5 cheap, creative ways to entertain young kids at home, from an educator and mom of 3

Beth Rosenbleeth
Beth Rosenbleeth's three kids engaging with one of her crafty, inexpensive activities.
Courtesy Beth Rosenbleeth

When schools close, caregivers, or busy working parents, have to spring into action. And with the increase of school closings around the world due to the coronavirus, parents are looking to find inexpensive solutions when staying home with kids.

Quarantine Day One here was pretty messy. As I tried to tackle some of my kindergartner's school assignments, I was met by a toddler who spilled my full water bottle to the ground. I had a preschooler who desperately wanted to be included and see what his big brother was working on. And my husband needed some quiet for a conference call. 

For a few moments, things seemed nearly impossible. Even as a former educator with over 13 years of experience, on top of being a mom of three under 5, I still felt under-prepared for my new position as a home-school mom. 

That night, I dug deep into my teacher's brain to find some actionable ideas that would help me manage the number of new roles I had just taken on. Once I had taken a breath, I realized I had all the resources I needed to pull together a few activities on the fly, in a way that wouldn't break the bank.

I just had to go for a quick hunt around my house to find: 

  • Painter's tape: $6
  • Any transportation toys you own 
  • A box
  • Markers: $4
  • Jumbo paper roll: $7 (really any scrap paper, from old gift wrapping to paper bags)
  • Socks 

1. Secret track
Appropriate for all ages

Roll up your rug and grab your tape. Use the delicate painter's tape if you have it to help protect your floors.

Design the track together and add your race cars and transportation toys for a chance to invite your children to play. Don't be surprised if they go running for new toys to add to the track. Welcome creativity! 

When everyone finishes playing, roll the carpet back on top to play another day again. This activity also works great on top of the carpet, but we refer to this as our family's "secret track," because we store it under our kitchen rug. We roll it open when we want to play, but otherwise, no one would know it is there. 

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Drive and drop 
Age level: Toddler

Grab a box from the garage and cut a small rectangle into the flat bottom surface. Add some of the same painter's tape to create different lines and roads on the box so your toddlers can "drive" their transportation toys along the paths you've created. When they drop them through the hole in the box, watch their surprise as they discover where the cars have "disappeared" to. 

Sock matching game
Age level: Toddler 

Unload the dryer and put aside eight pairs of matching socks.

Use painter's tape or masking tape to make a grid. Add an X to represent where to place the matches. 

Add a sock to each section on your grid. Allow your toddler to find the matching pair of socks and place them on the large X to the left of the grid. 

Not only are you now getting some laundry sorted, but your toddler is color sorting, learning new vocabulary such as "matching pair," and is paying attention to details. To increase difficulty, try using socks that are very similar with one difference. 

Find your name 
Age level: Preschool 

Place a large sheet of paper on the floor. Write your child's name throughout the paper in many colors. Then add a few family members in the same colors. Finally, invite your child to find their name on the paper. When they see the name, they circle it. 

This activity is a great way to encourage fine motor skills through grasping the marker, as well as identifying letters and shapes like the circle. 

Treasure map 
Age level: Preschool 

With markers and paper, help your preschooler draw a dotted path. Add dot stickers or circles with a marker in between. Add some treasure map flair, like a large X, mountains, a skull. Draw a treasure box to mark the end. 

Moving a marker from left to right is a great way to prepare a child for making the lines and curves within letters down the road. 

These ideas can get you started, and you never know what you might find at home that can help your kids feel creative and engaged. 

Beth Rosenbleeth reaches over 100,000 families in 90+ countries worldwide on her platform Days with Grey. She leads her followers in simple play ideas that help expand children's thinking and communication skills. Days with Grey has been featured in Parents magazine and People magazine.

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