No Prep Activities to Keep Kids Engaged on Days When You Don’t Feel Like Teaching

As a teacher, you know that some days can be challenging, and it’s not always easy to find the time or energy to plan an engaging lesson. That’s why I’ve put together this list of no prep activities that will keep your students engaged and motivated on those days when you don’t have the energy to plan a full lesson. These activities are perfect for elementary school teachers who want to provide their students with fun and interactive learning experiences without spending hours preparing for each class.

no prep activities for the classroom

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No Prep Activities for the Classroom

There are so many no prep activities for the classroom that you can set up last minute. However, incorporating technology, games, printables, and writing into your classroom effectively engages students and keeps them learning, even on lazy days. 😴

no prep activities for elementary teachers

With these ideas, you’ll be able to keep your students engaged and excited about learning, even on those tough days.

Teach the Teacher

In this activity, students take turns teaching a topic or concept to the teacher and the rest of the class. This activity reinforces their understanding of the subject matter and helps build their confidence and leadership skills. You can even get students to “play teacher” with one another. For example, students can select their favorite math concept and practice teaching it to a partner or small group. 👩🏿‍🏫

Read Alouds with Engaging Activities

Reading with students is a simple activity that can help you fill time when you have nothing planned. You will love using these read-alouds because they teach students important social skills while keeping them engaged with extra digital and printable activities.

Check out these books included in this read-aloud bundle!

Act Out a Book

In this fun drama activity, your students can work in small groups to act out a book. This activity can keep your students engaged all day long. Encourage students to write a script, create props, paint a backdrop, and practice before each group presents to the class. If you want some classroom books, check out these blog posts with lists of my favorite read-alouds. 📚

Independent Reading

While students cannot read all day, reading is a great activity when you need to fill some time. I like to give students my Look in A Book worksheets, which allow them to stay engaged and focused for longer. Plus, it keeps them learning, even when I do not feel like teaching.

Show and Tell

This classic activity is a great way to get students talking and sharing with one another. Encourage students to bring items related to a topic or theme you are studying in class. If this is a last-minute activity, you can do the telling part. Ask students to write about it in a journal and then tell the story to the class.

Quick Writes

Set a ten-minute timer and have students write about a topic or prompt related to a recent lesson or unit of study. This activity helps reinforce writing skills and encourages students to reflect on their learning. Alternatively, you can give students a funny picture as a prompt that they can write about. I love searching “silly pictures for kids” and letting my student’s imaginations run wild. ✍🏽

Board Games

Hopefully, you have some board games and cards around your classroom because this is a great way to entertain kids on those days that are just too much. Plus, board games and card games help foster student collaboration, teamwork, and problem-solving skills.

Color by Code

Students LOVE coloring, which is why it is the perfect lazy day activity. Luckily, this bundle of color by code worksheets will keep students engaged but also will keep them learning. It is a fun and easy way to review math and ELA concepts. Simply print the worksheets and have students color them according to the code.


You can use YouTube for a lot more than just watching videos. I love getting my students moving by using engaging exercise videos. You can set up a kid’s yoga class, a Just Dance video, or even a movement break. This is especially useful if you are stuck inside all day because of bad weather.

Doodle Challenges

Give students a prompt or theme and have them create a doodle or drawing. This activity promotes creativity and helps students develop their artistic skills. For example, my students love writing on mini whiteboards, so I often let them doodle on those, and they can draw for hours sometimes! ✏️

Multiplication Bingo

This game is a fun and interactive way to reinforce multiplication facts. All you need are mini whiteboards and markers for each student to play. Select which times tables you will work on; typically, I choose three times tables sets. Ask students to split their board into six parts and write a multiple of the times tables selected for each section. Write times tables equations on the board for students to solve and mark off on their board. For example, if you write 4 x 7, students with 28 will cross off that section. The first student to get all six numbers wins!

Educational Apps

If your students have devices in the classroom, an excellent way to keep them engaged throughout the day is with a promise of device time at the end of the day. In addition, giving students 30-45 minutes to play an educational game can help the day run more smoothly. 📱

Check out these posts for a list of my favorite FREE math and ELA apps:

Categories Game

One of the easiest no prep activities for kids is a game of categories, or Scategories. This game challenges students to think creatively and quickly. Give students a list of categories and a letter and challenge them to come up with as many words as possible that fit the criteria. I love using this website in my classroom because it keeps students engaged for a long time.

Classmate Scavenger Hunts

This scavenger hunt activity encourages students to get to know one another better and work together as a team. It’s also a great way to build community in your classroom. While this activity is meant for before or after holiday breaks, it can be used at any time of the year.

Collaborative Drawing

In this activity, students work together to create a large drawing or mural. This activity helps foster creativity and teamwork. Try setting up paper across your classroom floor or one of the walls. Students can work to create a specific piece of art or let them doodle all over the large piece of paper. 📃

Mystery Pictures

This is another super fun and engaging coloring activity that requires no prep. These informational text passages and questions are a fun and educational way to review geography and history concepts. Students can color in the pictures as they read and learn.

Mystery pictures as early finisher activities

By incorporating these no prep activities into your classroom, you can provide your students with engaging and memorable learning experiences without having to spend hours planning and preparing for each class. Plus, many of these activities can be adapted and customized to fit a variety of subjects and age groups.

No-Prep Activities for Your Substitute Teacher Lesson Plans

Not only are the ideas in this post great for you to use, but they also work wonders when you need last minute sub plans. Trust me, you want no-prep activities for your sub!

But what else can you do to get ready for a sub? I’ve got you covered with 6 practical ideas for how to prep your class for a substitute teacher quickly.


Prepping for a sub doesn’t have to be stressful! This post shares real tips from a group of veteran upper elementary teachers. We also share some of our favorite no-prep activities that can be used any time of the year.

I’m all about saving your precious teacher time to make your life easier!

no prep activities for kids

Remember, every teacher has their lazy days, but you still show up! And this doesn’t make you a bad teacher.

Hopefully, this post has given you some inspiration for no prep activities to keep your students engaged and learning on those days when you have nothing planned. 🤩

Tanya G. Marshall The Butterfly Teacher Transforming Learning for all students

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