Like many people, we’re looking at least a few weeks of school and activities being cancelled. I am a little stressed trying to figure out how I’m going to get work done and keep Jane occupied at home for that time. I took a deep breath after my mild panic and surveyed our closet where we store toys and craft supplies, and even dug into my “snow day” stash I was saving for snowstorms that never arrived this year. As I was wrapping my head around how to pace out these projects and activities over the next few weeks, I thought I’d share some of my ideas and favorite toys and craft supplies with the hope this list might be helpful to others in the same situation! I linked everything below with some context for how we use, play, and extend the time on each activity, and included a few of my favorite sites I use for kids activity inspiration as well. If you have good ideas or resources for keeping kids busy during this time please share them in the comments!Magnetic Toys. A few of our favorite creative magnetic toys! Tegu magnetic blocks were Jane’s big Christmas gift this year — they’re so pretty and we use them build towers and houses (I love playing these with her!). Petit Collage makes tons of fun magnetic kits (I love how they store in little tins for easy clean up) — the funny face magnet set is a fave. Floss & Rock is another brand that makes cute magnetic dress-up sets, we have a dog-themed set.
Craft Kits. I’m a huge fan of the Kid Made Modern craft kits! We have a cosmic craft kit that makes robots and spaceships — I love that they give you ideas and inspiration for the activities, but it’s very open-ended creative play. I just got an Egg Decorating kit from them that I was saving for Easter but might be breaking out early!
Drawing Supplies. If I had my choice of what activity we did each day, I would always pick drawing. We mix it up with different art supplies to make it interesting, like wooden stamps, Do a Dot Markers (great for little toddlers because of the chunky size), and Twistable Crayons. A nice alternative to messy paint are these Chunkies Paint Sticks, the color is super saturated and pretty! This rainbow colored pencil roll is also really nice for travel/restaurants and keeps all of the colors nice and neat! Jane’s favorite drawing activity is to make “cards” for whatever holiday is next — we made approximately 3000 valentine’s this year for our fiends and family, haha.
Tape and Scissors. Like most toddlers, Jane loves anything that feels slightly grown-up, and my office tape dispenser is her peak desire. If I let her use the real tape dispenser she acts like she won the lottery. Washi tape is also fun for something more colorful! We got a set of safety scissors (my sister actually sent them to my husband as a joke after he badly cut his hand on Christmas while trying to open one of those darn plastic boxes that toys come in, poor guy!) and Jane use them to cut “fringe” borders around pieces of construction paper. She calls them her placemats, which is clearly something the child of an entertaining blogger would do, ha!
Kinetic Sand. Some of the longest stretches of independent play at our house recently have happened when we pull out the Kinetic Sand. I recreated a fun activity I saw on The Mama Notes (one of my favorite sites for kids activities!!) where you set up a treasure hunt and bury items in the kinetic sand. We used fake coins, but any little cars or toys would work! Jane ended up turning the sand-treasure hunt into a full pirate game and we made eye patches and telescopes out of construction paper, it was super fun.
Play Doh. This is an obvious one, everyone loves play doh! I actually find it very zen to play with it too, haha. Most of the time when we use play doh we pretend we’re making some kind of play doh food. Jane also has this burger play doh set and a cute ice cream play doh set that is our go-to for play doh time. You could just cupcake liners and cookie cutters from your pantry too! Thinking I might try to make my own play doh with all of this time at home in the next few weeks?
Threading Beads. Jane got this Disney Princess jewelry making kit for Christmas and it’s a good quiet-time activity that feeds into her love of all things sparkly and girly (they come in different themed sets like Frozen, Mickey, Trolls, etc). My favorite part about it is that it’s reusable, you can unthread all of the beads from the reusable cords and start over fresh to make a new necklace each time. Use your judgement on this one, Jane is really good about not putting stuff in her mouth and is careful about not spilling the beads, but every kid is different!
Chalk. This is fun indoors and outdoors! We painted the inside of a door in our playroom with chalk paint and I actually sometimes forget about it, so it’s fun to open that up and let Jane go wild with drawing. If the weather cooperates and we can play outside, sidewalk chalk is a blast for drawing “roads” and hopscotch. We make a little obstacle course all over the driveway and Jane will run the roads, hop on the circles, zig zag back and forth. Look for the washable sidewalk chalk, to avoid clothing stains (take it from me, we’ve lost a lot of toddler pants to this, ha).
Cardboard Boxes. I’m adding this to the list because almost nothing gets Jane’s creative juices flowing like a giant cardboard box. We’re redoing our bathroom currently and a few extra large boxes arrived with fixtures in them. Within an hour she had decorated a box, added a paper plate for a steering wheel, loaded up her stuffed animals and was pretending to cruise it through the drive-through window to pick up a coffee and a bagel. We’ve made boxes into spaceships and forts and desks and store-fronts. If you need some inspiration, I love looking at Recycle and Play on Instagram for craft ideas using recycled materials! Busy Toddler is another great site for creative, educational ideas for preschool-aged kids.
Cooking. Okay, I’m biased, but I think cooking is one of the most creative things you can do with kids! You just have to take a deep breath and accept that 1) things might get a little messy and 2) things may not turn out perfectly (admittedly both very hard things for me). We made homemade bread recently and it was great activity to go back to ever few hours for kneading and checking on the rising. Or make your own pizza dough (I have an easy recipe in my cookbook!) and then build your own pizzas for dinner!
iPad Games. I’m just a realist here, we’re breaking out the iPad this week (Ok, we break out the iPad every week). One app that always alleviates a bit of my screen-time-mom-guilt when Jane is in iPad-mode is the Khan Academy Kids app. It’s a free app that has a collection of educational videos, activities, stories and coloring pages. I love that it’s very interactive and it has a nice quiet, slow pace to it — I feel like Jane is actually learning something when she plays it which is a good use of the (sometimes necessary!) screen time while I’m trying to get stuff done.