18 Easy Ways to Kill 20 Minutes with Kids of Every Age

18 Easy Ways to Kill 20 Minutes with Kids of Every Age

You don’t need to block off hours of time to connect, you just need to get creative

Ah, the ever-elusive concept of time. It’s like a ninja—stealthily slipping away when you’re not looking but stubbornly dragging on when you’re trying to entertain a restless toddler or engage an uninterested tween. Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of fun play ideas for kids of all ages that won’t take longer than a snack break. From magic tricks to a game of animal charades, these activities are guaranteed to make 20 minutes feel like a flash.  And who knows, the memories made during these mini-adventures might just become cherished family stories down the road.

Play Ideas for Kids Age 2-4

little toddler playing peek-a-boo

Notoriously known for having zero attention span, toddlers can lose interest quickly, so filling 20 minutes with engaging activities isn’t always easy. These quick-fix ideas help turn any idle time into a burst of fun.

1. Play I-Spy. This classic game stands the test of time and helps toddlers better understand their surroundings. It’s also easily adaptable, requires no materials, and takes almost no time to complete. Put a twist on the same old game and set up your “I Spy” with a theme. Pick a letter (all things that begin with “B”), a color (only purple objects), or any other focus that your kiddo can dream up.

2. Stack Stuff. Watch your little one learn hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness, and problem-solving skills by just stacking stuff. Whether it’s cups or blocks, they’ll have a blast figuring out balance and stability.
3. Have a Dance Party. Throw on some music and dance it out. Choose from our roundup of the best Spotify playlists, and spike your heart rate to a family-friendly tune. It’s also a great way to shake things up when your little one is feeling grumpy.

4. Play Follow the Leader. Get creative with this old-school favorite. Choose a theme (such as acting like animals or moving like snowflakes), create super-silly walks, or explore outside with a follow-the-leader nature walk.

Ideas for Ages 4-6

play ideas for kids

Preschoolers are curious, and their imagination is always running at warp speed. It’s a great time to introduce play ideas that activate their love of make-believe. Unchanged: Preschoolers are curious, and their imagination is always running at warp speed. It’s a great time to introduce play ideas that activate their love of make-believe.

4. Act out a book. While reading a book together is always a good idea, acting one out could be even more fun. If your toddler has a favorite book they’re obsessed with, dig into the dress-up box and have them try to act out a live-action version.

5. Have your little one stay in character when you play a quick game of animal charades. No prep is necessary for this easy guessing game. Just pick your favorite animal and go for it. With each successful guess, trade places and start again. Ee-i-ee-i-o!

6. Create a card for a loved one. Surprise a friend or relative with a homemade card from you and your toddler. They’ll have fun stamping, coloring, and creating a fun design, and the recipient will be thrilled with the surprise mail.

Play Ideas for Kids Ages 6-8

minute to win it games are good play ideas for kids

It’s no surprise that recess is this group’s favorite time of day. Grade school kids need to run and unleash energy, so killing 20 minutes is easy when you have open space to move. Here are some fun activities to keep moving and even a few for when they need to sit still.

7. Play freeze tag. The person who is “it” tries to tag the others. Once you’ve been tagged, you have to stand (frozen in the position you were in when you were tagged) until another “untagged” person can tag you to free you.

8. Create a Scavenger Hunt. Whether you pull a pre-organized list off the internet or create your own, enjoy watching your grade-schooler expend some serious energy while hunting for one item after another.

9. Play a minute to win it game. This age set loves a timer and since every phone has one you can break out a minute to win it game just about anywhere. From ball drop to sponge run, we’ve got a full list of games that take 60 seconds or less and are sure to make time fly.

10. Have fun with jokes. Laughter really is the best medicine. Telling jokes is an instant mood booster, so whether you’re stuck in traffic or waiting in the orthodontist’s office, tap into some of our favorite belly-laughing jokes. We even have a best-of-summer roundup!

Play Ideas for Kids Ages 10-12

little girl practicing an easy magic trick

Avoid the dreaded “I’m bored” phrase by suggesting one of these activities to your soon-to-be middle schoolers.

12. Conversation starters. Jumping into a good discussion with tweens isn’t always seamless, but these conversation starters can help. Try using this one right before dinnerIf you could make any vegetable against the law, which would it be? Just be ready for their answer!

13. Play “Exquisite Corpse,” where you create a story together. Decide on a theme and have the first person write a phrase or sentence. The next person continues the story by writing the next sentence or phrase, using the last word or phrase from the previous person’s contribution. Continue taking turns until you have a complete story.

14. Learn a magic trick. Start with the simple paper-clip trick and keep moving through this entire list of tricks. 

15. Play Name that Tune—and let them pick the music! It’s a great way to get your kiddo to talk more about what they’re into and for you to add some variety to your playlist.

The Best Ideas for Teens

Trying to get your teen to put down their phone and engage in conversation is like trying to teach a cat to swim – it’s not impossible, but it sure feels like it sometimes! The good news is, once you do, they’re happy you did it and more likely to form healthy habits around screen usage.

15. Play a game of “20 Questions”. Get more insight into your teen’s mind and thought process with this classic game you can play anywhere, anytime. It also fosters strategic thinking and is a game of deduction and logic that will be very satisfying for your ever-growing tween.

16. Play Wordle or do a mini crossword. Want to engage and still use the phone? We suggest pairing up to solve everyone’s favorite word puzzles.

17. Boost their confidence. Sometimes just letting them know you’re proud of them can lead to the best discussions. Here are 30 positive things to say to your favorite almost-teen when they don’t feel like talking.

18. Trivia for Tweens and Teens. From who is the half-blooded prince to who is the oldest gamer on YouTube, we’ve rounded up some of the most intriguing trivia questions for teens (and tweens) that are guaranteed to keep them entertained.

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