There’s nothing like fresh playtime activities to stimulate learning. But as parents we don’t always have time to read detailed instructions or rules. Sometimes it’s nice just to have a ready list of suggestions. Think of these one minute activities as an action-ready guide when you’re in a pinch for new ideas.
Make Boats: Peanut shells make great boats. Add a smidgen of clay + ½ toothpick for a mast. Tape a small triangle cut-out for the sail. Fill sink with water for pond. Keep water running to make stormy seas.
Tinfoil Sun: Cut a square of tinfoil and place it on a kitchen dish towel. Press a can down on the tinfoil to make a circle. Now use a fork or other utensil to make the sun’s rays.
Count Beans: Simply empty a bowl of dry beans on the floor and begin counting. Sort into groups of five, ten or twenty, or make several piles and see which has more.
Puzzle Challenge: Is your child really good at puzzles? Try multiple puzzles at once. Just scatter the pieces from two or three puzzles onto the floor at the same time.
Mystery Message: Is your child learning to read? Then she’s old enough to decode a secret message. Just write a few words backwards, then hold the words up to a mirror. Be sure to help your child write her own mystery message.
Intro to Archaeology: Use tinfoil to make impressions of objects around the house. Things like a buttons, zippers, keys and coins work great. Take turns guessing where the impressions came from.
Fun with Music: Fill three jars with water: one 3/4 full; one 1/2 full; one 1/4 full. Now let your child tap the bottles with a wooden spoon to make musical notes. Fill three more jars in the same manner for yourself. Now sit back to back with your child and practice repeating one another’s musical notes.
Shapes with Triangles: Cut a paper square along the diagonal to make two triangles. Cut the triangles in half. Now again. Repeat until you have desired triangle sizes. Now arrange the pieces to make shapes and objects—rocket ship, fish, star, house.
Make a Short Crane: Place a stick between two chairs. Tie a string to the stick. Tape a nickel to the end of the string. Twist a paper clip so that it stands up. Place it on the floor. Now let your child pull the nickel back and gently release it to try to knock down the target. (Hint: To make the target easier, tape a cardboard circle cut-out to the paper clip.)
Balloon Rockets: In an outdoor area, use an air pump to fill a balloon, then point it towards the sky and release. Long, thin balloons work best–pick up a bag of 20 or so and have a blast. Kids love this activity!
Matchbox Speedway: Race Matchbox cars down an empty wrapping paper tube. Simply prop the tube on a small stack of books. See which cars go the furthest. Use the top five for the final race.
Intro to Cartography: Help your child draw a map of your house. Mark popular locations—for instance: where dad reads the newspaper, where the dog sleeps. Use dotted lines to represent common travel routes.
New Perspective: Roll up a piece of paper like a telescope and let your child look at works of art around the house. Have her describe things she sees…that she’s never noticed before. (The results will surprise you!)
Flashlight Fun: Want some extra fun tonight? Try flashlight hide-and-go-seek. To play, turn out the lights and give a flashlight to the person who is doing the looking.
Target Time: Place a popcorn bowl on your couch. Have your child sit on the floor and try to bounce a tennis ball into the bowl. See how many times it takes to make the ball five times into the bowl. Next time you play, try to improve the score.
Nature’s Race Course: After it rains, race grass blades or leaf corners down streams of draining water in your yard or nearby park. Wear your Saturday clothes!
Mazes Galore: There’s nothing like sitting at your kitchen table making mazes as fast as your child can finish them. On your sheet of paper, just make a curvy tunnel from one end to the other. This is the correct route. Now make a series of tunnels with false ends that join the correct route. It’s that easy!
Pitching Pennies: Stand ten feet or so from a wall. One person tosses a penny and tries to get it as close to the wall as possible. Next person does the same thing. The player whose penny is closest to the wall wins (and collects the pennies used in that round).
Whirly Weight: Cut a piece of string five or six feet long and place one or more washers near the middle. One person holds one end of the string steady while the other person gently twirls the other end (like a crank shaft). Now switch roles.
Hobby Board: Take the bulb out of an old flashlight. Use wire + 9 volt battery to make the bulb work. Secure items to a small board. Now use paper clips, springs, pennies, etc., to make a creative on-off switch. For example, stretch spring to penny to make light go on.
Some of the one minute activities for kids are easier to set up than others. It really depends on how easy it is to find materials. On the whole, there should be plenty of things to do that require nothing more than things you already have on hand. Just remember, with any activity, it’s fresh and new and exciting to your child when it’s fresh and new and exciting to you.