As parents, we all need some good quiet time activities up our sleeve to pull out throughout the week—simple activities that will keep the kids engaged, creative, and yes, calm and quiet.
Activities like these come in handy in all sorts of situations and times.
To keep kids quietly engaged…
- When the baby goes down for a nap
- During travel, whether it’s a road trip or plane ride
- When you are in a meeting
- When the kids wake up early on the weekend and you’d rather stay in bed for another half hour
- When you have a friend over
To help with transition times throughout the day and week. A low-key creative activity can do wonders for smoothing over the sometimes difficult transitions that happen throughout the day and week. These can include:
- After school
- Dinner prep hour
- After nap
- Before bed
- After waking up
To help with waiting times at restaurants, coffee shops, or doctor’s offices.
To calm kids, keep the peace, and manage energy swings or potential conflict between kids during playdates or sibling situations. (I always tried to have at least one good quiet-time activity up my sleeve to keep playdates going smoothly when the kids were young).
There are so many times and places where we parents could use quiet-time activities as part of our parenting toolbox! The trick is having some good ones at the ready when we need them so that we don’t resort to screen time yet again (and end up feeling guilty).
I’m going to share my top 10 favorite quiet-time activities for kids. These are creative activities that will engage your kids yet they are simple to set up, they are quiet, and they are low mess. What’s not to like?! Plus most of these activities require minimal explanation or supervision.
#1: Drawing Prompts
Drawing prompts are like magic quiet time activities! Simply make a very simple beginning of a drawing on a piece of paper or chalkboard and invite your child to complete it. You could draw two circles and invite your vehicle-obsessed kid to draw a fast car. Or stick googly eyes to a piece of paper and invite him to draw the animals (or people, fairies, monsters…).
I’ve been using drawing prompts with kids for over a decade and am always surprised and delighted by how well they hold kids’ attention and how well they engage their creative thinking and drawing. They work so well that I recently created an activity book of drawing prompts for kids—Invitation to Draw: 99 Drawing Prompts to Inspire Kids Creativity.
👉 Click here to download a free printable packet of 3 drawing prompts from the book to try now!
#2: Playdough Play
Playing with playdough is an amazing quiet-time activity for little kids. The sensory aspect is calming and it’s such an open-ended and engaging material that can be used in so many fun ways! Try setting out a batch of playdough (such as our fave easy no-cook recipe) along with some poke-ins (toothpicks, googly eyes, beads), some play kitchen items (rolling pin, cookie cutters, plates), or some animal figurines.
For more playdough play ideas, see 15+ Creative Playdough Ideas for Kids.
#3: Q-Tip Painting With Watercolors
Pointillism, or dot art, is made extra easy for kids by simply setting out a cotton swab, watercolor paints, and a small piece of sturdy paper. They’ll dip the Q-tip in paint and press it to the paper to make a picture out of tiny colorful dots. (And if they want to use the Q-tip like a paint brush, that’s okay, too!)
#4: Zen Drawing With Water
Want to keep things especially simple? Invite your kids to draw or paint with water! Hand them a cup of water and a paintbrush to create ephemeral art on a chalkboard, sidewalk, or zen board. They can paint bold lines and shapes then watch as their marks slowly disappear, leaving them with a blank canvas to create on anew.
#5: Contact Paper Suncatchers
Contact paper suncatchers are another favorite quiet-time activity for kids of all ages. Press pieces of colored tissue paper to the sticky side of transparent contact paper (also called sticky-back plastic), then cover with a second sheet of contact paper.
What kid doesn’t like stickers?! This activity couldn’t be simpler. Provide a round piece of paper and a sheet of stationery store stickers ( also think colored dots, hole reinforcement stickers, star stickers, or small labels) and let the kids go to town with them. To make a mandala, start with a sticker in the center, then add more around it to create a radial design.
For more creative sticker ideas, see 13 Simple Sticker Art Projects for Kids.
#7: Scribble Art
This is such an easy and relaxing art activity to do on your own or with someone else! Start by drawing big looping scribbles all over a piece of paper. Then color in the sections with crayons, paints, or both.
#8: Dot-to-Dot Art
This is a more creative, child-led version of those connect-the-dots books. You can start by filling a piece of paper with some randomly placed dots, then invite your child to connect the dots any way they like to create a design or picture. They may want to make a sheet of dots for you to connect as well. Friends and siblings can even make dot-to-dot pictures for each other to complete, such as animals, cars, or abstract designs.
#9: Sensory Bins
Sensory bins are a big favorite with parents and educators because they engage a child’s senses and imagination at the same time. Plus there are so many possible ways to make them to fit them to fit the materials you have on hand, your child’s interests and age, the season, etc. The basic idea is that you fill a container with a tactile “filler” (rice, water, beans, snow, water beads, sand, aquafaba, etc), add some tools for exploring and moving the filler (cups, spoons, funnels, etc), and then possibly adding some items that encourage pretend play (figurines, cars, etc).
Want some specific ideas? Check out these 10 Sensory Bin Ideas for Kids!
#10: Magnet Tiles
We have been big magnet tile fans ever since we bought our first set years ago. These colorful magnetic building shapes have gotten more consistent use over the years by my kids, their friends, and my art class students than any other “toy” in the house. They’re used for construction, pretend play, light table exploration, and more! Magnet tiles are not the cheapest toy out there, but they are well worth investing in or adding to your wish list.
I hope your family enjoys these quiet time activities as much as mine has! And if you have other favorite go-to quiet time activities for kids, please share!