I am a big fan of activities for my kids that take very little preparation and can occupy them for a very long time! I enjoy spending time with my kids, but sometimes I have to get stuff done! On a recent trip to Lowe's (where I actually did buy some paint) we grabbed some paint samples. I had a plan in mind, but my 4yo thought that these paint chip samples were some sort of fantastic prize or something! She actually carried them around for awhile at home and packed them in her purse when we would leave since she thought that they were so special.
After the novelty wore off, I enacted my plan. I needed to get some work done and actually get dressed to go somewhere that day. So, I drew some roundish shapes on the back of the orange and white paint chips and gave her the kids scissors. I cut out a few shapes from a black paint chip for faces, and a few leaves from a green one. I also gave her a glue stick and a wet paper towel for when she got sticky.
Now, I did stay nearby to supervise because we were dealing with scissors here. I also helped her tape popsicle sticks on the back for stems, but mostly she did these herself. It kept her occupied most of the morning and she wasn't making a mess all over my house.
I am a big fan of independent play for my kids. I want them to be able to occupy themselves and think creatively. Sometimes this simply means facilitating an activity or craft project for them.
Here are some more things we have done...