Home with the kids for the forseeable future because school is closed? Debating going to the movies or a local zoo or museum because you don’t know what to do to keep them and yourself from going insane over the next few weeks? I get it. I stay home with my kids 24/7 (although I use the term home loosely as we are generally running around doing things), but I know exactly how crazy it can be. But here’s the thing, the whole point of schools being closed is so that kids won’t be exposed to the virus and/or spread the virus. So keep your kids home. And find stuff to do…. Here are some of the best ideas of heard.
If You Need a Schedule
Some kids (and adults) do best with a schedule. Sure the first day can be a free for all where everyone sleeps in and eats breakfast for dinner and revels in a day home from school. But what then? By the third day you and your munchkins may be going a little insane. It can help everyone if there’s a plan in place. Here’s a suggested schedule from Jessica McHale Photography:
The thing to remember here is that you can make the schedule any way you’d like, reorganize according to when your family wakes up and goes to bed and the things your family enjoys doing.
For Those With Internet Access
There is SO much you can find for free online, and it seems many of them are coming out of the woodwork with this virus. Here’s a picture with some good ideas from That Fun Teacher:
- Online museums with free tours
- People like Jamie Reimer and her site Hands On As We Grow with excellent ideas of things to do with kids of all ages
- This epic spreadsheet of all the education companies currently offering free subscriptions
- We also love, love, love Outschool and I believe they are doing lots of free and/or reduced classes right now
- Skype/FaceTime/Google Hangouts with friends to get some social time in
- Download coloring pages of famous works of art
- Lastly, your local library very likely has tons of movies and books and things that you can check out for free online using your library card; libraries are a huge free online resource
For Those With Access to the Outdoors
If you are lucky enough to have a patio, yard, or several acres and can go outside there are tons of things to do. Our favorite outdoor resource for ideas is the 1000 Hours Outside Challenge website.
- Give the kids paper and pens and have them draw the nature they see: leaves, insects, trees, birds, etc. If you have access to field guides or the internet this activity can be extended to later figuring out what all everyone saw
- If you have sand toys and access to dirt and water you can make awesome mud cities and car tracks
- Basically anything you’d normally do inside you can take outside: dolls, cars, games, etc.
What We Do
In our house we try to do a mix of the things above as well as those below, and rather than use a schedule we just go with the flow and try not to have every day look exactly the same or the kids go insane (and so do I). Feel free to pick and choose from the list below:
- Chase: parents chasing kids or kids chasing parents (if you have slick floors make sure socks are off). This is usually done with one of our kids bent over a truck trying to run us over
- Hide and Seek: you’d be amazed at how fun this can be in your home, especially after the first few rounds when you have to really start getting inventive (it is especially fun if you have young ones who may take awhile to recognize the lump under the covers is mommy = instant ninja nap!)
- Craft Time: pull out everything from old buttons and crayons to broken dishes and boxed noodles. Let the kids decide what they want to make and just be on hand in case they need adult assistance
- Cardboard Box: it’s not just for Calvin and Hobbes, cardboard boxes are the bomb! Young kids like to pretend they’re houses or airplanes or cars and older kids can turn themselves into a robot or build a time machine. There’s no end to a box, especially if you keep it around for a few days. The first day they may just pretend with it and the second day ignore it until you suggest decorating it. Suddenly the box has a whole new life as they paint or color it and add stickers
- Water Play: you do not need a fancy water table. Pull chairs up to the kitchen or bathroom sink, put a large bowl in there and fill it with water. Give the kids nonbreakable items to play with like metal funnels, metal measuring cups and spoons, wooden spoons, plastic cups, etc. In our house this activity can literally keep my kids occupied for an hour
- Reading Time: books they love and have heard a thousand times can be “read” to you and books they’ve only read a couple times can be re-read now. Expand this activity by asking if they want to write a book. You can write the words for them if they don’t write yet, but let them have full charge telling the story. You can even expand this activity to the next day by asking them if they want to illustrate their book. Want to expand it for another day? Have the kids create costumes and a set and enact their book for you!
- Donation Time: you may have cleaned out rooms before the holidays to make way for new toys, or you may not, but now is a great time to do it again, after all it has been three months. Get two garbage bags and help the kids go through their stuff throwing garbage in one bag and toys that still have life but are not entertaining for your kiddos anymore into another bag (feel free to let them do this by their selves if their old enough while you go do your own stuff)
- Slime: there are TONS of videos on YouTube that will show you how to make your own slime and you are almost certain to have the necessary ingredients on hand. This can take half a day from finding the “recipe” the kids want to try, to following the recipe, to playing with their slime
- Cards: did the kids already thank everyone for their holiday gifts? Have they made Mother’s Day cards for grandma (or you)? Is anyone having a birthday soon? When was the last time you thanked your waste disposal person or your package delivery or mail delivery person? There are tons and tons of reasons to make your own cards (especially just to say hi!). They can make cards for family members, friends, people in your neighborhood who may be elderly and at particular risk of infection right now but who could use a happy card to cheer them up, etc. (please note that if you DO make cards for the elderly that you should actually wait to give the to them since the the card itself could transmit the virus to them)
- Camping/Cooking: build forts or tents in the living room and then pretend camp in them. Have a picnic lunch in the tent or a high tea. Honestly, there’s so much about food prep that can take up so much time if done with children instead of for children. Not only does it take up time, it’s also teaching a valuable skill
- Dance Party: we love to throw on music and have a family dance party. We all dance as wild as we can for as long as we can. Great way to use up energy and hilarious. It’s also fun to then play a Simon Says style dance party where everyone tries to copy the moves of another person
- Laundry: even the youngest kids can marry socks and the older ones can help with hanging stuff up. Make it fun by playing sock puppets while you find the mate or dressing up your stuffed animals in the clothes before folding and putting away
- Shoe Boxes: everybody has these bad boys lying about. They are great to turn into DIY doll houses, car parking garages, diaramas, etc.
- Games/Cards: obviously…
- Puzzles: when you run out of the ones you have, make your own! A piece of paper or a piece of cardboard painted/drawn on/colored is all you need. Then cut the painting into pieces, mix em up, instant puzzle
- Plant Seeds/Pits: when we find a particularly delicious orange or apple or avocado (or whatever) we save the seeds. Grab an old egg carton, throw some soil in the egg cups, and stick in your seeds. Water them and wait. Every few days check if they need more water and within a week or so you should see some green popping up from anything that was viable. When they get big enough you can transplant them or cut up the egg carton and give your seedlings away (or if your kids are older and entrepreneurial, they can sell them!)
And since this isn’t really what I do for a living, I’m sure there are way better ideas out there as well. A Google search will probably give you an unending assortment of ideas. This is just what’s been on my mind today as I hear about more and more school closures and hear parents starting to panic not because of the virus but because they simply don’t know what to do with their kids all day.
I sincerely hope you have the ability to stay home with your kids. I sincerely hope you have the disposition to enjoy it. And I sincerely hope you all remain healthy and happy and calm.
~~~That’s one hour~~~
Please Note: I am in no way, shape, or form affiliated with any of the above links. I do not make a penny, get any free stuff, or in any way benefit if you use any of the above information. This is purely caregiver to caregiver love. Be well.