Sure ways to entertain kids when you just need a few minutes

Where to find the perfect kids

Kids are ALWAYS soooo amazing, cuddly, loving, wonderful, joyful… on Instagram and Facebook. In real life they can be clingy, whiny, sticky… and as a self proclaimed “beta” mom who owns her motherhood blemishes, I’d unashamedly add that kids are sometimes annoying and…. inconvenient.

My imperfect, inconvenient kids

Don’t judge me. You too may have been victim to my kids’ untimely tantrums when you called the evening hour line with worries about your own child’s vomiting, breathing, or injuries. My kids were inconvenient when their screams drowned out the sound of my voice struggling to give you advice, right? I scolded them, apologized to you, tried to hush them, tried to repeat my recommendations to you. Inconvenient.

You have experiences this with your own kids, too. Working parents and stay at home parents, let’s face it, we ALL have moments where we just need a few quiet minutes to finish a phone call, prepare something for the crockpot, or send off an email. Just a few minutes of precious peace.

Getting a few perfectly quiet minutes

I have a solution. Five actually. So take a deep breath, hug your kids (because when they are whiny, a good touch and reassurance often brings the panic in their heads – and ours – down just a few notches), and send them off with these guaranteed techniques. They will be entertained long enough for you to complete your urgent task. But that means we focus on our task, no opening up Facebook (or for me, Twitter), no going down a wikipedia or google rabbit hole researching something totally unrelated to our work or life, and no getting a snack. Water is fine. No snack. Time slips by too quickly and before we know it, so will the novelty of the activities below, so get right to it!


1. Entertaining kids with dry beans

Use dry beans. The largest possible size (such as kidney beans) to minimize choking risk and to maximize ease of clean up. In addition to about 3/4 pound of dry beans, you’ll also need a set of measuring spoons and a food tub with a lid. I grabbed a few other containers around the house – a mixing bowl, a plastic tray with separations (found in frozen shumai or mochi ice cream boxes).

My toddler played with this by scooping and pouring the beans into various containers, putting them on the play kitchen stove, and just burying her hands in them. She makes coffee and soup. Sometimes this goes on for 15 minutes as I hold my breath for the peace and her attention to break.

Of course, keep an eye on your kid(s), make sure they don’t put the beans in their mouths, noses, or ears. Be near by and supervise!

2. Entertaining kids with a few buckets of water

This is a similar idea and uses lots of the same equipment as the above beans activity, but replaced with water. A few additional items that makes this a bit more special and fun: a scoop or stacking cups with holes to let the water drizzle down and tea set to let the kids work on their fine motor skills of trying to precisely pour the water out into little cups and stir with tiny spoons.

I also lay a beach towel under my kids when I do this to minimize the mess and to avoid anyone slipping and falling onto the hard tile floor. And very quickly, the water will disappear, spilled out onto the towel. Having a larger bucket of water nearby might also buy some time because it allows the child to refill their water supply on their own without bothering you.

Of course, be near by and supervise!

3. Entertaining kids with bathtub paint

Sometimes, we have to be a bit flexible and creative. There’s no reason why we can’t finish an email or phone call in the bathroom. There’s already a built in seat, or probably a kids’ step stool in the bathroom to sit on too. Put the kids in the bathtub with some bathtub paint and let them unleash their inner Matisse. If you don’t have any bathtub paint, don’t panic, this is a very easy DIY (and I prefer this). You probably have stuff around the house to make some. Put shaving cream or old sunblock lotion in small containers (the shumai or mochi trays, small yogurt containers, or a cupcake tin). Stir in 1-2 drops of food color in each well. Also add a few drops of dish detergent (this helps the colors wash off more easily). Then, let your kids get hands on. They will enjoy getting messy. And you may be surprised to enjoy enough time to get not only one task done, but maybe 1-2 more or time to finish another chapter of your current book.

Of course, be near by and supervise! Kids can drown in just an inch of water, so never leave them alone in the bathroom.

4. Entertaining kids with devices

When all else fails, and since you’ve listened to my advice to avoid screen time as much as possible for the kids, it’s okay to bring it out now and put on Peppa Pig, Paw Patrol, or Sesame Street. This why I discourage day time caregivers from letting kids use the digital devices. Leave it for the parents to use when they get desperate at of end of the day or on weekends.

Too much screen time, even with a TV on in the background, can slow down imagination and speech development. Even the “educational” programs on apps and computers aren’t great for kids’ brains and eyes. Kids learn better with IRL (I gotta keep parents on their toes a little right, if you don’t know what that means, look it up, I give you permission to google it), hands on instruction. Read a book with the child on our lap rather than using a digital reading advice app.

Check out interactive reading techniques on my YouTube channel to make that more fun for child AND parent!

But a SANE parent is better than a totally screen free child, so we try our hardest and then we let life happen. Sometimes, we are grateful for YouTube. Or Amazon Prime where we can watch episodes Dinosaur Train and Daniel Tiger for free. We don’t have cable, but I’m sure that comes with many other options.

Of course, keep an eye on your kid(s). Even YouTube Kids or a cartoon channel can morph into not so pleasant or not so innocent video when they get automatically played. Be near by and supervise!

5. Giving up and just letting the screaming child be

Sometimes, nothing works and your child will just scream through. That’s okay. Kids can be incredibly creative when they are bored. They also learn to figure out a solution for themselves and develop their problem solving skills. When I had to give my six year old a bath recently, the tearful-world-is-going-to-end howls from the toddler upset that I didn’t pick her up suddenly stopped after about five minutes. When I turned around, she was quietly playing with water in the sink. I praised her for calming herself down and she rewarded this betamomma with a proud smile. Our kids are way more independent and smart than we give them credit for. We try our best to help our kids be happy, but sometimes when they are left to deal with unhappiness on their own, they show us their best.


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This is not medical advice. Consult your child’s doctor for proper guidance and recommendations that fit your child’s specific needs.