It isn’t easy to be holed up at home with just your family for company. After just a few days, you may be thinking there isn’t enough coffee or chocolate in this world for a parent who’s stuck home with their kids for weeks at a time. As the parent, though, you have the unique opportunity to set the tone in your home and decide if these weeks will be a nightmare for everyone, or filled with precious memory-making and family-bonding activities.
Here are some fun activities to keep your kids busy while you wait out the pandemic at home:
Marshmallow Tinker-Toys: For a fun twist on the classic building toy, take pretzel sticks and mini-marshmallows and let your child build a world of sweetness. Have them create pretzel-marshmallow people, houses and towns. It’s creative, sticky fun, and best of all, when they’re done, they can eat their sweet creations!
Puppet Shows: All you need for the show of a lifetime is a cardboard box, some Popsicle sticks, old socks (which may have lost their match) and markers for decorating. If you have googly eyes in the house, glue them on for more realistic-looking sock puppets. Have your child entertain you, or be the entertainer — either way works. Let the show begin!
Scrapbook: Spend some quality time reliving precious memories by digging out the scrapbooking supplies and old photos to create a timeless masterpiece together.
Salt Painting: Move over, glitter; this new painting technique makes designs that are just as pretty and twice as fun! Lay a piece of cardstock on top of some old newspapers. Have your child draw patterns on the paper using Elmer’s glue. The glue lines should be on the thick side. Next, pour table salt over the wet glue, making sure all the glue is covered in salt. You can speed up this step by tilting your paper after pouring the salt. Shake off all excess salt. Now, using watercolors, let your kids paint the salt! This works best if the paint is a bit watery so the brush doesn’t have to touch the salt too often; it can simply drip onto the paper. When your child is done painting, they’ll be left with a spectacular, super-cool design!
Teach a Household Skill: Instead of complaining about the endless housework, enlist your child’s help! Even very small children can help sort laundry, load the washing machine and press the buttons to turn it on (with your supervision, of course). Have the older ones help you bake, letting them put their math skills to use by adding fractions in recipes. And, of course, everyone cleans up their own messes when the day is done!
Simon Says, “Draw!”: Give this old favorite a twist by breaking out the craft supplies. Set up a table with paper, crayons, markers, stamps and any other fun coloring supplies you have in your house. Seat your kids around the table and begin an intense game of Simon Says, only instead of movements, instruct your kids to draw something on their papers. You can have them draw basic shapes in specific colors, or something more complex if they’re a little older. Anyone who messes up is out of the game!
Balloon Ping-Pong: No need for a bulky ping-pong table! Just tape large popsicle sticks to the backs of paper plates, blow up a balloon and have your preschoolers play ping-pong with their makeshift paddles over your empty kitchen table!
Let it Snow!: It’s been a snowless winter in many parts of the country, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring the blizzard home. Whip up a batch of homemade snow while you’re stuck inside during the COVID-19 outbreak. Let your kids have a blast creating a winter wonderland that’s almost as good as the real thing. In a large pan or bin, mix 3 cups of baking soda with ½ cup hair conditioner. Note: If you don’t have enough baking soda on hand, you can also use shaving cream for your “snow.” Keep on stirring until the mixture turns cold, soft and feels like … snow! Dig out the toy cars, small beach shovels and collections of Little People or Playmobil people and let the fun begin!
Scavenger Hunt: If your kids are bouncing off the walls from being cooped up at home, have them let off some steam with a good old-fashioned scavenger hunt. Set up hints around the house and have them race from clue to clue searching for the treasure you’ve hidden for them. If your kids are too young to read, this can work with picture clues as well. The “treasure” can be a special treat you have in the house, a new game or art supply you’ve been saving or their favorite stuffed teddy.
No, it isn’t easy to be holed up at home with your kids. But, with some creativity and a positive attitude (and lots of coffee and chocolate), you can fill this challenging time with warm memories your children will treasure for the rest of their lives.
Your Turn: How are you keeping your kids busy during the pandemic? Share your best ideas with us in the comments.