Honolulu Parent to Parent: My Top 10 Keep-Them-Busy Ideas

The reality for all parents is that life is busy, and we can't always be constant entertainers for our kids.



Writing this Family Fun blog has allowed my kids and me to experience a ton of cool events and activities around Oahu, like Family Yoga at the Contemporary Museum, the Living Art Marine Center, a tour of Kahuku Farms and more.


While I absolutely love these family outings and wish I could do one of them every weekend, it’s not always possible. The reality for all parents is that life is busy, and we can’t be constant entertainers for our kids.


This week, for instance, my family is moving. We’re packing up our home in town for some new digs on the Windward Side. While I was buried in boxes and packing tape, I had to find inventive ways to keep my 2- and 4-year-olds occupied at home. I quickly found what worked and what didn’t (hint: Play Doh will totally backfire on you, unless you love cleaning up endless chunks of it). Moving or not, try a few of these options next time you need to get work done around the house.


10. Movie “night” during the day

Hang beach towels over all the windows to darken the room. Get popcorn, candy, a cool new kid’s flick and BOOM! You’ve won yourself an hour or two.


9. Box o’ kitchen tools

Accidentally, I left out a half-packed box of kitchen tools and, to my amazement, it kept my kids quiet and busy for a good, solid half-hour (which almost never happens). Apparently tongs, scrubbers, spatulas, basters and things are like forbidden fruit to toddlers.


8. Party favors

We go to a lot of kids’ birthdays, and we always come home with a ton of party favors. Throughout the year, I stash away the extra stickers, temporary tattoos, Pez dispensers, etc., and break them out when I really need a quick distraction.


7. Build a fort

This one is a no-brainer. Grab the cushions off the couch and get going. For extra fun, give them flashlights to make shadow puppets inside.


6. Strange food

This should probably not be taken as actual parenting advice, but hear me out. Try offering them something you’d never usually allow. After a long day of chaos, in a moment of total desperation, I gave them each a small cup of ranch dressing and a spoon. My house has never been so silent—it kind of blew their minds, and I bought myself another five minutes.


5. Dance party

We blasted the Kidz Bop station on Pandora and called it a party. Suddenly, the living room rug was a dance floor and the kids got their wiggles out in a non-running-around-the-house-like-hooligans-and-destroying-things kind of way.


4. New library books

We loaded up before the weekend, and I was surprised how occupied it kept them on their own. The thrill of new books never gets old.


3. Get them to help

My kids actually wanted to help with some of the house chores. When I was packing, I’d say things like, “How many socks can we stuff in this bag?” and made a game out of it, or I’d give them the DustBuster and let them vacuum up spills. Fun for them + helping me = success.


2. Computer games and apps

Sometimes, you’ve just got to hand over your computer or iPad and let them have a go. A few of my kids’ favorite games and apps: the SuperWhy cake game, Create a Car, Birthday Party Playtime and I Am a Silly-Pianist, which let you play songs with burp and fart sounds. I mean, if that can’t entertain a kid, nothing can.


The No. 1 free and easy way to keep your kids busy at home is …


1. Cardboard boxes and bubble wrap

No explanation necessary.