In the midst of the unprecedented life-adjustments Americans have had to adapt because of the coronavirus, everyday heroes are emerging. This includes our healthcare workers, grocery store employees, and the millions of parents whose kids are at home because of school closures.
I love my kids, but they make awful co-workers. Earlier this week, while on a conference call, my husband was putting our toddler down for a nap, and the smoke alarm started going off. I ran out of my home office to a smoke-filled kitchen and learned that my darling first grader had decided to demonstrate her independence by microwaving a corndog for 12 minutes!
Finding ways to entertain your kids while they’re stuck at home for long periods of time can be challenging, to say the least—especially when they’re bored and hungry for corndogs, and you are working from home. When this “new normal” gets to be too stressful, I remind myself that pulling together as a family is a gift that these times have given us. In this blog post, I’ll share some of the best at-home activities we’ve found to pass the time and have fun as a family.
1. Bake and decorate cookies
While it can be a bit messy, some of the best memories that I’ve made with my daughter (even outside of our current homebound situation) were made in the kitchen, covered in flour and sprinkles. Baking sweet treats is a great way to not only keep your little ones entertained, but it’s also an opportunity to teach them basic skills such as measuring, kitchen safety, and proper cleanup.
2. Play board games
This is a great time to get nostalgic and break out the Sorry, Monopoly, and Candy Land! You can encourage siblings to play together during the day to give them a break from screen time, and/or play in the evenings as a family.
3. Arts and craft projects
There is no shortage of arts and craft project ideas that can be found online. Pinterest is usually my go-to source for ideas and tutorials. A few fan favorites in the Penn household have been to:
Paint pet rocks
Create sidewalk chalk masterpieces on the back patio
Make homemade playdough or unicorn slime
4. Start a garden
It is a universal fact that kids love playing in dirt. Planting a garden is a great way to get your kids outside and engaged in a fun activity. Yardwork, in general, is a great activity to engage in as a family, and it’s a great way to get some exercise. This is also an opportunity for some great “life skill” lessons. If you have older children, you can teach them how to safely mow and trim the lawn (hello, potential future summer job!), plant flowers, and treat your lawn and flower gardens for weeds.
5. Play in the sprinklers
If you have younger children, there is nothing more whimsical and exciting than playing outside in the sprinklers! This may not apply to all parts of the country, but here in south Texas, we’ve been fortunate enough to experience a handful of 85+ degree afternoons, so sprinkler play has been a godsend to our family. Not only does it provide a great energy outlet to my little ones, but it’s also great for my lawn!
6. Have a 10-minute dance party
It’s the middle of the day and your kid is bouncing off the walls with pent-up energy, you’ve been on video calls for four straight hours, and every member of your household, including the dog, is wound up like a clock! Solution: a 10-minute dance party! Find an open space in your home, blast your favorite tunes, and let out some energy. Literally, dance like no one is watching. This will give your kids the opportunity to do some controlled bouncing and you’ll get to take a break to have some silly fun. If you’re a good dancer, teach your kids some moves!
7. Learn a life-skill
As mentioned above a few times, this extra, uninterrupted time together with your kids is a great opportunity to teach them some life skills. While this may not be the best time to introduce your child to playing the trumpet, take the opportunity while they’re out of school to teach them an important life-skill that they’ll use later on, like changing a tire, creating a budget, or cooking a simple meal.
8. Read chapter books out loud
We all know how fundamental reading is to our kids’ education, and this extra time at home is a great opportunity to introduce your kids to some fun adventure stories that have been adapted into movies. Take longer chapter books such as Harry Potter, Charlotte’s Web, or The Hunger Games, and read a few chapters out loud as a family each day. Once you’ve completed the entire book, watch the movie together as a family and discuss the differences between the book and the movie.
9. Help your kids process their feelings in fun ways
Children are incredibly perceptive—they can pick up on emotions, anxiety, and stress, and in these trying times, there is plenty of that to go around. Talking to your kids about what’s going on and giving them the space to express their concerns is important, but kids often channel their feelings into play. Come up with some creative ways to give your child an outlet to express their emotions, like role-playing as a doctor or nurse, or drawing pictures and turning them into a comic book.
10. Give yourself a break
Finally, give yourself a break. Having your kids at home with you for weeks at a time is not easy. We are all trying to figure it out as we go, and some days will be more stressful than others. Remember to give yourself a break. You’re doing the best you can, juggling unimaginable stress and uncertainty, and it’s okay to not know what to do every second of the day. All any of us can do right now is to stay positive and try our very best to use this unexpected time at home with our families to our advantage—making memories and learning from each other.
Stay safe and healthy, friends. We’re all in this together!