When it’s time to make dinner (or fold laundry…or put your feet up for two minutes to relax…) the temptation is strong to switch on the TV. Or give your toddler or preschooler your phone with a fun app. Gah—you just want some screen-free play options that keep everyone happy for more than 10 minutes. And you want them right now! So, I’ve put together a collection of screen free activities for you. They’ll not only keep your kids safely and creatively engaged, but will also free you up to finally just get. things. done.
Each of these screen-free activities (great for toddlers, preschoolers, and older…) provides all sorts of early learning benefits. They’re materials I used in my preschool classroom, but they work just as well in your living room. Or on the kitchen floor! Some require a little prep time. Once you’ve prepped things one time, you can store and reuse the activity again and again. Pack a few of them up into tubs so they are ready to be pulled out and set up right when you need them!
Okay…without further ado, here are 5 fun (and easy) activities for your kids to do while you get some work done!
1. Play dough!
Yep. “But, Wendy! It’s too messy,” you’re thinking. I’ve got you covered. Get a plastic tub– shoe box size is good. Store your play dough (here’s the non-toxic, homemade recipe I use) in a zip top bag along with a clear shower curtain, a few plastic knives from Ikea, some small storage containers with lids, and a rolling pin. When it’s time to play, spread the shower curtain on the floor or table. Plop your kids on it, and get to work. (I know you’re tempted to sit down and play with them, but really, you’ve got some dishes to unload, right?) As they squish, poke, roll, and cut, they are building all those fine motor skills that eventually lead to writing. A little mess? Worth it!
2. Doctor or Vet Kit (+ a stuffed animal or doll).
Kids are naturally nurturing. They don’t much like having an owie of their own. But let them take care of a sick animal or doll, and they’re thrilled! This particular set comes with a puppy and kitten (how cute!), but you could also throw in or substitute a small doll. Additionally, I’d add a small baby blanket (even a scrap of fabric works!) And if you’re not concerned with keeping things lovely and clean, a box of real adhesive bandages. Hours (or at least many, many minutes) of screen free fun that builds social & emotional skills, imagination, and motor skills.
As you probably already know, I make these puppies in a variety of themes and styles. DIY sets like this Robot Set keep kids busy building, taking apart, and rebuilding to their hearts’ content—building fine motor and math skills as they do so. Quiet sets like this Space Set allow kids to use their imagination to set up scenes and tell stories of their own creation. And Song & Story sets like these Three Little Pigs build early literacy skills and creativity as kids re-tell stories and sing songs they already know—or make up their very own version. Finally, the felt travel mat comes with a storage envelope. These are so lightweight and kid friendly, they can be easily transported to any room of the house so you can get to work. While your little ones get to their work!
4. Building Sets
The ultimate in building tools, wooden blocks like these are such an important tool for young children. As your little architect manipulates the blocks, they start gaining important math skills, like cause and effect. (Oops—it falls over if I make it too tall!) Shape knowledge grows. (Hey! Put these triangles together and they make a square!). Add in some of these gorgeous hand painted peg dolls and you’ll see even more creative play skills, similar to those that happen with the doctor kit. Creativity abounds!
5. Dance Party!
There’s nothing like music and movement activities to get the kids busy (and worn out!) I highly recommend a few kid’s musicians in particular. Their music is fun for kids and most likely won’t make you grit your teeth in agony 😉 Get a few playlists set up, fill a small tub with dancing scarves or hand kites, and let your kids get their groove on! They’ll be building gross motor skills as they boogie, as well as early literacy skills as they sing along. And you’ll be enjoying your work just a little bit more with music on in the background. Who knew singing about ducks and dinosaurs could be so fun?!
Ready to get your tubs filled with fun, screen free, ready-to-go learning activities?
Visit my shop here to get your collection started!