Small Apartments, Big Adventures: How to Keep Little Ones Engaged at Home

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Keeping little ones entertained while cooped at home can be…a hassle. That being said, coming up with creative ways to keep kids engaged and active is a whole challenge in and of itself, but Olivia Burks {founder and owner of Hugs + Bugs Club in Hoboken} is here to help.,

She’s an expert in keeping kids entertained, even in small Hoboken + JC apartments, and has hands-on experience doing so with her two boys {who are six and four-years-old} in her 700 square foot apartment in the Mile Square.  So, parents of rambunctious children, this one is for you. Here are some Olivia-tested + approved engaging activities to do with your kids at home.

The Activity: Tie-Dye Paper Towels

tie dye paper towels activity

Olivia had a beautiful 90 minutes, of productive play with her kids with this tie-dye activity and sparked a meaningful conversation. 

How to Do It:

Olivia set out a paper towel, markers, and water for her kids and told them that they were making tie-dye towels {which can be used for another activity soon so please save them}. There are no real instructions other than to make some fun designs and pick their favorite colors to draw fun shapes and pictures. 

  1. Set the table with paper towels, markers, and water.
  2. Draw on paper towels with markers trying to cover a lot of the blank white towel. 
  3. Using a spray bottle, paintbrush or dipping fingers in water, apply water all over the decorated towel.
  4. Watch how the color begins to move around the towel and how the colors spread into each other.
  5. Apply a clean towel on top of the super wet colored towel and press with our hands to see the clean towel absorb the color from the one below.
  6. Hang all originals and copies to dry.
  7. Save them for another project coming soon!

Conversation Questions to Ask Your Kids: 

  • Why does the color spread with water?
  • What new colors appear since adding water?
  • Why did the new clean dry towel absorb the colors from the wet towel?
  • How does the towel dry when we hang it?
  • What can we do with our new art?

Olivia’s Tip: Instead of you answering these questions, have your children come up with their own ideas. Enjoy coming up with your own ideas too. For those with older children, ask your children to research with you and make some print outs to hang on your wall with what you learn. 

Read More: The Art of Homeschooling: Teachers Share Their Top Tips

The Activity: Bathtub Cityscape Painting

kids city scape painting activity

Let’s share the love we have for our respective cities by having our children add tons of color to their cityscapes in the bathtub. 

Items You’ll Need:

How to Do It:

  1. Prepare a regular bath for your child.
  2. With black paint, draw an outline of your little city or town.
  3. Place paints with brushes in various containers.
  4. Encourage your child to add trees, flowers, friends in windows, clouds, rooftops, fire escapes, etc. This is their world to create. They can also try different techniques such as splatter painting and painting their hands and then painting with their hands and fingers.
  5. When it’s time to clean up, offer them a baby wipe to soak in the water and get to work. My kids made up a whole story that it was raining and the rain was washing off the city so they could paint it again another time.
  6. Rinse off and have a regular bath. 

Olivia’s Tip: Please test out the paints on your tiles before you begin to make sure it won’t stain and always make sure to make a full bath or at least have one inch of water in the tub because the paint will be very slippery and we all want to be safe. 

The Activity: Frozen LEGO Guys

frozen lego kids activity

This activity combines two fun things — LEGOs and the science of freezing something. Although this activity can be done in a container on a table, Olivia prefers the bath since it extends the playtime for kids and usually less of a mess since the water just stays in the tub, mostly.

Olivia’s boys loved touching the LEGO guys in the ice tray first. They squeezed the warm water on them with the bottles and then Olivia released the LEGO guys in a container for them to pick and choose which ones they were going to free first. They held them in their hands and loved how cold the ice cubes were. They used their bottles to melt the ice and went crazy when they saw how they could make a hole in the ice if they sprayed the water on one spot. 

Items You’ll Need:

  • Ice tray
  • LEGO guys
  • Squeeze bottles
  • Sponges
  • Container

How to Do It:

  1. Have your child pick out their favorite LEGO guys and place them in an ice tray.
  2. Add water and freeze {don’t be afraid to use this waiting time as bribery}.
  3. When the LEGO guys are frozen, prep your squeeze bottles with warm water and make a bath for your kid/kids.
  4. Pop the frozen LEGO guys out into a container.
  5. Invite the kids to “free” them using the squeeze bottles and sponges.

Olivia’s Tip: Since these little LEGO guys are choking hazards for our younger children, use food coloring instead to make colorful ice cubes. Lots of fun!

See More: Little Co-Workers: How to Successfully Work From Home with a Baby

The Activity: Color Collection

color collection kids activity

Such a simple and engaging activity for all age groups! Olivia’s been doing this activity with her kids since they were six months old and continue now at four and six years old, with a few modifications.

How to Do It:

  • For Kids Under One: Collect various items around the house in all the same color. Place on the floor together or in a bin. Playtime! This will help to learn their colors and how things of the same color can be different textures.
  • For Kids One to Three: Walk them around the home and through their toys and have them help to find toys and items in the house with the same color. Place on the floor together or in a bin. Playtime! This will help to learn their colors and how things of the same color can be different textures. They will also feel a sense of pride in finding the pieces.
  • For Kids Four to 10: Give them the challenge to pick one color and then find toys and home items that have the same color. Once they collect the items, they can do one or all of the following:

How to Do It:

First, create a theater piece for your kids.  Then, write a story involving the various items you’ve got. Next, draw a realistic version of one or all of the items, and voila — the ideas are limitless! Encourage your kids to see what they can come up with on their own.

The Activity: Loose Parts Play

loose parts play kids activity

This kind of activity gives children endless ways to create. There are no rules, so children can literally create anything and in real-time. For instance, Olivia I set out the items and when the kids started to feel each of them and see how the materials work together all of a sudden their idea of making a musical instrument changed into a robot. 

This loose part play incorporates problem-solving, creativity, hand-eye coordination, scientific thinking, social and emotional development, fine motor skill development, cooperation, concentration, you name it! Try this at home and just sit back and watch how truly amazing your children are and what they can do.

Items You’ll Need:

  • Toilet paper /Paper towel tubes
  • Bottle caps
  • Rubber bands
  • Screws/nails
  • Cut up cardboard
  • Pizza tables {the little white plastic tables put on pizzas for delivery}
  • Corks

How to Do It:

Use items from around the house and this will vary depending on the age of your child. The list below is what Olivia gave her four and six-year-olds. Younger children would use items that are more selective and would not include any choking hazards and sharp edges. You know your child best and which items are safe for them.

Disclaimer: Use your best judgment when using various materials with different age groups as some may pose a choking hazard. 

And there you go — easy, engaging activities to do with kids at home!

Which of these activities will you be doing with your little ones? Let us know in the comments!


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