Let's talk about keeping those babies occupied...

As a mama to an 8-month-old and 4-year-old, keeping them both occupied can be hard. This summer break definitely proved that: It wasn't long until they were bored with the toys they had around the house. But, as easy as it would have been for me to give my 4-year-old an iPad or turn the TV on, I was bound and determined to figure out another way to keep him occupied and away from anything with a screen.

And as any mom who gave her child an elaborate present only to have him play with the cardboard box can attest—this can be done! I just had to think back to what I liked as a kid and turn off my adult-brain to discover the games and toys that would keep my boys occupied.

Here are some interactive and fun ideas that were hits!

1. I spy: This game is such a favorite around here—and a lifesaver in the car.

2. Blanket forts: Couch cushions, blankets, pillow... Anything goes!

3. Dominos: We love lining up a bunch of these and watching them go down.

4. Cloud animals: Making out shapes in the clouds is one of our favorite activities for pleasant days. Set a blanket in the yard and let those imaginations soar!

5. Tag: Inside or outside, the game of tag is always fun!

6. Visits to the local fire station: Fire stations are always so kind to give kids a tour—just be sure to call ahead!

7. A short nature walk: Even if it is just in the backyard or around your neighborhood, nature walks are fun and educational.

8. Tea parties: Invite a few of their favorite stuffed animals and make some tea and cookies.

9. Dress-up: Let them explore your closet... I know my little guy loves wearing his dad's work shirts!

10. Paper airplanes: Dust off your old paper airplane skills and pass the tradition on. This provides entertaining during construction and play.

11. Flower necklaces: Making flower necklaces or crowns was one of my favorite activities as a kid. Now, I enjoy tying those clover flowers together and making pretty creations with my kids.

12. A homemade band: Kitchen cabinets are full of good “toys." Grab a few bowls, pans and wooden spoons to make a little family band!

13. Scavenger hunt: I love hiding my little guy's lego men around the house and setting up clues for him to find them. This is great for their thinking skill sets, too!

14. Simon says: This game is fun and teaches them listening techniques—which is always good!

15. Puzzles: Puzzles are especially great for rainy days and something the whole family can get in on.

16. Sidewalk chalk: We could spend hours in our driveway making sidewalk chalk creations. A few of my favorites include tracing each other, hop scotch and making a play road to take the bikes on!

17. Secret handshakes: You know this was always a favorite thing to do as a kid!

18. Dance: Turn up the music and dance the afternoon away.

19. Coloring: We colored a few of those giant posters this summer, which were both fun and strangely meditative.

20. Start an indoor garden: Get a few herbs seeds, plant them in Styrofoam cups and place them in your windowsill. In a few weeks, you will be enjoying fresh spices!

21. Hide n' seek: You can never go wrong with hide n' seek and scoping out new hiding places is always the best!

22. Splash in puddles: Don't even bother with rain boots!

23. Make a busy box: Grab a few of their favorite things, place them in a box and pull the box out of the closet when they get bored. This makes for a great activity during “quiet time" as well!

24. Paint in the bathtub: Squirt a little washable paint in the tub and let them have at it. No need to run water until they are done!

25. Make play-dough: There are a million homemade play-dough recipes out there, including many that probably don't require a trip to the store.

26. Practice writing numbers and letters: We own a Kindergarten Toolkit and it's been so fun to use the flashcards to practice number and letter writing!

27. Read a new book: Weekly library trips make for fun excursions and entertainment at home.

28. Make a cardboard craft: Whether it's a play sword or animal, an afternoon of crafting is always fun and keeps my little one busy.

29. Redesign the house—with imaginations: Turn the house into a world of play by encouraging them to use their imaginations. I know my little guy loves using our kitchen area as a “lookout spot" and mason jars make for a great pretend spy glass.

These are all simple ideas that keep us busy and encourage play, which is so essential to development. Plus, you may be surprised by how fun these activities are for mama, too!

P.S. The waterproof + wipeable playmat shown at top is from Gathre. Unsolicited promotion because I just love it so!