I try to keep all of these things within reach in my kitchen, because I usually have to utilize them when I am trying to cook dinner or Josie is very busy with an important project at the table and Genevieve is hell-bent on trying to destroy her project.
Simple toys that have a high success rate in our house and don't require constant supervision include things like blocks, big lacing beads, crayons/coloring books, Little People, stacking anything (cups, nesting blocks, etc.), books, and play food, but sometimes you need to branch out and introduce new things, and why not have it be simple and cheap?
Here are my (our) favorites:
1. Pots and pans and spoons.
4. Pom pons in a coffee container.
7. Pipe cleaners in a colander.
They love poking the pipe cleaners in, making fun patterns, and lacing them in and out of multiple holes. Great for fine motor skills.
9. Paint in a ziploc bag.
Painting without the mess and need for constant supervision! Again, taping the zipper side is recommended, and you can tape the bag right to a table or tray to keep it still.
11. Dry erase markers.
12. Peeling tape.
13. Blanket party.
I know this one sounds a little crazy, but a few months ago I had two cranky little girls on my hands, so I went and collected a bunch of blankets, threw them on the living room floor and shouted "BLANKET PARTY!" They flopped on them, made a mountain with them, and covered themselves and each other up, over and over and over for hours. The next morning the first thing Josie did was ask me for a blanket party (patent pending). Of course, this can lead to tents and forts as well.
14. Playing in the sink.
15. Bucket of water, dish wand, and windows.
And there you have it! Some of my favorite things to keep the girls busy without fear of paint on the walls or playdough in their tummies. Have fun!