A friend recently asked me, "what do your kids do all day?" To which I replied "play". At the ages of four and six my girls are out of toddler hood and have become really good at self entertaining.
Now, don't get me wrong there is still work to be done and fights to be stopped. I interact with my kids quite frequently. They ask for snacks about every twenty minutes, they get in screaming matches about every forty five minutes, and they make huge messes from the front door to the back door. I facilitate our routine, prep the food, and clean the mess but I do not dictate their play.
If the back yard becomes boring, we switch to the front yard. If the front yard becomes boring, I take them for a hike, bike ride or picnic. If they seem like they are fighting a lot, I set up playdoh, paint or kinetic sand. If they seem tired, I encourage them to settle down to read books or play alone in their rooms. And everyday we have a mandatory quiet time in which each person gets to be alone.
At younger ages, self entertainment is still possible but takes more facilitating and supervision. For babies, you transition them from play mat to bouncy seat to high chair and rotate toys. Toddlers tend to be the neediest but changing scenery and rotating toys and activities can also help them learn to self entertain. Once preschool hits they are all imagination play all day. If you have siblings close in age you have a built in playmate. But, if you have children of various ages and stages, things could get trickier and I don't have experience with that.
I recently read an article on NPR that says if your kids are not self entertainers that it is not too late to train them. Read "Kids Know How To Occupy Themselves"
If your kids are young, start now! If your kids are older, it is not too late to train them. And let's be honest, now is definitely the time!