Entertaining Young Children
Anyone who has had anything to do with young children knows
how difficult it can be to keep them busy and happy. Here are some ideas for
keeping small people entertained. Please do make use of these ideas or go to the
end of this thread to add your own.
Tuesday, 02 May 2006 21:33
Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 May 2006 21:37
Arts and Crafts
Arts and Crafts - messy but fun!
Computing, TV and Video
- Draw on a chalkboard.
- A bag of fabric scraps can be used to make pictures of faces etc.
- Make sheep out of cardboard and cotton wool.
- Buy a big roll of lining paper and let your child draw huge pictures.
- Get some stencils and draw in them together. They can feel like they are
'drawing' things that are actually too complicated to draw freehand.
- Make figures from a story you've read out of card and make a stand for
them to stand up.
- Act out a little play of the story using figures.
- Draw a picture of something your child likes for them to colour in.
- Write 'Thank you God for.' at the top of a piece of paper and use
catalogue pictures for your child to find things he likes and/or has got at
home which he would like to say thank you for then write 'Amen' at the bottom.
- Make cardboard faces and use lengths of wool for hair.
a big space on the kitchen table and make a huge picture out of
playdough. We chose a space scene so we had stars, planets, rockets,
spacemen etc. It was really big and colourful and it was interesting to
watch them converting all the things they draw proficiently into
another medium. And here's the best bit, the playdough would go hard
after a while so you take a photo of your creation and squash it back
in the pots ~ no paper mountain of pictures! Try an underwater scene
- Give him a paper plate and he can draw his tea on it or cut pictures of
food out of a catalogue to stick on.
- Decorate a paper plate for everyone in your family to eat from. Probably a
biscuit or cake rather than beans and egg!
- Make a book by stapling paper together and write a story about your
children. Stick appropriate photos of your children into it. They will love
- Use newspaper to fold into hats and boats and other simple shapes.
- Make wrapping paper from big sheets of lining paper decorated with pens,
- Make a person out of card with a stand so it stands up. Then make lots of
clothes out of paper. Your child can colour them as he wishes, then you can
put them on the person with blue tack. The funnier the combinations, the
- Use cardboard, silver foil, string and glue make shiny fishes you can hang
- Make homemade boats from empty margarine tubs. Decorate a mast (1 or 2
triangles of paper) on a lollystick and wedge into some bluetak in the middle
of the margarine tub.
- Make your own flash cards with card and pictures cut out of an old
catalogue. (or a card with a letter on and then pictures cut out that began
with that letter).
- For Christmas, print off oversized star shapes and crowns and Christmas
tree shapes (all from Word or some other package with shapes) and then let the
kids paint/glitter them.
- Print out a picture from a website, colour them in, stick them on card,
then cut them up into jigsaw pieces to make your very own puzzles. The trick
is to cut up your own first so the world won't end when you start chopping
into your child's picture!
- Buy some Hama beads and design your own creations with those. Basically,
you get these little beads, you make designs out of them on a board, then iron
them and you've got your little design to keep.
- Ikea do large tubs of the beads and the plastic 'prong things' that you
set the beads on.
- Make them each a little blank book out of some card, paper and a staple
and let them fill their books with careful pictures and writing.
- Draw eight boxes on a piece of paper for children to draw in and, the same
again, having small boxes will turn a quick picture into a lengthy work of art
as they choose what to draw in each box, carefully draw it, choose colours
- Get the play dough out.
a height chart for your family by putting a long piece of paper on a
door or wall. Measure each family member in turn and write their name
on the mark you've made. This works best, probably, the more people you
have in your family but you could insist on measuring family, friends,
neighbours, the postman etc when they pop by.
- When we decorated the stairs we drew hand prints of the
children on the landing wall and painted them in gold, and wrote their
names and ages on the wall next to their hand prints.
- Look through photo albums- create a scrapbook together with stickers,
Messy (but fun!) Arts
- Do some finger-painting.
- Put shaving cream on a tray, table or tub and let your child play with it,
crayons all over a bit of paper, so all the different coloured
sharpenings make a mess on half of the paper. Then when you've done,
you fold the paper in half and iron it with a coolish iron and the
crayon bits melt into a pattern, most often a butterfly, but we've also
had a crab and a bat here this morning. You can then use a black pen to
draw on extra bits like the butterfly's body inbetween the wings, or
legs for the crab etc.
- Make models out of various empty cartons/bottles and get them to paint
them to their hearts content! (empty 2ltr drinks bottles make fantastic
- Do potato printing with paint and potatoes cut into shapes.
- Do printing with other things such as cotton reels.
- Do printing with sponge cut into shapes. Can be used over and over.
- Make cards for people's birthdays or for Christmas using glitter,
stickers, coloured paper etc. They don't have to be created with great skill
to look really good.
- Give them safety scissors, old magazines and a glue stick and make
- Using a salt-dough recipe make Christmas decorations using shaped cutters
that could be baked then painted and glittered and given out as presents from
the kids to family and friends to hang on their trees. You could do it for
birthday presents and put a few drops of aftershave/perfume on them as a
smelly for the wardrobe.
- You can make almost anything out of salt dough, email
for our recipe and have a go.
- Make simple Christmas decorations, paper chains, baubles from ping-pong
balls, glitter and cotton.
- Cut pictures out of a catalogue to glue onto a piece of paper.
- Outside at home in winter- let them help shovel snow, make snow angels,
and throw snowballs
- In warmer weather outside at home- children like to dig in dirt, play on
the swing or slide, kick a ball, play in sand.
- Go for a walk in the rain and splash in puddles.
- Buy some chalks and let your child draw on the paving slabs outside.
- Roll out the lining paper outside and do foot and hand painting.
- Wash the car, kids love it and you get a good job done.
them with a digital camera while they take photos of things they find
in the garden, then have a look at them inside and try to find out on
the internet or in books what they are, what the leaves are from, what
sort of beetle you found or whatever.
- Do rubbings of leaves, walls, flowers with crayons and white paper.
- Give your child a pot of water and a paintbrush to go and 'paint' pictures
outside with no mess.
- Encourage older children to write letters in water on the slabs.
- Another great one is to let them 'paint' the garden fence or wall. Great
when the sun is out and dries it up before they reach the end - they want to
go back and start again!
- Buy a sandpit - kids will play in it in the summer and even when the snow
- In hot weather, organize for the kids to have their bath outside in the
paddling pool. Bring down some bath toys, some bubble bath and flannels and
they have a whale of a time. It's a bit of a faff to organize the hot water
but it's worth it for the added fun of doing bathtime outside.
- If you have a garden that is big enough and are not on a water meter, buy
a large plastic sheet from a builder's merchants, spread it out on the ground,
set the hose pipe running, sprinkle baby bath/washing up liquid on it, get the
children - or adults - changed into their swimming things and let them loose
- Go for a walk and find lots of leaves/feathers etc to glue onto a picture
when you get home.
- Draw a picture and put it in an envelope, address it, put a stamp on it
and walk down to post it, talking about what happens to letters on their way
to the recipient.
- Find a box and a bit of material big enough to cover over the top of it.
Cut a slit in the material big enough to fit a hand in. Then put different
objects in it, for the children to feel and guess what they are. They will be
able to both guess the objects and choose more objects for you or a sibling to
guess. You can vary the difficulty of this for the age of the child/ren and
maybe set up a points system.
- Somebody two or under may cope better with just pulling things out and
then naming them, rather than having to guess without looking.
- Have a tray of objects to memorize and then try to guess which one is
missing. Start with a few objects and you can add to them. Take turns with
- Find a basket or box and have your child look for things that are a
certain colour or shape or texture "let's find something blue" and fill the
- Play with cards.
- Make a set a Pairs cards to play your own game with. Draw or cut out pictures from a catalogue.
- Play I Spy "I spy something that's green, do you see something that's
green? I spy something that's smooth, do you see something that is smooth?"
- Count things- find numbers or letters around the house, use magnetic
letters or numbers.
- Play with rice or beans- have rice in a plastic box and let them scoop,
pour and bury toys.
- Throw bean bags into the laundry basket.
- Sort and stack things- clothes, blocks, shoes, books.
- Put a puzzle together.
- Make paper aeroplanes and see who can throw theirs the furthest.
Decorating them can be fun too.
- Put plastic bowls and plates in the sink and add some bubbly water for
them to 'wash up'.
- Make a den using chairs and blankets.
- Do pretend cooking with bowls and wooden spoons and dry pasta/lentils. You
can even weigh out the ingredients on your scales.
- Put some old keys on a key ring for them to play at being grown up.
- Dress up in funny hats/gloves/scarves/big shoes and pretend to be
- Get a plastic tea set out and make pretend food out of play dough or
- Set up your coffee table as a shop. Put your food tins and packets on it
and make some coins from cardboard and notes from paper. Then your child can
be the shopkeeper and you can buy things.
- Invest in some face paints (I prefer ones you paint on with a brush rather
than the crayons) and paint your children's faces. even if they won't have it
done on days out and at fetes, they may be happy for you to do it at home. It
takes a while to do and then they play for ages at being the character you
- Set up a pretend Post Office with some junk mail, and a post box made out
of a painted box. Even make pretend stamps so they can make their own letters.
- On the Post Office theme, buy some cheap envelopes and writing paper, some
stickers to be stamps. Then children can make their own letters to go in the
- Make a house out of a big cardboard box and decorate it.
- Make a nest out of pillows and blankets.
- Put a blanket over a table and make a hideout.
- Pretend to walk through different things and make sound effects (mud,
- Walk like different animals.
- Play dressing up- they will love Daddy's old shirt, hats, scarves,
- Make percussion instruments out of jars full of dry pasta, upside down
saucepans and bowls and use wooden spoons as drum sticks.
- Put some music on and dance.
- Listen to a children's music tape or cd and do the actions to the songs,
or make up silly actions if there aren't any.
- If you have a piano or keyboard, they will love making music on it.
- Make music- drum, whistle, and shakers.
- Make cakes and have a spoon each to stir the mixture.
- Use tubes of icing and sprinkly things to decorate the cakes you have
- Make something simple like angel delight together and serve it up for the
- Make salt dough which you can then use to make things. Email
for our recipe.
- Make peppermint creams, all in different colours.
- Make no-bake oat cookies.
- Make a jelly or an angel delight. They are fun to stir, have ingredients
to add and are good to eat afterwards!
- Make biscuits, pizza, pudding, and bread.
Computing, TV and
- Find some children's websites e.g. Bob the Builder, Postman Pat etc and
play the games and do the puzzles together.
Top Trumps sets. You can help by making a template up on a Word
document so we can print them out. We decide on the categories and then
he can cut them out, add the numbers, draw the pictures and name them.
You can even trawl the internet to find out the proper statistics for
your subject. Email
for my templates.
- Open up a Word document and make the type really big and let your child
type a document. Then date it and save it to show them when they are older.
- Print out their document for them to keep (and colour?)
- On your computer - let them dictate a story to you - you type it in in a big font, and leave gaps for them to illustrate it.
- Children love having a go on a play station, or similar, if you have one.
- You can get suitable games for a normal computer too.
- Watch a video together and talk about what happened to the characters,
what was funny and what you learnt.
- Rent a video the whole family will enjoy and buy or make popcorn, turn the
lights down and make it fun!
- Do some videoing of your child then watch it back on the television. Let
your child have a turn at videoing (heavily supervised, of course!)
- Do some silly recording onto a cassette then listen back to yourselves -
this makes a nice keepsake too.
- Go through a toy catalogue together, both saying what your favourite thing
is on each page
- Read stories onto cassette then your child can listen back to them
whenever they like
- Find 10 books you haven't read for a while and put them in a pile. Let
your child decide what order to read them in.
- Read books, whatever they bring you.
- Help your child make their own book to read.
you make up stories for your children, take the time to write them up
in a home made book so they can keep them and remember them.
- Go to the library and let your child choose the books you sit and read
- Look out of the window together and talk about what you can see.
- Play marbles and find lots of containers to put them in and roll them
- Buy a cheap one use camera and let your child practise taking real
pictures and get them developed to see the results
- Grow some cress in a yoghurt pot/egg shell
- Fill a big bowl or pan with soapy water and let your child play with the
- Get your puzzles all out together and your child can sort through which
pieces go with which puzzle and then gradually do all the puzzles. This can
keep children occupied for ages. Works well with those wooden board puzzles,
having them all laid out together.
- Buy some bath letters, they are great fun and help with learning to read
and write too.
try and make arrangements to meet up with a different friend or my
sister each day, just for a few hours. The kids get to play with a
variety of friends, and it breaks the day up.
- Exercise or dance.
- Jump on the bed.
- Keep some toys back for days when you need a bit of fresh input.
- Use a theme for a day or a few days, eg. Noah's Ark, paintings of
rainbows, playing with toy animals, reading animal stories, visit to a farm
- Look in toyshops or newsagents for really cheap toys. It's surprising how
many hours of fun your child can get out of something which cost less than