Kids are a ton of fun and a joy to be around, but let’s be honest. There are days when I feel like I’m running an insane asylum. And you know you can’t knock sense into crazy people.

Instead of yelling at the top of my lungs, screaming into a pillow, handing out punishments left and right, and completely losing it I found that offering constructive activities followed by rewards is actually a lot more productive and effective.

Yeah, I’m stating the obvious. Obviously.

But as with most things, getting the kids to a zen place without the use of a screen (TV, iPad, computer) is easier said than done. And unfortunately these days I rarely have time to sit down with all 3 of my little darlings for a session of crafts that would make everyone happy.

What I wanted to share with you today is an easier, but equally successful way to keep everyone busy and out of your hair. I’m a big supporter of learning through play, so all the below activities are as fun as they are educational. All you need is a binder, a rewards chart (some great charts here!), a printer, and the following links!

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Origami

My 7 and 6 year old love anything origami!  I used to get Children’s Origami kits but the instructions always seemed complicated (even for me), so I found some great online tutorials for a happy mess-free hour of folding and refolding. Check out this awesome site for the tutorials, and this one for free printable origami paper (or you could just make your own). If you want an extra challenge factor head over to the Origami Resource Center for every possible origami technique imaginable!

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Tangrams

An ancient Chinese puzzle, otherwise known as the “seven pieces of heaven” is sure to keep your kids’ minds and hands occupied for a half hour stretch or more. Tangrams were a favorite of mine when I was growing up and my kids have definitely inherited my love for this intriguing puzzle. In addition to being entertaining, it is a great tool to help them develop critical thinking skills, and spatial intelligence. Follow this link to print out your own pieces of heaven (you can laminate them to extend their lifetime) and swing by here to get a bunch of print out puzzles for your kids to master!

Dot-to-Dot

Not every child is born with a love for math and numbers. My #2 breaks out in hives at the idea of doing anything that’s math related. Thank God for connect-the-dots printables! He’s actually dealing with numbers without realizing that he’s dealing with numbers. Activity Pad has a very good selection of dot-to-dot worksheets with varying levels of difficulty. If your child loves cartoons (and which child doesn’t??) check out Paint the World for some really exciting cartoon dot-to-dot printables!

Sudoku for Kids

Another awesome way of introducing numbers and sequences without making it look like hard work. We started off easy – with 4×4 puzzles, and finally worked our way up to 9×9. We love Daily Sudoku because it gets updated daily and offers a huge archive of sudoku puzzles

Coloring Pages

Good ol’ coloring fun! Put an educational twist on your kids’ coloring pages by introducing them to coloring by short vowel, coloring by number or sum, or coloring letters. They’ll enjoy the feeling of accomplishment at the end and will get to practice their math, language and fine motor skills too!

Don’t forget to keep a record of their awesome achievements by keeping track of all their work in a binder and reward them for the quiet moments well spent! At our home, we’ve planned a set time each day for these activities and it’s something they look forward to each day!

Hooray, this Mama finally gets to have her coffee in peace for a change!