Have you ever had these words said to you? I'm guessing that if you are a parent of a child you have. Man, I can't count the times I've heard it.
Many years ago when our now 8 year old was born and was very unsettled, I caught myself repeating to my kids, "Find something to do to keep yourself busy please". I wanted them to occupy themselves and I wanted them to do that without a screen (they had plenty of screen time too don't worry but when I was with the-then-baby and out of the room, I wanted them - all aged under 10 at the time - to not be on a screen). Have you ever uttered these words? I'm surely not alone right?!
We had many frustrated, teary times (me included) learning that we'd need to scaffold HOW exactly to do that. One of the ways I supported easing them into this was by creating our 'Fun Things To Do' Charts. It was just a Word document with those words printed off at the top (I've included a copy at the bottom of this post for you).
I walked around our house and looked at ALL the things I knew they could easily play with unsupervised (in the years since I've intentionally sought out these activities) by themselves or with a sibling and wrote them down. I photographed them and printed them off in little squares. I mounted them with tape on our little Fun Things To Do chart and labelled them.
"I wanted the activities to be quiet, easily accessible, fun and interesting, simple to store and easy to use on their own".
My kids responded well to visuals as prompts and so this little poster was useful for both those who could read and those who were yet to read.
I dug up my old (now defunct) blog post about this.
Here's what made our list back in 2011:
Fridge Magnets (we use THESE often now)
Rods to make patterns (Cuisenaire) (we use Math U See Blocks now)
Build a Cubby House using blankets
Make a Pretend Boat out of washing baskets or boxes
Catch Butterflies with the nets (we kept these in a crate near the door)
Colouring In Books and lots of pencils
Dinosaur Building (we had ones similar to these)
Collecting Snails in a bucket (we'd then feed these later to our chooks)
Use the Magnifying Glass (exploring the nature table objects)
Jump with Balls on the trampoline (our old trampoline was enclosed with a net)
Soccer on the Pole (like totem tennis)
Pop Rocket (a foam science set)
Stencils (for drawing) (we still have a big collection of plastic stencils. Fiskars make a great sturdy range)
Magnetics (ball and rod magnets) (we had ones similar to these)
Castle Building (construction play set) (we have a very cheap version of this)
Tap Tap (nail and wood construction) (ours was different to this but the same idea)
Cotton Reel Threading (I kept a bag of plastic cotton spools and raffia or plastic scoobies for threading onto)
Zingo (played in pairs)
Triominoes (good for playing in pairs)
Teddy Bears Picnic
Ride Bikes/scooters on our paved area
Build with Blocks (Duplo style)
Tangram Puzzles (and book) (we used this one that I've linked to)
Hopscotch Mat (we had a large outdoor pvc one like this but you can make one using a yoga mat - check pinterest for the tutorial)
Dress Up (make sure you have a well stocked dress up box)
Noughts and Crosses (play with a partner)
Paper Models (from a book)
Board Games Cupboard
Click N Snap Connectors (we got ours from our
Sand Pit Play
Picnic together under the trampoline
Pick Up Sticks
Bug Game (if playing with a partner)
Electronic World Quiz (like this but ours was a cheaper version)
And a list of things that we'd ALSO include now in 2020 (with a mix of kiddos aged 18-8):
Crochet or knitting
Origami (we bought origami books and paper to have on hand)
Basket of wooden train tracks to build with
Make an obstacle course outside
Mr Potato Head
Nail board with elastics
Write a letter to a friend
Play dough (we keep rolling pins, playdough, mats and cutters in one spot so the youngest 2 can Still get them out when they want to)
Playing cards - build a card house, play concentration
Loom bands (we keep loom bands and loom boards together ready for use)
Nuts and bolts box (literally random nuts and bolts in a box that some of our kids love to play with)
Pull apart an old appliance (with permission first lol. We bought our kids their own tool kit for this purpose)
Scrapbooking/journaling/faithbooking (we have supplies together for this)
Make comics or story boards
Sit in a hammock
Use an old digital camera (with permission) to take photos of nature (compile a nature book using these photos)
Word search books
Bush skills like knots or setting up a tent inspired by bush craft books
Kinetic sand play
Where's Wally books
Make a bike ramp
Audio books / podcast / ipod shuffle
Craft Busy Box (full of recyclable things ready to be fashioned in an art project)
Cloud shape watching
Stamp collecting (old school postage stamp collecting)
Start a collection (novelty erasers, rocks etc) and look at it at a quiet time
Make a pom pom
We stored lots of small part things in labelled containers in what we call our Learning Room Cupboard. It has family board games too and has changed over the years but this is how it is right now. Thes rest of the items are kept in accessible places in our home. We set up a nature table years ago and it changes with lots of treasures we find. It also houses the nature cards, magnifying glasses and other baskets and jars to hold nature items. Paint and art supplies live on top of this cupboard and in our Craft Busy Box too.
Well there you go! We now have kiddos who are so used to getting out their own activities that we don't need the visual charts anymore but I still believe the 'Fun Things To Do' charts were helpful in scaffolding our kids to be able to occupy themselves in meaningful and delightful ways.
Have you got a similar style chart? I'd love to see it if you do! What works at your place? Be sure to drop a comment and let me know if this is useful in some way.
Happy learning, living and loving,