Most days, at one point or another, I need 20-minutes uninterrupted, kid-free time.
Often, it’s to cook a meal that doesn’t involve the phrase “heat and serve” in big bold letters on the top of a box, or to unload the dishwasher, wipe down the kitchen and maybe even mop so my house doesn’t look like it’s recently been ransacked by muddy-shoed hooligans.
And then sometimes I
want need to sit on the couch with a cup of coffee in a bit of bliss beacuse my kids are too preoccupied to say things like, “why,” “no,” or “can I have a snack?”
Whatever it is that causes me to need kid-free time, I have a handy little bin or two for 16 of my go-to activities that work like a charm every-single-time.
These simple, easy and fun activities guarantee me 20-minutes of time to do whatever I want/need. Unlike when we’re stuck inside for the day and I have to fall back on these big activities to ward off the stir crazies, this go-to list I can pull out in a pinch and always works like magic.
And let’s get real… the alternative to just letting my kids pick an activity on their own and expecting them to play quietly has a 99% chance that I’ll find them doing something incredibly dangerous like sliding down the stairs in a box or deciding that roller skating around the house at wind-whipping speeds is a “safe” activity. (Both are recent choices I put the kibosh on…)
The trick to getting my kids to sit down and play happily is this:
- Keep a special rotation of activities that are not accessible during regular playtime and you ONLY pull out for your uninterrupted 20-minutes of kid-free time;
- Rotate through the activities so it’s a treat when they get to do it – like normal toys, if you do them often they’ll lose their luster – which is why I have 16 of them to share with you because it’ll be a week or two before you begin repeating activities;
- Activities must be ready-to-go in a moment’s notice!
I have a special drawer in the kitchen for the smaller supplies and the bigger supplies have a designated bin in the hall closet I easily pull from.
Here are my 16 Go-To 20-Minute Activities for Young Kids. Get ready for some uninterrupted adult time!
Please note: My affiliate links are included in this post. This is at no cost to you, but it does keep the coffee running in our house. Please see my disclaimer for more details.
The newest craze all three kids love playing with are water beads. They’re ridiculously inexpensive and come in a bag that looks like it’s full of cupcake sprinkles – they’re tiny.
When you take a few tablespoons and add water in a separate container, let it sit for several hours and the beads increase in size until they’re the size of a jelly bean or as my kid call them fish eggs.
They’re great for tactile learning and feel squishy and wet in your hands. Our bag has lasted 8+ months so far and the latest bin has been played with for two weeks.
They require a little bit of prep work but once they’re ready to go, you can easily store and keep them ready to play with for your quiet time. Add a couple measuring cups, toys and bowls you’re set!
MAKE A STICKER FACE
You can get these fun sticker books on Amazon (I’ve also seen them at Walmart in art art supplies area for super cheap and they have a huge variety.)
The sticker pages are blank faces of people or animals with a ton of different choices for eyes, mouths, noses, ears and embellishments so kid’s can take the picture and create a picture that is completely unique and all their own.
Yes, I admit, I do keep the play dough locked away and only bring it out for special situations. In my defense, our dog loves the taste of it as does my youngest, so it’s a 20-minute activity in our house.
Playdough is easy to make but also pretty inexpensive to buy – add in some cookie cutters, a rolling pin, forks, plastic knives (you know, the not-sharp-my-kid-won’t-hurt-theselves kind) and let them get to work.
I love these free play dough mats from Picklebums (she has the best stuff) to print and let them use the play dough to design on.
- Dress up people and create clothes with these People Mats by Picklebums
- Design creative monsters with these Monster Mats by Picklebums
- Bug lovers everywhere will go wild for these Beautiful Bugs Playdough Mats by Picklebums
- Practice making the perfect plate with these Fun Food Play Dough Mats by Picklebums
Buy a pack of solo cups and I guarantee your kids will have a blast stacking and sorting, turning them over and restacking and so on. This is a great gross motor skill activity too.
My one little tips is that if you have multiple kids, buy a pack in multiple colors to avoid bickering over the same colored cups.
SLIME & GOOP
Yep, sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures and this is when I pull out the slime! I know that playing with containers of slime seems like a messy activity, but the material actually sticks together quite well (try to avoid the clothes, or take off their shirts beforehand) and clean up is super easy.
The big kids like to put their animals in the slime and my littlest uses cups to transfer the slime back and forth. They’re completely enthralled with it and it hits the spot every time!
HIDDEN PICTURE BOOKS & SHEETS
These are great for the 5+ age group who can sit still and focus a bit better than say, two-year-olds. Hidden picture books, or if you subscribe to Highlights Magazine which has a few hidden picture sheets inside each month’s edition are good to set aside for a quiet 20-minute activity.
Here is one for the holidays you can print – there is a certain number of each item to find, also from Picklebums.
WATER COLORING STATION
When you’re putting together a 20-minute activity, you aren’t looking for a full-art station with lots of paint and mess, which is why letting your kids paint with water colors is a great minimal-mess alternative. Water colors are easy to set-up – voila paper, water color set and a cup of water – and is a wonderful quiet activity that still stimulates their creativity.
ACTIVITY LATCH BOARD
The smaller board I mentioned one may work better for younger kids and a large latch board is easy to make if you head to the home store and pick up a bunch of supplies and adhere them to a piece of plywood. You probably even have items in your home you can add to the board like mirrors, latches, locks and keys, belts, snaps, a zipper from an old coat, etc.
SPECIAL BUILDING SUPPLIES KIT
Create a bin with extra special construction supplies – whether it’s a lego kit you don’t pull out often, magnet tiles, a bucket of wooden blocks or another building kit – and store it away for your 20-minutes of uninterrupted time. Don’t let the kids use any of these “special” materials any other time so the excitement doesn’t wear off.
Another option is create a small bin full of building supplies and let your kids construct. Items might include paper, various kinds of tape, cardboard, paper towel or toilet paper rolls, pipe cleaners, coffee filters, adhesive tape, and stickers. When you’re tossing something in the recycling bin, see if you can repurpose it for the special building supplies kit.
SPECIAL ART SUPPLIES CONTAINER
Save a special bin with art supplies that don’t regularly get pulled out – special paper, scrapbook paper, doilies, stickers, glitter pens, wasabi tape, felt, pipe cleaners, little art kits (you can find seasonal or holiday themed ones at Michaels for pennies), ribbon, etc. and let them have a free-for-all art session.
WATER WOW BOOKS
What’s better than a no-mess art project? Nothing, right?
Simply fill up the painting pen with water and let them color the pages with water which reveals vibrant pictures. The pictures will dry up in about 5-minutes and can be repainted with water again and again.
These books are absolutely excellent for traveling!
SNOW SENSORY BIN
This activity depends on where you live but because we live in Colorado, several months out of the year I can fill up a clear bin with snow, throw in some small shovels, spatulas, cups and toy animals and the kids will play for 30 – 45 minutes. Dilute food coloring in squirt guns or spray bottles and they can paint the snow too.
Tip: Make sure kids wear gloves or mittens so their hands don’t get cold fast and spoil the fun. Be sure to also put towels or a big blanket under the bin for easy clean-up.
WATER SENSORY BIN
Like the snow sensory bin, put water in a clear bin (even add bubbles), throw in a couple bath toys, add some bath coloring, and let them splash away. What kid doesn’t like playing with water?
Tip: Be sure to also put towels or a big blanket under the bin for easy clean-up.
VELCRO STICK CONSTRUCTION
This takes a little preparation but is a total time suck for kids.
Take popsicle sticks, add a small slip of Velcro to the top and bottom (use both the soft and stick sides) and let them start building with the sticks and creating figurines by securing them together with the Velcro.
GEL WINDOW CLINGS
I have a couple packs of window clings that I put in our special activity box and when I pull them out, the kids will stop on a dime to start playing with them! They love creating on the windows and they’re great to also have if you’re traveling – especially in the car or on an airplane when you have a window seat.
Here are a couple packs on Amazon we have that you might like:
- Trees & Creatures
- Cityscape with Skyscrapes, Lights and Vehicles
- 4th of July Patriotic Pack
- Valentine’s Day Hearts
RACE TRACK & MATCHBOX CARS ON THE FLOOR
I store a couple rolls of painter’s tape in our activity bin and let the kids lay down track on the floor. Independently and together they’ll design roadways and entire towns. Afterwards, they pull out a handful of cars and trucks to drive on the road and play in the city.
Do you have anything that you pull out when you need some uninterrupted Mom time? Any 20-minute activities to share?
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