Let’s face it, parents, right now, stress, for many of us, is at an all-time high. But at the same time, in a strange way, life has been simplified. The usual rush, rush, rush is gone – and with no school, lessons or outings, your kids are probably getting bored. And while we’re all willing to let the usual screen time rules slide a little bit, there are great ways to avoid your kids slipping into all-out couch potato mode. Try these 8 exciting, imaginative and EASY invitations to play using things you probably already have around the house.

Invitations to play

Pet Hospital:

This is on high rotation in my house. Round up a pile of stuffies and a children’s doctor kit and you are set! Your setup can be made more elaborate with a few simple add-ins. We use ribbons for pretend casts and green painters’ tape as homemade bandages. You can find a variety of printable kids’ vet charts online, like this one, or you can make your own. Charting can become more extensive based on the age of your kids!

Cardboard Box Art:

With all that online shopping you’re doing these days, you probably have a variety of cardboard boxes lying around. Save a few and create one big community art initiative. This is one kids of all ages can enjoy and go back to time and again. Leave age-appropriate art-tools nearby – crayons, markers, paint, glue and add-ons (jar lids, string, you name it) and let kids just colour and decorate to their heart’s content!

invitations to play

Car Wash:

This is a favourite in our house and it’s so easy to set up. Step 1 – set up a big bath towel on the floor. (Trust me, do not skip over step 1.) Step 2 – fill 2 bowls or dishpans with warm water – one with gentle soap suds (baby shampoo works well) and one with clear water. Step 3 – round up some toy cars and get cleaning! Wash, rinse and dry. This also works well as a doll wash for kids who enjoy caring for their plastic “babies”.

Post Office:

With a moratorium on parties, playdates and family-functions, your kids are probably feeling lonely for the people they love. Encourage them to set up their own post office. Older kids can write letters and the littles can take care of the illustrations. It’s the perfect time to teach them how to properly address an envelope. Stamp ’em up, bundle up and enjoy some fresh air as you walk to the mail box with your shipments of love!

invitations to play

Salt Tray:

Know what’s boring? Practicing numbers or letters on a worksheet. Know what’s fun? Practicing writing on a tray of salt! This one’s perfect for preschoolers and lower grades. Find a shallow tray, sprinkle a layer of salt, and let kids write with thin paintbrush.

Perk up your play dough:

Leave the commercial playdough toys to the side and try something new. Give each child a ball of dough and put a big bowl of buttons on the table and let them go to town. Round up things from around the house and investigate the prints they made – shells, coins, beads, you name it. Toy animals leave all kinds of cool footprints, and Hot wheels leave neat tire tracks on a play dough road. My kids’ favourite is “planting” little pots of plastic flowers in a bed of dough.

invitations to play

Sensory Bin:

One look at Pinterest will show you there are literally thousands of ways to make sensory bins for play indoors and out. The truth is, sensory bins don’t have to be elaborate or exhaustive and many can be made using things you already have around the house. One of the simplest is a rice bin – I have one big rubbermaid box with a lid that contains our base rice, and we swap things in and out, depending on the season. Toss in a few scoops and toys and you have an activity that will keep kids occupied for ages. Hands-down, our top pick is the rainbow rice tea party, using a teapot that can actually pour the rice. (I understand and appreciate that some people prefer not to use food in play, so other great bin-filling options include packing peanuts, pom-poms, even a big scoop of snow from your yard!)


Too simple? Maybe, but honestly, few things entertain my kids more than a new balloon! Plus, it’s a way to get them moving! Play the classic “keep it off the ground”, play “baseball” with a balloon and pool noodle, try balloon tennis, pass the balloon without using hands, you name it! Friendly reminder that a grownup should blow up the balloon, and keep them away from those littles who still love putting everything in their mouths.

What are your go-to “Invitations to Play” that keep your kids well occupied?

Looking for more tips on how to keep your kids occupied during the COVID-19 crisis? Find our best ideas, activities and inspiration here!