If your household is like mine, we are finding ourselves in new territory. The kids are officially distance learning and home for the next few months. While I love being a stay at home mom, this brings the old question of “Mom, what are we doing today?” into my life. It’s one thing to entertain them during the summer or weekends, but it is quite another to entertain them all day for the unforeseeable future. Luckily we have a list of activities for kids that has helped.
Introducing A Schedule
One thing that has really helped our family is introducing a schedule. Kids are used to following a schedule, so making a blueprint for the day will help everything fall into place. It’s a lot easier than you might think. Each morning or night before grab a pen, paper and map out how the day will look at home. The goal is to keep kids busy and learning while allowing you to get other things done too.
You can use their school schedule to help you figure out. Ask yourself the following questions:
What is the best time for snacks? Going outside? Does distance learning go smoother in the morning or the afternoon? Does everyone need quiet time or alone time? Do they need to be on electronics all day? Should you schedule time to play? Do they need to do chores?
Now that you have your day outlined. You can fill in the day with other activities, crafts, exercises, or whatever interest your child might have. You can choose activities that will encourage your kids to have independent play. This will help them depend less on you. You will also be able to get more work done in the meantime.
Easy Indoor Activities
Sometimes going outside isn’t an option. You can try these indoor activities to keep your kids busy while you get some work done.
Toy wash: Fill a sink, plastic bin, or bowl with water. Provide towels and a box of toys that kids can wash (toys with electronic pieces should be hidden for this activity). Throw in some small cars, plastic animals, toy food, plastic keys, etc., and let your kids clean away.
Trash Art: Find some recycled materials and let your kids paint them. Kids love painting random objects and making beautiful creations from them
Dress up: If you have a dress-up box, pull it out and if not, create one with hats, socks, coats, purses, shoes, boots, kid glasses, costume jewelry, old dresses, jackets, mirror, brush, old cellphone, old keys (no scarves or other possibly choking items). This could also be the time to decorate that box. Provide the kids with stickers and markers and let them fancy it up!
Bean bag target toss: Set out a box of bean bags and a number of targets for kids to throw the bags into such as hula hoops or laundry baskets.
Sensory tub: Pull out a bin or tub and fill it with rice, sand, rocks, etc. Place spoons for digging, funnels for pouring through, trucks, plastic animals, measuring spoons, small bowls, etc., in the rice and let your kids dig and explore.
Toilet paper funnels: While toilet paper may be in high demand, you will probably have some empty toilet rolls, paper towel rolls, or (not judging) tubes that bottles of scotch came in. Tape the rolls to a wall with masking tape, provide your child with small items such as cars, small balls, dry pasta, and have them drop the items through the tunnels. For more fun, use multiple rolls beside each other or aligned to make a longer tunnel.
Mini-stick target practice: As you probably don’t want a puck bouncing off your walls, set out some soft balls, bean bags, and place some Xs on your wall with masking tape. Have your kids practice hitting the targets with their mini-sticks or a DIY stick made by duct-taping an empty wrapping paper roll for the handle and a cutout blade from cardboard.
Indoor “golf” course: Create an obstacle course for your kids to golf ping-pong balls or sock balls around and through. Make a line of well-spaced-apart cones or upside-down plastic mixing bowls and have your child putter their way through. Items can be placed in a straight line or around a room. If you don’t have kid-sized golf clubs, your kids can use a fly-swatter or a mini stick.
Scavenger hunt: Create a page of photos of items that you have around the house and send your kids off with a crayon to tick off their finds. Or let them use your phone camera to capture the images. Ensure you have lots of items on the list to keep them busy for a while!
Wash the windows (or fridge): While you may have streaks once this activity is done, this is not the time to worry about such things! Provide your child with a spray bottle of water and a rag and set them out to clean your windows (only those they can reach) or fridge.
Make a mural: Choose a wall that your kids can reach and cover it with paper. If you have paper in a roll, even better! Provide the kids with crayons and pencil crayons and let their inner Michelangelo come out (this could be the ideal time to let them know that the Ninja Turtles are named after famous Renaissance artists!).
Ramps: A ramp is an excellent item to keep kids busy rolling balls, cars, stuffies, and bean bags down. To make your own ramp, simply tape the lid of a bin or a solid piece of cardboard to the edge of a coffee table, kitchen counter, or dining room table, or pull out a crib mattress, prop it up at the side of a crib or a wall and let the rolling begin.
Spider web: Create a spider web (or laser beam maze) in a hallway with tape, wool, or crepe paper streamers. String the materials across each other and let the kids crawl, twist, and climb their way through the maze. Have them try to make their way through the maze in different ways each time. Can they get through the maze without touching any of the webs?
Muffin pan sorting: For the just-able-to-sit crowd or older, fill a muffin tray with various engaging items of different shapes and colours (make sure these are large enough that your baby can’t choke). Children will happily sit and move items from cup to cup (and occasionally chew on items as kids are prone to do!).
Sock-matching: Tick one item off your to-do list if you have lots of mismatched socks in your house needing to be paired, or separate socks already matched. Scatter the socks on the floor and have your kids match them up.
Construction site: Provide kids with blocks and let them use their imagination to build a town, a set of buildings, or a farm where their plastic animals can play.
Tea party: Use dishes, cutlery, and play food from a toy kitchen or use your own, set up a table, some fancy mats, perhaps some simple snacks, and let the kids bring the high tea vibes to your own living room.
Dance videos: Kids seem to be able to operate tablets and phones from younger and younger ages. Set your child up with some music (that isn’t too loud to disturb your work), show them how to take a video (if they don’t already know how!), provide props or dress-up clothes and have them take dance videos (or other silly videos) that they can share with you (probably with much laughter) over lunch or dinner.
Fun Exercise Activities for Kids
You might be wondering how much exercise do kids actually need? According to choosemyplate.gov “Children and adolescents should do 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day. Most of the 60 minutes should be either moderate- or vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity, and should include vigorous-intensity physical activity at least 3 days a week.”
You can mix and match simple exercises as activities for kids such as running, squats, lunges, jumping jack, etc.
You can also google virtual workout classes for kids. There are plenty of free online resources out there for workout videos for kids.
Or to make it fun, you can turn it into a game. You can do some of these fun activities:
Sidewalk chalk obstacle course: You can draw a hopscotch pattern on the ground, draw mazes with loops, lines, and curves. You can even give them exercises to do such as hop like a bunny, stomp like a dinosaur, tuck jumps, spin, jumping jacks, etc.
Squat Relay: Have kids line up on opposite sides of the room, facing each other. On “go,” all kids run toward the center of the room and meet in the middle. They do three squats, giving each other a high-five with both hands in between each rep. Then they return to the starting point and repeat. The focus is on the high-fives and the social interaction. If you have a large group, you could have the lines shift sideways between reps so kids meet a different friend in the middle of the room each time.
Corners: Divide kids up so that they each have a home corner. Then have them run around the room in a circle, On your cue, they return to their home corner and do a few easy exercises (say, 5 jumping jacks or one 30-second plank).
Red Light, Green Light: there’s more going on on the road. Kids stop and start at red and green lights, but they also do a side shuffle for a yellow light, do bunny hops at speed bumps, link elbows and run with a partner for a “carpool,” and even gallop when the cue is “deer crossing.” Make up some more moves with your kids!
Make Screen Time a Routine
Screen time is definitely a part of our list of activities for kids. To keep your kids from “over-indulging” on screens make screen time predictable. Have a set time in the schedule so children know when to expect screen time (like while you make breakfast or before nap time) and for how long.
Turn it off: Follow through when the scheduled time for screens is over, and don’t leave TV on as background noise. If the house feels too quiet, turn on some music instead.
Outside of the scheduled time block, only use screens when you (the parent) chooses it because you need it. Save screens for big moments, like when you have a conference call or dinner prep isn’t going well.
Craft Activities for Kids
Crafts don’t have to be complicated. You can use simple items to create a simple, easy craft around the house. Pinterest has always been my best friend when it comes up with kids craft ideas. Here are a few more ideas for fun, simple crafts for kids.
Rubbings art: Lay out a number of thin items such as leaves, flat pieces of Lego, coins, or buttons (for kids who know not to put these in their mouths!), a stack of thin white paper, and crayons. Show your children the art of putting a piece of paper over an item and rubbing it with the side of a crayon until the item appears. The simple act of taking the paper off the sides of a pile of crayons alone will keep kids busy for a while.
Bunny Craft with Toilet Paper Rolls: Create cute bunnies with leftover toilet paper rolls. Add paper ears, eyes, a pom pom nose and you’re all set. You can just use markers or go all out with buttons, pom pom, googly eyes, etc.
Rock painting: Create some color for your yard for the upcoming warm weather. Provide your kids with washable paint, paintbrushes, and rocks and let the artistry begin. Items can also be provided for kids to glue on to their rocks once they’re dry, such as googly eyes, feathers, or pom poms. Older kids can paint messages of hope and leave them in their neighbourhood for others to read.
Pom Pom Monster Bookmarks: Create little monsters with pom poms. All you need are pom poms, googly eyes, and glue. You can glue them to a bookmark to help you keep track of your reading.
Cereal necklaces: Set up a bowl of O-shaped cereal with plastic lacing cord (or gimp) and have your child string the gimp through the Os.
One thing I have learned is that even the most perfectly planned day doesn’t always go as scheduled. You are destined to have a meltdown somewhere during the day; not have the energy to come up with an activity; or just rather sit and veg. That is perfectly fine. Do what you need to get through the day. You can start the routine back up the next day and use this list of activities for kids to fill up your day.