Updated: Apr 7, 2020
"Hey Mom, I think it will work...as long as no one is on the stairs...or at the bottom of the stairs," is not the first thing I want to hear before I've had my morning cup of coffee.
But considering that I had a lot of work to complete, I didn't discourage my son from working on the Rube-Goldberg machine project he had envisioned in his mind and was now determined to bring to reality. Thankfully, he also convinced his siblings of the genius of his creation and got them to join him in the endeavor.
Three hours later, I had gotten a ton of work done and the kids were entertained! And they had been doing something educational the whole time. Win-Win!
This got me thinking: What educational activities entertain kids for hours and also require no oversight?
Imagine getting work done with no interruption and no parent guilt for letting a device babysit your kids!
For all of you who are trying to balance teaching your kids and staying focused on the daily work you have to do: Here is a list of 5 activities that entertain kids of all ages for hours and require NO direct parent involvement.
1. Giant Ball of Homemade Playdough
Mix up a double or triple recipe of homemade playdough and send the kids to the table or outside. They can make buildings or forts for their animals, cars, soldiers, etc. They can use it to hold together rocks and sticks and build cabins or animal habitats.
Here's a great recipe online from Fun Learning for Kids: https://funlearningforkids.com/easy-play-dough-recipe-without-cream-tartar.
2. Magnetic Building Sticks Set or Tiles
Magnetic sticks or tiles are a great activity with an infinite number of creation possiblities that entertain for hours. Please note that tiles are more appropriate for younger kids as the stick sets could be a choking hazard.
3. Indoor Forts
Hand them a pile of blankets and tell them to get building. We've found that adding a few 1x2 boards allow kids to build a little more permanent fort. For little ones with shorter attention spans, suggest that they provide a party for their stuffed animals to give yourself a little more undisturbed time.
4. Digging a Huge Hole
This works great if you have a little more backyard to allow kids free play. Even without a big space, we've donated a small area of our yard for the cause (our sanity, that is). We hand our kids a couple shovels and tell them to see how deep they can dig. And that is it. The next day, they get to fill the hole with rocks and sticks, and cover with dirt. The next day, they dig again. And this process can be repeated as long as it holds their attention...or until you anger the groundhogs.
5. Marble Run
I don't know why this classic toy holds their attention more than others, but we've seen marble run activities last for multiple days. Additionally, it's great for logic, sequencing, and physics skills.
If you want to see how well the kids' end product turned out, then check out the video of this great attention-grabbing activity that took an entire morning. (Don't mind the laundry; that's just real life with kids.)
All of the activities above fit the criteria of the 4 Cs of 21st Century Skills (collaboration, creativity, communication, and critical thinking) and align with Common Core Standards. So if you didn't manage to finish Little Billy's homework because you were on your umpteenth Zoom meeting of the day, you can tell his teacher that he was accomplishing Common Core Standards and sound like you know what you're doing as a homeschool parent. Win-Win!
Want to share these ideas with friends and family?