Dr. Rivera

Dr. Karla Rivera is a district-wide psychologist here in Irvington. She is here to provide support for children and families as we face these challenging times.

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How Can I Keep My Young Child Busy at Home?

Without in-person school to keep our little ones busy, many of us are left with trying to keep our children busy at home. We don’t want them on screens all the time, but we may be out of ideas for how to occupy their time. If we’re working, keeping them busy is even more challenging! Here are some fun and creative ideas from Pinterest of things to do together, and some ideas to keep them busy when we have to work or just need a break!

Stuff to do together:

Make a book together: Have your child make up a story. Ask them to draw pictures of their characters and what’s happening in the story. Then let them tell it to you.

Get down on the floor and play together: Remember your child isn’t getting to be with other children in the normal ways, even if they have siblings. Play is very important to a child’s development. Let them guide the play and tell you what to do. This is a great way to bond with your child. Also, children express their feelings through their play, you may learn a lot about what your child is thinking and feeling. 

Make a treasure hunt: Choose a “treasure” like a favorite toy, something new from the dollar store, or a special treat and hide it. Give your child clues and let them run around to find it.

Make a scavenger hunt: Pick several items to hide and give clues for your child to collect each one. For older children you can write clues for them to read to build reading skills.

Play letter games or solve riddles: Take turns naming an animal for every letter of the alphabet, or look up riddles for your child’s age for you to solve together.

Puzzles: Work on puzzles together to build cooperation skills; your little one will love seeing what you’ve accomplished together!

Go for walks:  Help your child explore nature by naming the colors and objects they see. Play “I spy” as you walk.

Paint rocks: Go outside together or to the park and look for rocks. Choose rocks with smooth surfaces and get washable paint. Talk about the colors you’re choosing as you paint, or help your child paint an inspirational word on a rock.

Make cereal necklaces: Get cheerios or circle shaped pasta. Help your child to string it on string. You can add paint for color.

Make rubbings art: Find some leaves, or use coins or buttons and place a thin piece of paper on top; use the side of a crayon to rub over the objects until they appear. Your child will love watching the objects appear!

Make a dance video: Set your child up with some music and a fun outfit, and video their dance moves.

Have a picnic: Weather permitting, grab a blanket and some snacks and have a picnic at the park. If it’s cold, have an indoor picnic by placing a blanket on the floor (somewhere you won’t mind spill)- kids will get a kick out of this change of pace.

Give your child bubbles to play with– Young children love blowing, chasing and catching bubbles. If you don’t have bubbles, you can make your own bubble solution together by mixing 4 cups of warm water, ½ cup of dish soap, and ½ cup of sugar. You can use kitchen utensils as wands (anything with holes), or even cookie cutters, or shape a wand with a pipe cleaner. Allow your child to experiment with different utensils.

Build together: Use blocks or legos to build together. Make a town and tell a story about what’s happening there.

Make play-doh or slime together: Children will love making a little mess and following the steps to make play-doh or slime. Then they will love playing with it even more. 

Cook a meal or bake a treat together: Your child will have fun learning to measure when baking, or helping to do simple things to prepare a meal.

Build a fort: Create a special hideaway together using sheets and blankets.

Play board games: Play simple board games with your child like Candy Land, Old maid or Uno. They will work on important social skills such as taking turns and playing fair.

Stuff to keep them busy:

Make a “quiet box”- Have your child decorate a box. Tell them this is a special “quiet box” that they will play with when you need them to spend some time alone. Let them choose some things to go in there like easy puzzles, play -doh, coloring books, books to look at, sticker books, and whatever they choose. Keep the toys for the box in there, and only bring it out at quiet time- if they have access to it all the time, they will get bored of it. 

Add surprises to the box when you can. 

Sock sorting: Tell your child you need help to sort the socks. Dump unmatched socks on the floor and allow your child to find the matches. This will keep them busy and take care of a chore too!

Ask your child to help with chores– Young children can do simple chores like sweeping, dusting or watering the plants.

Give them a dress- up box: Let your child decorate a large box. Put your family members’ old clothes in the box, include accessories like hats, gloves, socks or jewelry you don’t need. Let them have some dress-up fun.

Have a toy wash: This may get messy, but will keep your child busy. Fill a sink or large plastic bin with water. Pour in some dish soap and provide towels. Give your child toys they can safely wash and let them clean away.

Make a “sand box” to dig in:  Children love to dig in the sand. If you can’t get sand, fill a plastic bin with uncooked rice. Give them measuring cups, and other utensils, hide objects for them to dig up.

Play-doh for independent play:  Play- doh can occupy children for hours.  Give your child safe kitchen utensils such as a rolling pin, and objects of various sizes, measuring cups, spoons, and cookie cutters for creative fun. 

Ask your child to make cards for others: Give your child paper and markers (glue and glitter only if you don’t mind a mess) and tell them you need help to make cards for loved ones- Children love to feel like they are helping. For example, you can ask them to make a drawing or holiday card for different family members. 

Visit Pinterest for more fun ideas!