Even in the best of circumstances, kids need quiet time. Add a whole family’s quarantine efforts to the mix and people are going to need some head space. The benefits of quiet time for kids has been proven again and again: Quiet time builds independence, increases attention and focus, and inspires creativity.
Give yourself and your child some much-needed solitude with these quiet time activities that will keep your kids busy so you can enjoy the last of your quarantine wine in piece.
Nothing provides a better opportunity for quiet time than having a child get lost in a book, and the benefits of reading are immeasurable: stress reduction, mental stimulation, memory improvement, increased vocabulary, the list goes on and on. For kids that still need to be read to, many public libraries offer free access to TumbleBook Library, a modern answer to the storybook records and tapes many of us had as kids. TumbleBook are created from existing picture books, adding sound, animation, music and narration to create electronic picture books.
If you don’t have a kid who naturally loves to read and are stumped as to where to start, graphic novels and comic books are a great entry point for even the most reluctant reader, and most major libraries have lists of the most popular books for kids to help inspire you.
If you have a shortage of books on hand, Khan Academy has over 100 to choose from that kids can read or have read to them. If your kids prefer to listen to their books, Audible is offering free children’s memberships for as long as schools are closed.
Podcasts are a perfect escape from a hectic household. They are a pause button on the outside world and are guaranteed to keep kids quietly entertained. A recent study of kids ages 3 to 17, conducted by the podcast “Brains On!” and the Science Museum of Minnesota, revealed that 73% of listeners have heard a podcast episode more than once, making for a quiet time activity that kids will come back to again and again.
Our favorites are Story Pirates, What if World, Wow in the World, and Smash Boom Best. If you want to get your kids in on serial podcasts that will keep them occupied through an entire storyline, try the Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian. Get them a great set of headphones and set them off to new worlds or scientific discoveries.
That rapidly cooling cup of coffee you’ve been trying to get to since 6 a.m. isn’t going to drink itself. Set your kids up with a Paint by Stickers book and buy yourself a minute to get your head together. Stickers are a perfect means of quiet creativity. They are colorful and tactile, they are portals into imaginative worlds, and they are a perfect balance of being a little bit creative but not too challenging.
We are loving the whole Paint by Sticker Kids books series. Each book gives kids a little bit of direction and a project that they will be motivated to silently stick with through completion.
4. Single-player games
On day one, maybe you were voicing thanks at having multiple children so that they could keep each other entertained but—take it from moms on day 13 of a quarantine—that sibling harmony is going to fade FAST! Stock up on any games they can play by themselves… in different rooms… on the farthest corner of the house. We love classics like Find It and Rush Hour and have recently fallen in love with the games developed by SmartGames. Their one-player games have anywhere from 30 to 90 different play options, a great choice for sustained peace and quiet.
5. Retro Toys
The ’80s were a time of latch-key kids so it shouldn’t be any surprise that toys made for kids in that day and age inspired solitary play. Toys like Spirograph, Fashion Plates, and Light Bright are all wonderful creativity-building toys that are best done alone and best done quietly. Get them one of these classics and then give yourself a little time for that “self care” everyone is telling you you’re supposed to pay attention to.
6. Chalk art
With more and more cities asking residents to shelter in place, walks around the neighborhood have been one of the few options for breaking out and shaking off cabin fever. Streets across the country have been getting more colorful as people “Chalk Their Walk” and brighten up streets with colorful reminders of humanity on vacant sidewalks.
While “Chalk Your Walk” is getting all of the Instagram love, you can have your kids chalk, well, everything! Have them turn your entire driveway into a work of art. Have them get some inspiration from the more than 10,000 Instagram posts of others doing the same and send them out to create. Give them stencils or painters tape to turn it into a truly time-consuming project that will keep them busy long enough for you to finally change out of your pajamas (not that you ever need to for me, girlfriend).
If you don’t have a driveway, don’t worry! Porches and retaining walls could also use some color. If your only option is to be indoors have them create their own chalk walk by taping craft paper to the floor for them to turn into a colorful, chalk-covered walkway. Add another level to the project and have them make their own sidewalk chalk, an easy and straightforward craft where they can customize their own shapes and colors.
Give them your smartphone and let their imagination take off while they make their own stop-motion animation films. We love the Stickbot toy by Zing, just for this purpose. There are so many means for teaching stop-motion animation, but Stickbot is inexpensive, cute, and really allows for independent and exploration play for kids ages 4 and up. It makes the stop-motion set-up and filming so simple and all for a reasonable price. The starter kit includes two plastic, posable figures and a tripod. Kids use these tools with a simple and a free animation app (iOS and android) and they are ready to animate! If you have serious animators, you can upgrade to the Stickbot Pro pack that comes with two StickBots and a green screen.
With all this time at home, they may as well build a valuable future-job skill. Let Artie, Botley, or Kinderbot be their playmate while setting the stage for a love of coding with entertaining and interactive games that are screen-free. While they are having fun they’ll also be learning important math, problem-solving and engineering skills.
Nothing gets a kid quietly concentrating like a puzzle. Jigsaw puzzles, 3-D puzzles, you name it and kids will be engaged until the problem is solved. We love the Eboo Science for the Family puzzle and flashcard bundle. It comes with two complimentary puzzles—one that’s 100 pieces and one that’s 500 pieces—so you can easily send your children in two different directions to work on their own puzzles and then come back for some family flashcard time, after everyone has gotten a break.
Science projects always keep kids busy, but they tend to be messy. Enter magnets: a mess-free lesson in physics, guaranteed to keep them entertained. You can set your kids loose with refrigerator magnets and any metal hardware you may have around your home, or you can buy one of these fun kits that come with magnets and activity guides.
Yarn is soft, comforting, quiet and pretty much mess-free. Craft projects that kids of all ages can do go on and on and each can keep a child busy for long stretches of time. Pom-pom making is simple and addictive for little kids and they can be made on looms made of stuff you definitely have lying around, from forks to cardboard. After the pom-poms are made, the quiet time can extend as kids make wreathes or garland or glue them onto drawer pulls, headbands, headphones, bags–or anything else they think needs a pop of color.
Fun with yarn doesn’t have to stop with pom-poms. Kids can make Ojo de Dios (mandalas) or you can even set them up on a homemade cardboard weaving loom (here is a terrific tutorial by MetKids). If your little one is too small for weaving, yarn with sandpaper is a terrific tactile intro to hone those fine motor skills.
If sending your kid off with markers or paints inevitably means either the walls or their younger sibling will be turned into a canvas, maybe it’s time to remove art supplies from the situation. After all, quiet time really isn’t worth it if it means you need to spend an hour afterwards cleaning up a creative disaster. Enter: origami. Origami teaches precision and math skills (origami is a great way for kids to learn fractions) and it really is something for all ages and all levels.
There are countless blogs to provide you with origami inspiration, and a search on YouTube will deliver tutorials from the very forgiving for little learners to incredibly complex, for a tween who is ready to show off.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.