How to Create the Perfect Activity Box for Kids

I love being able to stay at home all day with my kids, but sometimes it is hard to entertain them all day. We play with toys, go on walks, play in the yard, and once we do all those they ask to watch TV. Don't get me wrong, I love TV but once they watch one movie or show, it turns into 2 more. So I created what we call our "Activity Box". If they get bored during the day and want to watch TV, we get out the Activity Box first and then watch a show when they are done. What usually happens, is they end up playing with the Activity Box and forget about the TV.

What is in the Activity Box?

1. Puzzles
2. Clothespins
3. Beads and wire
4. Cards
5. Small toys
6. Foam shapes
7. Velcro popsicle sticks
8. Gooey stuff
9. Scrabble tiles
10. Pretend money
11. Magnetic fishing game
12. Pom poms
13. Lids
14. Pipe cleaners
15. Craft foam sticks
16. Dominos
17. Straws
18. Rocks

My rule when we play is that they can only have one activity out of the box at a time. They have to clean it up when they want to switch. We have cookie sheets, muffin tins, measuring cups, and strainers out when we play too.

Activity Details:

1. Puzzles. The dollar store sells some great ones. I usually pick up a few whenever I go. I cut the puzzle image from the box after I buy it and store it in a zip lock bag with the pieces. This saves room and we still have a picture to refer to when doing the puzzles.

2. Clothespins. I colored these with a marker. The red and orange have all the uppercase and the blue and green have all the lowercase letters. My youngest likes to practice pinching the clothespins, while my oldest likes to match the lowercase to the uppercase.

3.Beads and wire. We like to string them and also take a muffin tin and separate the beads into colors.

4. Cards. My oldest son likes to play the games like Go Fish and Snap but my youngest kids like to lay the cards out on the floor to match pictures and numbers together.

5. Small Toys. Any small toy in our house that doesn't have a home goes in this small bowl. Surprisingly, these get played with quite often in our house. We have dice, miniature clothespins, buttons, beads, old game pieces, and much more. I put these on a cookie sheet on the table and let them explore.

6. Foam Shapes. I bought these already cut out from the Dollar Store but they could easily be made by just cutting them out of craft foam sheets. My kids like to match colors, shapes, and create patterns.

7. Velcro Popsicle Sticks. I bought a pack of popsicle sticks and colored the middles with markers and numbered them to 20. The back of the sticks have the Velcro. We use these to create shapes by sticking the Velcro pieces together, practice counting, and matching colors.

8. Gooey Stuff. We have lots of playdoh and also this blue foam stuff from the Dollar Tree that is a big hit.

9. Scrabble Tiles. Obviously we like to build words, but we also play a game by flipping all the pieces to the blank side then take turns picking one and saying what letter it is. 

10. Pretend Money. My 5 year old son is obsessed with money, so we use these often to practice counting.

11. Magnetic Fishing Game. The paper fish have stickers with letters on the back, so we practice our letters and colors when we fish.

12. Pom Poms. We buy these at the Dollar Tree. I took an old condiment jar and cut a hole in the lid so my youngest kids could practice their hand eye coordination. This is one of our top 3 activities in the box that get played with the most.

13. Lids. I wash and keep any lid instead of throwing it away. We like to fit these together from biggest to smallest or make little towers. 

14. Pipe Cleaners. We like to string these through strainers, make animals, sunglasses, or just scrunch them up and straighten them.

15. Craft Foam Sticks. These come in a pack at the Dollar Tree. We make pictures, letters and sort by colors.

16. Dominos. My oldest son likes to actually set these up like they are supposed to be to knock them down, but my youngest kids love to try standing them up, make towers, and put in small containers and pour into other containers.

17. Straws. I saved and washed an old Parmesan cheese container for this activity. I cut the straws down to fit the container. I love this container because it has 2 sides: the 3 hole side for older kids and the large opening for younger kids. This is one of our top 3 activities in the box that get played with the most!

18. Rocks. These can be free, but I bought these at the Dollar Tree because they were the perfect size and clean. I save old baby formula and protein powder scoops so the kids can dump them into containers. This is one of our top 3 activities in the box that get played with the most!

Our box started with only a few of these activities, and I added more each time I went to the store. They are all very inexpensive and provide so much room for imagination and creativity when they play. I used these often when I taught co-op preschool and I use them for my nursery class at church. I am constantly adding more activities too.