Our little ones can be an endless source of joy and pride. I don’t know about you, but one look at the picture of my little rascal is enough to get me to calm down and keep a cool head during a particularly stressful day at work. The thing is, even though we enjoy spending time with them, kids are just on a whole other level when it comes to energy. They can run around all day long, and their attention span is not their strong side. For these reasons it can be difficult to channel all their energy in a more creative and constructive way, and manage to keep them entertained throughout the day. Well, different people have found some very interesting parenting hacks over the years. Here is a list of fun activities that will help you keep your children busy and engaged until bedtime.
1. Create your own coloring book
Kids love to paint and draw, and if there is a story behind the pictures and they have to be careful to color in the right lines then you are helping them develop their cognitive skills and fine motor functions, as well as keeping them busy. You can draw up different scenes freehand on a piece of paper or you can use pictures worked over in Photoshop to create some awesome scenes for your coloring book.
2. Hold a drawing/painting contest
A blank piece of paper gives your children much more artistic freedom than a coloring book and it’s much easier to set up a drawing or painting contest. Write down a few themes, animals and objects on small pieces of paper, mix them up and then draw one. Everyone has to draw whatever comes up, including mommy or daddy, and then you move on to the next one.
3. Create art from everyday items
A particularly optimistic crafting project may require you to shop for supplies, but there are tons of simple household items that can be used in unique and interesting ways. You can use bubble wrap to make cool patterns by dipping it in paint and applying it to an object or you can paint old empty bottles to make vases.
4. Decorate the living room for an exciting party
Throw a small party for the whole family, but have the kids help you out with planning and decorating beforehand. By the time they are through with decorating and dressing up, you’ll have plenty of time to serve up some juice and snacks. Then just play some music and let them tire themselves out by dancing.
5. Build a Lego town
Legos are incredibly versatile and can serve as building blocks for just about any project. Gather your little ones and design a basic outline of a town. Then start planning the important administrative building and the homes for some of the other toys. You can come up with some back stories for the different toys as well – e.g. why a naughty soldier is in jail or why the dinosaur and Bratz doll live in the same building. This can be hours of fun.
6. Turn old cardboard boxes into race cars
We all know that babies and toddlers often find big cardboard boxes more amusing than even the shiniest and fluffiest toy in the world. You can combine this natural fascination with huge boxes and some fun scenarios by turning them into cars. Draw some wheels and lights and cut out windows. Give them a Frisbee for a steering wheel and pretend you are racing, or just driving around town, naming the things that you see as you travel.
7. Organize a stage performance
Help the kids come up with a script for an adventurous play and then have them set the stage, dress up and perform for you. It will take them quite a bit of time just to set up the stage, rehearse and find the right wardrobe, and then you can look forward to a fun play that you can record. If they are feeling very creative you can even have two shows that day.
8. Make some Halloween costumes
With Halloween right around the corner it only seems fitting to start preparing some great costumes. Get the kids involved by letting them choose the materials and make drawings of how they would like their costume to look. They will get very excited and will gladly help you out, doing any small task that you assign them with a sense of pride. This fun project makes the children feel important and sparks their creative side.
9. Play “busy little ants clean up their home”
Most parents have trouble finding a good balance between work, household chores and spending quality time with their kids. If you create a fun game around cleaning the house you can have your little sweeties take on a decent part of the workload and stay fairly entertained in the process. My daughter loves animals and animal documentaries, so we like to pretend that we are a colony of busy little ants that are preparing our home for the winter. It is also a good way to let the wife take a much deserved break, as she becomes the ant queen who gives out orders.
10. Play some online games that develop memory and cognitive skills
A child’s growing mind is like a sponge that soaks up all sorts of knowledge from the world around it. That’s why it is important to nurture both creative and clean logical thinking. These new generations are incredibly tech-savvy, so I find that it’s best to use a tablet to play one of the many great logical puzzles and memory games that can help develop your child’s cognitive abilities. The kids will be glued to the screen and will want to play over and over to get a better score.
11. Open up a bakery in your kitchen
Taking care of a family means feeding a lot of hungry mouths, and it’s not exactly the easiest job in the world when said hungry mouths keep running around aimlessly or telling you how bored they are. Both boys and girls like to get their hands dirty and create, so with a bit of imagination and some dress up, you can have these eager little helpers work in your newly opened kitchen bakery. You can spend hours at a time working on different cookies or cakes, or just letting them play around with some dough while you prepare the snacks. In the end everyone gets a nice treat.
12. Build a fort and hide
There are very few things that are as exciting and fun as making a fort indoors. It’s a simple affair, although there are some very creative examples, and requires no more than a big blanket, a few pillows, a broomstick or length of rope and a bit of furniture rearranging. The magical fort can be decorated to taste and warm milk and cookies served inside – perhaps after a busy day at the kitchen bakery. It is also a great setting for storytelling.
13. Hold a wrestling tournament and play different characters
This one is particularly fun for boys, but I know a certain little girl who can perform a very good arm bar and likes to wrestle around with her dad for hours. To keep things interesting you can come up with several different characters and hold a tournament. Each of you will choose a character to play for a given time – just like you would in a video game – and the winners get to go on to the final stages. It’s best to let the little ones win at the end. They could even join forces against the main baddy played by yourself.
14. Engage in some storytelling
Be it in a magnificent fort, around the living room table or gathered in a circle on the floor, storytelling always fascinates kids and they like to join in as well. You can read stories from a book, and do your best to make up interesting voices for the characters, or you can do some ad lib and make up a story on the go using suggestions from the eager crowd. The kids can also be encouraged to come up with their own stories, suggest plot twists or make up funny characters.
15. When all else fails, dress up and watch your favorite cartoons
After a long day the kids will get a bit tired, but they’ll still want to do something fun before bed time. The go-to solution for many parents is watching cartoons. It’s best to choose a couple of their favorite cartoons and have them dress up as their favorite characters for movie night. Just make sure they don’t stay up past their bedtime – you can give them some warm milk or hot chocolate.
These cool parenting hacks should keep your lovely little kids occupied and entertained throughout the day, while providing enough creative stimulus for their developing minds.