How can you keep your little ones busy without relying on tablets?

The holidays are (almost) upon us. For moms – or parents in general – this often evokes mixed emotions. Long days spent together on the beach and later mornings are offset by the dread of boredom. And, if your house is anything like mine, boredom can kick in roughly two minutes after they’ve finished the last exciting thing that took you weeks to plan.

Am I right?

It’s so tempting to leave them in the far-too-capable hands of the tablet to keep them out of our hair for an hour or two. And, that’s OK every so often. But, it’s really important to make sure that screen time is limited. Recent research has shown that too much screen time can hinder a child’s social skills, language abilities, and their ability to focus. That’s a big price to pay for a few hours of quiet time.

But, the fact remains that we need a time-out too. So, how can you keep your little ones busy without relying on tablets? The best way to start is by not starting. Don’t create a habit of relying on iPads, phones or other tablets. Maybe it’s too late for that. But you can still change things, starting from here.

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Here are some ideas:

Keeping toddlers busy

  • Ball pit – in the garden, a bedroom, or even next to the tent on holiday, this is a small, relatively-cheap way to keep little ones busy for ages.
  • Interactive cloth books – they love the textures, noises, and colours of these educational gems.
  • An interactive busy board – attach locks, chains, fluffy key-rings, zips, bells, and loads of moving parts to a sanded plank to keep toddlers engaged for hours on end.
  • Stuffed toys – if your child is a cuddler, keep them surrounded by cute, fluffy toys. As they grow a bit older, their imagination will also develop, and they will create characters and situations with these toys.
  • Art station – set aside a small part of your home or holiday accommodation where your toddler can get messy. Water-soluble paints and crayons that can be used in the bath are fantastic to keep them busy and give you some time off. Otherwise, good old mud is always a hit.
  • Racing cars – depending on the age of the toddler, bigger wooden cars may be safer.
  • Building blocks inspire and engage.

Keeping older children busy

As they get a little bigger, they can start playing with toys with smaller parts and using their imaginations to build.

  • Lego® – this is always a winner.
  • Little farm animals, forest animals, superheroes, or Barbie Dolls spark the imagination and keep them enthralled for hours.
  • Board games are a fabulous way of educating and entertaining at the same time.
  • Drawing and colouring is ideal for creative children.
  • A trampoline is even a good idea for the adults.
  • A basketball hoop is simple to put up and fantastic for burning energy.
  • A basket of funny hats and costume jewellery is portable, simple and loads of fun. Encourage your kids to put on a show (bonus: prepping the show will take even longer).
  • Play-Doh is awesome for car trips or rainy afternoons. Add googly eyes or ice-cream sticks for added fun.
  • Pavement chalk is small and can be used on holiday or at home.
  • Books – encourage reading from an early age.

Keeping teenagers busy

Teenagers should be starting to entertain themselves, without relying on technology.

Here are some suggestions for those needing a bit of inspiration:

  • Books are the secret solution for any bored teenager. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to escape in a book.
  • Board games (like Bananagrams or Watch Your Mouth) are perfect for groups of teens.
  • Hiking or cycling trails in the area might be awesome for the teenagers to explore (just make sure they’re safe).
  • Visit an amusement park or craft market nearby.
  • Play a game of cricket, tennis, rounders, rugby, or soccer.
  • Head outside with a camera and see who can take the most random, interesting, or beautiful photos.
  • Do makeovers on themselves (with make-up, hair and accessories), or reinvent their bedrooms.
  • Bake or make homemade pizzas.
  • Let them go on a tour of the town or neighbourhood and be tourists, for a change. Visit museums, galleries, or attractions they’ve never been to before.
  • Get all the equipment needed to learn a new craft and save this for a rainy day. Making jewellery or doing macramé will keep them busy for hours.
  • Play Truth or Dare (but, keep it tidy!)

Although these suggestions can inspire parents and their children, it’s important to remember that being bored isn’t always the end of the world. In fact, moments of boredom are good for children because they teach them to be creative and to get comfortable in their own head space, rather than needing constant stimulation.

Wishing you all a happy holiday with plenty to do (and just a dash of boredom)!