Just the thought of a long wait with small children can strike fear in the heart of any parent. The next time you find yourself in this situation, whether that’s in a long line, at a restaurant, or in a waiting room, bust out one of these ways to keep kids occupied while waiting (without screens!).
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Waiting is hard. For everyone, but especially for kids (and, therefore, for the parents who have to wait with said kids.)
As I’m constantly telling my kids, patience is a muscle. And just like any muscle, you have to exercise it to develop it. Kids simply haven’t had as much time/opportunities to exercise their patience muscles, which means they’re still pretty weak.
Which leads to the whining and crying we often get from our kids when they have to wait. And that can be trying for even the most patient parent’s nerves!
What I’ve learned, however, is that the calmer I stay, the calmer they stay. And the magical secret to keeping everyone calm and happy during waiting times? Make it fun.
And here’s the crazy part – it’s totally possible to do WITHOUT screens! Yep, there are plenty of ways to keep kids occupied during times of waiting that don’t include phones, ipads, or other devices. I mean, think about it… parents survived without those things for a loooooong time. We can, too! And by using the strategies below, you might find that those waiting times can actually end up nurturing your family culture and foster stronger connections! (I know they have for us!)
10 Ways to Keep Kids Occupied During Times of Waiting (Without Screens!)
Just the thought of a long wait with small children can strike fear in the heart of any parent. Most kids haven’t developed their patience “muscles” yet, so it can be a real challenge for them! The next time you find yourself in this situation, whether that’s in a long line, at a restaurant, or in a waiting room, bust out one of these ways to keep kids occupied during times of waiting (without screens!).
1. Read to them
I know I can keep my kids occupied anywhere through anything as long as I have a book to read to them. So, I carry one in my purse pretty much anytime I know we’re going to have to wait – long car rides, eating at a restaurant, before events, etc.
Here are some of our favorite books we’ve read!
2. Find things they can draw/color on
If I don’t have a book with me, my second-best option is to find some kind of paper and writing implement. (Thus, I often have crayons in my purse for emergencies!) This is also a great way to keep kids occupied when we are somewhere we have to be quiet. Another alternative (when I’m actually thinking ahead) is Water Wow! pads.
3. Tell stories
If I don’t happen to have a book on me, and there’s no paper available, I often keep them entertained by telling stories. Sometimes these are well-known stories, like The Three Little Pigs, but they’re often stories I make up on the fly. (I have two boys and girl, so they often involve “two little princes and one little princess.”)
You could also turn it into a fun game, using items from your purse or around you as prompts to create a fun tale. If your kids are old enough, you can include them in the storytelling! Take turns adding to the story. Not only is it tons of fun, but it exercises their imagination and creativity!
4. Talk to each other!
Finding/making time to talk together can be a challenge for busy families, so why not take advantage of those waiting times! Ask your kids about their day, use one of these family conversation starters, or talk about what you’ve done so far/what you’re about to do if you’re at some kind of event.
5. Play simple games
I can’t tell you how many silly games I’ve made up on the fly trying to keep my kids occupied during times of waiting! Make use of whatever space/items you have around you, and get creative! Here are some fun ideas:
- Have your kids hop over, on, or around floor tiles, or follow lines on the floor
- Play “mirror, mirror” – take turns copying one person’s body movements, as though you’re a reflection in a mirror
- Choose an item around you (or think of a random word) and see how many rhyming words you can think of
- Drop a scrap of paper and see if your kids can catch it before it reaches the ground
- Pick a category and see how many things you can name in that category (e.g. fruits/vegetables, countries, movie titles, 4-legged animals, etc.)
Of course, there’s always the classics, too, such as “I spy,” or “Simon Says”!
6. Make up stories about the people around you
Observe the people around you, and make up stories about who they are, what they’re doing, where they’re going, and what their life might be like. It can be an interesting exercise in becoming more aware of the people around you and putting yourself in their shoes. (Just try not to point and stare. 😉)
7. Play “Imagine If…”
My 8-year-old loves to play the “Imagine if…” game. “Imagine if England had won the Revolutionary War,” and “Imagine if we were the size of ants, and ants were our size” are a couple of the ones he’s asked recently. Explore hypothetical questions like that, and have fun imagining a different world!
8. Answer silly questions
“Would you rather” is another fun game to play with each other and a great way to keep kids occupied while they wait. If you need some to get you started, here’s a fun list of “Would you rather” questions for kids. Or, see what other goofy questions they can think of to ask. If your kids are like mine, they’ll have no problem coming up with some super silly ones!
9. Practice early literacy skills
When my oldest son was first learning his letters, we played a LOT of “Name an animal that starts with….” We tried to see how many we could come up with for each letter. You could also pick a letter and see how many nearby items you can find that start with that letter. Of course, for kids who don’t yet know their letters, you could do colors, instead.
10. Play “20 questions”
Finally, pass the time with your kids with a good old-fashioned game of 20 questions. This is a great waiting game for older kids. Not familiar with 20 questions? The premise of the game is simple: one person thinks of an object, while the other person asks up to 20 yes/no questions to determine what it is. If the questioner guesses correctly within 20 questions, he/she wins!
SHARE WITH US: What other ideas do you have for keeping kids occupied while waiting? I’d love to hear them! Share them in the comments below!
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