Lately in the afternoon I feel like I want to pull my hair out once the clock strikes 5pm. My creativity is usually zapped, our house is a disaster, and the kids are bored or grumpy or both.
I have been trying to compile a list of activities that all three of my kids (ages 6, 3, 2) can do together with some modifications. Often I can just say, "go play" and they'll run off but on other days they just need some extra direction and structure or they drive each other (and me) CRAZY.
I'm going to share a few of my favorite "go to" activities with mixed ages of kids and some others than we've just tried recently. I'd love to hear your favorites too!
Playdough is always a go to activity. We make playdough bugs with straws, playdough birthday cakes, and even playdough volcanoes. My 2 year old still sometimes likes to try and eat playdough, so I have to keep a close eye on him, but usually he is just having too much fun with whatever tools I've given him so he forgets to eat it. Favorite playdough tools include straws, toothpicks, googly eyes, pipe cleaners, muffin tin liners, baking sode & vinegar, and sequins.
2. Cut and Stick Catalog Fun
Usually I hate junk mail, but this week we started getting toy catalogs and I decided not to throw them away. Instead I handed each child a roll of paper tape and scissors. Each roll of tape was a different color. As the kids looked through the magazines they got to cut a piece of paper tape and stick it on each picture that they liked.
For the activity my oldest son cut strips for my youngest son and then had him stick the tape onto the picture. Before the kids could turn the page they had to all be done looking. Sometimes one child would take longer than the other so the kids worked on patience! This activity was amazing in regards to helping my toddler's vocabulary grow and grow! His siblings would verbally label each picture and he would often copy the word or expand upon it or use it to tell me something.
By the time we were done (almost 40 minutes later), the catalog was covered in sticky colored tape. My preschooler and first grader sat at the table together that entire time while my toddler joined in every few minutes. It was so adorable to see them all working together!
3. Sticker Collages
Sticker collages and activities are always easy and you can use so many different types of surfaces! I love making sticker collages with paper plates or even as simple alphabet learning activities. Often my older kids will pull the stickers off for my toddler so that he just has to stick them onto the paper or paper plate. I love watching them help one another and work together.
Our favorite stickers are Melissa & Doug Alphabet & Numbers Stickers and Melissa & Doug Blue Collection Stickers.
4. Sensory Bins
Our favorite sensory bin activities are messy, but totally fun. We love water sensory bins like this ocean number sensory bin. We also love baby-safe cloud dough, flour sensory bins, and even rice crispy sensory bins.
I just give the kids some tools and either send them into our backyard or set them up in the kitchen on top of a dropcloth or old sheet or towels and let them go to town having fun! Everyone stays happy while the kids are doing sensory activities and clean up really isn't that time consuming either. All of the kids (at various ages) find different things they like doing and it is so neat to see them working side by side.
5. Hunting Activities
For hunts I usually just need to get the kids started and then they keep the activity going from there. We love to do color hunts, hunting for names, and even hunting and matching activities. Sometimes the kids just pick a few stuffed animals and one person hides them while the other two count to 10 (sometimes I have to help). Then the kids go and find the stuffed animals... and then they hide them agan... and play again and again and again.
I love hunting activities!