20 Quiet Time Activities To Keep Under 5s Busy

Toddler taking part in a quiet game in his bedroom.

While parents are working from home, or trying to get chores done, they need some activities that their under 5s can do quietly, and alone.

Little ones usually need and want help with activities, or want to be charging around at full speed. But if you need to send some emails, or just get the dinner prepared in peace, we have some great ideas for quiet time activities.

These are also handy if your little one has dropped their afternoon nap, but really needs to wind down for a while, even if they don't go to sleep. These quiet time activities will help them to chill out for a while - you might want to take advantage of that!

Water Painting

One of the easiest quiet time activities for kids. If it's nice outside, and you can still keep an eye on them, give them a pot of water, some paintbrushes and let them 'paint' the patio or path. This is a great activity as there is no mess to clear up afterwards,  It's free and it will keep them quiet for ages. Ask your preschoolers if they can paint some letters, numbers, shapes or even a picture.


Threading helps to develop fine motor skills, and it requires a lot of concentration, so should keep toddlers and preschoolers quiet while you get on with your chores or catch up on some work. Cut up some plastic straws into 2-inch pieces and then find a shoelace or piece of yarn for the threading. If using yarn, wrap some sticky tape around the ends to prevent it fraying. Younger chidren can thread yarn or ribbon through toilet toll middles or cut-up pool noodles.


Another quiet time activity that is designed to improve fine motor skills. Use a hole punch or sharp pencil to punch holes around the edge of circles or squares of card and task your under 5s with threading fine ribbon or wool through the holes.  To finish off, they can draw a picture in the middle. To keep to the lockdown theme, you  could draw a rainbow and get them to colour it in.

Washing Up

Put a bowl of warm water on the floor with a plastic sheet underneath, or out on the grass. Give them all the Tupperware, plastic plates and cups and let them wash away to their heart's content. Bonus:  all your plastic ware gets a clean. Note: toddlers and preschoolers love doing the washing up -  teenagers less so, so make the most of it while you can! Extra activity: get them to match all the lids to the pots.

Tong Tasks

Another excellent quiet time activity for developing fine motor skills and concentration. You'll need some kitchen tong, a few containers and some small items, such as small collectable toys, LEGO pieces, big wooden beads or toy cars. Get kids to sort the items, using the tongs to pick them up. They could sort different colours into different pots, or different kinds of toys into different containers.


Busy Bag

A busy bag (or box or container, we're not fussy) is something you put together to entertain your kids when they need to be kept entertained. They are great for trips in the car but can be used at home too. Because they are ready-made, they are ideal if you suddenly have to make a video call for work. Just grab the busy bag, hand it over and hopefiully you can get a bit of peace for a few minutes. They might include a matching  game, board books, a colouring book and pencils, a small puzzle.  If you're feeling really organised, you can create themed busy bags - animals, fairytales, colours and so on.

Jigsaw Puzzles

Jigsaw puzzles are wonderful for development - they encourage concentration and fine motor skills. Make your own puzzle by getting the kids to draw or paint a picture on some card, and then cutting out puzzle pieces. Or print out a family photo and stick to some card. Or get it done for you - there's several online prividers who will turn your photos into jigsaws.

Story Baskets

Does your child have a favourite storybook? Gather together some items from the story - for instance if it is The Tiger Who Came to Tea (great choice!) you'd need a soft toy tiger (or Tigger), a tea set and so on. This allows your child to recreate the story for themself, encouraging creative play, helping them to develop their memory and imagination, and language skills. If your child loves to sing, you could do the same with a song, such as Old McDonald, filling the basket with farm buildings and animals.


Get some pieces of coloured A4 paper and on each one trace aound some common objects - a plastic plate, a toy hammer, a glove and so on. Lay the sheets of paper on the floor or table and task your preschooler with matching up the traced picture with the real object

Sensory Pots

These can be a little messy, but they do hold the attention of most toddlers and preschoolers. Fill some large bowls, containers or buckets with sensory materials such as coloured pasta or rice, shredded paper or similar. They can have lots of fun using cups, scoops and spoons to pour, scoop and move the materials. To extend the activity, hide some small items, such as toy animals and cars, within the sensory pots.


There's something very appealing about magnets - have you ever noticed how even adults can't resist playing with magnetic letters and numbers on the fridge door? They are great if you want to keep your small child occupied in the kitchen while you're cooking, Let them use the fridge or freezer door for their letters, numbers and so on. If you need them in another room, give them a baking sheet  to use as a portable work station.


Keep a box of crayons, chalks, paper or colouring books to hand and you'll always have a quick, quiet time activity to hand. Encouraging imagination and fine motor skills, colouring can also be a very calming activity.

Quiet Building Blocks

Wooden and plastic building blocks aren't always quiet - especially when your toddler wants to knock them down. By all means use them if you want, but for times when you need your child to be a little quieter (while you are on a call for work for instance) cut out some different block shapes from sponges. They will have just as much fun building up towers and houses, but when they knock them down, your ears will be saved and they won't damage surfaces - or the cat!

Homemade Playdough

Obviously if you have Play-Doh you can use that, but if not there are plenty of easy recipes to make your own - here are a few to try. Add in some stampers for easy designs, or try this 'paint' by numbers idea, which can help with number recognition.

little hands playing with coloured playdough

Magnetic Doodle Boards

Magnetic doodle boards - like Etch a Sketch - may be a bit old school, but they are easy to use and there's no mess. There's no need for reams of paper, crayons or paint. Plus, if your preschooler makes a mistake or gets fed up with the picture, they can simply wipe it clean and start all over again.

Sticker Books

Always a handy thing to keep aside for when you need a quiet 10 minutes or so. Reusable sticker books are great as they can be used over and over again. But any will do - they are usually cheap and readily available, so you can probably pick one up with your supermarket shop.

Button Boxes

You’d be surprised at how much fun can be had with a box full of buttons (make sure they are a suitable size for your child to use, and don't present a hazard). Set out a few plastic cups and get your child to sort the buttons according to colour, shape, size, etc. Or stick some pipe cleaners in a clay base and make a button tree - your child just needs to thread the buttons onto the pipe cleaners.

Reading Corner

A little quiet time with a favourite book will help to encourage a love of reading. Make a comfy corner with a beanbag or cosy chair and a little bookshelf so they can choose their own books (board books for littlies). Add in a few friends - teddies and dolls - so they have an audience for storytime.

Paint In Bags And Sensory Bottles

These are lovely sensory activities that don't leave a mess. Place paint in a large resealable plastic bag - the type you use for foodstuffs. Seal the bag, then tape to a window. Your little one can then push the paint around with their fingers inside the bag. Introduce different colours and add glitter for more interest. You could also make some sensory bottles - plastic bottles filled with lovely colours and shapes that will entertain toddlers for ages. Kidadler Sarah has gathered together some great ideas for you here.

Cars, Trains and Tracks

Use masking tape to create a race track, city or railway lines on the floor. Provide a box of cars or trains and leave them to it. Hours of fun! Well, a good 10 minutes anyway.

For more ideas for activities for little ones, take a look at the Top 12 Calming Activities For Under 5s and 25 Free Online Activities For Under 5s.



At Kidadl we pride ourselves on offering families original ideas to make the most of time spent together at home or out and about, wherever you are in the world. We strive to recommend the very best things that are suggested by our community and are things we would do ourselves - our aim is to be the trusted friend to parents.

We try our very best, but cannot guarantee perfection. We will always aim to give you accurate information at the date of publication - however, information does change, so it’s important you do your own research, double-check and make the decision that is right for your family.

Kidadl provides inspiration to entertain and educate your children. We recognise that not all activities and ideas are appropriate and suitable for all children and families or in all circumstances. Our recommended activities are based on age but these are a guide. We recommend that these ideas are used as inspiration, that ideas are undertaken with appropriate adult supervision, and that each adult uses their own discretion and knowledge of their children to consider the safety and suitability.

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