Whelp. Here we are. These unprecedented times are multi-layered, triggering a slew of emotions and circumstances. While each person is navigating these strange dynamics in their own way, one thing all parents can relate to is the need to figure out how to keep their kids occupied from sun-up to sun-down while also juggling things like working from home and other everyday activities. This can feel overwhelming, to put it mildly…
To help you out, I’ve collected a range of activities that (for the most part) don’t rely on screens, and instead evoke your child’s creativity and curiosity.
- Storytime Theater: Liven up the ancient practice of reading to your kids by using different voices for each story. And if you find yourself reading the same story over, and over, and over again, keep it interesting by using different voices each time. Sometimes I even sing the story.
If there’s a book that lends itself to theatrics, help your kids create a play based on the book. To help your family stay connected to family and friends during these isolating times, host a digi-performance by inviting a few loved ones to watch the performance through a platform like Zoom or Skype. For grandparents, if they aren’t tech-savvy, record the performance and text or email it.
Invisible Painting: If you find yourself too tired to move, get out the paint brushes (no paint), lie on the couch and have your kids “paint” various images on your back. After they paint something, you get to guess what it was. Kids that can spell can have you guess words. This no mess activity stimulates your kids’ creativity, and gives you a much needed reprieve.
- Screen Time Book Report: Because we all know that screen will eventually come out, infuse some learning into the activity by telling your kids they’ll have to do a mini “story report” on the show or movie. If they can’t write, you can have them verbally answer as you act as their scribe.
Here are some questions to get you started.
- Why did you choose this show?
- What was your favorite part of the show? Why?
- Who was your favorite character? Why?
- Was there a part of the show that surprised you?
- If there was a “bad guy,” can you think of anything good about them?
- Did you disagree with any of the choices the characters made?
- Is there anything you would change about the story?
- What do you think were the main lessons of the show?
You can also have them listen to an audiobook and ask the same questions. The company Audible is currently offering a range of free children’s audiobooks [https://stories.audible.com/discovery.]
Time Lapse, Clean-Up Dance Party: Because pretty much every kid despises clean-up time, infuse fun into it by making it into a music video/ dance party. Set up your phone to record on time lapse-mode, turn on your child’s favorite song, and set the challenge that you clean-up the room before the song (or maybe a few songs, depending on the mess) is done. And of course, be sure to throw some dance moves into the clean up. Your children will likely get a kick out of watching the video after order is restored.
Exercise Video. Get your kids moving by having them produce their own exercise video. Give them access to your workout clothes (here’s hoping you have leg warmers), help them come up with some fun moves, let them pick out a few of their favorite songs, set the phone on video-mode, and… “Action!”
Simon Says. Another great way to get out energy, share the simple rules of this classic game, and have each family member take a turn being Simon. If you’re doing this more to get your kids moving, than to have a competitive experience, get rid of the “you’re out” aspect. Everyone wins if they can make it to the end of the game!
Make Up Hand Washing Songs. As we all know, we must wash our hands for 20-seconds to kill germs. This can be easier said than done for kids. Encourage them to adequately wash by having them come up with fun 20-second songs they can sing while washing their hands.
Book Making. As most kids love spinning tales, let them channel this passion into making their own books. You can create the books by folding a few pieces of printer paper in half, then inserting three to four staples in the spine. Next, set up a station with crayons and colored pencils and let your kids go to town. If your children can’t write, have them draw the pictures of their story, then help them write the text. You can then have a storytime after dinner, where the kids get to share their creations.
Plant a Garden. Teach your children the magic of growing their own food by helping them plant a small garden. If you don’t have a yard, no worries – you can plant an indoor herb garden. Most nurseries (most of which are still open) and online suppliers like Amazon, sell herb garden kits. If you really want your kids to get excited by this activity, let them pick out a few of the herbs or other edible plants you’ll be growing.
Marshmallow-Toothpick Architecture. Have your children draw the plans for a structure, then do their best to build it with mini-marshmallows and toothpicks.
Make Cards For Neighbors. Enhance your family’s sense of community by creating “hang in there” cards for your neighbors. You don’t even have to know your neighbors to do this. Just help your kids write positive messages on folded pieces of paper, then have them draw “happy pictures” – whatever that means to them. Then, you can deliver the cards by leaving them on top of mailboxes (don’t put them inside mailboxes, to ensure you don’t have to touch them.)
Host a Mini-Gala. If you’re missing having events to get dressed up for, host a gala for your family. Have your kids don their fanciest outfits, let everyone pick a few favorite foods for the feast, concoct some mocktails and cocktails, let the kids decorate with streamers, or whatever else you have lying around, and be sure to throw in some ballroom dancing to dramatic music for good measure.
- Sneaky Healthy Baking. Mix nutrition, math, and fun by finding kid-friendly recipes for a few of your kids’ favorite foods - recipes that sneak in healthy ingredients.
A few favorites in our house include Blueberry Avocado Muffins, Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese, and Cauliflower Crust pizza. Smoothies are another go-to.
Before you start, research a few benefits of the healthy foods you’ll use in the recipe, helping kids understand how food impacts their body. When it’s time to cook, make sure your kids help with the measuring.
Build a Fort. If you and the kids are getting sick of being in the same environment day in and day out, shake things up by building an epic fort.
- Make Playdough. Go old school by making a batch of playdough, letting your kids choose the color. To do, mix 2 cups of flour, 1 cup of salt, and 4 tsp of cream of tartar. Next, heat 2 tbsp of oil and 2 cups of water on medium heat, then blend in dry ingredients until the dough forms. Finally, add food coloring.
Create a fun challenge by asking your kids to make various creations, like a castle, space station, zoo, or whatever it is you think they’d be into.
Hopefully these ideas will help you get through this challenging time while also engaging the minds of the little ones you love.