Phew. It has been a month hasn’t it?!
I won’t pretend anyone is having it easy right now, and there are different categories of “not alright”, but let me tell you: if you’re a parent, and you’re struggling right now, you are not alone.
Whether you work or not, having a kid (or more than one) cooped up at home right now is bordering on agony for everyone. Cabin fever, exhaustion, no breaks, and boredom are starting to reach a critical mass.
We are extremely fortunate that Bryan and I are working, and we just moved into a larger home (which has been in the works since December; no quarantine fleeing here), so we’re no longer stuck in a 1400 square foot open floor plan apartment. And, even in the best possible situation, we’re going bananas – just like everyone else.
For the last couple of months, I’ve been rounding up activities and ideas to entertain my three year old, and myself, while we’re stuck at home. He was home for awhile in February due to illness and recovery, and now – well, you know.
Since we’re all in the same boat right now, I want to share all the ideas I have in my bag of parenting tricks to help you entertain and engage your toddlers and young kids, and hopefully buy you a few extra moments of peace and focus.
Cooking & Food
- Get kids involved with meal planning, by letting them pick an ingredient or flavor to plan the meal around.
- Take a virtual cooking class.
- Make your own play-dough. Recipe here, gluten free recipe here.
- Do some spice cooking: give your child a bowl of water, a spoon, and some old spices in shakers. Let them make a “recipe” with it. Alternately, use dissolvable packing peanuts.
- Bake something together. Anything.
- Practice chopping different veggies each day.
- Organize a contact-free cookie swap on your block or in your building.
- Assemble a thank you basket of (packaged) snacks and water for delivery people.
- Work on picky eating, using activities from books like Adventures in Veggieland, websites like Kids Eat in Color and Mama Knows Nutrition, or use this opportunity to cook new foods, since we’re all making do with what we can find in the stores!
- Make slime!
- Create food art.
- Make rainbow noodles.
- Dye eggs, even if it’s not Easter.
Music, Arts & Crafts
- Take a music class.
- Build a homemade butterfly feeder
- Use an art kit to make a tote bag, your own Monet painting, or a finger painted masterpiece. Make one yourself, or order pre-made kits here (Chicago only).
- Draw with Mo Willems!! This has been one of our favorite quarantine activities.
- Make toilet paper roll crafts. One of my favorites is these toilet roll binoculars. Google has tons more!
- Make your own dress up clothes. For example, we made a doctor’s coat out of my husband’s old undershirt and a Sharpie, with a stethoscope made from construction paper.
- Make a castle, bus, or robot out of a large cardboard box.
- Make a grocery store out of cardboard boxes (stack them sideways so the openings face front, and tape them together. Put clean recyclables, like cardboard boxes and plastic bottles, on the shelves to “shop” for).
- Flatten the box and draw a city, or a road, on it.
- Make balloon rockets!
- Build almost anything with recyclables around the house.
- Paint rocks for the garden or front yard.
- Build a Duplo or Lego tower each day until you have a whole city!
- Have a concert with pots, pans, and wooden spoons.
- Make your own puzzle: print any picture, and use scissors to cut it into about 8 large pieces.
- Color rainbow coloring pages to hang in your front window, or make rainbows out of window paint, construction paper, hearts, or whatever you like!
- Built and test a paper bridge.
- Make signs or a banner thanking delivery people for their hard work!
- Color a different letter of the alphabet every day.
- Challenge yourself to think of 10 words that start with each letter and then draw or write those things.
- Make greeting cards to send to friends and family.
- Go on a (socially-distanced) neighborhood photo safari.
- Practice color sorting with household objects.
- Try bubble painting or straw painting.
- Make paper airplanes and see how far they can fly. Bonus: add light weights (like a paper clip) and observe how that affects the flight.
- Create small parachutes and drop them from the highest point in your house.
- Make stomp paintings.
- Assemble a giant bubble wand.
Movement & Exercise
- Gather 10-20 popsicle sticks or index cards. Write one exercise, movement, or dance move on each one. Turn them upside down and randomly pick 1-2 cards every so often (depending on your child’s attention span) and do that activity. Of course, you can do this with non-physical activities too!
- Or use one of the ready-made random activity generators, like the Go Noodle version above.
- Try one of Go Noodle’s other games, exercises, or mindfulness videos on their site.
- Go on a nature walk scavenger hunt.
- Or really any indoor or outdoor scavenger hunt. You can make it up on the fly, or theme it (for example, items that all start with the same letter, are all the same color, etc.).
- Play hide and seek.
- Make a blanket and pillow fort in the living room.
- Practice crabwalks and wheelbarrow (you know, walk on your hands while someone holds your feet!).
- Sidewalk chalk or masking tape obstacle course or maze.
- Have a picnic outside or on the living room floor.
- Try some “homenastics“.
- Play Simon Says.
- Leave chalk messages on the sidewalk for friends and neighbors who may pass by.
- Easter egg hunts, inside or outside, any time of year.
- Go for a socially-distanced bike ride.
- Organize a rock search on your block: everyone contributes painted rocks and the organizer hides them around the block every day for kids to find on their walk. You can do this for your kids only, but it’s much more fun when the neighborhood gets in on the fun.
- Have a dance party.
- Play freeze dance.
- Clean the house – no really. My son loves to vacuum, spray, and wipe things down so why not put that to good use?
- Create an outdoor board game.
- Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Need I say more?
- Catch a bedtime story with Dolly Parton or Josh Gad.
- App: Epic! Kids books and videos.
- Watch Peter Pan on Broadway.
- View a wild animal in your own home! Google search the name of the animal on iPhone or Android, and use the “view in 3D” option. It will open your camera and will show you the animal moving around your house! You can even take a picture of your children with the animals.
- Peruse Sesame Street’s Fun At Home YouTube playlist for something you like.
- Or, check out the Sesame Street website for more videos, printables, and other resources – including many for adults.
- If that’s not enough Sesame for you, stream free recent episodes of Sesame Street.
- On that note, the PBS Kids Video app is providing tons of free content too – including the ability to watch PBS live (for iOS and Android).
- Becuase PBS is the gift that keeps on giving, they also have a huge library of other free apps for younger kids. Many of them are focused on building science, math, and reading skills, without feeling too, you know, educational. Don’t forget, there is also a Sesame Street app, too.
- Watch classic Disney movies on Disney+.
- Let them browse and pick a new show to watch on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.
- Or, if they’ll tolerate it, switch the language on their favorite program to something other than what you speak at home. You can usually do that in the episode settings.
- Try the Kahn Academy Kids app, which is full of free books and learning activities.
Education, Enrichment, and Sensory
- Here is a massive list of educational companies that are offering tons of free resources in responses to school closures.
- Attend a storytime. There are tons and tons, but this one has tons of options and this one works on English and Spanish language skills. And the Chicago Public Library just announced a daily Facebook Live storytime, which you can view on their Facebook page.
- Take a class or read a free e-book. (Also, check with your local library for more free e-book and e-learning opportunities)
- Use those leftover plastic Easter eggs to work on fine motor skills.
- Learn about history
- Do a STEM experiment from Dyson.
- Make a car wash or doll bath: plastic basin of soapy water, another plastic basin of clean water, and a couple of washcloths or veggie brushes.
- Paint the sidewalk with water and paint brushes. It’s the gift that keeps on giving because you just keep painting as the water dries.
- Take a Lego bath.
- Finger paint with shaving cream on the bathroom wall.
- Try some muffin tin color sorting.
- Try a vinegar and baking soda experiment.
- Freeze a thin layer of water on a baking sheet, drive some cars on it, and then add salt, watch it melt, and drive the cars over it some more to experience the changing texture.
- Sink or float experiments: pick 5-10 household items, predict if they’ll sink or float, then run the experiment by dropping them in a bowl of water.
- Make a rice or oatmeal sensory bin.
- Theme the day and pick activities from the above lists (something to cook, something to create, something active to do, etc.) related to the theme.
- Education.com has a huge library of educational games, worksheets, and lesson plans for preschoolers-5th graders.
- Practice counting – pizza!
- ABC Mouse has tons of reading, math, science, and art activities for 2-8 year olds.
- Run a Magic Milk experiment.
- Or create a Rain Cloud in a Jar!
- Sign up for the PBS Kids free daily newsletter. It is packed with activities.
- Color and fill in some travel printables, and take an imaginary trip. Bonus: “visit” the sites on your trip through Google and YouTube. Just search for a tour of the pyramids, or whatever you’re interested in.
- While you’re on your virtual trip (or just because), take a virtual tour of a famous museum.
- Write a play.
- Perform your play.
- Theme the day according to that letter, with an emphasis on doing activities and eating foods that start with that letter.
- Practice writing your name, and your family member’s names.
- If it’s not too on the nose for you, learn about germs.
- Practice writing in a sugar or salt tray.
- Invest in some water beads. They never get old!
What do you think? Will you try any of these ideas? Did you discover anything that I haven’t listed? Share your ideas and experiences in the comments below!