Keeping Kids Busy for Work at Home Parents

I started blogging in 2006, and in the summer of 2007, I was faced with a dilemma. The kids were out of school, and I didn’t want to sit them in front of screens for three months while I got stuff done. So I wrote up a list of things to do for kids while I could focus on work – and that list quite literally led me to start this website in 2008. 11 years later, my kids are almost all grown up. 2 have moved out, even! I sometimes feel a little removed from the day to day life of dealing with small children underfoot. But I’ve been seeing some friends with younger children panicking this week, because they are having to work remotely for the first time ever.

Keeping Kids Busy for Work at Home Parents

It can be exceptionally challenging to work from home with kids around. I realized that my entire livelihood is literally built on keeping kids busy. I’ve done it successfully for more than half of my career. If there was ever a time to share my knowledge, this onset of Coronavirus / COVID-19 is the time.

Let me preface this by sharing that my desire is to provide you with tools to help keep your children happy and busy during this tumultuous time. We’ve been seeing panic spread across communities and countries, and our goal is to keep that panic from reaching your young ones. It’s unnecessary for them to ruminate on the stresses of this pandemic.

So we’re here to help set you and your kids up for success.

Plan and Engage to Survive and Thrive

Let’s start with some generalities about structuring a remote work day with kids around:

  • Create a Schedule. Be firm with your expectations, yet flexible with loving conditions.
    You’ll need uninterrupted work time. Set boundaries to make sure kids know when it’s OK to talk to you and when it’s “Do Not Disturb” time.
    Why not engage them in planning activities? My experience is that when they’re on board with the planning, execution is much smoother. These printable planner pages are so much fun for your child to work on and then check off when completed. This is what we call a WIN-WIN, because again, you’re teaching them a lifelong skill.
  • Limit their screen time.
    I don’t mean NO screen time – just give them set hours for TV/tablets/computers. I’m a firm believer that too much screen time lowers our children’s tolerance for frustration and boredom. These are critical skills they need to develop as adults. Check out this helpful article with printables on using tv as a teaching tool. You might also like this article on How to Limit Your Kid’s Screen Time.
  • Take multiple small breaks.
    Kids absolutely can’t and shouldn’t be expected to keep themselves busy for extended periods of time without adult interactions. This is good for you too.
  • Change up their activities to evade boredom. Below, I’ve compiled a list of some of our most popular kids activities. Rather than throw them all at once at your kids, plan ahead to ensure they are tapping into their own individual needs. And make sure they’re getting outdoors from some sunshine and Vitamin D. Have them put together a puzzle, do some finger painting and then celebrate with a dance party on the patio. Keep them actively engaged emotionally, mentally and physically.

Books, Books, BOOKS! 

This is a perfect opportunity for the entire family to nurture a reading routine. Consider setting the timer for 20 minutes at the same time every day to read. Reading not only encourages language and literacy skills, it fosters a child’s creativity and imagination.

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Keeping Kids Busy by Creating an Activity Station

How to Make a Kids Activity Station

Take the time to plan several crafts, activities, games, or print worksheets / activity pages in advance. You can do this by the day or plan several days in advance. Here’s a suggested shopping list of very basic kids craft supplies to stock up on while you are shopping for sanitizing wet wipes and toilet paper:

  1. Printer paper
  2. Printer ink or toner
  3. Construction paper
  4. Simple paints – both watercolors and tempera paint
  5. Glue
  6. Scissors
  7. Markers, pencils, pens, crayons

Basic Kids Craft Supply List

Extra kids craft supplies for popular, more specialized projects:

  1. Assorted colored felt
  2. Pipe cleaners
  3. Pom poms
  4. Googly eyes
  5. Tissue paper
  6. Hair conditioner & corn starch for cloud dough
  7. Saline solution, baking soda & school glue for slime
  8. Polymer clay for clay beads and other crafts

Additionally, here’s some household items you can use for crafts, or things that can be recycled into craft supplies. Honestly, 80% of all kids craft tutorials in existence can be made with these!

  1. Paper plates
  2. Brown lunch bags
  3. Coffee filters
  4. Egg cartons
  5. Empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls
  6. Old magazines
  7. Cardboard boxes

Also, make sure you protect your activity station area if kids are going to be using paint and glue for projects. My favorite is using disposable table cloths. Or use newspapers, junk mail, and even old wrapping paper works great. If you don’t have anything like this laying around, you can grab a roll of brown craft paper in the mailing supplies section of the store (which is also a great backdrop for large finger painting and coloring schemes).

Kids Activity Ideas By Age

Toddler Activities

Mess Free Finger Painting

Letter And Number Flash Cards

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Marble Painting Process Art Project

DIY Bubble Station

Easter and Spring Tracing Activity Pages

DIY Moon Sand for Sensory Play

Crepe Paper Butterfly (via my bored toddler)

Preschool Activities

Easy Volcano Project

Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax Craft: Make Truffula Trees

Paper Plate Snail Craft

Easy Shapes & Colors Game

Preschool Color by Number Animal Coloring Pages

Z is for Zebra Paper Craft

Weather Sensory Bottles (via Pocket of Preschool)

Kids Activities Ages 5-6

Easter and Spring Finish the Picture Drawings

Easy Paper Chain Octopus Craft

Handprint Prisms: Group Art Project

Paper Craft: Printable Pinwheels

Puffy Paint Rainbow Craft 

Puppy Paper Bag Puppet

M&M Science Rainbow – STEAM for Kids (via Gift of Curiosity)

Kids Activities Ages 7-9

Cuddly Pom Pom Easter Bunny Tutorial

Spring Ad Libs

Printable Animal & Masquerade Masks

Mystery Picture Grid Coloring Pages like these Fantasy & Fairy Tales

Bird Feeder Craft for Kids

Hidden Pictures for Kids – World Travel

Pokemon Evolution DIY Kaleidoscope Paper Toy (via Red Ted Art)

Kids Activities Ages 9-12

Donuts/Felt Food Tutorial

Printable Brain Teasers for Kids

Paper Plate Dreamcatcher Project 

Vintage Treasure Map Craft 

Sock Easter Bunny Tutorial

Printable Geometry Nets (via The Crafty Classroom)

Activities for Teens

DIY Beanbag Toss Game

Mandala Coloring Pages for Kids and Adults 

Fluffy Monster Slime 

DIY Scrunchies

Paper Bag Positive Thoughts Book

Easy Felt Sunglasses Case

Homemade Bouncy Balls (via Growing a Jeweled Rose)

One More Helpful Activity for All Ages – Make Homemade Hand Sanitizer

Especially helpful because it’s getting pretty difficult to find it in stores anymore.

Homemade Hand Sanitizer Recipe


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About the author

Founder and CEO of Woo! Jr. Kids Activities, Wendy loves creating crafts, activities and printables that help teachers educate and give parents creative ways to spend time with their children.

View all articles by Wendy Piersall

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