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One thing that has always been challenging with my crew is “days off.”  If I’m sick or have things that need to get done, I’m fine with taking a day off of school.  However, it doesn’t take long for the boys to be bouncing off the walls with the lack of structure.  Some kids do pretty well with choosing fairly calm activities to entertain themselves with.  Often, my boys are not those kids!

Right now, I’m 34 weeks pregnant and running quite low on energy.  I thought this might be a good time to share a list of activities that will keep high-energy kids happy without requiring mom to do a lot or clean up a lot of mess.  These ideas may or may not work with your particular situation, but I hope that you can find something useful!

Survival Guide for Sick or Pregnant Moms

For preschoolers:

  • Ask for help!  If you’re on bedrest or sick for an extended period, don’t be afraid to ask for help!  Toddlers and preschoolers require enough attention that it’s very difficult to rest while they’re up.
  • Lay on the floor with a pillow while they build with blocks, etc.  The younger boys enjoy combining wooden blocks (we have the Melissa and Doug wooden blocks and they are totally worth it!) with Hot Wheels cars or toy animals to make buildings and homes.
  • Library books and videos.  Having new books and movies around is a huge help!

Activities to keep high energy kids busy while mom is low energy

  • Milk Jug Ball Catcher.  Cut the bottom off a plastic milk jug, and you have a great ball catcher with a handle!  This picture was taken when Gresham was 3.  He is now 7 1/2.  How time flies!  Use your ball catcher to catch a soft ball inside or to catch bean bags.
  • Balloon Racquets.  Make easy homemade racquets for hitting balloons around the house.
  • Crayon rubbings.  Here are some ideas for items to include in a crayon rubbing station.  This is usually interesting for preschoolers and low on mess!

Activities for high energy kids while mom is low energy

  • Make a shooting star launcher.  This craft does not require a lot of materials, and it’s fun for preschoolers!  You can find the directions here –>  Shooting Star Launcher
  • Swap toys with friends.  New toys, puzzles, or books are always engaging, but that can get expensive.  Plus, they won’t be new toys for long!  How about trading a box of toys, puzzles, and books with friends?  If you were able to get 3-4 families involved, you could rotate boxes once a week or so and have new things for the next month.

Survival Guide for Sick or Pregnant Moms

  • Ninja Bubbles.  Mom sits in a chair outside and blows bubbles while the kids smack the bubbles with foam swords.  This is a great way to get some energy out!
  • Sidewalk chalk.  Fun, active, and low mess (other than their clothes… but at least it comes out!)
  • Bathtub “cooking”.  Offer a bath with plastic cooking spoons and cups and bowls for pouring.  Items from the recycle bin work well for this – empty salad dressing bottles, etc.

For bigger kids (ages 6+, some of the ideas are better for 8+)

  • Printable coloring pages.  My boys don’t usually enjoy coloring a whole lot, but if I print off coloring pages with ninjas, Lego, dragons, etc. they will stay busy for a long time!  Check out this Lego minifigure printable from Homegrown Learners. Also, I recently googled “Corvette” and “Mustang” and found some awesome cars to color.  Kept everyone busy!
  • Art notebook.  Put out a large stack of paper, colored pencils, and a three hole punch.  Give everyone their own three ring binder and show them how to punch holes and put their artwork in their binder.  This kept my boys busy for several days last summer!
  • Build a Hexbug Track.  If you’re not familiar with hexbugs, they are fun little robot toys that move by a vibrating motor.  Aidan had a blast designing a Lego track for his hexbug.  The post has a video of the track in action!
  • Paper Airplanes.  Folding and testing paper airplanes can be a lot of fun!  My boys will stick with this for a long time.  Our rule is that we don’t save our entire fleet of airplanes when the day is over – maybe just 1 or 2 favorites.  They may go through a lot of paper, but the mess is easy to clean up!  Tip – adding a paper clip to the nose can help planes fly better.  Bigger kids might enjoy building this paper airplane launcher.

Activities for High Energy Kids while Mom is low energy

  • Cup Stacking.  It’s amazing what you can build with a bunch of plastic cups!  This is fun for older preschoolers up through big kids.  Bigger kids will be able to create much larger structures without accidentally knocking them over.
  • Plastic Cup Shooting Gallery for Nerf.  We did this in November and made turkey targets.  You could decorate the cups with numbers for points instead, or just leave them plain.  Stacks of plastic cups are very satisfying to shoot down!
  • Hammering Nails.  If you fell well enough to sit and supervise, older kids may really enjoy learning to hammer nails.  Home Depot sells scrap boards in their lumber department for cheap.
  • Rainbow Loom.  The Rainbow Loom has seriously been my life saver this pregnancy!  Aidan (10) got one for Christmas, and Gresham (7) recently got one.  They have been bracelet and action figure making factories lately!  We put together a post with 7 “Boy Approved” Rainbow Loom projects if you need ideas.
  • Legos.  We have LOTS of ideas for Lego building challenges.  Here is a link to our entire Lego category –> Lego Activities

Need More Activity Ideas?

Check out 10+ Ways for Kids to Burn Energy

And 20+ Unplugged Activities for Tween (9-12) Boys


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  1. Emma @ P is for Preschooler Mar 16, 2014

    The title image perfectly sums up who this post is for! These are great ideas for those moms who never have any energy, too (ahem, like me! lol!).

  2. Laura @ Lalymom Mar 16, 2014

    Wow this is a fantastic resource! Sharing on social media and with a few moms I know could use it right now!

  3. Theres Just One Mommy Mar 17, 2014

    Some fantastic ideas! Love the bubble one! That is definitely on our list to do when it warms up!
    And plastic cups! Used to get those out all the time when they were little. Why haven't I lately?

    Going to pin this -- I know it will help a few moms out there!

  4. Lisa @ Charlie The Cavalier Mar 18, 2014

    Great list. I might needs some of these tips today.

  5. Dawn @ Prickly Mom Mar 19, 2014

    I want to jump through the computer and kiss you! This post is going to be key to my survival this summer vacation! :)

  6. Israel May 17, 2014

    :-) Here is another way to keep the kids busy...
    try the Home Treasure Hunt, it is easy to set and gives parents some time to relax while the kids jump between hideouts and solving clues -
    (i must admit that i made the app while i had to watch my 2 lovely nieces and work in parallel)

    have fun!

  7. Down & out Jun 18, 2014

    I have some medical issues that havd left me unable to play with my kids like I used to. I have a lot of "couch days". I like the milk jug catcher idea! I have also found board games- Candy Land, Trouble, Chutes & Ladders, ect keep attention for awhile too. My 4yr old daughter is a child that is not able to entertain herself without someone there.

  8. Amy Oct 31, 2014

    I often played "guessing" hide and seek with my daughter (3) while I was pregnant. I lay on couch and "guessed" are you....? Obviously said some ridiculous places as I knew after the first guess where she was but she really enjoyed it - even asked to play it in the car while driving LOL despite always being in her car seat silly Mummy still took many "guesses" to find her.

    1. Sarah Nov 1, 2014

      That is a GREAT game!!


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