With the social distancing movement well underway, parents everywhere are having to keep their kids home from school. Everywhere I look, people are posting ways to work on academics with your kids from home. But no kid wants to do schoolwork the whole time they’re at home. In addition to reading, writing, and arithmetic, I think it’s important to also focus on motor skills, creative thinking, and social skills (which can sometimes be a little hard when you’re not supposed to really socialize…).
Here are some things I’ve come up with to help.
With the mad dash everyone made to the grocery stores recently, you may have ended up like me with really random stuff in your pantry. This might mean thinking outside the box when it comes to meals and snacks. Here are some ideas for how to turn this into entertainment:
Stage a home version of Chopped. For those of you unfamiliar, in the popular Food Network show, contestants are given identical baskets of incredibly random foods and told to create a gourmet dish from the ingredients. Designate a parent or other family member as a judge, then give each remaining family member 3-4 items you have in your kitchen. For example, if you were at my house right now, your basket might contain Oreos, canned chicken breast, and rigatoni. (if you think I’m insane, you should see what some of the actual contestants have to work with!) Allow a certain amount of time and access to the rest of the kitchen (maybe set boundaries so important staples aren’t completely used up), and go!
Another version you could do would be to assign a specific generic dish (like quesadillas or pizza), give each family member the base ingredients (such as the tortillas and mozzarella cheese), and challenge them to come up with the most creative yet still delicious version of said dish. A real life example of this occurred during Snowpocalypse. We were stuck in the house for a few days and uncomfortable driving, so I used what I had available and discovered I absolutely LOVE green apple and bacon quesadillas (no joke! try it!). You might be surprised what interesting combinations you and your kids come up with.
Being discouraged from being in social/public settings is made even more difficult when the weather is as overcast and rainy as it has been. But you can combat cabin fever by creating fun ways for your kids to move around the house.
Mock snowball fights. My daughter loves taking balled-up pairs of socks and trying to peg her dad and me with them. She also gets a little extra energy out running all over to pick the socks back up and dodging the ones we throw at her. You can give this a more competitive edge by setting bowls or laundry baskets around the house as goals you have to either try to defend or score on. Make your own rules, or make no rules and see what happens!
Create an obstacle course. If you’re lucky, you have a gymnast in the family who already has equipment (like a balance beam) you can use. But if not, there are plenty of household items that can be used to create a fun and challenging course. Time your kids to see who can complete it the fastest, or switch things up–try doing it on one foot, blindfolded with directions given by others, or backwards. Examples for ways to set up: *use duct tape to create a balance beam (it can be straight or zigzagged); *set up pillows as hopping stones; *use a chair for dips or push-ups; *create a tunnel to crawl under by draping a blanket across bar stools; *hop in and out of hula hoops; *bring a tricycle indoors to ride around the living room.
Work/play in the yard. Even if it’s raining lightly, you can still go out. Ask your kids to pull weeds. Set a contest to see who can find the biggest/smallest/weirdest bug. Try to find a flower or leaf for every color in the rainbow. Jump in mud puddles. Draw on the driveway with sidewalk chalk. Create a hopscotch course (could also be done inside). Climb a tree. Or have everyone choose a book and find a cozy spot outside to read while breathing in fresh air.
Make cards for people unable to have visitors. A lot of nursing homes are banning or severely limiting visitations, so it could be a bright spot in an older person’s day to receive a handmade card or drawing. You may also consider sending cards to hospitals, military bases, police departments, fire departments, or even just friends and family. This is a good time to sneak in a little spelling and handwriting practice as well.
Put on a fashion show. Pull out old Halloween costumes, prom dresses, out-of-season clothes, and makeup. Give each family member a few minutes to prepare a look, choose a song, and then strut their stuff down the hallway. Take photos or videos to share with grandparents or family/friends who would enjoy seeing it.
Paint rocks. If you have rocks in your yard, gather them up, rinse them, and dry them well, then paint with standard craft paint or use paint pens to get better details. Lots of local areas have social media groups dedicated to painting, hiding, and finding rocks around town. Have your kids make several to leave in fun places when you are able to go out. One of my daughter’s favorites is a rock painted like a Minion that she found at Woofstock Park.
Have a poetry slam. Assign a topic, word to rhyme, or let it be free form. Make hot chocolate and sit around snapping your fingers while everyone takes turn reading poetry they’ve written. (Or find poems to read out loud to each other online or in books.)
Social skills and unplugged entertainment:
When I was a teacher, I frequently found today’s kids are used to getting everything immediately, and to being “plugged in” constantly. They didn’t have to deal with dial-up internet that could take an entire minute to connect, or waiting for a photo to upload line by line on the computer screen. They’ve never NOT HAD computers and devices. They aren’t used to waiting their turn to get or do something because they can do everything from their phone, immediately. They aren’t used to creating their own entertainment. And they certainly don’t realize how much moms (and dads) do around the house. So let’s show them.
Meals. If your kids aren’t preparing their own snacks and meals, have them assist with meal prep. They can gather ingredients, unload the dishwasher, clean up spills. Ask them to set the table for the rest of the family. Make them wash their own dishes after meals! You can also let them help devise grocery lists based on what is needed around the house and (for older kids) look up what groceries cost to devise a budget. Work on reading and following recipes. This sneaks in reading comprehension as well as math — can’t find the half-cup measure? Use the 1/4-cup two times.
Downtime. Your kids need a break and so do you. Consider designating an unplugged downtime each day in addition to a time that kids can use devices (if they’ve earned them, or based on whatever system your family uses). Encourage your kids to spend this quiet time reading, writing, drawing, building with Legos/blocks, using Play Doh, stringing beads, or anything else relatively quiet and age-appropriate that doesn’t require a lot of adult supervision and interaction.
It’s easy to get cranky when you are stuck at home with the same people for days on end. Work on patience, waiting, taking turns, and being polite. This can be done through board games, role-playing, or simply reminding kids of what appropriate behavior looks like.
What other fun activities do you have planned while social distancing?