Ambitious Activities + Apps to Keep Kids Busy While Mama Works - Fab Finds
How can we teach our little ones the importance of working hard? Show them what it takes — and have them “work” hard, too.

I started my business not only to show my daughters that they could be boss — but also that it takes a lot of work to be boss.

That’s why my kids see me work. They know that mommy “writes work on the computer”, “does speeches” and “is the boss of her job”. They know that when my office door is shut, it’s serious time. And they know that, sometimes, mommy has no choice but to focus on work first before we can play.

In those moments, it can be really difficult to get anything substantial done if the kids are not happy and distracted. So how can we teach our littles the importance of working hard and actually have the chance to work hard? We can give them their own “work” to do.

Here are our fab finds for keeping younger kids busy while teaching them how to be boss like mommy:

#1: Educational Apps

I admit that apps like these make me feel less guilty about good-old screen time because my kids are learning and interacting, not sitting as passive observers. And if mommy is working on a screen, shouldn’t they be able to as well?

My kids are now almost 7 and 5, and here are some favorites (and past favorites!) in our house:

  • ABCMouse / Kids A-Z: My older daughter received access to these apps through school, so they will cost you money on their own. Both are interactive learning apps with curriculums that include games, puzzles and activities to help children grasp various concepts.
  • Medieval Math Battle: This is a fun way way to have your kids practice math. In order to defeat the dragon, you have to finish simple math equations. My daughter loves it — but it also makes her a little stressed out because of the timer aspect.
  • Faces iMake ABC: This app was a favorite in the younger years, and even my oldest will still play with it. It basically lets your kids practice learning the alphabet by creating funny puzzles and characters in the shape of the letters.
  • Nick Jr. Draw & Play: For a creative break, this drawing app includes lots of neat features to help your child make total masterpieces.
  • Elmo Loves ABCs: Another early favorite, with videos, songs and activities to help introduce the alphabet.
  • Monkey Preschool Lunchbox: This is one that will get stuck in your head. (My kids still run around yelling: “Monkey! Preschool! Lunchbox!”) But it’s super cute and includes simple counting, shape and letter activities.
  • PBS KIDS Video: And if all else fails, this app has short video clips sure to keep your kids engaged.

#2: Workbooks & Magazines

I’m a writer who has not yet converted my heart from paper to electronic. So my office is stacked with books and notebooks — books and notebooks my girls love to steal. That’s why it’s such a treat when I give them their own workbooks to complete, such as:

  • Highlights For Children and Highlights High Five:* I used to get these magazines when I was young, and the nostalgia factor does not disappoint. Both magazines are still as awesome as ever, with short stories to read, puzzles to complete, experiments to try and, of course, hidden pictures.
  • Math & reading workbooks: Our local discount store Five Below has a variety of grade-specific workbooks on math, reading and more. I’ll often set my oldest daughter up with “homework” and assign her specific pages to complete while I work.
  • LeapFrog LeapReader: A really fun and interactive way to begin to learn to read. We started our kids with the LeapReader Junior* when they were younger, and they loved it so much that we ended up graduating to the bigger LeapReader Reading and Writing System.* (The best part? The pen that scans and reads the book words has a headphone jack.)

#3: Office Supplies

My kids both asked for their own desks for their birthdays, and I stocked them with office supplies, clips, stickers, mini whiteboards and notebooks from Target’s Dollar Spot.

If your kids don’t last long with supply free-for-all, structure their time by having them complete an activity like daily journal writing.

I totally stole this from my daughter’s amazing preschool. Each day, they have the children start their mornings by taking our their journals and drawing/writing to a prompt (“What are you doing this summer?” “What does a bird’s nest look like?”). Make this a habit with your child to sneak in a few moments of work while they “work.”

#4: Smart Solo Activities

If solo activities will keep your kid distracted, here are some of our favorite brain-busting pastimes:

  • Magna-Tiles:* I swear my youngest daughter is going to be an architect because of these things. She loves building intricate skyscrapers and mazes and forts, and the tiles are versatile enough to fulfill her vivid imagination.
  • Puzzles: A good puzzle is a great time passer. To make your child even more engaged, create your own puzzles on Shutterfly using any image you want: a photo of your family, their best friend, their pet, their favorite animal. My kids love these.  
  • Read-Along Storybooks & CDs:* A little old school, but books with CD counterparts are amazingly popular in my house. We actually use them a lot at bedtime — my kids will pick a story to listen to while they go to sleep. But they’re also great when you need a moment to work and
  • Plain old books: Oh yeah. Books themselves are wonderful. 🙂 Stack up a big pile and let your reader (or even non-reader) work their way through.

Those are some of my favorite ways to keep my kids busy — and myself feeling less guilty — when I have to work with them at home. But what are yours? Share in the comments below, or over on Facebook or Instagram.


*These are Amazon affiliate links to products we use and love lots.

Emily Cretella is the founder of MotherHustle.com, as well as the copywriting and content marketing firm CursiveContent.com, where she helps clients create + share stories their audiences love.

She adores being mom to her two little ladies and drinking obscene amounts of coffee from mugs with pithy sayings. Find her on Instagram, and learn more about ways you can collaborate with MotherHustle. 

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