I’ve got one child that could sit snuggled up with mama on the couch for HOURS reading books. She loves reading, being read to, and reading to others. Sitting still for a story is not a struggle for her at all. I loved our read-aloud times! When it came time to include her little sister in our read-aloud time, however, I had quite a different experience.

50 Activities that will help you keep your busy kids quiet during read aloud timeThis post contains affiliate links. Please see my Disclosure Policy for details.

As a toddler, she would climb all over us and end up sitting on our open book. Even as she grew, she still remained quite wiggly and unable to keep from chatting,  sitting upside down, or otherwise bouncing around the room.

I quickly grew frustrated with our read-aloud time, and I’ve since had to adjust my expectations AND offer some alternatives to sitting quietly and snuggling on the couch with a book.

Do you have a wiggly child that has trouble sitting still and staying engaged during for read-alouds?  Maybe you have a busy toddler or preschooler who is present for read-alouds but whose constant motion is a distraction to others?

What’s a mama to do?!

The Ultimate Guide to Keeping Busy Kids Quiet (&Engaged!) During Read Alouds - 50 Ideas for keeping hands busy and kids quiet!

 Adjust your expectations

The first thing I had to do was to adjust my expectations for how I thought read-aloud time should look in my family. It was just not realistic for me to expect my active child to sit still for lengthy reading sessions. It is going to take time and practice to develop that ability.

Not only that, but I discovered that having something to do with her hands actually increases her ability to concentrate, focus, and engage with the story! While I would prefer everyone to sit completely still to improve my focus and ability to read, my children’s needs and my own differ significantly in this area.

Give your kids something to keep their hands busy

Begin your reading time by setting out mama-approved activities that will keep their hands busy and their minds engaged. Let your kids know that they can participate in the activity as long as they can do so without making excessive noise or talking. I tell my kids that they may have the privilege as long as it is helping them to listen and not hindering them or others from doing so.

Here are 50 ideas for activities that will help keep your busy kids quiet (& engaged) during read-aloud time. Some of these activities are quieter than others, so choose ones that you feel will work best with your crew. There’s a lot here to choose from, so hopefully, you will find something helpful for your family.

Building Toys

These types of toys can be a great way for active kids to engage with what they are learning — building models, scenes, and even characters from the books they are hearing. They can sometimes be a bit noisy though, so you will have to gauge both your tolerance for ambience noise and your child’s ability to keep their digging around for parts to a minimum.


2. Bristle Blocks – we have these ones, and they are perfect for toddlers & preschoolers (my big kids like to play around with them too!)

3. Lincoln Logs – this would be an especially great way for kids to engage with the Little House on the Prairie or other pioneer books!

4. Marble Run

5. Tinkertoys

6. K’Nex

7. Magformers

Sensory Play

Sensory play can be an especially good way to keep your littlest listeners occupied during read-aloud time, but even older children will enjoy keeping their hands busy this way while listening. Play-Doh and modelling clay also have the advantage of being very quiet!

8. Play-Doh

9. Modelling Clay

9. Water play

10. Sensory Bins/Bags

11. Wikki-Stixs

Puzzles, etc.

Age-appropriate puzzles – your toddler will enjoy peg puzzles, and older kids the challenge of 3-D!

12. Pattern Blocks

13. Lacing Cards

14. Peg Boards

15. Magnets

16. Tangrams

17. Rubix Cube

18. Etch A Sketch

19. Magna Doodle

20. Geoboard

21. Shape sorter


This is my ideal for read-aloud activities – curling up with your children, a good book and some fibre arts in front of the fire sounds so very inviting, doesn’t it? Best for ages 6 and up, but give your preschooler a lacing card and let them pretend!

22. Finger Knitting

23. Loom Kitting – this one was a favourite at our house this winter — even my 6-year-old was able to knit a hat for her doll! We got ours at Micheal’s Craft Store, but it is similar to this one.

24. Crochet

25. Weaving

26. Needlepoint & cross stitch

27. Beading – toddlers and preschoolers can even participate with beading using large, wooden, lacing beads like these.

28. Rainbow Loom

29. Perler Beads

Art & Paper Crafts

Probably best when you are doing your reading at the table, these activities are great for all ages!

30. Colouring

31. Drawing – kids can draw their favourite part of the story!

32. Stickers

33. Stamps

34. Painting – if you want to avoid the mess use watercolours or paint with water sets.

35. Origami

36. Cutting – keep your toddler quiet with a pair of safety scissors and scrap paper from the recycling bin!

37. Stencils

Personal Care

38. Hair braiding

39. Paint fingernails

40. bath – throw your youngest kids in the bathtub while reading to your olders!


“Trick” your kids into doing work while you put up your feet and read to them – it’s a win-win!

41. Wash dishes

42. Fold Laundry or hang out on the line

43. Tidy-up


Because mouths that are filled with food are generally quieter than those that are not!

44. Snack – make snack time your read-aloud time.

45. Lunchtime – schedule your longer readings for lunchtime.

46. Popsicles – this is an amazing way to keep toddlers quiet while you read to older children!

47. Gum – a piece of gum may be all you need to keep your kids quiet during read-alouds!

Take it Outside!

This is a favourite of my children. Mama sits on a lawn chair while the kids enjoy these fun activities close by. Or we combine taking it outside with the above-mentioned eating and enjoy what we like to call a “book picnic“.

48. Swinging

49. Blowing bubbles

50. Sidewalk chalk



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