3 Building Activities for Independent Kiddos

By: Maryrose Gray

If you are trying to make a quick phone call or finish that email, and you need to occupy your kiddo for a few minutes, here are some activities that will do the trick!  These activities are all great for building spatial reasoning as well, check out our post on spatial reasoning in case you missed it. We suggest taking 5 minutes to prep the materials so they are ready when you need them.

Geometric Creations

This game is a fun way to encourage creativity and it tends to occupy kids for a good chunk of time. I like to cut straws to make different lengths and put them in a gallon bag with play dough. I keep the bag in the cabinet above the coffeemaker so that it is always read to go if I need it. Another fun twist is to use marshmallows and then let your child eat some after playing.

Materials: Play dough, straws or toothpicks
Note: I've done this activity with fourth graders and with my toddler.  Both ages had a great time, but my toddler definitely needed supervision and assistance!

1. Roll play dough into balls.
2. Press toothpick or straw end into the play dough ball.
3. Continue to connect edges together with play dough balls to form two- or three-dimensional shapes.
4. Create regular or irregular shapes, prisms, pyramids, and free-form creations.
5. Talk with child about the process.  

Make it more challenging:

  • Ask child to count the vertices, edges and faces
  • Use a protractor to measure the angles in the shape. Make regular shapes when possible.
  • Sort shapes by attributes (number of edges or vertices, pyramids vs. prisms, 2D vs. 3D.

Building Bricks in a Bag

I don't think this one needs much explanation, kids love building bricks (Legos)! My kids are still pretty young, so I try to have them play more with larger bricks, but they are always trying to get their hands on the smaller bricks. I keep a gallon bag of them in my cabinet as well for when I really need a few moments of peace.

Pattern Block Puzzles

Pattern blocks can be used for creative play, but I also recommend buying (or downloading & printing) some pattern block puzzle mats that children can try to replicate or that they can place the blocks on to match the designs. Check out some pattern block puzzle mats that you can buy here or some that you can download here.