Fun (non-tech) Ways to Keep Kids Occupied While Waiting

Waiting from Oh! The Places You'll Go by Dr Seuss

It’s from my favourite Dr Suess Book. There’s something about the rhythm of this page about waiting that has always struck me.  There’s anticipation in it.

Waiting for a train to go

or a bus to come, or a plane to go

or the mail to come, or the rain to go

or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow

or waiting around for a Yes or No

or waiting for their hair to grow.

Everyone is just waiting.


Waiting for the fish to bite

or waiting for wind to fly a kite

or waiting around for Friday night

or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake

or a pot to boil, or a Better Break

or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants

or a wig with curls, or Another Chance

Everyone is just waiting.

{excerpt from Oh! the Places You’ll Go! by Dr Suess}

I hate waiting.  I like being quiet and taking time to just be…but I hate waiting.  Now with children added to the mix, waiting can be extra painful at times.  However, waiting IS part of life.  There’s waiting for appointments, waiting at sporting events, waiting in line, waiting in the car. A lot of waiting.  I try (try) and see waiting as an opportunity, rather than an inconvenience and truth to be told: the children and I have experienced many beautiful moments during these times.

Sometimes it’s the simple things that can carry kids through the time: one thing I get my kids to do is get them to walk to a point — could be a wall, or a tree, depending on where we are — and then walk back.

As a parent, it’s good to have a lot of different ideas (tech & non-tech) up your sleeve so you can keep kids occupied during those waiting periods, so the moments can be productive.  To me, the waiting place that Dr Seuss speaks of in the poem, isn’t focused on the actual act of waiting, it’s about having that get-go attitude and making stuff happen; making moments count; ultimately making your life count.

I asked the question of how other parents keep kids busy when waiting on my Facebook page and am sharing the fabulous ideas below, along with my own.

Fun (non-tech) Ways to Keep Kids Occupied While Waiting

fun way to keep kids occupied while waiting

1. A DVD case with paper and crayons inside for drawing. – Beth F

2. Find a word: make up your own book with pictures from the internet and put in the words you want to find and how difficult you want them. – Samantha J

3. Keep a backpack filled with little pocket games, dices & drawing materials. Keep it special: make a rule that the games are not allowed out of the backpack at home, only when out and about.  – Janina M

4. Play found faces: Look for faces in your surroundings. Once you look for them you will see them everywhere! – Jennifer C 

5. A Magnadoodle. – Awen O

6. A small felt board that stays in the car. – Diana C

7. Eye spy. – Sarah B

8. Clapping games (like, Miss Mary Mac). – Ann-Maree J

9. Do homework. – Catherine S

10. Place plastic eggs inside a carton (camping egg carton work well; they are plastic) and fill with surprises: Sometimes edible, sometimes random items like a balloon or a magnet. – Kate M

11. Keep an A5 sized pencil case with pencils and a small pad inside. – Belinda C

12.  Keep a small bag of toys in the car that only come out in waiting situations. Ideas:  matchbox cars, finger puppets, mini ball, small toys, colouring pad & pencils, aqua doodle. – Kim H

13.  Count things together. For example: How many people are in front of us? Guess how long it will take to be our turn? How many _____ can you see?  – Tasha D

14. Tell them why: It’s a good idea to tell the child why you’re waiting and what is coming next. – Tasha D

15. Sing songs and get the child/ren to do the actions. – Clare M

16. Keep small bubbles for when you’re waiting outside. (Tip: keep inside a zip lock plastic bag). – Clare M

17. Mini blackboard (in its own case). Great for tic tac toe (naughts and crosses). – Joanne V

18. Dice in a clear plastic container. Shake and see who can get the biggest total. – Tierney K

19. Play the number plate car game.  Use cues like, what relatives names start with the letter/s EVW 695 = Edward Vera William or look out for the highest/lowest number, or a particular letter. Great for traveling. – Miranda D

20. Peek-a-Boo. – Penny M

21. Lego: Take a small bucket of Lego & a small rug out with you. Lay down the rug down, tip out the Lego, play, and then when it’s time to go, pick up the rug, stuff into bucket and go. – Niki B

22. Balloons: They are small enough to carry around in your bag  kids loves them!  (Tip: You can get a fabric balloon cover so you can use it like a ball.) — Michelle K

23. Books to read. – Elizabeth F

24. Teach older kids a skill like crochet or knitting. – Elizabeth F

25. Doll hair styling: A Barbie or doll with a brush and hair accessories. – Elizabeth F

26. Mini travel games like knuckle bones, connect four, cards (to play snap, go fish, memory match). – Tash W

27. Wikki Sticks – Esquina D

28. Drawing game: Take turns at doing a scribble then another person has the challenge to make a picture out of it (A bit like Mr Squiggle) – Kathleen K

29. Pipe cleaners! Make letters, words, shapes, animals.  Great for car trips too.  They are cheap and take up next to no room and are light in your handbag. – Jasmine A

30. Play I’m packing my grandmother’s suitcase: Pick an item that starts with A, next person B, C, etc. Each person in the line repeats all the previous items until you can’t remember anymore. – Ianna B

31. Talk: Tell stories, ask questions, general natter. – Zoe T

32.  Draw mystery monsters: Tear a piece of paper in half length-wise, then fold into thirds. One person draws a head on the top with lines for a neck, fold over so you can’t see it; next person draws the body and include the beginning lines for leg areas, fold again so you can’t see; last person draws legs and feet. Unfold it to see a crazy creature! – Ianna B

33. Magnetic puzzle are a good size to fit in your bag. – Bernadette M

34. Cricket (in the car).  One person is the batter and each car that goes past = 1 run; a motorcycle = 2 runs; caravan or trailer = 4 runs; trucks = 6 runs; a red car means you’re out and on to the next batter. Great for long distance travelling. – Lisa B

35. Elastics.  Great for while siblings are at sports training.  Easy and light to put in handbag and a few can play at once. – Stephanie W

36. Food – always carry food! – Briana T

37. Eye spy with colours: “I spy with my little eye something that is red.” – Laura R

38. A little walk. Find a point — like a tree or a wall depending on where you are — and get the child to walk there and back. Repeat. – Kelly B

39. A pack of cards! – Therese M 

40. Guessing/sharing games: Who can pick the colour of the next car that passes? Is the next person who comes in/out a man/lady/girl/boy?  In a magazine, take turns at choosing one thing from each page that you would like.  – Karen A

41. Handbag memory game: Lay out various times from your handbag, look at them, then close their eyes and take one away. The kids have to remember what is missing. With older kids take it all away and have them write down all the things they can remember. – Rebekah K

42. Etch-a-sketch. – Gemma

43.  Sugar packets: count how many sugar packets there are (or make picture shapes with them). – Joanna E

44. Make lists: for example, birthday presents for a year away or ranking things like 5 favourite or least favourite activities.  – Joanna E

45. Spelling words: When you get your children’s spelling words, take a picture on your phone so you can practice when out and about. – Annette V

46. Who am I game:  Start with something like, “I’m thinking of an animal with ____.” or “I’m thinking of a fruit that is ____.”  or “I’m thinking of a person who _____.”  Keep the hints coming until the child guesses correctly. – Terri D

47. Maths game: Bring a calculator and get the child to add up what they would eat or the pet food or just the drinks ect. Ask questions like: Which is cheapest? If you had $10 and need milk and bread, what would you choose? How many steps are from one aisle to the next? – Jess H

48. Thumb wars. – Elena L

49. Spot-0: Pick a non-common car colour or type of car (we pick yellow) and yell out, “Spot-o” when you see one.  This is an on-going game the kids play every time we are in the car.  – Kelly B

50. Imaginative story: Look around you, pick a person, object or landmark and make up a spontaneous story.  – Kelly B

51. On long travelling trips, when you see a kms signs –for example: 30 kilometres to the next town —  count down every kilometre until you reach it. – Jess H

52. Draw pictures in the dirt with a stick. – Gail B

53. Count birds. – Kelly B

54. Nature hunt: make a list of things for kids to find — like 3 leaves, 1 interesting stick. – Gail B

55. Cuddle, tickle or do hair styling. – Kelly B

57. Play ‘Good Day/Bad Day‘ with the kids. It gives an insight into how they’ve viewed the day outside of directly asking them. – Simply Being Mum

58. Play catch with a tennis ball. – Kelly B

58. Paddle pop stick puzzle.  Plain paddle pop sticks can be used to make shapes and pictures.  – Kelly B

59. Alphabet Game: One person says the letters of the alphabet in order, while others in the family say something that starts with that letter. Younger children can be the one to say the alphabet. For older children, they might like to choose a category for the words, for example: names, countries, animals, food. – Homework Help for Parents

60.  Take-turns story: Make up a story by each adding a sentence.  One person starts with a simple sentence, and the next person adds a joining sentence.  See where the adventure takes you! – Natural Learning UK

Print it out and take it with you. Click below for the PDF file.

ways to keep kids occupied when waiting - download list

Ideas on items to keep in the car or bag

  • Small cars (like matchbox cars)
  • A small bag, box or large pencil case to keep things in
  • Finger puppets
  • Mini balls
  • Tennis ball
  • Travel games
  • Bubbles
  • Balloons
  • Fabric balloon cover
  • Calculator
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Playing cards
  • Uno
  • Small toys
  • Plastic animal figurines
  • Colouring pad & pencils
  • Aqua doodle
  • Mangadoodle
  • Etch-a-sketch
  • Books
  • Paddle pop sticks
  • Clip Board box with pencils & paper

make a drawing kit for travel

clipboard box (a clip board with a compartment inside for pens and paper

fabric balloon ball

balloons and fabric cover in a zip lock bag

keep toys in your handbag

Spot the toys in my handbag

paddle pop stick game

Paddle Pop Stick Game

Discovery Box

This is fun for kids and good way to recycle old shoe boxes - make a Discovery Box for kids to keep their little treasures

We love exploring as much as we can as a family.  Australia is a vast and beautiful country, and there’s so much natural wonder in our backyard.  On our many adventures, my kids enjoy collecting little bits and bobs along the way, from bottle caps for a Bottle Cap Game they made up to pretty fallen leaves.  On our last trip up the D’Aguilar Ranges, we saw a beautiful (AND HUGE!) snake on the road. There’s a video here.

Go exploring with Kids

At different times during the parenting journey — depending on how old the respective child is and their interests — I make up Discovery Boxes out of a recycled shoeboxes for the kids to keep their collections in.   

idea on using empty shoe box

I’ve wrapped shoe boxes in wrapping paper before, to make it look pretty (like this one). 

make a discovery box

This time, my youngest daughter and I made a discovery box covered in decorate tape, which matches the other little decorative projects we’ve been working on (it looks so pretty in her room which is fun).


Decorative Tape or wrapping paper  (I used Scotch® Expressions Packing Tape & Magic Tape)

White paper (if you want to cover patterns or brands on the box)


Step 1

Glue paper roughly to the box if you’re using light coloured paper or tape.   This way, you can cover any brand names and that sort of thing. I used it on the tops and sides.

This is fun for kids and good way to recycle old shoe boxes - make a Discovery Box for kids to keep their little treasures

Step 2

Cover box with pieces of tape (vertically or horizontally).  Horizontal tape around the base of the box makes it very easy because you can wrap it around the perimeter of the base until the ends meet.

This is fun for kids and good way to recycle old shoe boxes - make a Discovery Box for kids to keep their little treasures

Step 3

Add a Discovery Box label if desired. I typed the font in Word, printed it and cut to size.

This is fun for kids and good way to recycle old shoe boxes - make a Discovery Box for kids to keep their little treasures

 Just a cute box for little treasures small people find interesting.

Another idea is to have a list of prompts for children to find on a daily, weekly or whenever-you-fancy basis.  Below is some ideas I’ve jotted down that could instigate fun moments and interesting conversations.

Discovery Box

  1. Find a flower, lay between baking paper and press in a book.  Add to the box in a month. For best results, laminate the pressed flower (and you can even turn it into a bookmark).
  2. On the Internet or in a book, look for pictures of a place you would like to visit together.
  3. Go on a colour hunt: find 5 things that are yellow, blue, red, green, purple, pink or whatever colour!
  4. Look up the meaning of your name and write it on a piece of paper.
  5. Collect a cool looking stick (and paint it for something awesome).
  6. Write a letter to yourself to read a year on (remember to date it).
  7. Look for a seed pod (make into a boat on a rainy day)
  8. Go on a shape hunt: find 2 things that are triangle, round or rectangle.
  9. See how many different coins you can find around the house. Pick one. Look up the year it was made and more about the image.  Write a few key points or draw a picture on an envelope, slip the coin in and keep in the box.
  10. Go on a texture hunt: find 1 thing that is rough, smooth, soft or shiny.
  11. Cut out a picture you like from a magazine or junk mail.
  12. Something from the beach.
  13. Something from the backyard.
  14. Something recycled.
  15. Find three different types of leaves.
  16. Look for a special rock (and make it a pet by gluing on google eyes).
  17. Take a photograph, get it printed, write on the back how it made you feel.
  18. Draw something you see outside.
  19. Look up an interesting word in the dictionary and write down what it means on a piece of paper.
  20. A picture of someone you love.

You can print a PDF version by clicking the picture below.

Discovery Box Prompts


Other Links

5 Ways to Use Decorative Tape Around the Home

105 Ways to Enjoy Nature with Kids

5 Ideas for Using Decorative Tape Around the House

Sponsored by 3M (s1 post)

ways to use decorative tape - 3M Scotch Expressions - on

Scotch® Expressions Packaging Tape

Scotch® Expressions Magic™ Tape

I love this stuff because I can make regular and recycled items around the house look awesome, colourful and funky. Oh, and there’s the kids too: as my children get older, I need to cater for their own projects (rather than being a facilitator and instigator) and they love the tape too!

I’ve been going berserk with the tape around the house, from decorating juice bottle vases to wrapping a pass the parcel game for my daughter’s 8th birthday party.   It’s fun to use and the 3M Scotch Expressions Magic Tape is easy to remove (the masking tape is stronger so more difficult to remove).

I’m sharing five ways to use decorative tape around the house and another five in a post next week.

Make it Amazing

3M Scotch Expressions Tape is a brilliant addition to the family stationery stash and you can show off your creations (and be in the running to win an iPad mini) in the Make it Amazing competition on the Scotch Australia & New Zealand Facebook page. There’s heaps of inspiration ideas too:


New Zealand:

3M Scotch Expressions Tape -  Make it Amazing campaign

5 Ways to Use Decorative Tape in The Home

1.    Coat Hanger Children’s Artwork Display

Pant hangers with clips can be used to hang children’s artwork on the wall.  It’s easy to change the artwork as fresh pieces come along.  To make it bright and fun, decorate the hangers with happy coloured tape.

ways to use decorative tape - 3M Scotch Expressions - on


Pant Coat Hangers

3M Command Hooks

Scotch Expressions Tape


1. Cut sections of tape about 10-15 cm in length (enough to wind around the hanger with a slight overlap)

2. Press each section of tape down around the hanger until covered to satisfaction.

3. Place on the wall using hooks and display artwork as a feature.

Pant hangers with clips can be used to hang children’s artwork on the wall.  It’s easy to change the artwork as fresh pieces come along.  To make it bright and fun, decorate the hangers with happy coloured tape.

Pant hangers with clips can be used to hang children’s artwork on the wall.  It’s easy to change the artwork as fresh pieces come along.  To make it bright and fun, decorate the hangers with happy coloured tape.

2.    Secure Artwork

Another way too store children’s artwork is to use tape to secure artwork to a wall.  It looks funky. I used 3M Scotch Expressions Magic tape in purple here for my daughter’s windmill picture.

decorative tape

3. Juice Bottle Vase

So easy, it’s ridiculous.  These are great for a themed area or birthday party decorations.  Put a posy of flowers in to brighten a room or use to store pencils.

Use Decorative Tape to decoration juice bottles for cute vases - on


Empty Juice Bottles

3M Scotch Expressions Packing Tape


  1. Lay a section of tape evenly around the juice bottle.
  2. Cut tape to length and smooth out.

Use Decorative Tape to decoration juice bottles for cute vases - on

Use Decorative Tape to decoration juice bottles for cute vases - on


Use decorative tape to create cute juice bottle vases - on

4. Book Cover

Loved this little project because I created a cute colour themed area by simply gathering items around the house and giving it a fresh look.

Use decorative tape to cover a notebook - tutorial on


3M Scotch Expressions Packing Tape

3M Scotch Expressions Magic Tape

Notepad (horizontal stripes)


  1. Lay sections of tape to cover the notepad, allowing about 1-3 cm overhang to secure on the inside cover.
  2. Don’t worry too much about making the left hand side exactly even (I’ll tell you why below).
  3. For edge corner sections, cut a small triangle (as shown) before securing on the inside cover.
  4. To make sure the edges don’t eventually peel up, use a section of tape along the left edge vertically, overlapping slightly and secure on the inside cover (I used purple tape here).
  5.  Create a cute themed area by using matching tape on plastic tumblers or juice bottles for pen and pencil holders.


decorative tape ideas: cover a notebook - on


decorative tape ideas: cover a notebook - on


decorative tape ideas: cover a notebook - on


decorative tape ideas: cover a notebook - on

decorative tape ideas: cover a notebook - on


decorative tape ideas: cover a notebook - on

Tip: Vertical stripes work gorgeously too.

Tip:  Great for school books.

5 . The $2 Jar

Create a $2 jar to save all your $2 coins. A 750ml jar will hold over $1,000 - on

I’ve done this many times throughout my adult life and it’s an easy way to save a small stash for something special. Great for kids too! The idea is to have a specified jar for all $2 coins that come into your possession.  I’ve experimented on how much you can fit in a 600ml coke bottle (you can find out here).

If you want to save over $1,000 you need approximately a 750 ml bottle or jar. I decided to make a cute jar for our $2 coins and here it is.

Create a $2 jar to save all your $2 coins. A 750ml jar will hold over $1,000 - on


3M Scotch Expressions Magic Tape


Permanent Marker


  1. If using a square jar, lay section of tape from the outsides and work your way into the middle.  For cylinder jars, measure and mark around the jar for evenly spaced stripes. It’s easy to pull the tape off if you make a mistake.  Horizontal stripes work brilliantly on a cylinder jar.
  2. Using a permanent marker, name the jar and start saving.

make a decorative jar with tape

Here’s a (slightly ridiculous) video of $1,000 in a jar.

Make it Amazing Campaign

The Make It Amazing campaign has started. Get inspired, make something amazing with Scotch® Expressions Tape. Follow the links below for inspiration, ideas and more information:

3M Scotch Expressions Tape


New Zealand:

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by 3M. You can read my disclosure policy here.