Our family is currently locked down as all of Italy is under strict quarantine measures. As the rest of the world starts to implement similar measures to slow down the spread of COV-19, parents and carers are wondering how they will keep their children entertained and occupied while trying to work from home.
Some families will prefer to establish schedules to keep life as normal as possible. Of course you might have online schooling to complete and some after school activities have also moved online e.g. Girl Guides, tutoring and language lessons.
In our house, we are limiting screen time because our daughter already HAS to use it for distance education lessons and we use our laptops to watch movies. Some of the ideas below do require access to devices but the focus is on learning, movement and well being.
You might want to write some of these ideas and put them up on the fridge to inspire kids who insist they are bored. Parenting, especially under these changing circumstances, is ultimately about patience, effective communication and improvisation. And extra cuddles during a time when children are surely experiencing anxiety and stress along with their parents.
Here are some ideas on activities to do at home with your kids during COVID-19 (and beyond). Some of these will require your attention, supervision and/or participation. Some of these will keep children independently occupied. Others will need some set up or preparation time.
It’s inevitable that your working at home and other home based activities are going to be interrupted or compromised. We’re trying to find a balance, support each other’s priorities and make the most of this forced time together at home.
Remember, that in ten years when your kids are grown, it could be that they look back with fond memories of that weird time when COVID-19 kept them in their houses in 2020. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they remembered it as a time of family connection, fun and love instead of monotony, fear and anxiety.
- Read books, comics, nursery rhymes. If they are really little you can read pretty much anything including books and magazines you want to read for yourself.
- Cook together. Make pancakes/pikelets for afternoon tea. Bake biscuits, cakes, slices. Encourage the kids to help in the kitchen. Even toddlers can help out. Fetch things from the fridge and pantry. Wash, peel and chop vegetables. Rip up lettuce leaves for the salad. Crack eggs and mix for scrambled eggs. Mix and hand roll meatballs together…..be prepared for some mess but the sooner you start connecting kids with the process of preparing food and then eating it the better. Put on some music to make it fun.
- Music: play music, sing and dance. Play the Freeze dance game.
- Make music. Pull out the musical instruments or create your own. Have a percussion session. For younger children pull out the pots and pans and wooden spoons.
- Make musical instruments. Recycle small plastic water bottles and rice to make shakers. Google ‘make musical instruments with kids” for heaps of idea.
- Pull out the play dough. Or google a recipe and make your own. Set the kids challenges to make an animal, face or a garden. Or let them freestyle.
- Bring out the Lego. If they need inspiration on what to make put some ideas on strips of paper into a hat (car, dog, rocket, robot, rainbow…) and have them draw one out of a hat. Maybe set a timer and see what they can create in 3 minutes.
- Card games. If they don’t already know, teach them how to play Snap, Patience or Go Fish. Older kids can learn more advanced card games like Cheat. Pull out the Old Maid, UNO and Memory matching cards. Or google ways to play different games using classic French cards.
- Find the board games. If you have little kids who are too little to follow the rules make up new rules and create a fun game using the markers, cards, dice etc.
- Kids can do jigsaws over and over again. Start working on a large puzzle together. Find a space where you can leave it and come back to it on a daily basis.
- Cut paper into square shapes and google origami craft. Youtube videos will give you step by step instructions. Another fun idea is to make a chatterbox. You can customise a chatterbox so that the kids choose what’s inside under the flaps.
- Find some old magazines or junk mail, scissors and glue. Make some mosaic art. Give the kids a theme and have them make a poster about something they like – animals, toys, things in a particular colour etc. Smaller children can randomly cut out from magazines and paste onto paper.
- Find some chalk and take them outside. Have the children lie down on the driveway and trace around their bodies with the chalk. Then they can design and colour inside the body outline. This can then be hosed off later. If you can’t go outside or don’t have chalk you can do the same thing inside if you have large sheets of paper. Use a marker and then have them paint, colour or cut/paste inside. If space and mess are a problem you can downscale this idea using an A4 piece of paper and just outline hands or feet.
- Create animals using hand or feet outlines/paint prints e.g. turkey, octopus, chicken. Google ‘hand print animals’. For older children google ‘animals you can draw using your hands’
- Have a tea party or picnic with soft toys and dolls.
- Make a fort. Relinquish the living room, dining room or similar space to create a fort. Use sheets, blankets or similar. Drape over tables and furniture using pegs to join together and make a tent like structure. Some children might want to ‘decorate’ inside with cushions, toys, books etc. If possible leave it up for a couple of days to encourage make believe play.
- Go outside and collect fallen leaves, seed pods, twigs etc. Use these to make a tree, face, stick people or an animal on paper with glue.
- Use big boxes to make a car/truck or house. Use smaller boxes like cereal boxes to make a mini town. Paint and decorate. Encourage the mini architects and engineers.
- Have a treasure hunt. Give the children a list of things they need to find around the house/garden e.g. a book with a title starting with ‘H’, a red peg, something you can stir with, something white and soft…..
- Play dress up. Make up and play to perform. Or reenact a known fairy tale.
- Make scrapbooks. If you don’t have an exercise book or similar at home, staple together some A4 pages. Get children to create a front page ‘This is the Scrapbook of …..’ and decorate. Every day spend some time working on a page to capture thoughts, ideas or words and drawings of the children.
- Make an indoor obstacle course (or outdoors if possible). Crawl under chairs and tables, climb over a pile of cushions, create tunnels etc.
- Make puppets. Google, download and print out paper puppets to cut out and glue onto paddle pop sticks or sticks from the garden. Use lonely socks to make hand sock puppets using buttons and cotton thread.
- Do a yoga session together. Find a Youtube video to follow.
- Drawing game. Draw a couple of squiggles or shapes on a piece of paper. The child then has to create a picture from those random squiggles. This is great for their creativity and is also great to do at restaurants while waiting for meals to arrive.
- Find some nature documentaries and make some popcorn. Imagine you’re in the rainforest, or on safari or scuba diving on a reef.
- Set painting and drawing challenges. Download and print colouring in from the internet if you don’t have colouring in books at home.
- Raid the recycling bin or your crafting supplies and get creative. Make nonsense things using egg cartons, glue, buttons, ribbons etc. Or check google for thousands of ideas.
- Skype, FaceTime or WhatsApp chat with family or friends. Staying connected, talking and sharing experiences helps keep spirits up.
- Spend some time going through wardrobes to eliminate clothes that are too small or unwanted. Make it into a game with music. Depending on how old the children are it sometime helps to set a reward for the end eg. 20 minutes of trying on clothes, sorting and tidying the drawers followed by something that is fun to do together.
- Go to the beach. Use a blue sheet or blanket to create the sea. Then set up the sandy beach with a yellow or cream sheet or blanket. Pull out the the beach toys like buckets and spades. Use the sea creatures (fish, crabs, jellyfish) you made during craft time. Lay out beach towels. Get into your swimming costume. Younger children will use their imaginations to play at the beach. Older children might just like to lie on the beach towels and read.
- Check out the GoNoodle app for movement and mindfulness videos created especially for kids.
- Have movement breaks. Pull out the skipping rope for two minutes of skipping. Do 10 burpees, 10 star jumps and 10 sit ups. Dance to your favourite song.
- Take a bath. Turn it into a play space. Plastic toys, kitchen equipment like bowls and funnels can entertain kids with water play for ages. Bubbles are fun too.
- If you have an outdoor space go and sit in the sunshine. Read. Weed the garden. Look for bugs. Play in the dirt. Plant some seeds. Water the plants. Climb a tree.
- Take a virtual tour of a museum or art gallery. Many of the museums and art galleries around the world have opened up access to their virtual tours. Learn about the Egyptians, snakes or bridges. Hone in on your children’s interests or just ‘wander around’.
- Encourage them to invent their own games and imaginings during free time. Allowing kids time to be bored is healthy. Day dreaming is fun.
- Children and teenagers who love to write can keep a diary, documenting their thoughts and feelings.. Or write some poetry. Maybe there’s a budding novelist in your family who normally doesn’t have the time to just sit and dream and write.
- Dress up in your summer holiday clothes. Pack a suitcase and pretend your are going on holidays. Older kids could research a destination including travel and accomodation arrangement. Give them a budget and some particular criteria.
- Choreograph a dance and take a video. Send it to some friends for them to learn. Link up using Skype or a similar app and rehearse together.
- Help around the house. Make your bed. Tidy your room. Clean the bathroom. Do some dusting. Sweep the floors. Hang out the washing. Little kids love to help with chores. Older kids need to be doing their part as members of the household.
- Talk about kindnesses that can be extended to other members of your community or neighbourhood. If you can access the post office, write letters to scientists working on the COVID-19 vaccine. Write to the local aged care centre. Write to your great uncle and aunt. Or send emails. Pick up the phone and check in on older people who may need support. Order online groceries together for someone who is struggling. Encourage the kids to think of ways to lift people’s spirits. Make posters and put them up in the window.
- Take the time to talk. Meal times. Bed times. In between times. Being inside for extended periods is undoubtedly going to impact on moods and mental health. Be kind to each other and remember this too shall pass.
- Take photos. Capture each other doing ordinary, daily things. Teach the kids how to frame a photo, zoom in or out and think about composition. Some of the best photos are those of intimate family life. Recording the time of COVID-19 is a perfect opportunity.
- If you have pets spend extra time with them. Take them for a walk. Play and teach them new behaviours. Clean out their kennels or similar. Pets help people feel more connected and grounded. They have a positive impact on our physical and mental health. Your positive attention will help them feel more relaxed and loved as well.