One of the biggest challenges of being a work-at-home mom is finding new ways to entertain the kids while you get to try and get some work done. Many times we end up relying on technology to entertain our children for us.
I know I'm guilty of turning on the TV or letting my daughter use the iPad a little longer than I should.
Luckily, there are many affordable and creative ways for parents to entertain their children without having to plug in and feel guilty.
Here are 11 ways work-at-home moms can entertain kids without using tech:
1. Creative Open-Ended Play Toys
Skip the expensive toys that need batteries and drive you nuts, and opt for open-ended toys that let kids use their imagination. Companies like Safari Ltd, Learning Express, MagicCabin, KiwiCo, and MindWare offer educational products that inspire unstructured, imaginative play while expanding kids' horizons.
Toys like Legos, train sets, blocks, role-playing toys, tea sets, dolls houses, play kitchens, puzzles, Play-Doh, and the like, force children to use their imagination which makes the possibilities for playtime endless.
2. Get Cooking
What kid doesn't love to get into the kitchen and play around?! Depending on the age of your child, you can take out bowls, measuring cups, and spoons and have them experiment with items like dried cereal and rice. For older kids, let them make jello, pudding, or one of these easy no-bake recipes.
3. Cardboard Boxes
I always loved it when my dad brought home a large cardboard box for my sister and me to play in. We would cut out doors and windows, decorate, and then add all of our favorite toys and possessions. Some nights we would even sleep in our newly acquired cardboard castle. Not only hours of fun, but easy to do. You can head to your local appliance store and see if they have any large boxes that you can have. You can also check out Amazon. They have a wide variety of cardboard playhouses, rockets, and castles that kids can decorate with stickers, paint, and markers.
4. Arts and Craft Time
I'm not very creative when it comes to thinking of arts and craft ideas; luckily for myself and all of the other non-creatives in the world, there is a wealth of online resources, books, and subscription boxes to assist you. First stock up on some basic art supplies, color crayons, markers, glue, scissors, paper, glitter, yarn, pipe cleaners, paper plates, paints, stickers, and beads.
To get some ideas, check out sites like Pinterest, Kids Activities, Kids Craft Room, and Make and Takes for different craft ideas. I've also been able to find some inexpensive craft books at Goodwill and on Amazon.
If you'd like your art supplies and instructions packaged together, try a subscription box. There are subscription boxes for all ages and interests; I've included a few below to get you started.
- Craft and Boogie (ages 3-8)
- Doodle (ages 9-16)
- Let's Make Art (teens and adults)
- Tinkering Toddler Crates (toddlers and pre-schoolers)
- We Craft Box (ages 3-9)
5. Scavenger Hunt
One of my favorite activities from when I was a child, was participating in neighborhood scavenger hunts. My mom would create a list of items that we would need to find, and my friend and I would
visit bother the neighbors for the various items. While times have changed, and, likely, you don't feel comfortable having your kids run around the neighborhood asking for goodies. You can stage a scavenger hunt inside your very own home or within the confines of your yard. For younger children, paste pictures of objects onto a piece of paper and give them a basket to collect the items. Plan for a simple reward once they find all of the required items.
If you prefer, you can use one of the many scavenger hunt games available on Amazon, here are some to get you started:
- Family Scavenger Hunt Game
- Toddler Scavenger Hunt Cooperative Card Game at Home
- The Idea Box Kids Scavenger Hunt for Kids – Educational Scavenger Hunt
6. Books and Magazines
I'll admit, I'm addicted to reading, and I have a terrible habit of purchasing a lot of books when I already have a pile waiting for me to read. It must be genetic because my daughter has the same tendencies towards books. Luckily, membership to our local library is free, which allows my daughter to pick out as many new books as she'd like to read. They also have books on tape and CD, which will enable her to be read to, while I manage to get some work done. Thrift stores and garage sales are other good options to pick up gently used books inexpensively.
Monthly magazine subscriptions and book clubs are great ways to get kids reading too! And, they get the added surprise of getting something fun in the mail.
Here are some to check out:
7. Water Play
Living here in Texas, if you're going to be outside during the summer, you need to be in the water. Stay cool and have fun by allowing your little ones to water the plants, garden, or lawn. Set up a sprinkler and let them run through it or fill up a bucket of water and give them some water toys to play with. My daughter loves when I fill up her wading pool and set her with her tea set – she could play in there for hours. Of course, never leave the wee ones unattended when playing with water. Other water toys you may want to purchase are a water table, a Slip N' Slide, or water balloons.
8. Get Entrepreneurial
I don't know if you're born with the entrepreneurial bug, but as a child, I was always trying to sell something. From lemonade and perfume to pet rocks and salamanders, I was always looking for creative ways to make money. Encourage your child's entrepreneurial spirit by helping them set up a lemonade stand, starting a blog, or selling their creative wares on Etsy. For more information on how to encourage your child's entrepreneurial spirit, see the book, Raising CEO Kids.
9. Get Moving
Being the eldest of three, my mom always made us kids get out of the house to burn off some energy. Luckily for us, we had a neighborhood teeming with kids of all ages. We regularly played hide and seek, the ghost is out tonight, freeze tag, red rover, and kickball. Not to mention all the time we spent riding our bikes, playing on the swing-set (as it was called back then), and just chasing each other around. Encourage your kids to move their bodies and get active. No kids living in the neighborhood? Live on a busy street? There are tons of organized classes, camps, and actives for kids to get moving – here are some popular ones to check out:
Planting seeds is one of the easiest ways to teach your child about nature and the life cycle. Purchase some dirt and seeds and plant your seeds in a container. I've found that garlic bulbs, sunflowers, and basil grow easily and quickly. Another fun project is to create your own Chia Pet, take a cup, draw a face on it, and plant grass seeds. As the grass grows, your little one can even cut the “hair.” For more fun ideas, check out Kids Gardening.
11. Make a Fort
When I was a kid, we were constantly making forts, inside and outdoors. Some times we'd take sheets and hang them over the clothesline to make a tent. Other times we'd make forts out of sofa cushions, or behind some bushes or a tree. Give your kids some supplies (sheets, blankets, pillows, clothespins, fairy lights, boxes, and poles) and see what they create. Or buy a fort making kit from a company like Fort Magic.
Here are some other resources to get their creative juices flowing:
Entertaining your kids without technology, while you work-from-home, can be a challenge. But as parents, we need to sparingly use technology, so that we can inspire and encourage our children to use their minds and bodies creatively.
How do you manage to work-from-home and entertain the kids when they're at home?
Originally published July 25, 2012. Content updated in March 2020.
Holly Reisem Hanna is the publisher and founder of The Work at Home Woman, which has been helping individuals find remote careers and businesses that feed their souls since 2009. Through her unconventional career path of holding over 30 jobs and obtaining two college degrees, she's been able to figure out how to find a career path that you're truly passionate about. Holly's had the pleasure of sharing her expertise on sites like CNN, MSN Money, Huffington Post, Woman's Day Magazine, as well as being recognized by Forbes as one of the “Top 100 Websites for Your Career.” Holly resides in Austin, Texas, with her husband and daughter and enjoys reading, traveling, and yoga.
Safari Ltd gave my daughter some complimentary toys to review. Please be aware that I only promote advertising from companies that I feel I can legitimately recommend to my readers.