Toys that actually keep my kids busy, according to a seasoned mom of five

Our kids have toys. Siblings. Yards. Extracurriculars. Yet, inevitably, just a short time into playing with anything, I hear the dreaded phrase: “Mom, I’m borrrrred.” So, as a product journalist and mom of 5, I went on a mission to find toys that are just so dang captivating I never have to hear those words again. Turns out, there are some must-have toys that are now helping us survive rainy days, freezing days, and a winter that just won’t turn to spring.

These toys that keep kids busy not only keep my children occupied but are also suitable for multiple age groups, a necessity in my home where ages range from 9 months to 9 years old. They seem durable enough to stand the test of time. Moreover, they are all screen-free, allowing me to reserve iPad time for truly desperate situations.

Here’s what we love right now.

Toys that keep kids busy

Face Paint Crayons

Blue Squid


If your kids are anything like mine, they’re constantly drawing on themselves. It’s as if they’re hell-bent on trying every possible “tattoo” they could design before they are old enough to get one. This takes the scrubbing out of the creative process, and they have had a blast trying them on each other. Face painting is no longer an overpriced activity at fairs and amusement parks!

Stepping StonesStepping Stones



This might seem like a seriously overpriced toy, but it is absolutely not—it’s the most versatile toy in our collection. The stepping stones started out of my need to replace my kids’ obsession with my couch pillows to play “floor is lava.” Now they use these stones instead. But they are also great for much more. I’ve seen them stack them and use them as a chair by the art table. They’ve also used them upside down to scoop sand, as a water toy in the bath, and other creative uses. They’re totally worth the investment.

Indoor High Back SwingsIndoor High Back Swings

Sweet Swinging


These indoor or outdoor option baby swings have been a family favorite, encouraging more wholesome family interaction with our baby and toddler. (Beware: my older kids fight over who gets to gently push the baby.) I’ve tested many swings in my parenting journey, and most have fallen short of expectations. But this one is brilliantly designed to integrate play items on the swing, such as an attached teether that won’t go flying and large bead designs. It also has a pillow to place behind or in front of kids who need extra stability. Brilliant.

The Original Stair SlideThe Original Stair Slide



At first, I thought this would for sure end up with an ER trip. But, with some initial parent involvement, and a very squishy mat at the bottom, the StairSlide became a winter staple. The kids can rearrange the length of the slide by removing parts of it to make it shorter or longer. It definitely takes some trial and error to ensure it’s safely on the step, and that there’s a good area to crash land without injury. But, if you have enough mayhem to go around such as my four older boys bring, it’s a must-have to get some of it out.

Buddha BoardBuddha Board

Buddha Board


Those little “painting” books or tablets that you used to give your toddler on long trips, where you fill the pen with water, have a cooler big sister — the Buddha Board. This product is a must-have for kids who need to calm down, especially. The board simply works like an Etch-a-Sketch with water, and erases the design as the water painting dries, to reveal a new board to work with again. You will find yourself playing with this one yourself after the kids go to bed. If I leave these set up when kids come in from school, they pick them over screens on their own.

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