Parents often find themselves in a gym, at a dance studio or on a field with one child while the other child has a practice or a game. If you are blessed with a child who can happily entertain herself for hours, consider yourself lucky and read no further.
It’s true that a gaming device may do the trick for an older child but if you are trying to limit screen-time or have a younger child, here are a few ideas for those times when you just can’t bear to hear, “Watching Jimmy’s soccer practice is boring” one more time ….
1. Tell Me a Story Cards (by eeBoo) – We love these cards, recently discovered at Bookasaurus (next to Leigh’s Favorite Books in Sunnyvale). Available in 4 different themes, they can be used in a variety of ways. For children as young as 3, a simple game of choosing and trading the cards is fun for them. As they get a bit older, the cards can be used for their intended purpose – as a creative storytelling game. The cards are colorfully illustrated with interesting characters and scenes to create one-of-a-kind stories.
2. For older children, Bookasaurus carries Logic Puzzles and Math Puzzles (by Usborne). There is no age range on the box but from personal experience, these work best on children 7 years or older. The cards provide interesting “problems” in a fun way. We also like them because they are portable and can consume as little as 5 minutes of time or as much as an hour.
3. Books, Books and More Books! – Storybooks to read to younger children or chapter books for independent readers are classics for a reason. They are portable, share-able with friends and less risky to lose than an expensive electronic device. Small, local bookstores have knowledgeable staff and a wide selection to help you find the perfect books for kids of all ages. Along with books to read, consider activity books. Younger children enjoy sticker books, coloring books and easy mazes. Older children can keep busy with word searches, extreme dot-to-dots, Sudoku and crossword puzzles.
4. Nail Polish and Face Painting – Good for indoor and outdoor locations, a manicure will delight the little girl in your life and face painting will be a treat for boys and girls. You don’t need to be an artist to make your child feel special. You will probably attract a lot of other children but the other parents will thank you!
5. Nearby Cafes– Some of the best parent-to-child time can be found in the most unusual places. I have had wonderful, focused, uninterrupted conversations with my 9 year-old in the Subway restaurant next to my daughter’s dance studio. He gets an after-school snack, plenty of space to do his homework and my undivided attention for an hour.
6. Have a Picnic – Indoors or outside, all it takes is a blanket and some snacks and you can create a picnic atmosphere.
7. Portable Crafts – Stamps, beads with string, markers and paper can make little hands busy for a while.
8. Get Moving! – Go for a walk, bike ride or scooter ride and explore the surrounding neighborhood. Some playing fields are surrounded by a running track. Bring a stopwatch and challenge older children to beat their running times each week. If you are lucky enough to be close to a playground and the weather is amenable, you have just found your entertainment for the next hour – HOORAY! Depending on the weather conditions, remember to keep sun hats, sunscreen, jackets, boots and/or sunscreen in your car.
9. Take a Friend/Make a Friend – I happened to be watching one of my daughter’s friends one day while her mother needed to attend a medical appointment. It was time for my son’s basketball practice so I brought the friend with us. Just like a play date at your house can sometimes be a big help to entertain your child, so can a play date at a local rec center. If your child didn’t bring a friend with her to the practice sometimes kids will make their own friends. Recently I needed to step out of a noisy gym to make a phone call and my daughter started running on the grounds next to the gym. Another girl approached her and the 2 of them spent the next 45 minutes gathering sticks and pine cones to make a “nest” for themselves.
10. Train a Babysitter – Short 1 hour activities may be the perfect time to try out a new babysitter at home or bring along a babysitter-in-training as a comfortable way for everyone to get to know each other. This is a great way for a student to earn service hours as well.
What do you do to keep your kids busy during their brother/sister’s activities?
- Carla Dagnone