35 am

      My four year old is finally old enough to out this puzzle together by himself – http://www.alaskachildrensbooks.com/puzzle.html

      Of course he wants me to look at every puzzle as he finishes, but it does keep him fairly well occupied so I may be on the hunt for some new ones. It looks like Etsy has a plethora of them.

    2. Sally from Little Hiccups said… November 26, 2012 1:45 pm

      My girls also love their puzzles. Our floor is always covered in puzzle pieces!

      My favourite is a wooden map of America tray puzzle by Melissa & Doug. I bought it for my 5 year old so she could learn a little geography when we moved to San Francisco from Australia. I must admit it’s been really helpful for me too ;) My 2 year old loves this puzzle too and I’m amazed at how she knows where every state goes. She has fun with it and learns something at the same time.

      We also have the Crocodile Creek world map floor puzzle which my 5 year old enjoys playing with. It’s a little old for my 2 year old but she tries :) Perfect for a 4 year old though.

      Another nice puzzle is Around the World from Chronicle Books. Each piece features a character from a different country. The puzzle makes a circle with the characters holding hands. It’s really cute and is a good tool for teaching young kids about diversity. Plus it’s fun!

      Chronicle Books also have a few nice color puzzles from MoMA that I’m getting my girls for Christmas. Not sure what they’re like yet but they’re nice and bright so they’re sure to be a hit.

    3. Sally from Little Hiccups said… November 26, 2012 1:34 pm

      My girls (5 1/2 and 2) love working on arts and crafts projects. It’s a little tricky trying to come up with activities that suit both of them due to the age difference but we’ve found a few that they both love. Here are a few of our favourites with links so you can see what we’ve created…

      Printing with vegetables is always a favourite. I’ve done this project with my 5 year old’s kindergarten class as well as with a group of my 2 year olds friends and it has been popular with everyone.

      Making necklaces with fruit (grapes, blueberries etc) and cheerios or pasta is another favourite.

      Making Sunprints is also fun – although maybe not perfect for San Francisco at the moment! We made Sunprints over the Summer and they worked out well.

      My girls also love baking. We tend to make simple things like cookies, cupcakes and scones. They both get to help with mixing and cutting out shapes and my 5 year old enjoys cracking eggs and measuring the ingredients. Of course, the best bit is getting to eat the treats they’ve baked!

      My 5 year old had lots of fun making Shrinky Dinks. This could be a fun way to make Christmas presents too.

      Perler beads are fun if you’re kid is happy to sit still and concentrate on little things. There are also larger ones available for younger kids.

      Gardening is another favourite activity for my girls. Unfortunately we don’t have any outside space in our apartment so it’s not something they really get to do.

      • Liz Stanley said… November 27, 2012 12:18 am

        Amazing ideas, thank you Sally!

    4. Kristina said… November 22, 2012 8:38 pm

      Great ideas! We love puzzles. My almost 5 yr old likes the Melissa and Doug 48 piece wooden ones. We also love tinker toys at our house and dress up clothes for when I need the kids to “go play.” Painters tape and a box of recyclable materials (paper towel tubes, empty pasta boxes, etc.) can also keep my kids occupied forever! They will build random structures and tape them together and find ways to play with them. It is amazing what kids can come up with!

      • Liz Stanley said… November 25, 2012 9:38 am

        Great ideas! I used to love tinker toys growing up and i love the idea of saving recycled materials for construction.

    5. Debbie N said… November 21, 2012 2:44 pm

      Great ideas- I’ve never heard of little thinker tapes but will have to look them up!

    6. Lena said… November 21, 2012 9:52 am

      No holiday to-do list over here right now – but I´m still thankful for your suggestions, they come handy at any time of the year! For my 5 year old Lego is the magic thing #1. He can play by himself for hours with Lego. If there just wasn´t a 2-year old brother bothering him… I haven´t found a perfect solution for that yet.

      • Liz Stanley said… November 25, 2012 9:40 am

        yes we love legos over here too. I think we just need much much more!

    7. Miggy said… November 21, 2012 9:10 am

      Honestly? I tell my kids, “Go play.”

      But this is a great list and I’m definitely going to pull it out soon since my method has some obvious flaws.

      • Liz Stanley said… November 25, 2012 9:39 am

        haa i wish i could do that! i think since he’s an only child he gets bored quickly. or maybe he’s just a high maintenance kid?

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