Calm, quiet, constructive activities for kids age 6-9?
April 30, 2014 10:32 AM   Subscribe

A friend's child is chronically ill. He watches a lot of television, and he and his mom have agreed that it's not the best use of time. What are some things he can do instead?

Because of his illness, he is often tired, foggy-headed, and nauseous, so the simplicity of TV-watching is its main appeal.

He's 8, and enjoys watching shows with complex, exciting plots (he can easily follow shows made for 9-10 year olds). He likes action-packed cartoons even though they give him nightmares. His reading skills, attention span, and physical dexterity are probably closer to a 6 year old's, so intricate, time-consuming activities might not be the best fit.

Books and shows that are exciting while being congruent with his family's Christianity would be good- any titles to suggest?
In general, it would be great if the activities are inexpensive, and can be done in the house. His family is creative, so arts and crafts ideas would be good, too.

posted by pseudostrabismus to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (28 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Here's a very nice list of books.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 10:38 AM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

How about a little science? I'm planning on getting my son a Snap Circuits kit when he turns 6, because it is right up his alley.
posted by Nanukthedog at 10:41 AM on April 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

He can: do puzzles, color in colouring books, learn to knit with big needles, take digital photos, make a scrap book, make cards, play board games, play Uno or Go Fish, play with home-made story cubes, play with a 2nd hand or borrowed Leappad, learn to play the recorder, blow bubbles, play with puppets or finger puppets!
posted by DarlingBri at 10:43 AM on April 30, 2014 [4 favorites]

Depending on his dexterity, he might enjoy Perler beads; I don't understand it but kids go nuts for it at my house. Some kids prefer to use tweezers to place the beads. That's just the right age range, although six-year-olds sometimes need more help figuring out the concept. Very cheap -- you can get beads at JoAnns and use a coupon -- and can be as simple or complex as you want.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:44 AM on April 30, 2014 [4 favorites]

Puzzles. Drawing/painting. Knitting. Needlework. Solitaire (I'm all about my solitaire games on my phone. Lots of fun ones.)

All nice, easy activities that don't require a lot of brain power.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:45 AM on April 30, 2014

Finger knitting. No need to get fancy like they do in these instructions -- you can just make a long tube and be happy with it.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:46 AM on April 30, 2014 [4 favorites]

If he has access to an iPad or iPod Touch, Memail me. :)
posted by Hermione Granger at 10:48 AM on April 30, 2014

Does he have an ipad? Even a refurbished early generation one is an easy way for him to play games or solve puzzles or listen to audio books or watch stuff. Leafing through old magazines with someone might also be an easy way for him to interact without much strain--old Life magazines had a great deal of charm for my kids, as did collections of old Mad magazines.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:48 AM on April 30, 2014

Admittedly this might be the teacher in me getting out of hand, but I think there are a TON of awesome math activities he could love. Get him a bunch of math manipulatives (I'd suggest especially pattern blocks and base ten blocks, as well as maybe Cuisinaire rods) and print out a few hundreds charts (laminate them or put them in a pocket protector and get some dry erase markers), and let him go to town. There are SO MANY fun things he can do with those alone or with a partner. I'm not saying push him or stress him but math can be super hugely enormously fun as a kid if it's done well and with appropriate supporting materials. It sounds like he's got a good chance to figure some math things out for himself and seriously, all this stuff is TONS OF FUN. Getting to play with pattern blocks at home? AMAZING.

Also puppets -- get paper bags, crayons, yarn, construction paper, scissors, and glue, and he can make himself lots of awesome puppets (you can also print out patterns for paper bag puppets if you'd like). This gives him the bonus of getting to create stories for his family if he feels up for it.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:52 AM on April 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

Minecraft. It's available on smart phones, computers and gaming consoles.

There are so many ways to play that it'll take a long time to get bored with it.

For added entertainment you can watch YouTube videos of people building cool things, like monorails. Or using the Minecraft world to tell a story.

After you've played and watched videos, then you can make your own videos and obsessively track your view count.
posted by MadMadam at 10:56 AM on April 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

If there's a computer or an Xbox in the house, I'd highly recommend Minecraft.
posted by jbickers at 10:56 AM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

If his reading age is rather below his age look into audiobooks.
posted by koahiatamadl at 10:57 AM on April 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Rainbow loom bracelets?
posted by gaspode at 11:00 AM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Shrinky dinks, I'm thinking of the draw your own on blank sheets rather than the pre-printed ones that you color in, but he might enjoy either.
posted by pennypiper at 11:02 AM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was a chronically ill kid and my parents didn't own a tv so I kind of loved being in the hospital. I had my own tv there!

I read a lot - a ton - of books as a kid. I also had mental fog and cognition issues but I still liked to read. I also did a ton of art projects. Sculpy or another type of clay might be great for him since it can easily be done from bed. I had a "learn to draw cartoons" book that I loved. Drawing in general was very fun and a good escape. I also made a lot of friendship bracelets but he might not be into that. I had a dollhouse and making little things for the dollhouse was good too, although it was hard to do in bed. A tray for art supplies would be a good thing for him to have because he might be able to stay in bed that way.

What about making things to help others? For example he could learn crochet and donate baby blankets to project Linus or to the local hospital. This would be a great way for him to use his time to give to others who are also in need. His parents might also want to check with their pastor to see if there are other things he can do for people in their church like this. I made a bunch of dolls using worn out clothes as a kid and we donated them to a local group that sent them somewhere where kids didn't have toys and that was really really good for me. I remember feeling so good and like I mattered and like my time was meaningful, which is something that chronically ill kids tend to have trouble with. It's hard to be sick when you're a kid.

Sorry he's going through this.
posted by sockermom at 11:19 AM on April 30, 2014 [5 favorites]

As well as the excellent recommendations so far - origami/paperplanes?
posted by Megami at 12:03 PM on April 30, 2014

If he is into Lego: Space Craft Ping Pong! i did this a couple of years with my son when he was around that age. I made him a space ship out of Lego and challenged him to use the exact same bricks to change it into one that was much better. Etc, etc. It was always my point to make something new before he woke up. If he was constantly in bed he played for hours. He could talk and talk about his special laser systems that could shoot through time till he fell asleep.
posted by ouke at 12:30 PM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

A knitting knobby or knitting spool -- they're good for young kids and easy to do. It makes a long snake that you can either leave as a snake, or wrap around itself to make a disc. As an alternative to TV, what about podcasts or radio? There are a ton of free podcasts on every subject possible.

Also, could he get started writing to a penpal? Getting mail is exciting and thinking of things to write/respond is pretty constructive.
posted by blnkfrnk at 12:31 PM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Activity books with different kinds of stuff like mazes, word searches, logic puzzles, etc. This is the kind of thing I mean (though it's just an example of the genre, I have no experience with this specific one). The individual activities are self-contained and don't take too long. If there is one specific kind he especially likes, you can find more books with that type exclusively.
posted by unsub at 1:37 PM on April 30, 2014

We have been doing a lot of coloring in our house lately - especially mandalas. Bonus points if you can let him color with sharpies.
posted by dpx.mfx at 2:03 PM on April 30, 2014

Paper building! Paper aquarium (fill it with preposterous fish and plants), paper zoo (animals, concessions, habitats), paper town, paper castle/seige engines, paper moonbase/spaceships, etc. Get a pack of copy paper, a pack of colored construction paper/cardstock, safety scissors and a bunch of scotch tape. Pick a theme and start building. It may help to have an adult start off with him, building in tandem, to give some ideas for how to construct a box that will stand on its own, etc.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:10 PM on April 30, 2014

Learn to draw (I think Maurice Sendak and Chris VanAallsburg were both chronically sick kids). Sustainably Creative is a good resource for drawing and living with Chronic illness, which his parents might get some use from (geared toward adults, but certainly kid friendly/g-rated).

Along with finger knitting (which my brother loved, btw) there is arm knitting too! Photography (still life? Then he can lie around and edit on a portable device), learning to code...

I like the look of Lotta kids magazine, and back issues are reasonably priced too. They have craft projects, paper things to tear out and build and stuff. Ad-free and geared toward 5-10. I loved Magazines as a kid, kid ones or special interest. There was another thread here awhile ago about kid magazines.

Pen pals! Not just writing, but learning, planning the mail, making stuff to put in, etc. Does their church know of any missionary families whose kids would like mail?

The Keri Smith wreck-this-journal series might be fun too, also has a website with lists of little activities. I think the Pikaland website has lists of things to draw (free) to start out.

We also fostered kittens when I was a kid... Not sure what their limitations are, but I was more than happy to sit quietly and bottle feed the tiny ones, and spent lots of time playing with them and building them cardboard box playgrounds.

Container gardening/indoor plants?
posted by jrobin276 at 2:42 PM on April 30, 2014

Seconding Snap Circuits; it's a fabulous toy. My 6yo figured out how to follow the directions for it quite quickly. We have the "Jr" set and it doesn't take long at all to assemble some basic circuits -- it does not require a lot of fiddling before you can get the fan or light or whatever going.

I had initially balked because why would you not just give a kid a Radio Shack "143 Projects in 1!" kit along with a box of little motors and wires out of somebody's garage? If it was good enough for these days -- so spoiled But it really is a cool toy.

And comic books. Unlimited comic books. (I loved them and later turned into a comp lit student, and hold the view that they help shape a love of reading rather than deter one from Dostoyevsky.) Tintin and Asterix would probably both be good fits. The "Bone" series is from after my time but probably worth looking at for an eight-year-old.
posted by kmennie at 4:08 PM on April 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

My kids, especially my math-oriented son, loved the puzzle, math, maze and activity books from Usborne. They span a wide age level but the quality was much better than the usual "teach your kids" books.

If he would coloring or mazes, Dover Press has a huge assortment at generally very low prices. The "stained glass" pictures can be colored with markers and then look pretty hanging in a window.
posted by metahawk at 5:08 PM on April 30, 2014

Windowsill gardens (these greenhouse kits are wonderful).

Terrariums, Ripariums, Aquariums (you can do just aquatic or semi-aquatic gardening, no need to get an animal or fish if that would be too much trouble). I don't have much time at the moment, but if he's interested and you'd like more info, please memail me and I'll point you to some resources.

Birdfeeders (easy to make using recyclables) I would just google, to be honest -- there are *so* many crafts to try out. If your friend wouldn't consider squirrels a nuisance, putting out a small tray of peanuts (with shells) every day will bring them around and they're delightful to watch.
posted by rue72 at 5:19 PM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

If he's into it, maybe picture books of cities or landscapes or dinosaurs or caves or whatever his interests are. Those large, full color, coffee table sized books. The library should have a good selection.

When I was that age, I had a subscription to National Geographic Kids magazine, and it was one of my favorite things in the world.
posted by spinifex23 at 6:15 PM on April 30, 2014

Our daughter loved her snap circuits jr at that age-highly recommend!

Another option might be something like Kiwi Crate-monthly delivery of a box with materials and instructions for a couple crafts. My kids get very excited to get theirs every month-it would be fun for him to have something to anticipate.
posted by purenitrous at 9:44 PM on April 30, 2014

I saw some of these very inexpensive, DIY art activities today and thought of this question:

2 ingredient Playdough; edible paints; printable mazes; toilet roll crafts.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:38 PM on May 3, 2014

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