We are over eight weeks into staying at home, and, by this point, your kids have played with every toy and video game they own, and they’ve read every book on their shelves at least twice. Playgrounds are shut down. Depending on whether you live in a house or an apartment complex, you may or may not have access to outdoor space to play. The “easy to make” craft ideas on Pinterest that seemed so appealing (10 projects with toilet paper tubes? We have toilet paper tubes!) turned out to require additional supplies that can only be purchased at craft stores. Even the free coloring pages proliferating online are of no use if you don’t have access to a printer.
So, what can you do at this point? Here are ten ideas that shouldn’t require anything you don’t already have in your home.
- Have a picnic! It doesn’t have to be Pinterest-perfect, with little cut cubes of meat and cheese and a gingham blanket to sit upon. You can literally just take your pre-existing lunch (a bowl of mac and cheese, a microwaveable meal, a peanut butter sandwich) out to your porch, balcony, patio, or front steps. Eating food outside in the sunshine is enough of a novelty to make it seem fun even if it’s nothing fancy. (As a bonus, you can make it a device-free meal and have conversations about what everyone’s feeling about life these days.)
- Design your own board game! Give your kids paper or construction paper and something to draw with (markers, crayons, etc), and tell them that their challenge is to create a new game and then teach the family how to play it. It gives them a chance to use their creativity, and it actually counts as two things to do (first, they make the game, then they play it). Plus, what kid hasn’t tried to rewrite the rules to a game so that they come out the winner? Now, they can build winning into the game if they want.
- Get your kid to teach you the latest viral dances! I won’t bother trying to link to certain TikTok dances in this article, because they’ll have already gone out of style between the time I write this and the time you read this, but I can almost guarantee your kid will know exactly which dances are cool right now. Practicing dance steps over and over gets kids up and moving, and you can all have fun laughing together at how dorky you look trying to do the steps.
- Have a LEGO Challenge! Fox recently aired a show called “LEGO Masters,” where teams would compete to build LEGO models in particular categories. Pull out your bricks (or Duplos, or Mega Blox, or wooden blocks) and compete to build the highest tower or coolest castle or most realistic animal.
- Host a game show! When I was a kid, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” was all the rage. My parents would get me to study without realizing I was studying by playing “Who Wants to Be a Dollar-aire” with me. They’d ask me 100 questions and give me a penny for each one I got right, allowing me to make actual money from remembering what I was learning in school. (Inflation may be a factor here, and a dollar may not be enticing to today’s youth. Perhaps Robux might be a more motivating factor?)
- Journal! With the popularity of series like “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” writing in a journal is being seen more as something anyone can do and not as just “a girl thing,” as it was in my youth. The current global pandemic and national response is something that will be recorded in future textbooks as one of the weirdest moments in recent history. In the same way that we would ask our great-grandparents or grandparents what it was like to be alive during the Great Depression or World War II, your kids may someday be asked by their descendents what it was like to live during the Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020. Keeping a journal, even if they only write a sentence or two in it each day, will help make sure they always remember the answer to that question.
- Go on a scavenger hunt! Make a list of things that might be found in your neighborhood (a painted mailbox, a blue house, pink flowers, a squirrel), then go for a walk and see how many of them you can find. (Remember to stay at least six feet away from anyone else out walking.)
- Teach each other! I know, you’re probably already trying to teach your kids multiplication or geometry or whatever they may be assigned by their schools, but this is also a great time for you and your kids to teach each other new skills. Maybe your daughter loves to play soccer and can teach you some drills or kicks. Maybe your son loves to draw and can show you how to sketch realistic faces. Maybe you’ve always wanted your kids to know how to make their grandma’s cookie recipe, or how to fold a fitted sheet, or how to dance the polka. (My mom actually taught me how to dance the polka when I was in elementary school. She took a folk dance class in college.) Now is the perfect time to pick up a new hobby, and it’s even better if it’s a hobby you can share with and teach to each other.
- Build a fort! Use couch cushions, pillows, a blanket draped over a ceiling fan– whatever you can find and get to stay together. Everything is more fun when you do it in a fort. Bonus: if kids need some alone time but share a room with each other, you can rotate whose turn it is in the fort and let them have the space to themselves.
- Watch a webinar on Do Space’s YouTube channel! I know, I know, it’s shameless self-promotion, but we really do have great content for kids. Littles Lab is perfect for ages 3 to 5, and both Kid Coders and Junior Makers are designed for ages 6 to 12. (Nothing about the other webinars we post is inappropriate for children; it just may be too difficult for them to follow along with or understand. However, if your kid is really interested in a subject we’ve posted a webinar about, feel free to try it out with them and see what they can learn!)
Whatever you decide to do or not do with your kids, the most important thing is making sure you are all taken care of and showing each other love. Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay kind, and we’ll see you in person as soon as we can.