Quiet Activities Kids Can Do During Read-Aloud Time

by Janssen Bradshaw

Photo credit: karunyapas/Adobe Stock

One of the best ways to get a child to listen to a read-aloud book is by keeping their hands busy. It’s amazing how much their minds can absorb as they listen and how much better they can focus when their hands stay occupied (the same is true for me — I listen to audiobooks while I fold laundry or work on jigsaw puzzles). I have very little expectation of my children paying attention for long periods while staring into space.

These are some of my favorite quiet activities for my children to do during read-aloud time.

  1. Water beads.
    Water beads have been around for a while, and my kids LOVE playing with them. We have a big bin full of them with a few little tools like measuring cups and bowls. Even without the tools, my kids stay occupied playing with them with their hands while listening to me read, and I can’t blame them. They feel so nice!
  2. Jigsaw puzzles.
    Puzzles are one of my girls’ favorite quiet activities while listening to a read-aloud book. And honestly, it’s also one of MY favorite activities while I listen to an audiobook! The younger girls love working on our easier puzzles, but my older girls will tackle more challenging ones. 
  3. Magnetic tile toys.
    Magna-Tiles are one of the best toys out there. They aren’t crazy messy or super loud, and they provide endless building possibilities. We have used ours for years and continue to use them regularly, even as the girls get older. 
  4. Coloring.
    Often, we pull out our coloring bin for reading aloud together. It’s full of all our coloring books, and because I’m sitting there with the kids, I’ll let them use my special markers. If I’m feeling extra motivated, I’ll find a free coloring sheet online and print a copy for each of them before we start reading. This keeps them engaged for quite a long time. 
  5. Paint by Sticker books!
    Have you heard of these amazing things? They are like the old-school paint-by-numbers but much easier and with zero mess! Now, they make books with varying levels of difficulty so your toddler can participate alongside their older siblings. 
  6. LEGOS.
    Whether it’s a big bin of DUPLOs or a small LEGO kit, this is the perfect activity to keep small hands busy. We bought our DUPLO set at a garage sale for 25 cents over ten years ago, and it’s still going strong, four kids later.
  7. Stickers.
    I pick up inexpensive sheets of stickers whenever I find them and then let my kids go to town, sticking them on pieces of paper. It’s one of the best activities as long as you can manage to recycle the paper without them noticing.
  8. Water painting.
    If you don’t want paint on your kids’ hands or clothing, grab a paintbrush and a cup of water and let them paint on the sidewalk or patio while you read!
  9. Play-Doh.
    This is an excellent activity for kids as long as they don’t eat it. If your kiddos can’t resist taste-testing while they play, try making one of these edible playdough recipes. (
  10. Origami.
    Your kids need to be older for this, but grab some origami paper and a simple instructional book and let them fold while you read. This is a fun activity for kids while they listen because they have plenty of time and no pressure to figure it out quickly!

Whether you’re just venturing into the read-aloud stage or firmly ensconced in it, these are great quiet activities to keep storytime fun for everyone!