Try These At-Home Activities for Kids to Get Through the School Closures
Times, they are uncertain. And the reality of coronavirus is that we may find ourselves cooped up with our kids for quite some time. But let’s do our best to make lemonade out of lemons, shall we? If we’re going to be together—or outdoors practicing social distancing—we might as well get creative. Here, 19 at-home activities for kids that will delight everyone from your tantrum-prone toddler to your too-cool-for-school tween.
What To Do with Kids Ages 2 to 4
The toddler/preschool set is particularly challenging, since they require eyeballs on them at all times. But there are quite a few activities (indoor and out) that will keep them occupied with minimal effort on your part.
1. SET UP A TAPE ESCAPE WITH THEIR TOYS
What you need: washi tape or painter’s tape. What you do: Tape their fave tiny toys (think Moana figurines) to a wall or table—any place that’s within their reach. (Thanks for the brilliant idea, @themamanotes.) Peeling the tape is a fun challenge that not only promotes dexterity and fine motor skills but also keeps a kid entertained for many minutes.
2. GET CREATIVE WITH SORTING BINS
Muffin tin? Check. Various pasta shapes? Check, check. Now, encourage your toddler to get to work sorting everything into its own compartment in the tray. (You can also use bowls if you don’t have a muffin tin.) Your job: Sit in close proximity and keep tabs while they develop this math skill, which, BTW, teaches them to analyze data, find relationships between objects and apply rules to groups. (Find loads of ideas for more objects to sort here.)
3. USE DECONSTRUCTED BOXES FOR LARGE-SCALE ART
Depending on your situation, you may still have time to order a roll of kraft paper for your kids. If not, it’s time to get crafty. Grab a box from the recycling and break it down. Then lay it out—and tape it up if you have to—so your kids can color, paint and create. The bigger the canvas, the longer they’re entertained.
4. TURN THE TUB INTO A WATER PARK
Parental supervision required, but the bathtub doesn’t have to be reserved for bath time only. Let your minis wear bathing suits as they hit the “pool” for some water play with their favorite toys. You could even use kitchen items to let them set up some pouring stations.
5. THROW A PUZZLE PARTY
This age-group has a lot of puzzles, and they may have even mastered some. For a fun new (and time-consuming) challenge, take out every single puzzle and mix all the pieces together...then ask your child to put them back together. This task helps toddlers learn shape recognition, concentration and goal setting. And we speak from personal experience when we say it keeps ’em engaged.
6. HIT UP THE ACTUAL PARK
You’ll need to steer clear of the playground equipment for now, but it’s A-OK to let them burn off some energy in a wide-open field. Bring a ball, a Frisbee or their go-to scooter (we love the Micro Mini)—just skip the finger-food snacks while you’re out and be sure to wash everyone’s hands for at least 20 seconds as soon as you get home.
7. CUE UP ‘DANIEL TIGER’S NEIGHBORHOOD’ OR ‘SESAME STREET’
The news you desperately needed to hear during this time: TV for toddlers is OK as long as you are selective with the type of content they’re consuming. For example, both Daniel Tiger and Sesame Street provide loads of interactivity for little ones, whether it’s through question-and-answer segments or vocab and math lessons (all hail the letter of the day!). And if it gives you a much-needed sanity break, that’s incredibly valuable, too,” says Lindsay Powers, author of You Can’t F*ck Up Your Kids: A Judgment-Free Guide to Stress-Free Parenting.
What to Do With Kids Ages 4 to 6
This age-group lives for burning off steam, so being cooped up indoors during COVID-19 is going to be a parenting challenge, for sure. But there are still many activities that will keep them busy. (Exercise included.)
1. PLAY A ROUND (OR 10) OF FREEZE DANCE
Stress and anxiety is running high right now, so why not cue up their favorite tunes and encourage your kiddos to cut a rug? Then up the ante: Every time you pause the music, they have to freeze in zany poses and make their silliest face. Game on.
2. TAKE A VIRTUAL KIDS’ YOGA CLASS
God bless social media. Can’t make it to your favorite kids’ yoga class? You can still help them “namaste” thanks to the amazing humans of the world who are making their in-person classes virtual. (Shout out to @karmakidsyoga—peep their IG Story feed for class times.)
3. PLAN A DIY SELF-PORTRAIT SESSION
Tools required: paper and crayons or markers—whatever you’ve got. Next, set up a mirror and encourage your kids to sketch what they see. This is a great opportunity to teach them about a wide range of facial features—say, their eyelashes or their nostrils. But it’s also important to let them get creative as they sketch their own vision of themselves: “Purple eyes? How cool!”
4. GO FOR A FAMILY BIKE RIDE
The hand-washing directive still applies, but encourage your kids to join you and blow off some steam on a bike ride—even if it is just around and around your cul-de-sac.
5. CUE UP AN EDUCATIONAL YOUTUBE CHANNEL
Even the most superhuman parents rely on screen time in a pinch. Just try to prioritize educational content over the crap. Our favorites include The Brain Scoop (which features eight- to ten-minute episodes about everything from baby dinosaurs to shark fossils) and TED Ed (your kids will love learning fascinating facts, like how the Brooklyn Bridge was built).
6. ORCHESTRATE A COLOR SCAVENGER HUNT
This suggestion comes courtesy of blogger and author of the upcoming book Be Curious Joy Cho. Use paint chips, construction paper, crayons—whatever you have at home—to make a rainbow “map.” Then send your kids all over the house to look for each color on the map. Looking for yellow? Maybe it’s a puzzle piece. Maybe it’s a banana. The sky’s the limit.
What to Do With Kids Ages 7 to 11
Most schools are offering some sort of remote education for kids in this age-group. But there will still be plenty of time to switch things up. Here are some ideas.
1. TEACH THEM THE ART OF HAVING A PEN PAL
Encourage them to write to their grandparents. To their bestie from summer camp. To their cousin. No matter the recipient, make it fun by busting out your prettiest paper and pens and supplying a few talking points. (What have they been up to lately? What did they eat for breakfast? What are their thoughts on this crazy time?) Writing helps kids make sense of it all—and it’s even better if they have someone to address their thoughts to.
2. BUST OUT THE BOARD GAMES
Rotate who in the family gets to choose today’s game, then let that person be the “game master”—reciting and keeping tabs on the rules, getting the first turn and announcing the winner at the end.
3. CUE UP A GREAT PODCAST
So many are geared toward this age-group, whether your kid is into open-ended questions like “Are unicorns real?” (they’ll love But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids) or science that explains the history of boogers and farts (try Brains On!).
4. GET OUTSIDE TO GARDEN
Again, fresh air = good. Assign each kid a task, whether that’s watering the plants or weeding around them. (You could even have them set up a log where they can take notes on blooms and growth.)
5. STAY INSIDE AND BAKE
Stress baking applies to kids as well as adults. Now’s the perfect time to encourage your tween to perfect her recipe for banana bread. Or try her hand at something more ambitious, like these “everything bagel” cauliflower rolls. Yum.
6. START A FAMILY BOOK CLUB
There’s a good chance Amazon (or your local independent bookstore) will still be delivering. Or you can pluck a book off the shelf that you’ve been meaning to read forever. If you only have one copy, give everyone a chance to read, then plan a time when you’ll discuss over fun snacks. And if a book seems too hard, there are a zillion other options that will lead to great conversation: Maybe it’s a cool article. Or a movie. Heck, it could even be that podcast you just finished listening to. The time to get creative is now.