Bright Side
Bright Side

100 simple ways to keep a child entertained when you’re busy


It's often the case that a mom has to do something important, but her child demands attention at that exact moment. And so she has to think up something for them to do on the spot.

We at Bright Side have encountered this problem time and again. That's why we've come up with 100 simple and easy ideas to keep your child busy when you need to be busy too. At the same time, all these tasks are designed to help your child develop. One thing to remember though - it's always recommended to keep children under three under close supervision, no matter what you're doing.

  • Let your child pick out natural materials from a 'sensory box' - a container filled with objects they can touch such as pine cones, nuts, sticks, seashells, stones, and so on. An idea for such a box can be seen below.
  • Move a dry pulse/grain product from one container to another with a spoon or their hand.
  • Extract small objects from a container filled with dry cereal product or pulses.
  • Extract small objects, such as nuts or glass beads, from a jar using a spoon or tweezers.
  • Transfer water from one container into another with the help of a spoon or a sponge.
  • Stick some small objects (such as cereal, dry pasta, or buttons) into plasticine or play dough.
  • Transfer water with the help of a plastic funnel.
  • Extract small objects from a container filled with cereal or pulses using a sieve, and examine what does and doesn't pass through it.
  • Stick some stickers to a piece of paper.
  • Insert some small objects (dry pasta, buttons, peas, beans) into a cardboard box with small round holes.
  • Insert some small objects (such as coins, paper clips, counting sticks, or buttons) into a plastic box with a latticework lid.
  • Take various small objects and/or toys from a bag, mix them up, and then place them back in a different order (you can change what's in the bag to keep it interesting).
  • Crumple up, tear, or cut paper with scissors.
  • Cut out pictures from old magazines and stick them to a new piece of paper.
  • Unscrew and screw back on the lids of jars and bottles.
  • Take out various coins from an old purse, and then place them back in.
  • Remove any old and unused credit cards, business cards, mini calendars and so on from the sections of a wallet, then insert them back in.
  • Make different figures out of lollipop sticks or counting stickers.
  • Draw images using soap on a piece of cloth.
  • Color in and draw on old DVD and CD disks you no longer need using highlighters.
  • Stick some plasticine to old CD and DVD disks.
  • Cover an old CD in PVA glue, sprinkle a cereal/pulse over the top, and wait for it to dry. Then draw over the contours of the surface with a felt tip pen and/or paint in different colors.
  • Press the buttons on an old telephone.
  • Look through some of the drawers in the kitchen (make sure all dangerous objects have been put somewhere else).
  • Investigate the drawer in your work desk (again, with any potentially dangerous objects removed).
  • Make holes in a piece of paper with a hole punch.
  • Give your child a fresh box of little (dental-sized) paper cups, and let her stack and crash to her heart’s content.
  • Use paper clips to make a chain.
  • Stick some Scotch tape to any linoleum flooring in your home, and then let them tear it off.
  • Stick strips of Scotch tape down, and use them as racing tracks for toy cars.
  • Stick various small objects (cereal products, peas, beans, pasta, buttons) to a piece of double-sided Scotch tape.
  • Get a pack of different colored cocktail straws, and sort them into separate piles by color.
  • Get your child to draw around their hand on a piece of paper (help them if necessary), and then turn each finger into a little person, or whatever they want, using pens and pencils.
  • Open a selection of boxes where you've hidden various surprises (keep a few empty, just for suspense).
  • Put various objects in empty boxes. Suggest putting both large and small objects inside them, so that your child can see which ones fit and which ones don't.
  • Build various structures out of empty boxes.
  • Unwind and tear up some toilet paper or kitchen roll.
  • Place paint in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag. Seal the bag, then tape it to a window. Let your toddler move the paint around in the bag using their fingers.
  • Give your child a large magnet and various objects, and let them have fun finding out which are magnetic and which are not.
  • Give your child various different kinds of pasta to sort into groups (you can make it more fun if you give them ones that have been dyed different colors).
  • Extract various small objects from a jar or other container full of water using a spoon.
  • Try to undo various knots in things like shoelaces, bows, pieces of string, etc.
  • Take a piece of cardboard or a whole cardboard box, punch some holes in it, and let your child try to pass a shoelace or a piece of string through the holes.
  • Try to pass lollipop sticks or straws through an upturned sieve or colander.
  • Try to attach clothes pegs to various objects, such as the rim of a bucket or a cardboard box.
  • Gather up various objects you have placed on the floor in a jar or box.
  • Find the beans or peas hidden in a container full of semolina.
  • Wind up a long piece of thread or string into a ball.
  • Cut out the shapes of various animals from a piece of cardboard (a fish, a rabbit, etc.), draw on them the animal's basic features, and let your child wind them up in thread or wool.
  • Stick various stickers into a notebook or notepad.
  • Place various small objects into an empty bottle with a narrow neck.
  • Place various small objects (beads, pasta pieces) on a piece of string to make a necklace.
  • Play with a spinning top.
  • Put various small objects inside some used candy wrappers (buttons, beads, etc.), and let your child unwrap them.
  • Wrap various objects in baking foil, and let your child find out what's inside.
  • Let your child take some tea bags out of the box, examine them, put them back.
  • Gather up some water using a pipette, and then let it drip/squirt it out.
  • Stick a bunch of magnets to the refrigerator.
  • Attach some colored paper clips to a magnet.
  • Use a pencil, stick, or brush to make pictures with a large amount of semolina, rice, beans etc., poured onto the table.
  • Let them sweep up some small objects deliberately left on the floor with a broom or brush.
  • Let them soak up some water that you've deliberately spilled somewhere with a cloth (for example, on a baking tray).
  • Take a piece of polystyrene and let them try breaking it to pieces, placing small objects into it, and so on.
  • Drop various objects into a bowl of water, and see which ones float and which ones sink.
  • Pick up very small objects using tweezers, and transfer them from one container to another.
  • Place a drop of liquid soap on a plastic plate, and let your child turn it into foam using a brush or whisk.
  • Fill a used egg carton with various objects.
  • Entwine a piece of thread or string around the teeth of a comb/hairbrush.
  • Gather up all the plastic containers in the kitchen, and place them inside each other from the largest to the smallest.
  • Sort various pieces of cutlery or other kitchen items (nonsharp ones, preferably plastic) into different groups depending on size, color, function, and so on.
  • Build a tower out of plastic cups.
  • Place some objects inside a large bag, and let your child search for them and pull them out.
  • Place some clothes pegs on your child's sleeves or a fold in their clothing and encourage them to take them off.
  • Offer a stack of colorful Post-it notes, and ask for an art installation on the nearest wall.
  • Unwind a spool of thread/a ball of wool.
  • Give your child a small amount of cotton wool, feathers, or other light objects and encourage them to blow them out of their hands.
  • Cover a Q-tip with a small amount of shaving foam, and let your child draw with it/mix it with water in a bowl.
  • Fill a balloon full of water, and let them play with it.
  • Draw something on a balloon.
  • Give your child a pile of buttons, beads, or other small objects varying in size and color, and encourage them to sort them into piles according to these (or other) categories.
  • Make a 'developmental rug' for your child: take a piece of thick material and sew various bright buttons of different shapes and sizes onto it. This will be of interest to even the smallest children.
  • Construct little figures out of a combination of lollipop sticks and Q-tips.
  • Turn some light objects, such as small empty boxes or even the shells of nuts, into 'boats' by placing them in a bowl of water.
  • Let your child investigate the (nonsharp/nondangerous) objects you have in a cosmetic bag.
  • Do up and undo the buttons on their clothes or the clothes of a doll/toy.
  • Practice opening and closing a padlock with a key (though not one which is too small or too heavy).
  • Look through a photo album.
  • Give them a small mirror to study themselves.
  • Give them some items to draw around with a piece of paper and a pencil - lids, spoons, sticks, pieces of lego, and so on.
  • Smear a piece of paper with PVA glue, and let them sprinkle it with beads, a dry cereal product, beans, rice, etc.
  • Give them some cookie cutters of varying forms and sizes, and show them how to cut their play dough or plasticine into different shapes.
  • Draw a large letter (or several) in a notepad, and let them practice coloring it in however they want.
  • Give them a few pieces of dry pasta, and encourage them to stick it into a piece of play dough, plasticine etc.
  • Take off and put on the caps for various pens and highlighters.
  • Transfer water from one container to another using a pipette.
  • Let them have fun washing some plastic bowls, pots, and/or cutlery in soapy water.
  • Give them some pieces of chinelle wire of different colors to bend, unbend, and wind together.
  • Tear paper towels or tissues into small strips, and roll them up into little balls to play with.
  • Fill some balloons with various (nonsharp) materials such as beads, plastic buttons, dry pasta, etc., tie up the end, and give your child the chance to guess what's inside.
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