No matter how much we love our kids, there are days when keeping children occupied is exhausting. Here are 10 fun ways to keep young minds engaged without having to use much of your precious brainpower or physical energy.
Prompt their imaginations
There's no need to feel guilty when you just don't have the energy to play; freedom to create and play without adult interference is hugely beneficial to our children. Try setting up an invitation to play that they can take and use as they wish. Simply leave out props or creative materials to prompt your children's thinking and act as a starting place, but with no prescribed outcomes.
- Setting up playdough with jewels/pasta/googly eyes to decorate
- Laying out random paper shapes, scissors and glues
- Putting out plastic animals, a bowl of water and a cloth
- Providing beads, buttons and pipe cleaners
- Giving them pens, paper and a mirror
Do lazy role play
Imaginative play is another hugely beneficial pastime for our children – and they love us joining in! But it doesn't have to be exhausting. If you want to do them the honour of being involved but don't have the energy to be racing around the room, try lazy role play by just lying or sitting there. Be a patient in a doctor’s surgery and let your kids bandage you up, or 'go to the salon' and be pampered.
Be the landscape
Another nice and easy one that allows you a few minutes on the floor – be the landscape. Lie down with your body providing different obstacles for toy cars. Have one knee bent to be used as a tunnel or mountain, an arm laid out as a bumpy road, and move your stomach up and down to make a swaying bridge.
Don't disturb the dragon
If you really don't want to move, lie down and tell your children not to 'disturb the dragon' as you get comfy on the floor. Challenge them to navigate over and around you, but warn them, if they wake you – you will roar! Then occasionally stir to be a scary dragon before falling back asleep. Perfect for the day after an exhausting toddler-disturbed night.
Simon Says is a classic and an easy way to get your children to do what you'd like without moaning. Make the most of their compliance as you sit back and encourage them to do all manner of silly things to make them giggle and then and see how long you can get away with instructing them to sit still.
If you've got enough energy to push a button, then you've got enough energy to play musical statues. This is a great one for helping them keep active and encouraging laughter as they bust funny moves and end up pausing in hilarious positions.
Be the most fun grown-up around by allowing your children to tattoo you in the name of entertainment. Use washable pens or, even better, face paints they can go crazy with. Sit back and enjoy the peace. Just don't forget to head to the bathroom and wash off before you answer the door…
If you've got the energy, storytime is a calm and developmentally beneficial way to keep children engaged without needing to race around. Take it in turns to read stories to each other and add a fun twist by making up silly endings or getting words wrong on purpose.
It’s not only Birthdays and Christmas children love unwrapping parcels, toys wrapped in paper add a fun element on any day of the year. Plus, it turns out children are happy to do the wrapping too. Set up a pile of newspaper or wrapping paper cuttings and encourage your children to deliver parcels to you on the couch. Get ready to practice your surprised face as they wrap and re-wrap the same 'gift' again and again.
Let them be bored
Never forget about the importance of letting your children be bored. Don't underestimate the opportunity for your kids to use their creativity and imagination without direction. After all, it's about more than giving you a break – you're setting them up for life with a skill that'll ensure they never struggle with their smartphone dying in the years to come!
Relieved to have found something fun rather than exhausting to try today? Help other parents catch a break by sharing these ideas with friends, family and other caregivers in your life!