To help those at home and who are looking for inspiring things to do, check out this creative list of things to do that can keep your family active. It’s inspired by lessons I’ve personally learned over the years. I’m a cancer survivor and during cancer treatments, I had to find ways to keep myself busy to pass time while I was “quarantined at home” due to being immune compromised or recovering from surgeries. I’m also a former special education teacher and administrator and am very familiar with finding creative ways to teach academics and daily life skills. As a photographer who specializes in capturing family memories, I understand the need to find activities to share together as a family. And lastly, I am a very happy mother of 3 children who are toddler aged and younger. Keeping my kids active and busy is a requirement for the well being of our entire family. My hope is that something on this list speaks to you and your family during this time of need. I am not endorsed or affiliated with any of these recommendations below. I simply want to offer ideas to help your family pass time in a fun way.
Create a daily schedule together
During the days I was confined to home due to cancer, keeping a daily schedule helped keep me focused. This included keeping a routine for when I would wake up and go to bed. While I would have mornings where I would sleep in late or nights where I would stay up late, for the most part, I would keep the routine of waking up at the same time and going to bed at the same time. For your kids, keeping a schedule similar to their daily schedule for school days will help provide consistency. A daily schedule will also help your family visually see the tasks that will need to be completed that day and it will foster a sense of accomplishment as the tasks are completed.
If you have a whiteboard or chalkboard handy, this will work great. The side of a cardboard box can work, too.
The goal is to stick to the schedule as much as possible; however, be sure to allow your family grace to flex the scheduled if needed. For example, I have a daily to do list for both my personal/home and my small business while we are enjoying our extended time at home. Each day is a success if we accomplish the task we set out to do. I also recognize that this can be an emotionally draining and stressful time for family members and we allow “chill out” days when needed.
Check out The Pragmatic Parent for more info on how great keeping a daily schedule can be for your family.
Create an "I'm Bored" Or "Ideas List"
Have each family member write a list of things they will want to do when they are bored. Place the lists in a spot that keeps the list safe and accessible to family when needed. The fridge might work great for this list. When a family member gets bored, have them revisit their “I’m bored” list and choose an activity from the list.
My kids and I live for music. It’s so uplifting, gets us moving, and creates so many smiles on my kids’ faces. It’s also an activity that we share together which gives us great bonding time. When you feel boredom setting in, turn on some tunes in the house.
Ideas for music time can include playing some of your favorite music from your childhood. My kids have gained an appreciation for all music as they have learned about music from the 1950’s, 1960’s, 1970’s, and 1980’s. Another idea is allowing your child to choose a song to play or allowing them to create a playlist.
With in-person play dates on the “what not to do list,” your kids might be missing their friends. A great way to stay connected can be through scheduled play dates via phone or video conference. My kids love calling their grandparents daily and talking to their cousins. Phone calls typically center around my toddler showing his favorite toy to his cousin. This will not only give your kids a chance to talk with their friends, but might also give parents a bit of comedic relief as you observe the social conversations of kids. Remember that kids say the darnedest things.
Apps like FaceTime or Zoom can help facilitate these meetings.
Design a treasure hunt
Hide something in the house (a coin, dollar bill, candy, etc…) and give your kids clues on where to find it. What’s cool about this is you can design it to be super easy or design it to be appropriately challenging for them.Giving them a challenge like this can teach your children problem solving skills and resiliency.
Cook or Bake Together
Cooking or baking together can be very fun. Even better is getting to enjoy the meal that you create together as a family. To help families at home, America’s Test Kitchen has recipes you can do with your kids. Visit them here.
Let the kids help you or Give them an important task
Household chores and tasks are always a challenge in our house due to having 3 kids ages toddler to infant. We have found that asking them to help us not only allows us to get our tasks done, but it also gives them a huge sense of accomplishment. They love feeling like they helped us. I love that I am teaching them independence, helping others, and teaching them the responsibility of cleaning up.
For activities where you’d prefer your child works independently, you could give them an important task and hype it up. For example, tell them how important it is that they color a page for Grandma or Grandpa. For older kids, have them write a letter to a family relative. And since delivering the colored page or letter might not be a possibility, you can always have your child give the letter to the family via the video conference calling. Older kids can read the letter aloud during the call and younger kids can show the letter to their family member.
Turn household chores into competition
This can be as simple as having your young kids match socks once the laundry is washed. Set a timer and have your kids match as many socks as they can during that time. Give the winner a prize that you find appropriate to the task and for your kids (i.e. a sticker, a quarter, piece of candy, fruit snack, time to play video game/watch their t.v. show, etc…).
I like to keep the kids’ toys organized into containers. When the toys are scattered across the floor, one way I will motivate them to pick the toys up is challenging them to find all the pieces/parts of toys that go into a specific container. For example, instead of telling my kids to pick up the toys, I’ll tell them to find all the cars. I’ll tell them to find all the cars. This keeps them focused on a specific task and keeps it interesting to them. I am with them while they are looking for these cars and I’m giving them prompts like, “Oh I see another car. Do you see it?” It becomes engaging and fun for the younger kids. It’s also a positive interaction between my kids and myself during a mundane household task like picking up toys.
For older kids, consider implementing a sticker chart or check off chart.
You can build incentives/rewards into the chart as your kids complete the tasks. With the kids at home, you might have to give daily incentives/rewards and weekly rewards. Keep the daily incentives/rewards for the small things like stickers, quarters, candy, etc. And keep larger incentives/rewards for accomplishing weekly rewards.
Learning at Home
Would your kids like to hear a story read by an astronaut? Check out this YouTube channel: Story Time from Space
Scholastic has projects available on their website to help parents keep their kids busy and engaged while at home. Check out their page here: Scholastic Learn At Home
You can also print out worksheets that can keep your kids actively engaged and learning. Visit this site for printable worksheets.
Lakeshore Learning is also offering free resources for parents.
NASA is offering free space projects
The Kahn Academy is offering free educational resources. Check out more at the top header bar on their site.
Learn to doodle with Lunch Doodles
Storytime at home read by actors on Storyline Online