10 Things To Do With Tired Children

Tired Children

Tired Children

Image by Richard Stebbing

Now obviously tired children need more sleep, but there are times in a family’s life and stages in the year when this just doesn’t quite happen. We are experiencing a bit of this in our house at the moment.

In Australia, the Christmas season also sees the end of the school year for children. My children are starting to show signs of “end of the year” tiredness, particularly the prep child (first year of school). We also have two birthdays at this time of year and the children’s school runs a swimming intensive program at the local pool for a week and a half. So whilst I endeavour to bundle the kids all off to bed as early as possible each night and encourage them to sleep later, they are still beginning to get quite tired.

Tiredness and kids in our house can quite often lead to crankiness, whining and fighting, so managing activities in the evenings and on the weekends requires some forethought and planning.

I had hand written a list of things to do with tired kids, while I wash sitting by the bath watching them the other night and I actually asked each one of them, what it was that they liked to do when they were tired. Without prompting, (between the four of them that are verbal) they actually covered seven out of the ten that I had on my list!

Not all of these activities are appropriate for all ages, some do suit all the ages in my house 0 – 10, while some are aimed at the little ones and others aimed for the older more independent kids.

1. Cubby House

Helping the kids gather the required materials to build an inside cubby house is a favourite with the 3 and 5 year olds. They will then grab their pillows, soft toys and a blanket and lie inside and play quietly together.

2. Read A Story

Thankfully all my children love books, so this activity can be either reading on their own (in the case of the 3 year old, looking at the pictures) or me sitting with them and reading a favourite story.

3. Audio Books

The last couple of Saturday mornings, instead of taking the younger children off to the older boys cricket games, I have opted to stay home so they can rest. I have let them stay in their pj’s and choose a story CD to put on. They have then lay on the couch listening quietly for over an hour.

I can highly recommend the The Enchanted Wood (Faraway Tree) and The Folk Of The Faraway Tree read by Kate Winslet. WInslet reads with great enthusiasm and gives all the characters unique voices. And given that I have listened to it for hours and hours now, I am relieved that they are not CD’s that get on my nerves!

4. Bath

I find that this trick works particularly well for the younger children on days when they are hot and tired and we have been out and about. To help them relax and calm themselves, I have swapped our daily routine around and let them bath in the middle of the day. I have found it refreshes them and they will happily play for over half an hour.

5. Colouring In

All my children find this activity relaxing. Sometimes when they are tired and seem to be just wandering around the house and seem unable to focus on an activity, if I grab out some pencils and some colouring sheets, sit down and start colouring myself, before I know it I will have all of them joining in!

6. Jigsaw Puzzle

This activity also works for all the kids. Often one child will start working a large puzzle and the others will then gradually being to join in, working quietly together.

7. Verbal Games

We have one room in our house that doesn’t have much furniture in it and is carpeted. This the room where I will often find the kids lying on the floor when they are tired. It can be fun to lie down with them and play verbal games like “I spy”, 20 questions or the shopping game.

8. Cloud Games

This activity is obviously dependent upon clouds being available, but sometimes when the kids are tired, it is good for them to hop outside and get some fresh air. Lying on the grass or on the trampoline and looking up at the sky to make shapes out the clouds, is a relaxing way for them to pass the time.

9. Lego

We have a huge container of Lego and all the kids (bar the baby of course who just eats it!) enjoy playing with Lego. They can make their creations as complicated or as simple as they wish, but it is an activity that they do quietly either by themselves or their siblings.

10. Pull Back

This is really something for me to do and it is to realise that the kids are tired and pull back appropriately on activities, so that they don’t reach the complete meltdown stage. For me this means things like staying home Saturday mornings to just let the young ones rest and limiting the number of Christmas catch ups we do.

How are your kids fairing at the moment? What do you do with tired kids?


  1. says

    Excellent article thanks, and so true. You have to sometimes consciously make quieter activities or you do hit that melt-down stage. We like colouring in, lego, puzzles, quiet imaginative play with toys and animals, and play-doh in our house :)

  2. planningqueen says

    Catherine – I agree that if the weather is nice, doing a quiet activity outside is very helpful.

    Monique – Can’t believe I forgot play doh! It is a great quiet activity for the kids to play.

    Green Mama – Sometimes it can be very helpful to give the cherubs (and mum :) )a change of scenery!

  3. says

    LOVE your list, PQ. Perfectly timed and super relevant as always.

    For us, one of the big advantages of home schooling this time of year is the ability to reduce the amount of outside stress the kids are exposed to. I have really wound down the work load and we are instead focusing on activities that energise, rather than those that take our energy.
    TJ (7yo) is the only one at school, and they have a similar “reduce stress” policy at this time of year. In fact, they recently had a ‘mental health day’, where students went to school but there were no formal classes, just minimally structured activities – many like the ones on your list!

    Good luck making it through the silly season :-)

  4. says

    I’ve been canceling non essential things left, right and centre for my girls. The regular end of year tiredness, combined with autism sensory overload is just exhausting them.

    Love the link to Enchanted Wood, going to buy that right after I finish commenting here. Annie has just started reading the Magic Faraway Tree to herself and this will be a lovely surprise for her.

    In previous years I was able to give the girls a full day at home every second day but now Annie is in Prep that is not happening.

    We have a tent that we use at this time of year, similar to your cubby house idea. The beauty of the tent is I can take it with us when we go to visit friends and family for Christmas parties. I can put the tent up in a quiet room that is not being used (often the parents bedroom). The tent always looks the same inside so gives the girls comfort of the familiar environment as well as a quiet place to retreat.

    The other thing I try to do is make sure all our Christmas visits are short. My girls don’t want to miss out on the fun stuff, like last Saturdays Kinder Christmas Party and Disco Karaoke. So we went but I made sure we arrived early before there were many people there and left as soon as they showed first signs of it being too much (which was thankfully before the disco started). Being prepared to leave if necessary is so important. We warn people that is what will happen before we agree to attend anything and most people understand.

    Also avoid the shops as much as possible, try to only shop with one child or even if a miracle occurs without a child at all. Thankgod for online shopping.

  5. Catherine S says

    A number of shops (including the big supermarkets) do colouring competitions at this time of year – I go around and collect up the colour-ins and then set my kids to work. It’s amazing how much the prospect of winning something focuses their attention (it’s also a good lesson in managing disappointment as they have never yet won!)

  6. says

    Forgot to mention an amazing CD we got for Annie. It is a relaxation story for children called “Sleepy Time Tales – To The Sunset” by Noni Turner age range 3-9yo. I purchased it from Honeybee Toy store. It has been a godsend, we put it on Annie’s iPod and she goes to sleep listening to it.