Play Ideas for When You Wish the Kids Were at School

Katie Mitchell
Katie Mitchell
July 26, 2021 3 min read

We've all been there. At Beyond the Blackboard, we're constantly putting our creative brains to work to give you activity ideas that will keep your children not just busy - but engaged - and help reduce your stress. Below are some ideas to encourage independent play so you can get whatever you need to get done, done. Try some of these ideas and let us know what's a good fit for your family, or if you've developed more ideas! You can share with us on Facebook and Instagram @beyondtheblackboard.

Set Screen Time Limits (Realistically)

It's not necessary to ban screen time completely, at home. In fact, school at almost any age requires some screen time for assignments. You can, however, schedule when shows or games will be allowed, and you can tell your children what they're allowed to do and watch. School assignments should always be completed first, then programs that teach should be encouraged (for example: Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, for young children; The Who Was? Show, for older kids). With young kids, it can be helpful to have an engaging activity planned to immediately follow screen time, to help make the changeover easier. Encourage older children to stick to the time limit on their own. Don't forget to praise them when you don't have to remind them!

Reading Zones

Do you have a toddler or pre-k kiddo? Set up a special 'reading zone' where they can explore books. Encourage them to sit and turn pages, look at pictures, and identify letters. Add a few pillows and a few favorite toys or plush. Tell them they can play "library" or "classroom"!

We encourage families with independent readers of all ages to set up reading areas. 'Stock' your older child's area with their favorite chapter books, YA novels, comic books, graphic novels, etc. You might even find a new favorite for yourself in that stack! Bonus: reading what our kids read provides us with built-in conversation starters.

What Holds Your Child's Attention?

Some children love playing "princess", while other children want to see the inner workings of your old VCR. Make a list of activities that can potentially occupy your kiddo for 20-30 minutes or more. Provide them with opportunities to do these things near you while you complete your work or daily tasks. My son can play with Mad Mattr forever, and we keep a bin in the kitchen so he can play at the table while I work.

Give Your Child an Invitation to Play

Kids love fulfilling 'missions'; give them one! Have them create a space ship, a bookstore, or a veterinarian's office in a designated space. Give them guidelines for what they can use (so they don't take the house apart). For example, tell them they can use stuffed animals, construction paper, and blankets. Later you can visit what they build!

This activity is ideal for kids who can engage with an activity or idea for more than a half hour.

Make Chores Fun!

You probably know by now that kids are a lot more likely to resist chores when you use language implying that they have to do something. For example, make sock matching a game ("See how many socks you can match in the next minute!"). You can also show them how to do things and accept their perfectly imperfect help with things like sweeping and making beds!

Older kids might enjoy the challenge of making a meal for the entire family. Make sure you accept that the result may not be perfect, with a smile on your face. A little mess or a bit too much salt is an acceptable exchange for the pride your child will feel in making something.

Hide Toys Around the House

Find a group of toys your child loves, and hide them around the house. You want to hide them in places your child can find with a little effort. See if you can surprise them or get a few laughs, too! Give your child a basket or container to collect the toys and have them bring it to you once they've found all the toys. 

Spend Time in Nature

Thankfully, autumn will be here soon. Take a walk to the park, or even around the block. Notice things! What flowers are blooming? Which birds are singing? What kind of clouds are in the sky? Spending time in nature is good for the entire family!

Play Ideas for When You Wish the Kids Were at School; Beyond the Blackboard


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