Every parent has those days at home when you HAVE to get stuff done. Maybe it’s work , homeschooling older children, or maybe you are fighting a bad cold and just don’t have the time to plan and play like you like to. Before you reach for the remote try simple themed play stations instead. This may look like a lot of work to set up but trust me it took 5 minutes. If construction isn’t your child’s thing don’t worry I have ideas below for 6 more themes. You may need to look through the toys in your house to see what you can use but once you write a list it will be a snap to put it together when you need it. What a set up like this does is gives your child stations to move to and from and gives you a little extra time to get things done. The day we did this I was sicker than a dog and this kept my almost 3 year old happy while I tried to get work I normally do after her bedtime done early so I could have a good sleep that night. She did end up watching some PBS Kids but much less than she would have if I had not set this all up.
- Choose the theme. Your best bet is to choose something that your child is really interested in. A new theme is best introduced when you can act as a guide.
- Choose what stations to set up. Again this isn’t a time for too much novelty . Old favorites, things they can do independently and toys that they love . Toys they love but have been put away for a while work great. My stations were :playdough , dress up , puzzles ,and books. Gather your toys and materials for the stations. Keep it simple you don’t need to make huge sensory bins or elaborate block areas. I had a puzzle, some playdough with a little people construction worker and some Duplo, a few pretend play props and some books on the theme.
- Play . Show your child the stations ( space them out to your child’s liking) and ask them which they want to start with. Most kids will go to each briefly and then go back to each for a second look to really play. When my daughter went to the book station I asked her to please read the books first by herself and then I would come and read them to her. This gave me enough time to pause what I was doing and join her.
Other Theme Ideas
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Princess : Books , pink playdough with sequins or beads, princess costume or crown for dress up, build a castle with blocks, make a princess bracelet with a pipe cleaner and pony beads.
Ocean : Books about fish , Tub of water with sea animals, swimming goggles for simple pretend play, under the sea pictures ( blue paper and fish stickers) , fish puzzles.
Bugs : Books about bugs, playdough bugs (add some straws and googly eyes) , egg carton and pipe cleaner caterpillar, draw your own bug ( crayons and paper) ,bug puzzles.
ABCs : Alphabet books, playdough with alphabet cookie cutters, alphabet stickers on paper, letter rainbowing, alphabet puzzle.
Cars and Trucks : Car books, make tracks in playdough with cars, make a city with blocks and cars, simple car wash, draw a road on paper and fill it with car and truck stickers.
Cooking : Books about food, cook in the sink, paint with a potato masher, simple grocery store play in the kitchen.
Amy @ Molly Learns says
Simple but very clever! I often only pull out one toy or activity at a time for Molly. I’ll have to try this and see if she plays independently a little longer!
Eddie - The Usual Mayhem says
Stations are a life-saver on rainy days! Great post.
We love play stations too. I like the construction theme and may have to copy it since we have everything that you put out lol! I shared it on my site too!
I love this idea. I definitely have days where I need my kids just a bit more preoccupied. However, it seems like I always try to get them interested in something, but as soon as I walk away and start working, they are uninterested again. I love your idea to use a theme that has already been introduced that they love. I think that will help my problem a lot! 🙂
Allison McDonald says
That happens to me too. Sometimes backing away slowly and quietly is the best method.
I reminds me of center time when I taught early childhood. Another great idea is to give the kids screwdrivers and old things to take apart like clocks and (we used typewriters) maybe computer paraphernalia that is not needed anymore.This really keeps them busy.
Thanks for all of your creative ideas! Love your site. The stations would be wonderful for my little ones. I have a similar way to keep kids entertained when I need a minute, but I use bins of mostly independent activities. Please check it out and let me know what you think: http://smoremom.com/2014/12/03/planning-for-joy/
Allison McDonald says
I’ll check it out , thanks!