It’s now been nearly a year of shutdowns and quarantine. Most of us are getting a little stir crazy, especially those of us with kids engaged in remote learning.
The more time we spend confined to the house, the more difficult it becomes to keep everyone occupied. Your family probably exhausted its list of at-home entertainment months ago. Though it might be tempting to send kids back to their regular activities, it’s best to wait until it’s safe to do so. Here are a few ideas for keeping your kids entertained while you’re all still stuck at home.
1. Catch Up With Friends and Family
If your kids haven’t been in the classroom or attending their regular activities for a while, they’re missing their friends. Feelings of isolation aren’t limited to adults, so do whatever you can to encourage your kids to stay connected. Kids old enough to have their first kids phone can set up calls or texting times. Younger children will need parental assistance to get set up and coordinate calls.
Talking on the phone with friends will keep kids feeling more connected and willing to avoid solo screen time. Don’t limit them to their immediate friend group, though. Think of the people you haven’t seen in a long time, too.
Encourage your kids to call grandparents or other family members who are probably feeling just as isolated. They’ll be delighted to hear from your kids. Your family can even reach out as a group and create positive memories connecting with relatives.
2. Invent a Board Game
Something else the whole family can enjoy is game night. Unless, of course, there have previously been one too many fights taking place over the Monopoly board. If prior game nights have caused small-scale disasters, try putting a different spin on the fun. Encourage your kids to create a new board game you all can play later.
Having kids make up new games is a perfect stay-at-home activity for several reasons. You’ll appreciate having an evening when you don’t have to plan something to do. You’ll also get some kid-free time to yourself during the day as they devise the game. Your kids will be using their imagination and creativity instead of staring at a screen programmed by someone else.
3. Plant a Family Garden
Activities that give your kids something to do and provide a benefit to others are ideal. Every project you take on as a family means that you’re spending more time creating shared experiences. One such project could be starting a garden.
Though it might be a bit early to begin planting things, your family can start planning its garden now. Talk with your kids about what you want to grow and where. Turn gardening into a learning experience by figuring out which growing zone you live in and what produce grows there.
Involving your children in the family garden project from the outset will give them increased ownership over results. They might even be convinced to eat a home-grown vegetable or two.
4. Find a Pen Pal
Writing to a pen pal is another project that you can take on as a family or allow your kids to do solo. If you have close friends who live out of town, it’s a great way to keep in touch. Alternatively, your kids could write to a classmate, relative, or friend they aren’t permitted to see right now due to quarantine regulations.
Letter writing has become something of a lost art. Set your child up with a stationery kit of their own, including colored pens, fun paper, and stickers. Working on handwritten letters will give your kids a productive break from screen time. It will improve their writing and social skills, and getting responses in the mail is ample reward.
Encourage your kids to send at least one letter every day: “You gotta write ’em to get ’em.” After the letters are sent, you can make a big deal of checking the mail together, looking for letters in return. Add this to your shared daily routine and celebrate the excitement when a reply arrives.
5. Learn a New Skill
If sending and waiting for letters is too passive for your kids, encourage them to learn a new skill. YouTube offers tutorials on everything from sewing to learning to whistle with your fingers. Help them find a skill that aligns well with their interests or something entirely new.
When adding new activities, keep your investment of time and money on the lower end. After all, not every new interest they spark will catch fire. Depending on what they eventually choose, this new activity might be a way for you to snag some kid-free time, too.
There are plenty of options available to kids who want to learn. They could sign up for online music lessons, learn how to code through play, or start learning to cook. Let your child try out a few things and see what sticks. Once you’re able to leave the house for activities again, your kids may have discovered a whole new passion.
6. Put on a Show
Kids who already have a passion for performing or storytelling will love this. Instead of another night of streaming entertainment, encourage your kids to be the entertainment. They could put on a play they wrote or show a movie they made themselves. Such activities allow kids to flex their creative muscles in a fun way the whole family can enjoy.
Help your kids out by providing access to Halloween costumes, makeup, and jewelry you don’t wear anymore. The more ridiculous, the better. If your kids aren’t up to creating a whole performance, let them do a fashion show. Even an afternoon playing dress-up may be the perfect activity to beat the buildup of stay-at-home boredom.
7. Go on a Family Staycation
At this point, the whole family is probably bored by the daily routine wrought by the pandemic. Though traveling probably isn’t in the cards for many of us right now, that doesn’t mean you have to remain stuck. Block out a few days — even a whole week, if possible — and plan a fun-filled family staycation.
Many zoos, museums, and national parks offer virtual experiences that allow you to see them up close. Once you’ve explored some of these opportunities, try creating some of your favorite restaurant foods at home.
You can also plan a family slumber party in the living room or the backyard, assuming it’s warm enough. Talk with your kids about their favorite parts of family trips and work together to recreate them the best you can.
Finding ways to keep kids productively occupied is a huge challenge right now. Most of us weren’t thinking we’d still be stuck at home together once the new year rolled around. If you’ve run out of ideas, or some of your attempts are meeting resistance, give a few of these a try. The goal should be to break up your normal routine while keeping everyone safe.