In today’s post: Tired of hearing “I’m bored!” when your kids are home from school? These are our favorite games, toys, activity books and more that will keep your kids occupied and keep you sane.
So I think we are all feeling like life is a bit surreal right now. We don’t know how far the coronavirus will spread or how serious the consequences will be, and that’s scary. My goal right now is to be cautious and proactive without panicking. I’m also invested in helping my children to navigate the next couple of months without feeling overwhelmed or fearful, especially if we end up quarantined at home.
Because it looks likely that MANY schools will be closed in the near future, I decided to update this post I wrote years ago about our favorite “boredom busters”. These are games, toys, books, and other activity items that have kept my kids engaged and busy for hours. These are great to have on hand so that electronic devices aren’t the only go to items when kids start to feel bored. I originally wrote this post to help combat summer boredom, but hopefully it will help all of us who are going to have kids at home in the near future. Please tell us your favorite kid boredom busters in the comments!
NOTE: You may also want to check out this post: 50 Fun Activities for Kids
Best Games, Toys + Activities for Bored Kids
NOTE: All ideas in this post are items kids can use (such as books or games, etc.). If you’re looking for activity ideas instead, visit 50 best activities for kids or 101 easy summer fun ideas for kids. Click on the title of the item to view it on Amazon if you’re interested in purchasing. This post includes affiliate links – thanks!
1. Shrinky Dinks: My kids love shrinky dinks! Kids can trace (or draw) a design on the clear plastic sheet. When the drawing is done, cut it out and bake it – the plastic shrinks and becomes thick and super durable. This is lots of fun for older kids who love to draw.
2. Fuse Beads (aka Perler Beads): These are a GREAT boredom buster for older kids – my 9 and 11 year olds will literally spend HOURS making designs from these beads, which you can fuse together using an iron. We purchased a huge set of generic beads last Christmas and they’ve provided hours of fun. Pro tip: search for perler bead patterns online so your kids can make all their favorite characters!
3. Water Doodle mats: Water doodle mats are perfect for younger kids! Fill the pen with water and let your child “draw” all over this reusable mat. The water makes colors show up on the mat, and then the drawings magically disappear as the mat dries. No mess!
4. Marble Runs: Marble Runs provide hours of fun, and are great for siblings or friends to work on together. Kids can set up the run in a different configuration every time. Younger kids will have fun setting up a basic run and then sending marbles through it over and over, while older kids will enjoy figuring out the most complex assembly possible. Different sized sets are available.
5. Water Wow books: Melissa & Doug Water Wow! books include 4 reusable coloring boards and a water pen. When a child paints with water the colors in the pictures appear, but the coolest part is that when the boards dry, the colors go away, leaving the boards ready to be painted again. The small size and lack of mess makes this perfect for little hands and great for car travel as well. You can find lots of different varieties, including princess books and ABC learning books.
6. Extreme Dot to Dots: We LOVE these Extreme Dot to Dot books! Each picture has between 500-1400 dots and some span two full pages. These are great for older kids (and adults) who’d be bored by easier dot to dot books. My kids easily spend an hour at a time working on these books, and they’re great for car trips too. You can find Extreme Dot to Dot books with lots of different themes, and since each one has around 32 puzzles, one book will last for hours and hours! For younger kids, we really like this 1-100 dot to dot book.
7. Sticky Mosaics: Sticker mosaics combine the fun of a sticker book with the fun of a paint by number. There are plenty of different mosaics available, including themes geared toward both boys and girls as well as different difficulty levels for different ages. Kids love how easy and fun it is to make a picture that looks great and parents love that there’s no messy markers or paint involved.
8. Diamond Art Kits: Diamond art kits are similar to sticker mosaics, but made for slightly older kids (my 9 and 11 years olds love them). These are kind of like a “paint by number” kit, but kids use brightly colored “gems” to fill in the painting. They’re lots of fun and the results are very pretty! Kids can make their own stickers, art pieces, night lights, key chains, and more.
9. Design and Drill: The Design and Drill Activity set lets kids use a toy drill to drill in different colored screws, making a design, then pull them back out and start over. The drill are very easy and fun to use and it’s amazing how long they keep little hands busy. The set comes with cards that have designs on them the kids can make with the screws, but my kids generally ignored those and lined up the screws however they wanted. This is perfect for solitary play; if you have two kids that will want to play together, plan to order an extra drill.
10. Rush Hour: Rush Hour is a fun single person game where you set up the “cars” on the board as directed on a car and then figure out how to move them each along the slots in the board in order to get your car free. It’s a puzzle that will get kids thinking, and it’s nice to have for times when a child needs to keep herself occupied on her own. Consider the junior version for younger kids.
11. Snap Circuits: Snap Circuits are electronic building blocks that kids can put together in different configurations to make things like a light with a switch, a fan, or even a working AM radio. The components snap onto a plastic board, and with the 60 components in this set your child can build up to 300 different projects. Different sets explore other STEM projects. Everything can be taken apart and reconfigured. This is a fantastic toy to keep your kids thinking and learning over the summer break and is perfect for ages 7 or 8 and up (younger kids will be able to play with help).
12. Me Readers: I’ve mentioned these “Me Readers” before on the blog because I LOVE them! Each set comes with 8 storybooks and a reader. Kids push a button to hear one page read to them, then turn the page and press the next button (each page has a colored symbol on it so it’s easy to know which button to push). These are so much easier for little kids to follow along with than books on CDs, and pre-readers love being able to “read” to themselves. These are perfect for in the car, at bedtime, or any other time you want a little one to calm down with a story. My daughter started using them when she was 2, and my son still looks at his even though he’s 6 and can read to himself now. There are lots of different story sets available (Mickey, Disney princess, Thomas the Tank Engine, Dora, etc).
13. Mindware Color Counts books: Mindware Color Counts books are color by number pages on steroids. These are perfect for older kids who still like to color. The intricate designs ensure a beautiful finished product, which makes kids feel like they’ve completed a masterpiece. I find working on these really helps calm my kids down when they are getting a little rambunctious. Check out all the different versions and stock up on colored pencils!
14. Stringing bead sets: A sturdy wooden stringing bead set is a classic boredom buster – I remember playing with these when I was a kid! There are basic sets with larger beads for young kids and more involved sets with letters for older kids.
15. Friendship bracelet sets: The trend from our childhood is back! Learning to make pretty friendship bracelets is a great way to keep older kids occupied – plus they can work on them while watching a movie if they want.
16. Twister tracks: Race car sets are a classic kid toy, but Twister Tracks are special because once snapped together, the track can be bent and flexed to form turns, hills, bridges, and more. The included car goes fast enough to make it lots of fun, and if you get a set with more than one car they can “race” each other around the track. Easy enough for young kids and engaging enough for older ones too.
17. Lego Ideas books: We love Lego sets, but they are expensive. This book has been a family favorite because it gives you loads of ideas for things you can build with the legos you already have.
18. Sticker books for young kids: We have gone through so many of these sticker books with our young kids! Kids get to find and match stickers on pages throughout the books. Some books are based on learning letters or colors while others are based on animals, trucks, shapes, words, and more.
19. Sticker puzzles for older kids: These sticker puzzles are not only fun – they are gorgeous! Similar to color or paint by number, this sticker activity book features designs that are divided into spaces, each with a letter, that corresponds to a sticker. Find the sticker, peel it, and place it in the right space.
20. Logic Puzzles: These grid-style logic puzzles are great for older kids (and adults). Each puzzle has clues as well as a grid to help you figure out the solution. Kids may need some help with their first puzzle or two until they understand how to solve them, but then they should be able to work through many of the puzzles on their own. It’s another great activity for keep those brains going during the summer! For younger kids you might want to consider Brain Games for Kids or The Everything Kids Puzzle Book.
21. Spirograph: Spirograph is a classic! Anyone my age already knows how fun this drawing toy is – my sisters and I used to spend hours making designs and drawings with ours – and I was excited to see it making a comeback. Add black paper and gel pens for really cool results!
22. Stomp Rockets: Stomp rockets may be the most fun my kids have EVER had with a toy! Kids place a rocket on the launcher and jump onto the launch pad to send the rocket flying into the air. You can change the angle of the launcher to figure out how to get the rocket to go as far as possible. These things really fly! When we take this toy to the park, kids we don’t even know line up to come play. Younger kids may need some help aiming the launcher, but it’s easy to sit by the launcher and hold it steady with one hand and hold a book in another (I have LOTS of experience doing this). It’s a great for one child or for a group – each kid can take turns launching and then running to retrieve his or her rocket.
23. Paper Airplane kit: This paper airplane kit comes with pages you can tear out to fold into planes. The pages are already marked with dotted fold lines, making it easier for kids to do their on their own. The kit comes with pages to make 100 airplanes plus a cardboard launcher.
24. Play 9 – the Card Game of Golf: This is a newer card game that my kids absolutely love. Each player starts with eight cards and you take turns drawing and exchanging cards to try to get the lowest total score possible. However, your cards start face down so you’re never sure whether it’s smart to exchange or not! Best for ages 8 and up.
25. Spot It!: This is a quick and easy to play game that involves being the first to spot the similarity between two different cards. Perfect for younger kids because there is no reading required and each round is played quickly. Great game for siblings to play together.
What are your kids’ favorite boredom buster products? Please leave ideas in the comments – if they look fun I’ll add them to the post! And remember, if you’re looking for activities instead of products, check out 101 easy summer fun ideas for kids. Thanks!