What to do when you're stuck at home with the kids
Activities your kids can enjoy at home.
Sometimes even we intrepid "out and about" types can't get out and about. So what happens when your kids turn into Thing One and Thing Two and your house starts to look like Sally's did after the Cat in the Hat arrived? We prevent the stir-crazies with a little creativity.
Fun Inside the House
Jump the river: An easy game, using just a ruler and a couple of pieces of string: Spread the strings just one inch apart (using the ruler to measure). Encourage each kid to "jump over the river." Now widen the river by an inch each time. Explain the concepts of narrow and wide. See how far each kid can jump.
Start some indoor seed plantings
Interior decorating: Help the kids figure out one thing they can do to make their room a special place
The Fix-it Family: Put on your "Bob the Builder" caps (literal or figurative) and become home handypeople, figuring out what needs fixing, and doing it!
Make a timeline of each child's milestones. If possible, get some pictures from each developmental stage, and tape or pin them to the appropriate place on the timeline.
Cuban Cooking: Clean out the refrigerator and come up with some new combinations of food based just on what you have there. (My friend Tatiana, who was born in Havana, calls this "real Cuban cooking.") Make sure the kids are involved in deciding what to combine. Explain that this is what people have to do in other parts of the world, just making do with what is available. Wegmans isn't everywhere!
ANY Cooking. Or baking. The kids' favorite cookies. A new bread recipe. Anything that's usually too much trouble for a busy day.
Have an indoor campout. Pitch a sheet tent in the living room, plan a picnic on the rug.
Make a "Celebrations book." Print out either one page for each day of the year (365 pages, or 183 if you double-side them) or one page for each week of the year (about 52 pages). Put the date at the top and a lot of blank spaces underneath. Then go through and record the dates of significant events in your family's history, anything that's particularly important to each person: Marriages and births, of course, but also "day I graduated from high school" or "my first date with a boy" (for me it was April 12, 1985...who knows why I remember that), "first day Madison said "Mama," "first day Ella went on the potty." Things like that. Then, at a family dinner every week, you can take out your "Celebrations Book" and figure out what you're celebrating that week.
Make homemade musical instruments out of rolled up paper, or paper towel tubes, or rubber bands, or plastic bottle flutes, or water-filled glasses. Here is a site that shows you how to make homemade instruments. Here is another good one.
Indoor Scavenger Hunt, submitted by Pam DeVos. Our scavenger hunt uses the letters of the alphabet. I made 3 columns on a board starting with the letter A-Z and we go around the house looking for the letters or words that start with these letters.
Make actual use of the older toys: Spend a short time (15 minutes max) with your kids sorting through bins and shelves to make a list of toys they haven't used in a while. Separate the list into slips of paper in a hat, then each child pulls out a slip with the name of the toy. They play with it for 10 minutes, then get to choose a new toy if they like.
Build a fort. Blankets will work, or if you've recently stocked up on toilet paper and paper towels, those work great as building materials!
Mix cornstarch and water. I know it's a mess. But it's cool!
Fun in the Driveway and the Yard
Bike, scooter, or Ripstick. You can set up an obstacle course or try new tricks while staying close to home.
Enjoy the classics. Play hopscotch, 4-square, or jump rope or
Get artsy. Chalk the driveway. Not stocked up on chalk? Use non-toxic, water-soluble paint or, in a pinch, MUD! Use natural materials to build a fairy house.
Be a natural scientist. Take a hike, gaze at the stars, climb a tree, or observe wildlife right in your yard: ants, birds, or squirrels. Take some notes or draw a picture.
Fun with Rain
Measure the Rain Set out a cup in an unsheltered location and monitor how much rain has fallen, and next thing you know you'll be cheering for more rain.
Hunt for worms. When the ground is soaked, the worms need to surface to get air. Kids love examining these creatures and transporting them out of harm's way.
Let rain inspire art. If rain's in the forecast, get the kids out on the driveway with sidewalk chalk, then wait to see it melt. Use washable paint on hands and feet, then head outside to see it wash off.
Perk up your plants. If you have droopy houseplants, bring them outside for a natural watering. Have your young scientist observe and take notes on the rain's effect.
Shake a tree. Head outside under some branches and let kids shake the branches for an instant rainstorm. Kids absolutely love getting grown-ups wet.
Links to More Ideas
5 rainy day toddler activities from American Baby. It works for snowy days too!
Winter Gardening Activities for Kids from the Green Mountain Gardener.
Help your child create an original book from a story/artwork: This service is from "Tikatok.com" but there are others that do this as well.
Documentaries available from streaming services. So you'll feel less guilty about screen time. Updated for 2020.
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