Work from home and need some new ideas on how to entertain the kids? This list of 25+ easy ideas will keep everyone happy for hours!
I started working from home when my oldest was less than a year old. In the beginning, it was a constant struggle to get it all done. How do you balance your business and your kid?
I’ve now added another (more rambunctious) kid plus homeschooling to the mix. Over the years, I had to learn how to manage my time better. I learned the phrase “working in the margins,” and figured out how to focus on the most important tasks in that moment.
But the most revolutionary thing I did for my business was to put together a list of how to entertain kids while I get my work done.
There are a lot of stay at home moms out there that dream of starting their own business from home, but worry about finding the time. It’s a legitimate concern, because it can be absolute chaos if you’re not careful.
Working from home with kids takes a good routine, a little patience, and an arsenal of activities to keep them busy.
That’s why I put together this list of how to entertain kids. Hopefully, some of these ideas will help you find a few minutes to get some work done yourself!
Disclaimer: I don’t think technology is bad, and don’t necessarily keep it away from my kids.
Disclaimer 2: some of these activities are messy. If you’re not okay with a big mess at times, skip over them. In my house, messes are welcome when our kids are submerged in an activity!
How to Entertain Kids While You Work
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1. Making art
My kids are huge fans of creating art. We have an entire cabinet full of paints, pencils, pastels, and watercolors.
As a homeschool mom, art is a big part of our day already, but I also use it when I need to entertain the kids.
I was recently reading the book Brave Learner by Julie Bogart, and in it, she discusses the concept of an art table. Basically, it’s where you have a table set up in part of your main living area that’s just totally ready for art all the time. Keep it set up with drop cloths, paints, glues, papers, etc. Obviously, this won’t work in every home, but we’ve taken some inspiration from that idea and set up an art cabinet. The kids head over, grab whatever art mediums they want, head to the table, and entertain themselves for hours.
When I want to see them branch out, I’ll find a new idea on Pinterest and show them how to do it. That’s always a great way to keep them interested once they start getting bored! If you need some ideas on how to entertain kids with some new arts and crafts, check out my pinterest board!
2. Reading or Audio Books
I really strongly encourage my kids to read for 20 minutes every day, and I notice a huge improvement in their moods when they do!
My oldest absorbs books faster than I can keep up with, so we have a library card to keep her fully stocked. My youngest is only 5, so she’s not reading yet. Instead, I let her use her Kid’s Kindle Fire, which is loaded with audio books that she can enjoy!
If your kids are fans of audio books, you can even get two free ebooks when you sign up for Audible. It’s the perfect opportunity to stock up and let them enjoy!
3. Educational Games on a Tablet
This one is big with my youngest. We can sit and work on letters and numbers together for hours and she’ll just goof off and say “I don’t know.” But, if I pull out her Kindle and let her have 20 minutes to play an educational game, all of a sudden I realize she actually does know her letters and numbers!
For her, it’s just the act of taking control of her learning, and choosing what to do on her own. I know not everyone is a fan of using technology with their kids, but I believe when it’s used right, it can be really helpful.
4. Documentary or Educational Show
We don’t actually allow a lot of TV in our house. Actually, we don’t even keep a TV in the living room. But there are days that require some TV time, and on those days, I try to find a documentary or educational show for them.
For my 5 year old, we love the PBS Kids subscription through Amazon Prime, but my 10 year old is obsessed with things like Planet Earth and You vs. Wild on Netflix.
Obviously, this isn’t a solution to be used all day every day, but when you need quiet for a good 20-30 minutes, this is a great option!
5. Work Outside
During the summer, we basically turn our backyard into an outdoor kid oasis. We have a pool with a nice shaded area and comfortable seating, a big play structure, a sand box, sprinklers, a trampoline, and lots of room to run.
My kids love it out there and will happily spend hours playing and bouncing from one activity to another.
When the weather is nice (aka not 100º, because…Texas), I’ll bring my computer outside and sit under the shade watching my kids play while I work. It’s a good option for all of us, because we get fresh air, the kids get outside to expel some energy, and they’re entertained so I can work!
6. Dance Party
Do you ever just blast some fun music and let the whole family go to town dancing? We do this a lot, and my kids love it! My youngest has started getting dressed up for the “show” and does a whole recital for us after awhile. It’s the best, and it’s an awesome way to entertain the kids for awhile!
7. Sidewalk Chalk Art
There’s just something different about sidewalk chalk art as opposed to regular art.
The sidewalks and patios around our house are decked out in their art.
We also play games like hopscotch, practice our letters (cursive for my oldest), make obstacle courses, or even have fun with things like sidewalk chalk paint!
The possibilities are endless when it comes to playing with chalk outside.
Bonus! on rainy days, we just bring the chalk inside and play with it on a huge roll of butcher paper.
8. STEM Building with Legos
Anyone else’s kids have a huge Lego collection? I know mine do. In fact, the girls have filled two of these Lego containers full of pieces!
Sometimes, it takes some encouragement and ideas to get them really building with the blocks outside of what the original kit intended. So, I looked up a bunch of ideas on Pinterest that go along with their interests. We’ve built Lego volcanos, bridges, Minecraft characters, castles, and so much more.
Not only does this keep kids entertained, but it also encourages some extra brain power to get them figuring out the best way to build their project.
9. Busy Book or Busy Bag
When I was brainstorming ideas for this post, I came across some really cool ideas, and this was one of them!
I’ve heard of busy books for toddlers. Pages full of different sensory activities to keep them busy in public. But, I would have never considered using this idea for older kids. It’s genius!
Check out some of the posts I found with ideas!
10. Sensory Table or Sand Table
When my daughter was a toddler, we went to a weekly class that had several different sensory tables set up every week. She loved it, and I brought the idea home. Sensory tables are really popular for the younger kids, but if I’m totally honest, she still loves sensory activities as a 10 year old!
We do have this sand table that we’ve used for the purpose of sensory activities for both girls, but we tend to gravitate towards just using a plastic rectangle bin most of the time.
Some sensory activities that both of my kids love include:
- Water beads
- Kinetic sand
- Cloud dough
- Shaving cream and food dye (warning, this is messy)
11. Play Dough or Air Dry Clay
Most kids love sensory activities. Even the older ones! We regularly make this homemade play dough, which comes out so much cheaper than the store bought.
Mine also love air dry clay and have a couple of tubs of it in their craft cabinet. They’ve gotten so good at creating clay roses and other crafts.
Creative activities like this can generally keep them occupied and happy for up to an hour!
12. Give Them a Box
I don’t know about you, I do a lot of shopping on Amazon Prime, so there are new boxes to enjoy at least every week.
My kids love it when new boxes come in, because there’s no limit to what it can be!
Some of the things they’ve made out of boxes are:
- animal houses
- “cars” for a drive in movie night
- baby doll beds
- barbie houses
- tea party tables
- race car tracks (cut up)
13. Teach Them How to Make a Blanket Fort
Remember being a kid and dragging out all the blankets and pillows to make a fort? I feel like that’s a lost art.
I recently showed my kids how I grew up doing that and now they design their own!
Bonus: Their favorite thing to do in a blanket fort is read by flashlight!
14. Finger Knit
Finger knitting is great for kids who like repetitive motion and quick gratification.
You can work up a really long string of knitting in just 30 minutes once you’ve got it down, then turn it into all sorts of things.
My daughters have made headbands, wreaths, and even a butterfly mobile for her room. A quick search on Pinterest will give you loads of tutorials!
Puzzles are great because they really get kids thinking and engaged. Try to get one that’s a little bit of a challenge, but not so overwhelming that they need help!
16. Do an Experiment
Some of our favorites are:
- Sink or Float: grab a plastic tub and fill it with water. Collect a variety of materials to drop in the water and see if they sink or float. For older kids, they can build boats out of different materials and designs to see which ones stay above water!
- Baking soda chemistry: Put baking soda on a cookie sheet and add a few drops of food coloring. Use a baster to drip white distilled vinegar over the baking soda and watch it fizz!
- Homemade Oobleck: This is super easy and good for hours of fun. Here’s a simple recipe, plus the science behind it for older kids.
17. Give Them Old Magazines
This past January, I was creating a vision board and my kids were just infatuated with the idea of creating their own art. They saw me cutting pictures and words out of magazines and gluing them to a poster.
I got them each a poster and a stack of old magazines and let them go to town.
Now, we keep a stack of kid-appropriate magazines on hand for when they start feeling creative. They’ve made more posters, books, and even cards for friends!
18. Let Them Play Dress Up
When kids get a chance to use their imaginations, amazing things can happen. My girls have year’s worth of dance recital dresses, Halloween costumes, and homemade dress up materials in one of their closets so that they can put on shows, dance recitals, and plays for us!
19. Surprise Them with a New Toy
No. I don’t mean go out all the time and spoil them with gifts. But the fact of the matter is that something new (or something they haven’t seen in awhile) will hold their attention longer than what they’re used to.
Another idea I got from the Brave Learner book was her idea to “clear the table.”
The idea is that after your kids go to bed at night, you clear the table and set out a new craft or game. Then, when they get up in the morning, don’t say a word about it. Just let them check it out and explore it without any directions.
I love picking up little things from the Target Dollar Spot for this, but some other big hits have been:
- Sock Animal Kits
- Lincoln Logs
- Legos with a picture to recreate
- Marble Run
- Simple Crafts
- Sand Art Supplies
- Beads and beading material
19. Create Simple String Art
The simplest form of this is to wrap cardboard letters or shapes with yarn, but older kids can find a template they like to create something more intricate on wood!
20. Make a “Laser Maze”
Want to give your kids something active to do?
Make a spy maze in your hall by taping crepe paper or yarn to the walls! Kids can treat it like a laser maze, just like the spies in movies!
This one’s great for rainy or cold weather because it helps them get out some energy while they’re cooped up inside.
Weaving is a fun activity that requires some concentration, but is also simple enough for even young kids! You could have them make something like these and use them as coasters, or they could weave rectangles to use as wall hangings or trivets for the kitchen.
This would be a great activity for them to do at the table near you while you work, because it’s fairly independent, but they might have questions.
22. Make paper bag puppets
Grab some brown paper bags next time your at Walmart, collect some google eyes, buttons and material (for older kids who don’t put stuff in their mouths) or markers and crayons for the youngsters, and let them go to town!
They can make monsters, princesses, animals…you name it.
On a similar note, you can also set them up with supplies to make egg carton caterpillars or monsters!
This is a really cute craft, and a perfect way to re-use something that would otherwise be garbage! All you need is some paint, egg cartons, google eyes, and construction paper. Then, let their imaginations go wild.
When they’re done, they can put on a puppet show.
24. Paint Kindness Rocks
Does your town have a group that hides rocks for others to find? Both of my kids love this activity, so we’ve started painting our own.
They even have really cute kits like this one that are designed exactly for this purpose.
23. Make Bird Houses or Bird Feeders
This is the perfect activity for spring, when all the birds are coming back after winter.
You can either use a birdhouse kit they can paint and assemble, or up-cycle one with an old milk or juice carton.
While you’re at it, grab some empty toilet paper or paper towel rolls and make some simple bird feeders. Usually, you make them using peanut butter and bird seed, but if you’re kids are allergic to peanuts like mine, sun butter works just as well!
25. Send Them on a Scavenger Hunt
You could do this either by giving them a list of things to find, or do it treasure hunt style by leaving clues all over the house using post it notes! In the end, they get a prize.
You can make this as long and complicated as you want. Just keep in mind your own kids’ attention spans so they don’t lose interest.
How to Work at Home with Kids on Hard Days
Of course, no matter how prepared you are, some days are just going to be hard days.
Someone is going to wake up in a bad mood. The coffee pot will be on the fritz. Or maybe you woke up with a headache and just can’t deal.
We all have hard day and bad days, and that’s when it’s really difficult to figure out how to entertain kids.
So, what do you do on those days?
Give yourself grace!
Remember, this is totally normal, and you are a mom first. And the reason you chose to stay at home (most likely) is to be there when your kids need you.
There are days where I only manage to get about 30 minutes of work done all day. There are also days where my husband comes home after a 12 hour day and takes the kids so I can focus.
I’ve learned to work in the margins of time that are allotted to me, and to focus on Income Producing Activities. I recently heard a tip from Lena at What Mommy Does where she said she keeps simple, income producing tasks written on notecards. These are “bite sized” tasks that she can get done when she has ten minutes here or there. Genius if you ask me!
There is no such thing as a “perfect day,” when you’re a work at home mom. Just know that there are plenty of good days to make up for the bad ones!
How to Entertain Kids While You Work From Home
Running a business or blog from home can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. This list should give you plenty of ideas on how to entertain kids to give you time to get some work done!
Need more tips for work at home moms? Check out my master resource for how to work at home!