I’ve sunk some good money into quiet activities for my kids since we go to church every week where quiet is desirable (but really hard for this age group). I think it’s worth investing in independent play that not only teaches academic concepts and fine motor skills but also teaches appropriate behavior by redirecting them to a hands on activity that does not require screens.
Here’s a list of some of my favorite resources:
- Magnets — my favorite activity is magnets because unlike velcro and zippers, magnets are relatively quiet. I like this set from Janod which are made from wood with a nice gloss finish. I bought them for about $8 from Zulily. Please note Zulily doesn’t offer returns, but if you know what you’re getting and will keep the items, it’s a good way to shop for a bargain.
- File folders — this is an old school method used by a lot of mom friends. Finch Family Games is one of my favorites, they have some LDS and Bible themed, but there’s also plenty of secular themes. They’re styled similar to old school Carson-Dellosa classroom decor, which speaks straight to my teacher heart. Keep in mind the hard copy books offered are black and white (b/w). The digital downloads are available in color or b/w. We make our file folders to last using quality materials.We use this Scotch laminator from Wal-Mart. The laminating sheets are cheapest at Amazon where they do go on sale often, so wait for a good price and do some price history checks (camelcamelcamel and slickdeals.net are my go to for Amazon prices). We use plastic file folders from Staples, which we scored for about $4 with a coupon for $10 off $10 but we also used regular Scotch tape for the laminated sheet inside so we will be able to reuse the folder. I also splurged on 3M Dual Lock rounds to use in place of velcro, they’re available at Jet.com but you need to buy in bulk, $100’s worth. It’s quieter to pull off and adheres to the paper well. You can go the more budget-friendly way, which is to use plain file folders, use b/w copies, do the coloring yourself, use thinner lamination and clear velcro or alternatively, adhesive magnets which are cheap but don’t look as nice.
- Magnets part two with pom poms or other homemade magnets– I’ve also used a magnet board with pom poms; my first version was a simple cookie sheet from Walmart for 88c. But this was slightly bigger than a sheet of paper and kind of loud. So I updated to thinner and smaller, a 8×10 Loran magnet board from Joanns (with a 50% off coupon about $3.25), it’s used for needlework patterns. This requires smaller play mats than 8.5 x 11 but you can always adjust when you print. This slimmer piece of metal can be made safer with masking tape around the edges and then placed into a sheet protector with an adhesive magnet closure, so that metal sheet and laminated worksheets are kept in one pocket. You could do this with your own sheet metal as a more cost effective way but I didn’t want to go through that hassle or danger. Just fyi, my local Home Depot does not cut metal and I would have had to buy a large roll of sheet metal there for about 10 bucks to do the DIY method.
- Check the One Spot Dollar section at Target. A friend of mine found these great felt busy books for $3. It pays to have mom friends looking out for you! Felt is a great option for a quiet book but takes a lot of time designing, cutting and gluing. It is probably the quietest of all quiet book materials. I’ve also purchased a nice magnetic scene board with transportation from there; since Preschooler loves cars, we got a lot of use out of it.
- Check the dollar store — craft supplies, toy cars, puzzles, are all worth buying at the dollar store. We had a dollar store puzzle made of erasers with a farmyard scene that kept my kid busy for 20 minutes. It was his first puzzle experience and now he loves them (but needed a lot of parent help at first)
- Binder pouches with random distractions — once again, quiet is best. It’s best to find a binder pouch that is relatively quiet. Walmart used to carry these sturdy plastic ones with the slider zipper instead of the traditional zipper. It is very quiet and easy for kids to open by themselves. I definitely recommend these over the others with a regular closure. My crafty friend carries kid scissors, paperclips for making chains and Popsicle sticks for shape making. This is kind of like the restaurant kit people make with a makeup bag, only with 3 ring pouches, you can extend this to as many pockets as can fit in a D ring. Even my toddler twins love just holding the plastic and “flipping” through the pages.
You need scissors, tape and hot glue and adhesive magnets and/or clear velcro fasteners are available at Home Depot (but 3M Dual Lock fasteners are recommended as an alternative to velcro)
If you choose to do the lamination yourself, you’ll need a Scotch laminator and pouches.
A craft paper trimmer is optional but nice to have for straight lines
Craft supplies are optional and vary based on project:pom poms, Popsicle sticks, neon binder pouches (recommend Casemate binder pouches with black slider zipper or equivalent)