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I need ideas for keeping hands busy during read alouds


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We are doing read aloud intensive curriculum this year. My oldest would happily lay on the couch beside me listening all day. My youngest I'm quickly learning is going to need something to do while we read. I don't want to do Legos. Right now all I can think of ... coloring, playdoh, hand sewing/hand crocheting. He's not too into drawing but I'll make that an option. Any other ideas?

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Playmobil, marble runs, prepared art projects (our library has craft time and they have all the hard work done and hand kids a ready made kit - think pirate mask - parrot on shoulder, etc

paper weaving project in a bag, like this

, maze books, Usborne sticker books, weaving-pot holder loom, knot tying practice, silly putty, play doh, oil pastels, color by number paint set, sculpey, these




thinking putty



army men, puzzles, magnatiles, rush hour, maze toy like this...



solitaire, ipad app - dragonbox or something like that, I forget the name...

smart games - something like this



exercise ball, jump rope, mini trampoline, rubber band balls, shaving cream finger painting,

prepared activity kits

kiwicrate / tinker crate / doodle crate.


nature drawing, flower pressing, art study, 

this link from Charlotte Mason handicrafts may give some ideas...


the list goes on, lol.



Edited by momee
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Mine would do legos usually -- not the follow the direction kind but just free building.  One of my kiddos liked to roll around on the floor and just move her body.  Usually I let them do whatever they wanted as long as it didn't distract the others or was noisy.  We'd talk about the read aloud at the end so I could usually tell if they had been listening. 

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We have this same issue. Here's a list I put together of things I want to try this year:


Lacing cards or beads -- template here if you want to diy

Sticker books

Coloring/drawing/boogie board

Wikki Stix

Pipe cleaners -- make designs with them, stick in colander 

Perler beads




Little People

Weaving kit

Simple cross-stitch/sewing kit

Other arts/crafts kits (look for cheap stuff at the Dollar Tree or Big Lots)


Sticker mosaics

Snap circuits


Popsicle sticks



Trace stencils

Play with dried beans

Hand-held games (non-electronic -- check Dollar Tree)

Balloons filled with beans/rice/play-doh

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Some things just beg to be misused (Chinese yo-yos and party blow-out favors into my face or sibling's face), so I don't recommend them.  :eek:


Magnets are the best fidget toys ever, but they can be noisy (at least the way my DSs figured out ways of fidgeting with them during read-alouds). Same with marble runs. Rummaging through Legos was also too noisy (even if making their own creations), plus, took away too much of their concentration so they really weren't hearing the story.


Things like craft projects, screens of any kind, puzzles or games took away too much concentration for our DSs to be able to hear and get anything out of the read-aloud. Just our experience. Depending on the child, a few of these ideas below might also take away too much attention from the story; you have to figure out the balance for YOUR child. :)


change-up the sitting aspect

- sit/lay/lounge/scooch around on a yoga ball while listening

- sit on a sensory cushion (with tactile/fidget aspect)

- sit on an "active sitting disc" or variation of one

- lay upside down on the couch next to you and flip the curtains with grubby little bare feet

(yep, this is out of our real life experience; you get to a certain point with those fidgety, impulsive, difficult but lovable ones with learning issues that you just let go of some expectations and come to the realization that, if movement helps this one to learn, and it's not causing noise to distract the siblings, I just don't care about the curtains any more…)


variations on coloring pages:

- colorforms / magnetic / or re-useable sticker book that makes a scene

- little Dover stained glass coloring book and markers

- paint with water coloring book

- black velvet coloring poster and markers

- draw/erase/re-draw on a lap-sized white board with dry-erase markers

(drawing with whiteboard and markers is magical for some reason, and *completely* different than drawing with paper and pencil…)


basket of fidget toys:

- koosh ball

- squeezable stress ball

- miniature metal slinky

- bendable plastic zoo animals (all legs and arms have wires inside, so bend it and it stays)

- Chinese "finger cuffs" sleeve

- Tangle Jr. (at Amazon)

- Toysmith wooden fidget (at Amazon)

- Wacky Tracks (at Amazon)

- Wikki Stix

- miniature Etch-a-Sketch


items you might have around the house:

- a handful of bendable pipe cleaners ("chenille stems")

- string tied in a loop and make string shapes, like Cat's Cradle, or just fidget it around wrist, up leg, lay out a shape in string on the couch, wind/unwind it… etc.

- long metal jewelry chain you're done with -- like a dog tags necklace (little linked balls), or fine-links that "flow" like water

- geoboard and rubber bands

- a handful of rubber bands or paperclips that you don't want back in the same condition as when you handed them over to your child

Edited by Lori D.
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This is what my kids do....


Jigsaw puzzles



Little people figures/houses.




Play solitaire card games (don't know how they concentrate - but they do...)

Lego (can get noisy)

Eat 😉


Oh... And I'm thinking of instituting ironing as a read aloud activity. It's quiet, and oh so productive. Kid has something to do with hands and I get the ironing done. Win win ðŸ†.

Edited by LindaOz
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In our family, we use thinking putty for concert situations and public lectures. At home, anything such as drawing, brushing a doll's hair, petting one of our pets, jewelry making.... pattern blocks. This thread already has great suggestions, but wanted to add brushing a doll's hair because it works so well for my little ones. Silly putty is very similar to the Thinking Putty too.


The ironing idea made me laugh out loud. Thanks "momee" for sharing such a hilarious idea. I told my 15 year old, and she got a bit quiet... I think she thinks I will really do it :).

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I can't see ages but we finally got magnatiles for Christmas. They didn't get put away until sometime in March and even so are still brought out daily. We had to have a rotation for who got them which days during read aloud. This was primarily for my 6,8,11 and 14 year olds. The two youngest get them int the morning during school. They are being played with now while I'm getting my littlest to sleep. I can hear them clicking. They are great because they don't make a mess like Legos.


ETA: I came out and discovered it was my 17 year old nephew. 😊

Edited by busymama7
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My girls like to crochet, knit, embroider, braid, or make friendship or bead bracelets at times during read alouds. But I don't always allow this. It depends on the day, my general mood, how much clanking I want to read over top of, how tired my voice already is, how important I think it is that they learn to listen while not doing something else, and how distracting I think they will be (or have been recently) while I'm reading. I do not like to feel as though I'm reading to myself! That said, if they can quietly crochet or whatever, without being annoying or spacing out too much, there are times when I let them work away. They do have crafting goals, don't you know? They have to keep up with ten granny squares a week, or some such target (I have no idea where these come from). At other times, I think they need to learn to handle a read aloud without keeping their hands busy. So they don't always get to do handiwork during reads.


One thing that used to help here (when they were little) was that I would read a bit (10-15 minutes) and then say, "Switch!" They all had to rotate to the left. So the person on the loveseat came to the sofa to sit on my right, the person on my right moved to my left, and the person on my left moved to the loveseat. I could get a good 45-60 minutes in this way, and they each had "two turns" to sit next to me. But now, alas, they are older, and they don't want to switch! They get so situated and comfortable -- with blankets and stuffed animals and water bottles and Chapstick and crochet hooks -- that it would take half an hour for them all just to move to the left. Also, they don't seem to feel the same need to be  up against my body. So if I said "switch" now, they would say, "Oh, do we have to?"


Perhaps a factor that helps them enjoy read alouds now is my exceptional reading aloud prowess, complete with multiple voices, dialects and accents, perfect rhythm, astonishing grasp of the author's use of humor, occasional pauses to explain arcane vocabulary, and dramatic sound effects. Seriously, I could win awards for my reading aloud, it is that amazing! :D My children applaud and cheer when I read a chapter, and burst into tears when each book is done. :D

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