We struggle to find enough time to read aloud our History books in what is a very reading-intensive program. Since I read our Literature books at bedtime, I don't have a good time to read History daily, which makes our progress slow.
I recently found Mystery Mosaic coloring books and they have been a great occupation to keep the children still and content while I read. They are a sophisticated color-by-code project, so they aren't babyish. However, they give even a young child (five or six?) ability to create a beautiful, shaded picture by filling in the squares.
And unlike Legos, Magformers, or any building system (which they play while I'm reading), they don't make noise, a toddler can't throw them, and no fights break out over who has the needed wheels.