Quiet games for quiet times
There are lots of times in a parent’s life where quiet is not just appreciated, but necessary. My biggest challenge when my third child, Lottie, was a baby was occupying my two toddlers when she went down for her morning and afternoon naps. These were the times of day when my other two wanted to be rowdy and have fun so I learned ways for them to have a good time while still keeping quiet to let Lottie get a full sleep.
Sometimes we need a quiet activity to calm an over-tired or over-anxious child down and sometimes we need quiet play to calm a mum down too.
Here are some easy ideas for bringing some quiet into your day. These are activities that hold a child’s interest, require concentration and are mostly able to be played alone. All of the ideas can be adapted to children of any age, and will hopefully bring some peace to your home soon.
Toddler busy bag
Let’s get started with the best quiet time activity going – the busy bag. Or box. Or bucket. Call it what you will, but this is a bag full of quiet that you can take with you wherever you go. Make the contents age-appropriate (think felt games and board books for toddlers, pencils, notebooks and chapter books for bigger kids). It’s a good idea to vary what you put into your busy bag to keep things interesting, but after that you can just throw it in your everyday go bag and buy yourself a little quiet time on the go. Click here for the Kidspot instructions for putting one together.
For older kids, a geoboard is a wonderful pastime that will flex their creative and mathematical brain. A geoboard, in its traditional format, is actually a mathematical tool for measuring the basic concepts of plane geometry, but jazz it up with colourful straws, strings, beads, wool, sequins and coloured paper and you get to design something amazing. Kids will spend ages attaching, wrapping, testing and playing. See how it works at Picklebums.
Sting art! How could we forget about string art!? Did you make it at school like I did? You can adapt a string art board for kids as young as two right up to teens. String art is a fantastic way to pass some time concentrating and creating something lovely. Remind yourself how to do it right here on Kidspot.
Of course I had to mention jigsaw puzzles. It’s such a good idea to get your kids hooked on jigsaws, as they have been found to increase alertness, concentration, visualisation and creativity. Personally, I’ve found that they also decrease the noise level at home, so they’re good for our brains as well as the kids! You can buy all kinds of lovely puzzles for all age groups, but click here if you would like to make your own.
A storytelling basket contains bits and pieces that allow a child to visually retell a favourite story. So, if their favourite story is We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, the basket will contain some toy bears, plus some grass, rocks, branches, etc. You can basically pack your basket with anything from a beloved storybook that will spark your child’s imagination to props that will keep them content in their storybook world for a while.
Origami– the ancient Japanese art of paper folding – is deliciously soothing and completely addictive. Young children from as young as three can start with the basics of folding paper. From four, kids will be able to start making basic origami shapes like a boat, hat, fish or heart. Click here for more loads more origami ideas for kids of all ages.
Cutting out shapes to thread with wool and then hang is a detailed activity that will keep kids happy for ages. Kids from about four will be able to tackle this one on their own from start to finish, but younger kids will need you to do the cutting so they can do the threading. No need to be confused, just click here for the tutorial.
You might be surprised to find out how long your child will concentrate on an activity that we find tedious.Making pom poms is one such activity. I mean, I love pom poms but loathe the repetitive wrapping required to make one. Kids love it. This wool ball activitytakes the wrapping a step further, the effect is surprisingly artistic and they will have a ball (of wool – geddit?).
My kids have always been fascinated by my wallet, from babies right through to now (they are six, nine and 10 these days!). I wish I’d thought to do this idea sooner – buy a cheap wallet and stock it with play money, old credit cards, coins (check age of child!) and other bits and bobs. I made one for my six-year-old and she spent hours role-playing with her new wallet as well as stocking and restocking it. Result!
Threading beads onto pipe cleaners
Most kids love threading things onto other things and there are all sorts of ways you can set them up to do so. Younger children who are still developing fine motor coordination will appreciate having some sturdy pipe cleaners to thread, older kids will love the challenge of wool or string. Set them up with some wooden beads and some colourful pipe cleaners and leave them to it.
Tiny Teddy world
Tiny Teddy bickies have long been a favourite here at Kidspot – we’ve made them cars, we’ve made them trains, we’ve even made them sleighs. But they are so much more than just a ridiculously cute way to make party food – you can use them to create little pretend-play scenes that your child will love. Simply draw a park, house, beach, road network or school and give your child a bunch of Tiny Teddies to live there … wait for the magic. I wonder how long they will be able to resist eating them!
For bigger kids, especially preschoolers and early schoolers, practising letters is an enjoyable way to concentrate for a little while. There are all kinds of ways to practice writing, here are some of them:
- Write the letters on a blackboard for your child to trace over with water.
- Tackle some dot-to-dot worksheets.
- Squeeze shaving cream on the shower screen and write the letters in the foam.
- Form the letters with pipe cleaners, twigs, craft sticks or pasta shapes.
- Write them on a biscuit tray filled with a layer of salt or sugar (probably salt is best!).
- Finger paint them.
- Write them in the dirt with a stick.
- Write them on a white board, black board or the fridge with a white board marker (check fridge surface first!).
- Write them on the mirror with a white board marker.
Get your hands on a cardboard box and let the kids go wild with the crayons, textas, pencils and paints. Little kids will love being in the box while they draw – a great way to contain them in one spot if you need to. Bigger kids might like to turn their box into a fort, castle or house. Once the play is done, water the box down to reduce it’s size to put into your paper recyclables bin.
The recyclables box in the kitchen should really be labelled the ‘craft box’. If you’re not taking advantage of all the goodies in there for creative play, you really ought to! You can help the kids create a complex recyclable city out of boxes , or leave the plastic bottles, scrap papers, bottle tops, cartons, tabs and ties just as they are for the kids to construct whatever they like. Here are some more cool toys that are made out of the recycle bin:
Sorting and patterning with beads
A free printable chart for sorting coloured beads (Hama beads or even loom bands would also work) will help kids learn their colours, patterning and sorting while you get on with the dinner preparations. They can then thread their beads to make a lovely necklace. Find the full instructions here on Kidspot.
'Find it’ jars
A ‘find it’ jar is basically a jar filled with rice (you can colour it if you like) that has small toys and objects hidden inside. You give your child a list of things to find and they can dig into the jar to find them. You can set up lots of different jars to bring out at different times and make it more difficult for older kids by insisting they use tweezers …
I’m not one to dismiss electronic play for kids – they are the technology generation, after all. The trick is to get them playing with apps that help little brains develop creatively and holistically, not mindlessly.
You can use your iPad or computer to get some audio books happening, or you can buy CDs or download podcasts. Either way, listening to a story is a lovely way for kids to have a little quiet time when you are too busy to read yourself. Older children also love listening to a story and having the story read to them as they read along in their books – this is a fantastic way to help increase their vocabulary and understanding of linguistics.
Use blocks, recyclable cardboard boxes, cards or … marshmallows! Have you seen the skewer/toothpick marshmallow tower concept? You jab the end of your stick into a marshmallow and keep on building. If you don’t trust your kids with all those marshmallows (I certainly wouldn’t!) you can always use play dough, putty orto secure the tower.
There’s no way play dough wasn’t going to make it onto the ‘quiet’ list. It’s my ultimate go-to activity for some quick downtime. There are loads of recipes for play dough – click here to find several right here on Kidspot – but my favourite is definitely this sweet smelling glitter playdough recipe.
Let the kids spend some a morning making their own menagerie with these five cute animal crafts. From bears to cheeky monkeys there's enough animals here for a few verses of Old Macdonald and beyond. With tutorial videos for each one you can check out these cute ideas here.
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