Between doctor visits, dental check-ups, DMV registrations and oil changes, life can sometimes feel like a giant waiting room—and entertaining antsy kids can feel overwhelming.

When your kid starts to squirm, it’s good to be prepared. Even with an appointment, waiting times can vary from minutes to past an hour. Going equipped with a bag full of “office goodies” will save you the headache of chasing your restless child around rows of chairs at the pediatrician’s office. Here are some items you may consider packing up before your next trip to the waiting room:

  • Simply, yarn. About two feet of string is very compact, yet entertaining. Not only is it great for classics like Cat’s Cradle, but with a little bit of preparation, it’s perfect for lacing cards—basically shapes that can be threaded using yarn. If you have a tiny fashionista, weave it in a braid through her hair for a colorful, temporary accessory. Or, you can simply hand it over to her and let creativity run it’s course.
  • Lacing Cards. These durable, portable pictures are easy to store flat, exercise fine motor skills, and make your kid feel like a little seamstress. To make your own, cut out a shape from thick-colored paper, laminate it, and punch holes at equal intervals along the edge with a hole puncher. Ta-da! Your child will love threading the yarn to create a “hand-sewn” craft.
  • The Staples. Sometimes the old classics are the best. Stick some of your child’s favorite coloring books along with some crayons. Got a kid who prefers puzzles to pictures? Toss in books with word finds, picture finds, mazes, and Sudoku with crayons or even just paper and pencils. She’ll have the option of coloring in her favorite characters, or flipping a page over to pen a poem or play a game of tic-tac-toe.
  • Kid-friendly smartphone apps. The solution for long wait times can be as easy as pushing a few buttons on your smart phone. Playing with age-appropriate apps such as Rock ‘n Addition UnderSea Adventures or K12 Timed Reading Practice provide a quiet, amusing way to help your kid practice math or reading skills. Be sure to silence the sound to avoid annoying any patients or staff in the waiting room.
  • Portable Play Station: Turn a sandwich bag into a bona fide play station. Not only can you throw in some of your child’s favorite mini toys, but you can also get creative. Here’s some fun alternatives that your child may not have thought of playing with: 
  1. Paper clips: paired with yarn, these become fantastic fishing poles. Or, clip to ear lobes or fingertips to get fancy.

  2. Scarves: these inexpensive, lightweight colorful squares of fabric are perfect for encouraging free play.

  3. Tiny magnets: little critters, people, and shapes that can stick to metal furniture legs—or even a fold-up metal setting that’s stashed in your bag.

  • Hide and Seek ... in a bottle! This homemade game starts with a clear water bottle or the tube tennis balls come in.
  1. Measure enough small beads to mainly fill the container with about an inch of air space.

  2. Mix into these beads an assortment of items; like a penny, Barbie shoe, paper clip, small plastic animals, player tokens from games, or anything that fits a theme your child likes. Make sure you record what is hidden amongst the beads.

  3. Then pour the mixture into the container. Seal it tight, using tape if you have to.

  4. Your kid will enjoy finding the tiny trinkets as they move and roll the bottle around. If there is too much shaking noise room, just add a few more beads. And if your child becomes bored, just switch out the items for a new batch!

The next time a line at the DMV stretches out the door, don’t panic. Creating a waiting room goodie bag is a simple, convenient way from keeping your kid from squirming and shouting at an office. A contained mess, low noise volume and a happy child waiting patiently with you can turn an hour-long waiting room nightmare into a well-planned stop on the road of your daily routine.