Paint rocks, create a labyrinth and other fun ideas for keeping kids busy at home. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Paint rocks, create a labyrinth and other fun ideas for keeping kids busy at home. (Jennifer Bardsley)

How to keep your kids busy while you’re working from home

Here are five high-interest activities for kids that will give you 20 minutes of quiet time.

I’ve been interrupted by my family members so many times while writing this column, that I’ve completely lost my train of thought. Oh yeah, I think it was something about activities to keep your kids busy while working from home.

The top two things would be academics and chores, but those don’t keep kids entertained long enough for a hard working adult to string a complete sentence together, let alone go to the bathroom in peace without someone loudly calling through the closed door.

So here are five high-interest activities for kids that will give you 20 minutes of quiet time. Even better; they don’t cost money or require unnecessary trips to the store.

Paint rocks. Got some old crayons laying around? Turn them into masterpieces! Heat rocks in the oven at 325 degrees for 15 minutes. Smooth rocks work best. The rocks will be hot to the touch, but not dangerously so. Use hot pads just in case, to protect your kitchen table. While the rocks are still warm, color them with old crayons. The wax will melt on contact, producing a beautiful paint-like effect.

Give your child their own office. This activity is especially fun for preschoolers. Set up a child-sized table, or a card table, with a wide assortment of office supplies — paper, pencils, a stapler, tape, envelopes, a hole punch, a cup of pretend coffee — whatever you can spare. If they’re working over white carpet, I would advise not to include a pencil sharpener. (I learned that lesson the hard way.) Give them tasks to complete like stapling junk mail or using up old address labels.

Play with cookie cutters. Take out a baking sheet and fill it halfway full with flour. Then let kids of all ages play with cookie cutters. Young children will enjoy it on a sensory level, but older kids can explore the geometric principle of rotational symmetry. What is rotational symmetry? That means a shape that can be rotated less than 360 degrees and still look the same. Not all shapes have rotational symmetry, but many do. The question is, which cookie cutters in your cupboard have rotational symmetry and which don’t?

Walk a labyrinth. You don’t need a castle in England and a full staff of gardeners to have your own maze; use masking tape to create one on the carpet of your living room. When children (or adults) feel like they need to calm down, they can slowly walk the labyrinth and take deep breaths. Another idea is to begin the labyrinth thinking about a problem you need to solve, and to explore possible solutions while you journey toward the end.

Dance it out. Do you have an Amazon Prime membership? Some of my favorite Zumba classes are available for free on Prime Video. This is a great option for teens to achieve the cardio high that comes from exercise. Don’t stop with Zumba, there are lots of free fitness videos available via Prime.

For more tips on keeping kids busy — and learning — at home, visit my old blog at

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @the_ya_gal, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as The YA Gal. Email her at

Talk to us

More in Life

Veteran Keith F. Reyes, 64, gets his monthly pedicure at Nail Flare on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021 in Stanwood, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
No more gnarly feet: This ‘Wounded Warrior’ gets pedicures

Keith Reyes, 64, visits a Stanwood nail salon for “foot treatments” that help soothe blast injuries.

Eggs Florentine
Baked Eggs Florentine: A brunch favorite inspired by a queen

The kitchen manager at Quil Ceda Creek Casino shares a dish that pays homage to a spinach-crazy 16th century monarch.

Jennifer Bardsley, author of her newest book Good Catch, at her home on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021 in Edmonds, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edmonds author transitions from young adult novels to romance

Jennifer Bardsley’s “Good Catch” is set in an Edmonds-like town. Spoiler alert: There’s a happy ending.

Caption: They might be too old for lunch box notes, but teenagers benefit from TLC too.
Fun ways to show the teens in your life that you care

The teen years can be challenging but they don’t last long. A little bit of extra attention can go a long way.

This easy-to-make spinach and mushroom quiche is perfect for a light dinner or fancy brunch. (Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS)
Gretchen’s table: A spinach-mushroom quiche with cheesy goodness

The savory egg custard baked in a pie crust is easy to make — especially if you use a refrigerated crust.

Nissan’s signature V-motion grille dominates the 2022 Pathfinder’s front. Look closely and you’ll see three slots at the top, a tribute to the original 1986 Pathfinder. (Manufacturer photo)
Nissan Pathfinder comes full circle with all-new 2022 version

The three-row mid-size SUV gains modern amenities but returns to the rugged impression of the original.

Jack Rice, left, gives his grandmother Carolyn Rice, a tutorial on her new tablet Saturday afternoon in Edmonds on November 20, 2021.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Need to Ring or Zoom? Edmonds teen comes to the rescue

Jack Rice, 17, started a free service to help seniors connect with tech. “He’s a hero around here.”

Herr Jung leads a group through Bacharach, Germany.
Rick Steves’ Europe: Lessons from a schoolmaster on the Rhine

Herr Jung dedicated his life to sharing Germany’s hard history so others can learn from it.

How to transform past shame into something positive and healthy

Tips on coping with the shame that we carry around in our hearts and on our sleeves.

Header, garden shovel or spade puts into soil, green meadow in the back, low angle shot
Regenerative gardening helps save the planet one garden at a time

Regenerative gardening is founded on the principle that if we take care of our soils then everything else will work out for the best.

She canceled her Iceland trip in time. Where’s her refund?

When Kim Josund cancels her trip to Iceland, she believes she’s entitled to a full refund. Why are her hotel and dive operator refusing?

Great Plant Pick: Acer tegmentosum “Joe Witt”

This Manchurian snakebark maple boasts beautiful highly striped white bark that brightens the shade garden.