With the Kids

DIY ‘I Spy’ Photo Books + 12 Quiet Time Activities

I’m not sure if I should be disappointed or proud of myself.  A couple weeks ago, I gave up.  After years and years of trying to keep my playroom buckets organized, I called it quits.  There used to be a place for the LEGOS, a bucket for Geo Trax, baby toys, Barbies, play food, toy cars, and every toy category under the sun.  It took every fiber of my being to throw the tea cups in with the Thomas trains and the animals in with the princesses.  Oh, it hurt!  But, it felt good.  It felt naughty.  And, good.

I still struggle with this playroom bucket chaos.  But, on my good days, I tell myself that now it only takes 20 minutes to clean the playroom, rather than 3 hours.  Now I have one less thing to lecture the kids about and battle with them over.  After all, they’re small.  I can teach them the value of organization when they’re more mature, right?  I gave up, for now.  Meanwhile, I’ll be living up the extra free time and less frustration…oh, baby.

So, the other day, while I was actively engaged in mixing up/cleaning the playroom with the kids, I started to notice how the scattered toys reminded me of something…what do you think??

Hello.  ‘I Spy’ books!  You know those picture books of random things and you try to find the specific objects??  I ran upstairs, grabbed my camera and started snapping away.  I could literally fill a book with my own ‘I Spy’ pages.  We’ll call it ‘Playroom’ edition.

We haven’t done it yet.  But, I’m thinking digital photo books would be perfect.  Upload the pictures to Shutterfly, have them bound into a small sized photo book, perfect for toting along in the purse, church bag, or car.   On the side of the page, list off all the items to try and find.  The pictures could be packed full or not so busy, making it easier for the little ones.  These books would make a great ‘quiet time’ or travel activity.

Speaking of quiet time and travel activities, do you need ideas?

Here are 12 fun and easy quiet time activities:

1- A ziploc bag of marshmallows and toothpicks for making creative shapes

2- A bag of Fruit Loops and strands of yarn for necklaces

3- Make your own lace boards by decoupaging pictures onto cardboard.  Cut out, and punch holes around the shape of the picture.  Or, cute shapes out of stiff felt.  Punch holes around the edges.

4- Take a small square of wood, hammer nails in rows in 1/3 of the way, across the whole board.  Kids can use rubber bands to stretch across the nails and make shapes.

5- Add opposite velcro pieces to the tips of popsicle sticks (colored ones are great!)  The kids can attach the sticks together into all sorts of shapes.

6- Two words.  Pipe cleaners.  Oh, and awesome.

7- Squares of paper, unwrapped crayons in a baggie for leaf rubs.  Kids grab a leaf, place the paper on top of it, and rub the crayon horizontally over the paper to reveal the leaf shape and veins.

8- Cut pipe cleaners into two inch pieces and fill up a large, empty spice container or parmesan cheese container.  (You know the kind with the large shake holes in the top?)  Fill the container with the pipe cleaner ‘sprinkles.’  Let the little ones shake them (or dump) them out and the put them back in the holes one by one.

9- Cut colored sponges into strips.  Let the kids use them to stack a tall Jenga-like tower.

10- Grab several paint swatches at the hardware store…the kind that have several shades of the same color on one sheet.  You need two of each swatch.  With one sheet, cut out a little square and glue it on a clothespin.  Have the kids attach the clothespin onto the matching color and shade onto the uncut swatches.  Does that make sense?

11- Fill a bag full of beans and small cards with numbers on them.  Have the kids lay out the cards and try to place the number of beans on the card that matches the written number.

12- Take foam swimming noodles and make a slit vertically down one side of the noodle, so it opens on one side.  Chop the noodle horizontally into about 2 inch pieces.  Each piece make a chain link!  Kids can hook them together to make a large chain, make patterns, etc.

For some easy and fun quiet time or travel activities that you can purchase, check out some of my previous posts: Travel and Quiet Time Activities for Kids, 20 Travel Games & Activities for Kids, and Activities for When the Kids Need to Be Quiet.


  1. Love the I Spy idea! Really I love photo books of any sort. Could you also just print the picture and make the find page, then put them in a plastic sleeve? Not quite as cool, but easier to switch out.

    I also want to try marshmallow building…that sounds fun. And pipe cleaners? Yes, awesome.

  2. I like these fun ideas. Thanks for sharing them. I have tried to keep toys separated for my 2 year old, but it never seems to stay that way long. She prefers her own system even though I can’t follow her logic. Most things get tossed into one big toy box. It drives me crazy. Eventually I hope she wants things a little more organized.

    1. Ya, really. I don’t know why it took me this long to realize that organization and little kids don’t go together. As fun as it is to feel like your playroom is an organized Pottery Barn replica, it’s just not real life. Or, at least real life WITH a non-frustrated mother. Oh, the wisdom that comes with experience. Thanks for the comment!

  3. That. Is. BRILLIANT. Do it! I’d never have thought of that. We have the same issue with Legos and small pieces and I have my “I give up moments” too…usually about once a day, LOL…

  4. Awesome ideas as usual Mariel! I’m tired of picking up random junk at the dollar store, etc. to keep the kids happy while traveling. I will be implementing many of these DIY ideas on our upcoming trip to Utah for Jeff’s wedding.

Make and Takes more recent posts