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Fun Activities: Keep Your Kids Busy

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Wouldn't it be great to make a phone call or pay some bills without a half dozen interruptions? Try these distractions—with stuff you already have around the house.

What to have on hand

Create a special box or drawer filled with the following supplies that your child can use only during your "coworking" times.

Tools

Glue stick, masking tape, markers, kid-safe blunt scissors

Handmade books

Scrap-paper books, quickly stapled together, are a more exciting place for collages, scribbles and stickers than single pages.

Interesting junk mail

Invitations, toy catalogs, odd-size or colored envelopes, giveaway stickers and mailing labels, paper mailing tubes, checkbook boxes

Precut pictures

From catalogs, junk mail and duplicates of your photos

Stick 'em up

What you'll need: Pad of sticky notes, crayons
Best for: 1 and up

  • Stick a few rows of notes to a wall or the side of your desk and have your toddler take them off and put them back up again (and again!).
  • Hand your older toddler a pad of notes and a few crayons and say, "Would you draw a picture on each, and then decorate this door?"
  • Write a number from 1 to 20 or an individual letter—from the alphabet, or just the ones in your child's name—on each sticky note. Place the numbers or letters out of order on the wall and challenge your preschooler to put them in order.
  • If your child counts but doesn't yet recognize numbers, put one star on one note, two stars on the next one and so forth. Then he can also line up his notes by the number of stars.

Souped-up stickers

What you'll need: Paper, two or three sheets of different stickers
Best for: 18 months and up

  • Draw small shapes and letters on the piece of paper. Toddlers can simply cover each shape or letter with a sticker.
  • Preschoolers can follow a key: Dog stickers go over the letter "D," for example, or stars on top of every "S."

Envelope surprise

What you'll need: Six envelopes with pictures of different objects in each one
Best for: 1 and up

  • Give your younger toddler one envelope at a time to explore; an older toddler can glue the pictures onto a piece of paper.
  • Hand over all the envelopes to your preschooler. She can sort the photos of like items into separate envelopes.

Magic pictures

What you'll need: Masking tape, paper, markers or crayons
Best for: 18 months and up

  • Make a house or letter of the alphabet by putting strips of tape on a piece of paper. Have your child color the entire page.
  • Once she's colored the whole page, carefully remove the tape to show her the picture beneath.

Mythical creatures

What you'll need: Kid-safe scissors, catalogs, glue stick, paper, crayons
Best for: 2 and up

  • Have your child cut out pictures of people and animals. (You'll probably do the cutting for a toddler.) Cut heads off bodies.
  • Your child can mix and match heads and bodies and glue them to the paper, or draw his own bodies after gluing the heads.

Little weavers

What you'll need: Six rubber bands, sturdy cardboard or notebook, pencils, kid-safe scissors, paper
Best for: 2 and up

  • Place the rubber bands around a piece of cardboard. Toddlers can "weave" pencils over and under the rubber bands.
  • Preschoolers can cut strips of paper and weave these into the bands.

Polka-dot masterpiece

What you'll need: Paper punch, paper, envelope, glue stick
Best for: 3 and up

  • Punch out a few dozen holes and put them in an envelope for your preschooler. She can glue the circles onto another piece of paper.
  • When she's done, tape the paper with the punched-out holes onto another piece of paper; let her use it as a stencil by coloring in all the holes.

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