When you have kids you know that sometimes it takes a little more than good intentions to keep them happy, occupied and entertained. And even though kids might have a whole room full of toys available for them to play with, they often get bored or uninterested in those toys after a while, even a very short while!
When boredom strikes, we have to get creative and think outside the box about toys and what our kids will enjoy playing with and will actually hold their attention for more than a minute or two so we can actually get a little something done around the house. Wow, isn’t that a novel idea!
Fortunately, there are lots of attention holding, creative, fun and even development building toys and games that you can make from things you probably already have hiding in your kitchen cupboards. It just takes a few minutes of time to put these toys together, but they will give you hopefully hours, if not extended minutes, of happy play time for your kids!
Pour some dried beans, or rice, into a large bowl or box and then give your child an empty bowl and lots of smaller cups, bowls, measuring cups, scoops and anything else you can think of that they can use to scoop, measure and pour the beans from one container to the other.
To make it even more fun add different types of beans, different colors, or even different shapes like dried lima beans, which can add to the sensory experience as well as help teach things like sorting the beans by color or shape.
Dry Pasta to string on Shoelaces, String or Pipe Cleaners
Find different shapes of pasta that have a hole through the middle, as well as some string or shoelaces or even pipe cleaners for your kids to string the pasta onto to make bracelets and necklaces. Macaroni, penne, wheels, etc, are all great shapes for this.
Add to the fun by dying the pasta first, by adding alcohol and food coloring to a ziplock bag and adding the pasta and letting it soak, then draining and letting it dry out overnight.
Kids love to help in the kitchen, but sometimes their “helping” can be more like hurting, like the time my daughter poured almost half the container of cinnamon into zucchini bread batter I was making!
Let kids feel like they’re helping, and even cooking on their own, by supplying them with a bowl full of flour, or corn meal, and maybe a few extra or old spices you have and letting them “cook” by themselves. They can even add some water at the end and mix it up to make their own dough!
Spread some large bath towels or beach towels on the floor, strip your kiddos down to their undies or diapers, and give them a few bowls of water and measuring cups, spoons, bowls, scoops, or even bath toys, for them to play with in the water. They will love being able to splash and pour and play with water inside, and not just in the bathtub!
This is especially great if you need to mop your floors anyway! Think of it as a fun playtime for the littles and a way to force yourself to do something that you otherwise might put off for a while, or is it just me who avoids mopping my floors like the plague?
If you’re really not in the mood for a mess, you can also run a sink full of water and pull up a chair and let the kids “wash” dishes, or just scoop and pour, or play with their boats and water toys.
Re-purposing Containers and Lids
Leftover containers are great things to re-purpose into homemade games. Really, you can get as creative as you want with this, and come up with all different kids of fantastic games, but in case you’re creatively challenged like I am, here’s an idea for you.
Take a leftover oatmeal container and make a slot in the top of it to fit plastic lids from yogurt, sour cream or cottage cheese containers. Kids will love to put all the lids in through the slot, then take the top of the container, dump the lids out, and do it all over again!
Playdough is a great way to get your kids to stay sitting at the table for a while and is great sensory play too. Best of all, it can be made from ingredients in your cupboards! It’s also fun to get kids involved in the process of making playdough, they like to watch it go from a dry mixture to a colored ball of dough they can play with! But beware, they may not be patient enough to wait for it cool before they want to get their hands on it!
Mix Together in a Medium Saucepan:
1 cup Flour
3/8 cup salt
1 Tbsp. cream of tartar
1 cup Water
1 Tbsp Oil
1-2 tsp. food coloring (to achieve the desired color)
Cook over medium heat until a ball forms, about 3-5 minutes. Do not undercook, you want to make sure that most or all of the moisture is gone.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for several minutes until smooth and elastic, like playdough! Form into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap to let cool. Store in an air-tight container.
A Note on Messes:
Some of these ideas may be a little messy, or even a lot messy! As you’re reading through you may have thought, wow, I bet my kid would love to play with that, but I just can’t imagine the mess it would make. My take on messes is this – if they are happy and entertained, and I am able to get the things done I need to get done in the kitchen, then a little extra mess is not really that big of deal. I mean, I make a pretty big mess sometimes when I am cooking and baking, and I have to clean up in the kitchen anyway, so I might as well make my kids happy and then just clean up after them at the same time I’m cleaning up after myself. An extra mess won’t hurt me, and it could be really helpful to me in getting stuff done and really fun for my kids at the same time!