Keep kids of all ages busy while you social distance with these activities.
If you’re a parent, social distancing has likely put you in a pickle. Not only are the kids at home, but many of your go-to family activities are now off-limits. Yet, with a little creativity, fresh perspective, and (yep) some online help, you can stave off those familiar cries of boredom. Here are some ideas for home activities to keep your kids entertained and your household humming throughout this challenging time.
Learn to cook.
When you factor in the extra kitchen help, boost of self-sufficiency, and delicious fruits of your labor, cooking with kids is a no brainer. No need for microgreens or obscure spices as, thankfully, kid cuisine is a simple affair. Start with pizza or mac n’ cheese made from scratch. Tactile recipes are especially fun for little hands, so also consider rolling homemade tortillas or wrapping dumplings. And don’t forget dessert! Few things are more satisfying—or encouraging—than a tray full of warm, fresh-from-the-oven cookies.
Direct a blockbuster.
Before kiddos loop their fifth viewing of Frozen 2, suggest they get behind the camera instead. Today’s generation has unprecedented access to media production, and your old or borrowed phone can help them transform your home into a movie studio. Let kids tackle the many aspects of film production including script writing, storyboarding, set designing, and costuming. Aspiring actors can foster their inner starlet, while the creative types can stay behind-the-scenes producing the next Lego Movie using that increasing collection of minifigures. Up-and-coming directors can keep it simple with just the camera, or add special effects with apps such as Clips and iMovie. Afterward, gather the family, pop some popcorn, and enjoy their creation streamed to the living room big screen.
Plant a mini garden.
With minimal instruction, kids can transform crisper drawer staples into mini plantings that are equal parts science experiment and home garden. Plus, fostering a seedling lends a daily routine where kids can witness each step of the metamorphosis. Budding gardeners can pluck seeds from fruits such as tomatoes, citrus, and berries, nestle them in soil, sprinkle daily with water, and watch as seedlings begin to sprout. Then there are showstoppers such as pineapple crowns that can be germinated in water before planting. You can get creative with planters, too, using organic materials such as egg shells and bell peppers which act as natural fertilizers.
Listen to audiobooks and podcasts.
You don’t need a TV to enjoy a good, captivating drama. The right audiobook or podcast will have kids rapt with interest. Plus, while reading is a solitary affair, audiobooks allow siblings or the whole family to enjoy stories together. And thanks to apps such as Hoopla, Libby, and Axis 360, you can use your existing library membership to check out titles for free, without leaving the house. For parents craving some uninterrupted time, unabridged chapter books are the way to go. Dan Gutman’s My Weird School books should suit the elementary school set, while middle graders will appreciate Dusti Bowling’s Aven Green series and Kevin Sands' history-steeped The Blackthorn Key mysteries. For podcasts, check out Wow In the World which mixes science with irreverent, family-friendly humor.
Explore the small outdoors.
Those with access to outdoor space can bring the camping experience home. Outfit your child’s backyard basecamp with a tent, blankets, and cooler stocked with kid-friendly drinks, and send them on a nature-based scavenger hunt—think spider webs, pill bugs, and hummingbirds—or collect materials for leaf rubbing and rock painting. Spending the night is optional, but that shouldn’t preclude oven-baked s’mores or a movie-equipped tablet when the sun goes down.
Do new-school arts and crafts.
Amidst all the clamoring for screens, don’t forget that, above all, kids love to create with their hands. While you may be past the point where you can lay out crayons and paper and walk away, origami or rainbow unicorn slime might do the trick. If it’s been a while since you’ve sorted your digital photos, have your kids organize them into a slideshow or printable picture book. Or team up with neighborhood parents to publish an online youth newsletter with kid-generated content including stories, activity pages, and Netflix reviews using free tools such as Flipsnack.
When your time doesn’t allow for art school–worthy instruction, turn to the professionals. Outschool offers a broad assortment of inexpensive online classes, from art projects such as sculpting a volcano with a credit card to video game coding. Popular children’s book author-illustrators such as Mo Willems (Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus) and Dav Pilkey (Captain Underpants) are also offering weekly draw-a-longs. When all else fails, 5-Minute Crafts PLAY is a kid-friendly YouTube channel with loads of clever, inspiring DIY ideas.
Join virtual playdates.
Recent social distancing advisories have made video chat services such as Zoom, Houseparty, and Marco Polo household names. Now, while adults clink drinks via virtual happy hours, kids are taking the pen pal idea one step further. Linked by laptop or tablet screens, friends can connect in real time, work on projects together, and challenge each other to matches of Battleship and Pokemon. Still, kids needn’t rely on electronics to stay in touch with friends and family. For your next craft time, make handmade cards to send to loved ones as there’s still no substitute for receiving personal greetings in the mail.
See the world from your couch.
When wanderlust strikes, live cams and online tours can transform your living room into a virtual theme park, museum, or national park. Stroll the gardens and painting-filled rooms of artist Frida Kahlo’s famed Blue House in Mexico City. Check out the most iconic intersection in the world, Tokyo’s Shibuya Crossing. Go beneath the Louvre to explore the moats built back when it was a medieval fortress. Nature buffs can peep frolicking sea otters at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, watch elephants congregate around a watering hole at South Africa’s Tembe Elephant Park, and spy brown bears snagging salmon from cascading falls in Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Preserve.