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As a parent to younger children, do you ever find yourself needing a little bit of quiet time to finish a project or meet a deadline for work but it’s a Saturday morning at home? Maybe you have a 5-year-old that you would like to find some fun independent activities for them to enjoy during solitary play times. We have created a list of our favorite independent activities that help with a child’s development and in becoming independent learners. 

Busy Mother taking down notes

During school days, young children are spending time learning and socializing in the classroom. However, during the evenings and weekends, it is hard to watch a young age child strobe out of the house participating in sports or other activities with friends while parents are sometimes consumed with adult responsibilities, even if it’s just taking a break for their mental health. Therefore, raising self-sufficient kids is a benefit to both young children and parents alike. 

The good news is that all of these independent play activities are great ideas for helping children develop better problem-solving skills, fine motor skills, critical reasoning, math skills, and creative thinking. It is a good idea to start implementing independent play ideas in young kids in the early years. 

Little boy writing

The best part of these fun activities is that lots of times they only require some household items and not much help from parents or older children.  

1. Play-Doh

Play-doh may already be one of a young child’s favorite things. It’s so versatile from creating a fake food buffet to sculpting a masterpiece that belongs in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Play-Doh is a great option for an independent activity for a 5-year-old. It’s a great way to improve fine motor skills and can be done right at the kitchen table.

Child playing Play-Doh
2. Imaginative play

Imaginative play is the type of play that allows a child to adopt the role of an imaginary or real-life character. A dress-up box is so much fun to have handy for pretend play. Creative play can help to increase social skills and open their minds to different ways of the world. Role play teaches young children empathy and sometimes coping skills for their feelings. It also helps build dreams and hopes for their future.

Children in their Superhero Costume
3. Sensory Bins

Sensory activities, such as bins, are a simple but great way to build cognitive and motor skills in a 5-year-old child. Grab a box, bowl, or container of any size or shape, then fill it with common household items like uncooked rice, beans, popcorn kernels, pasta, beads, craft poms, etc. For added fun, hide small toys or objects in the sensory bins and send them on sensory bin scavenger hunts for those small items.

Toddler playing Sensory Bins
4. Toy Cars 

There are many different ideas for playing with small toy cars that promote creativity through independent play. A 5-year-old will enjoy creating roadways and tracks on poster boards, running a shaving cream toy car wash with a plastic bin and sponges, building ramps out of cookie sheets and books, or even building a parking garage with old boxes or tissue paper rolls or whatever they find around the house. Counting and sorting toy cars is a good way to teach math skills.

Baby boy playing different colorful cars
5. Ball Pit

What young child doesn’t like a ball pit? Ball pits can be a therapeutic way for a child to work on body awareness as well as balance and coordination. Not to mention, they are lots of fun! There are many DIY ball pits you can create at home. Bathtubs and baby swimming pools are fantastic as ball pits. You can purchase foam or plastic balls online or from the toy section of your nearest big box store. Cutting up pool noodles is an inexpensive alternative to purchasing the balls. 

Child playing in a ball pit
6. Sticky Walls

Young children LOVE a sticky wall! The possibilities are endless. Use some washi tape to secure white or clear contact paper to a wall, sticky side out. Use odds and ends, scraps of paper, leaves, flowers, foam letters, cotton balls, or pretty much anything that will stick, and watch your 5-year-old’s imagination run free. They can create themes like their favorite book or characters. Hand-eye coordination is one of the many benefits of a sticky wall as an independent activity for a young child. 

Baby boy putting leaves off of his sticky wall
7. Pipe Cleaners

Pipe cleaners are very versatile and are one of the best ways to spark creativity in a young child. For only a couple of dollars, pipe cleaners can be a great activity for independent play. Whether at home or on the road, they can create shapes, letters, pretend flower gardens, rainbow designs, and even use them for painting. This type of play also benefits fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. 

Toddler inserting pipe cleaners in a metal strainer
8. Small World Play

Another fantastic independent activity that builds communication and social skills is small-world play. A 5-year-old can use toy animals as a class of students to lead a storytime or play the role of a teacher, which is great for building vocabulary. Action figures allow young children to use their creativity to blast off into a fantasy land of magical forests, farms, an ancient dinosaur kingdom, or a pirate island. These fun activities help them put stories together of why things are happening and how to get out of them. Also, action play can teach awareness of good and bad values and characteristics. 

Small world play, construction-area theme
9. Jigsaw Puzzle

Jigsaw puzzles are great for memory and critical thinking skills. Classic independent games like puzzles have stayed relevant for many generations for good reason. As a 5-year-old, start with a 12-24 piece jigsaw puzzle for the first time, and then you can adjust from there. 

Confused baby girl playing her puzzle
10. Cardboard Boxes

Have a large cardboard box lying around? Maybe a neighbor just purchased a large appliance and left the empty box at the curb for trash pickup. There are many ways that young kids can enjoy solitary play with a box. Creating an imaginary rocket ship or house, even using it to create a robot costume for themselves is much fun for any 5-year-old. Cardboard boxes promote not only,  critical thinking skills but also encourage physical play. 

Toddler boy in a Big Box
11. Dance Party

Dance like nobody’s watching! Create a space and a kid-friendly playlist for him/her to express themselves through dance. It’s a great physical activity as well as building confidence. Take it up a notch by adding some disco lights to the dance floor. 

Baby girls in their dancing attires
12. Musical Instruments

Playing musical instruments can improve patience and memory. You can probably think back and remember using household items as musical instruments when you were a young kid. Tissue boxes and rubber bands, a large wooden spoon and a pot, plastic eggs with dried beans, and plastic cups all make great DIY musical instruments for an easy independent activity for a 5-year-old. Making the instruments themselves and then playing them is a great experience for a young child. 

Children playing their variety of musical instruments
13. Art Projects

Creating art projects at the kitchen table is a fun independent activity most 5-year-olds love to do. Pull out all of the scraps of paper, glue, kid-safety scissors, washable paints, glitter, crayons, etc., and let them go to town! Make sure to get a picture of them with their artwork and proud smiles. Self-expression allows us to understand ourselves and process emotions. 

Baby Girl making her art crafts
14. Screen Time

Even though screen time gets a bad rap, there are benefits if used for educational purposes and a strict time limit. Critical thinking skills, problem-solving skills, and communication skills are some of the advantages of using electronics for a 5-year-old. It’s best to research the recommended amount of screen time according to age range by experts as well as age-appropriate applications, websites and shows. 

Toddler boy playing in his tablet
15. Forts

Every young child should experience building and then camping out in the living room in a homemade fort. It is a great independent activity that requires very little help and gives a child a sense of control over their space as well as problem-solving skills. Using queen or king-size blankets, sheets, pillows, and a few chairs as anchors is probably the easiest way to build a fort that will entertain him/her for a good amount of time.

Baby boy inside his DIY fort
16. Tissue Paper Crafts

Crafting with tissue paper is an excellent independent activity that can increase confidence and dexterity. With such an array of colors to work with, the projects are limitless. Tissue paper is great for holiday crafting, sun catchers, flowers, and much more! 

Toddler girl making her tissue paper crafts
17. Collages 

Creating a collage is a fun independent activity for a 5-year-old. Pull out scraps of paper and old magazines and have them cut out or create pictures and words that stand out to them then glue them on pieces of paper in whatever arrangement they want. Check with the library for old magazines. It is a great way for them to express themselves.

Child creating colorful collages
18. Science Experiments

Science experiments do not always require safety goggles and gloves! Cover the kitchen table with a plastic table cover and set out bowls, large wooden spoons, measuring cups, and kid-friendly kitchen gadgets. Household items like flour, and food coloring work great as the manipulatives. Encourage the kids to make predictions and to take notice of the measurements involved in their mixtures. Another interesting science lesson for young children is to have them collect a box of items from the yard and let them observe those items with a magnifying glass. There is always a new skill to be learned through independent science experiments at home. 

Baby girl exploring science projects
19. Water Table

Water tables are perfect for gravity and STEM concepts. As a 5-year-old, they would love pouring and splashing water at a small table while mom and dad get to tackle some yard work. There are plenty of great water tables to purchase but you can also explore the option of  DIY water tables.

Little boys playing with their water table
20. Chores

Chores can be a fun activity that a young child can do independently while you get some other things done. Working on things for mom and dad, even the most simple task, will make him/her feel like a big kid. Make a list of things with check boxes of age-appropriate chores on a piece of paper. Putting away silverware, using a handheld vacuum, and dusting around the living areas are all simple tasks a 5-year-old can do on their own with minimal help. Make it fun by hiding prizes under knick-knacks or in a pile of clothes. Maybe start an allowance. Remember that it won’t be perfect and be sure to give positive feedback.

Siblings washing the dishes
21. Homemade Jewelry

Teach young children the joy of giving by letting them create homemade jewelry. A nice friendship bracelet or macaroni necklace for grandma is not only sweet but also beneficial for hand-eye coordination.

Baby girl doing bead crafts

 

22. Building Activities

Using creative thinking and appealing to curiosity is a great way to encourage independent learners. Building with magna-tiles, legos, and wood blocks is a favorite for 5-year-olds. Another fun option that can teach math skills is constructing buildings out of toothpicks and marshmallows.

Proud baby boy finished his lego piece
23. Make A Pet 

Is your child always asking for a new pet? How about a sock bunny, egg carton duck, or a pompom monster with googly eyes? This is the perfect activity for them to do independently that will give them their very own pet while helping to increase mindfulness and sensory skills. Don’t forget to pick out the perfect name!

Baby boy petting his cat
24. Sort

Help your 5-year-old build their math skills and memory skills with sorting activities. Gather different colored scraps of paper and cut them into shapes, use bags of colorful foam shapes, beads, buttons, etc., and have them sort the items in a muffin tin, labeled paper towel rolls, or just glue them on paper.

Child sorting colorful letters in different bowls
25. Board Games

Want more independent games to build critical thinking skills for your younger child? There are many single-child-player board games available out there! Games like Kanoodle, Block Chains, and Simon increase brain function while allowing a young child to play independently.

Baby girl playing kanoodle
26. Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger hunts are a fun independent activity for a 5-year-old. it builds problem-solving skills as well as increases memory skills. A fun indoor and outdoor scavenger hunt could be a photo hunt. Make a list of 20 items they have to locate indoors or outdoors and put a check box next to each item. Arm them with a kid-friendly camera and set them on their way. Small toys, plants, foods, colored items, and insects are great for the hunt. There are so many different ideas of things to hunt for.  

Toddler inspecting using magnifying glass
27. Painting Rocks

Painting rocks is an easy way to boost your mood and have great mental health benefits. Flatter and smoother rocks work best. Wash them first and make sure to use acrylic paint so the designs don’t get washed away by the weather. As 5-year-olds are still developing their art skills, simple designs like stick people, hearts, rainbows, and words are a great starting point for their age group. Painting rocks can boost your mood and have great mental health benefits. When you have free time have your young child place them around the neighborhood where they can easily be found to brighten someone’s day.

Baby girl coloring rocks

As you see there are a variety of easy independent activities for 5-year-olds that require little to no help. Gathering these go-to items to have on standby is a good decision to be on your way to raising independent learners and promoting solitary play. Now on to what you can accomplish with all this free time!

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