School’s out for summer the foreseeable. All of a sudden your house is full of the little’uns again and you may be wondering how you’re going to keep them occupied for weeks on end… and save your sanity in the process.
Well never fear, I have a list of fun activities (plus a free 'activity square') that will keep young kids busy while we’re all “social distancing” and the world battles Coronavirus.
Chances are you don’t want your son or daughter sat in front of a screen for the entire time they’re off school, so here are some suggestions for other things they can do.
Most of these are for when you’re feeling a little more hands-on so may require a little help from you. (But don’t worry, I’ve another post coming soon about things they can do independently, for when mama needs to be able to think her own thoughts for a few minutes.)
At-home activities to enjoy together
Kids love to get their hands dirty. Give them a little shovel, a handful of seeds, and a watering can, and away they go.
Bonus points if you’re planting (or harvesting) a little herb or vegetable patch. Kids will be much more inclined to eat their greens if they’ve grown and picked them with their own fair hands.
You could even create a little “nature book” where they can draw and label all the things they see, from plants to leaves to creepy crawlies.
2. Cooking and baking
I know it may take a little longer (and it will most likely be a lot messier), but teaching kids some basic meal-prep skills will stand them in good stead.
How involved they are and how complicated the meal is obviously depends on their age, but mixing, whisking, and pouring are pretty solid places to start.
And let’s not forget the very important job of licking the spoon!
3. Board games
Kids are pretty simple creatures – they mostly just crave attention. So while you may get some push-back initially, if you can get the whole family involved and try make it as fun and interactive as possible, you’re bound to win them ‘round in the end.
Uno and Guess Who are staples in this house. They’re quick and easy to play, and don’t come with a lot of little fiddly pieces.
And I have a Labyrinth board game I’ve been dying to break out, so you can bet Scout’s about to enter the magical fantasy land I’ve been obsessed with since I was about 7.
Even if you don’t have any board games (‘cause boy, they can be expensive), there are endless games you can play with a simple deck of cards or some cutout cardboard pieces. Get creative!
Not the world’s most fun activity, I grant you, but now is a great time to get your kid involved in cleaning the house. Again, this one will be age dependent but younger kids generally tend to like sweeping, dusting, and matching socks, whereas slightly older kids can learn things like laundry and dishwashing.
An old favourite for Scout was when I’d fill her baby bath or a big bowl with soapy water so she could bathe and wash her dolls and some toys.
Use these next few weeks at home to teach them the value of taking care of their space. You’ll pass on a lifelong skill, and you just might take a chore off your own plate.
Writing letters and cards is a wonderful way to pass an afternoon, and I bet you can think of loads of people who’d be delighted to receive a little love in their letterbox.
Create little care packages, write thank-you cards, catch-up letters, or even send some pictures and cards to a local nursing home.
Or how about some notes of respect and appreciation for local healthcare workers?
You don’t have to post them all out immediately (personally, I think it’s best to ease the burden on postal workers right now, or anyone who doesn’t have the benefit of working from home), but having a small stack ready to send out in the coming weeks is a beautiful way to brighten someone’s day… and pass a few hours of your own at home.
6. Reading and role-playing
My local library looked like it had been ransacked the day they announced they were closing because of the Coronovirus, but in a way it was nice to see that people were turning to books.
If you’re anything like me, you probably have a lot lying around unread. Or perhaps a few favourites that can be re-read.
Scout is at an age now where I can finally start introducing her to some of the stories I enjoyed as a kid, so why not do the same with your own child? Was there a fairytale you loved as a little girl? A story that completely sucked you in?
Pass the bookworm torch to the next generation.
Immerse them in magical worlds, let them act out different scenes, put on funny voices for each character, draw what you think the hero and their home would look like…
Go on a great adventure without ever even leaving your house.
7. Learn something new
Whatever your kids are curious about right now, whether it be dinosaurs or Dungeons & Dragons, do a deep dive and let them learn all they can about it. Some of it can involve a little screen time if you’re struggling to find other resources, but you probably already have a lot of books lying around on the topic.
You may even be able to create some experiments, or dress up, or design rocket ships and rainbows.
Talk about it, teach about it, throw a pop quiz to test their knowledge on it, take turns coming up with fun activities related to it…
Maybe even create a project on it. Kids love it when you break out the stickers and glue sticks.
And a few of us adults too. 😉
8. Share your past
Do you remember when your parents and grandparents used to tell you all about what life was like when they were children? You were totally enraptured because it was like a completely different world, and you got to see a different side to them.
Share a little of your history with your own kids. Tell them where you grew up, what you used to do on an average day, what your parents and siblings were like, what you learned in school, what you used to watch, where you went on holiday, who your best friends were…
Teach them how to play some of the games you used to enjoy, sing some of your favourite songs, look through old photo albums, or create a basic family tree so they can start making connections between different people.
If they’re reasonably close by, you could even take them on a little stroll or road trip to some of your old haunts.
9. Create a time capsule or memory box
Kids grow so quickly. Their interests can change on a near-daily basis, and it’s easy to forget what they were like when they were younger because so many things have happened in the meantime.
Grab a little box or tub and let them collect some important treasures in there. If they don’t want to be parted with a particular thing (a favourite stuffed animal, for example) you could get them to draw a picture of the item or put in something else that represents it.
Hand them a camera or your phone and let them go around taking their own photos. (There’s nothing quite like seeing life through the eyes of a child.)
You could even create a scrapbook that captures this particular season of life for you.
Allow them to create a little space that represents who they truly are at that time and what family life is like. Then each year (maybe on New Year’s Eve or their birthday) you can sit down together and reminisce over the past year, choosing what to bring forward into the coming one, and what can be kept tucked away as a beautiful memory.
Being productive when you’re a stay-at-home parent is, at best, bloody hard work. At worst, you’ll drive yourself downright demented. I’ve been both sides of the spectrum, and everywhere in between, so I thought I’d share what I’ve learned along the way.
I know times are tough right now and none of us knows what the future will bring, but I think it’s important to stay optimistic, follow expert guidelines, and avoid giving into fear and anxiety.
And one of the best ways we can do that is by keeping busy, having a little fun, and focusing on practical, productive pursuits.
I’ve created a little graphic for you to save. I’ve also included a blank one in case you’d prefer to add your own ideas, or if you want to change things up for each week they’re off school. (Just right click on each image and select ‘save as’.)
Each day your kids can try tick off at least one box, or even rack up a whole row of them. The challenge aspect should encourage them to engage in a variety of fun activities, and will ease the burden on you to constantly come up with new games and things to do.
And listen, now’s not the time for beating yourself up because your kids stare at a screen for a little longer than usual. Desperate times an’ all that. But I hope this post has given you some ideas for ways you can break up the day, while still keeping things fun and engaging and not losing your mind in the process.
I would LOVE to hear any other suggestions you have in the comments for simple things we can do with our kids while we’re all self-isolating.
What are some things we could add to those blank boxes?
And share this post with your mama friends so we can all ‘beat the boredom’ together.
In the meantime, stay safe.