“Mom, I’m bored.” Have you heard that yet? It’s only been one week of closed schools… and it’s probably felt like a long one. Social distancing is tough on kids and tougher on parents. No school, no sports or extracurricular activities, not even playdates! How can we keep our kids occupied during this coronavirus season? Here are 25 (mostly) educational activities to keep your kids busy, engaged, and away from the screen:
1. Read. Make your kids read at least 1/2 hr – 1 hr each day, depending on their ages. Thomas Edison, Ben Carson, and Elon Musk were avid readers, as are many successful CEOs. When Ben Carson’s mother realized that successful people read alot, she strictly limited the amount of T.V. her sons could watch and made them read instead. It wasn’t long before Carson became a voracious reader.
You can do the same — tell your kids they get no screen time until they have read for a certain amount of time. If you want to make sure your kids are really reading, use our free literature guides (you can find them on the home page) to discuss the books with them. Reading Matters and Read Aloud Revival have excellent book recommendations, or check our recommendations for boys gr. 3-6, girls gr. 3-6, boys in middleschool, and classics for girls.
2. Listen to Audiobooks. My ten year old has spent hours listening and relistening to Focus on the Family’s radio theatre rendition of the Chronicles of Narnia. With music, sound effects, and a full cast, this audio series is even better than the movies. If you want your kids to learn about history, try the audio drama of Story of Civilization. My kids have really enjoyed them. Also, Audible has just started offering free stories for kids to listen to. They have a great collection of classics.
3. Write letters. Encourage your children to write hand-written letters to grandparents, cousins, and friends. If they can find a penpal, even better! In addition, have your artsy kids make their own greeting cards. Maybe they can make a stash to send out on birthdays and other special occasions.
4. Keep a journal. My daughter has the most aaamazing journal. In it she has her bucket list, a list of books she wants to read, a mood and food tracker, inspiring quotes, and so much more. With a daily journal, kids can keep track of what they did each day, their favorite moment of the day, things they are grateful for, resolutions and goals, funny jokes they heard, etc.
5. Keep up with the math or master a new math skill. There are many great math websites, such as IXL, but if you want to go screen free, print out these free worksheets from PreAlgebra with Pizzaz. Each worksheet has a riddle; your kids will know they got all the right answers if they can solve the riddle. For younger kids (gr. 1-4) Kumon has wonderful workbooks that are great for drilling and mastering specific math topics. Have your kids do a page or two a day, and an extra page for each time they complain of boredom!
6. Work on jigsaw puzzles. My kids enjoy doing puzzles… sometimes we leave one out on a table and they can work on it in bits throughout the day. My favorite are Geopuzzles , which are geographic puzzles with each piece the shape of a country or state. They’re a fun way to sneak in a little geography!
7. Speaking of geography, play Find that Country. Take out a large map of the world. One person calls out the name of a country/city and everyone else races to locate it on the map.
8. Sharpen that memory! Have your kids memorize and recite a poem. We memorize one verse per week. Or use Geocards to help them memorize countries/states and capitals. Once they’re memorized, print out blank maps and see if they can fill in the maps by memory.
9. Make a family tree. You can make this project simple or elaborate, with pictures and dates. You can print out different templates for free here. Its good for kids to know about their family’s history, and making a family tree can spark some great conversations.
10. Have a LEGO challenge. Tell your kids to build a scene from a favorite story or to make a replica of a famous building. The LEGO Ideas Book has given my kids lots of building inspiration.
11. Plant an indoor/outdoor garden. Let your kids decide what type of plants they would like to grow. To make it more scientific, have your children chart the growth of the plants.
12. Go on a nature walk. Grab pencil crayons, paper, and a magnifying glass. Go outside and find something in nature your kids want to observe more closely: a line of ants, flowers, trees, etc. You might not have to go further than your front lawn. Have your kids sketch what they’re observing with as much detail as possible. Use a field guide to find out the name of the specimen. This week, we drew the daffodils growing in our front yard. We counted the petals and the filaments and labelled the parts of the flower. We rubbed the pollen onto our fingers. This activity teaches children to observe things in close detail and to appreciate the beauty of nature.
13. Make a bird feeder. Watch the different birds that come to feed and learn to identify them.
14. Learn to draw and paint. For children ages 6-8, the Draw Write Now series is an easy way to start drawing. For children ages 9+, Drawing Textbook is a fabulous little book that teaches children to draw three dimensional objects. Paint by number kits are a great introduction to painting.
15. Draw comic strips or make quote art with creative lettering. My son draws funny comic strips; my daughter makes beautiful quote art with creative lettering. At the very least, if your kids are bored, give them some paper and tell them to doodle. Twenty-six of forty-four American presidents doodled, so your kids will be in good company.
16. Make some paper crafts such as origami, paper airplanes, paper dolls, or tissue paper flowers. Some of my children have made oodles of paper dolls from makingfriends. You can print origami instructions from here and paper airplane instructions here.
17. Plan the menu for the week. Let your kids pour over your cook books and decide what they’d like to eat. Have them plan a nutritious and well-balanced menu and write up the grocery list.
18. Then, teach your kids how to cook or bake a new meal/dessert. There are many fun and easy meals kids can prepare, such as pizzas on pita bread, tacos, and chicken salad. Slow cooker meals are also generally easy. By the way, cooking with your kids is a great way to have conversations with them.
19. Learn to sew or crochet. Pull out your sewing maching and teach your kids to use it. Pillow cases and simple garter skirts are easy beginner projects. This website has great instructions for teaching your kids to crochet.
20. Learn to juggle. One of my sons taught himself to juggle with the help of YouTube videos. So this one’s not completely screen-free, but juggling is a fun way to develop focus and dexterity.
21. Build a fort. Let your kids rearrange the furniture and throw some blankets over top. Give them a flashlight and let their imaginations do the rest.
22. Play board games or card games. Our family favorites are Settlers of Catan, Trivia Pursuit, Ticket to Ride, Spot it, and Balderdash. We also enjoy card games such as Uno and Spoons. Last month, my boys binged on Risk. And then, of course, there’s always Chess… so strategic.
23. Make a movie. One weekend, the cousins came over and all the kids dressed up and filmed an elaborate action-packed movie. There was no script; they made up the story of the spur of the moment. The kids were so occupied with the film I only saw them at mealtimes. On another occasion, my boys made a lego animation movie by taking hundreds of still shots. Of course, building the set took hours; filming it took days.
24. Play outside! Have relay races, play tag or capture the flag, toss a football, play wall ball, rollerblade, scoot, bike, play hopscotch.
25. Do a home improvement project. To start, have your kids deep clean their bedrooms and organize their drawers and closets. Then teach them to do some simple fixing jobs around the house, such as tightening cabinet hardware and doing paint touch-ups. This week, my two older boys stained new stair rails and one of them cleaned the minivan. There’s always work to be done around the house, so the sooner our kids learn to help out the better.
I know this is not possible for everyone, but if schools are going to be closed for several weeks, you might consider investing in a quality trampoline. Jumping on the trampoline is my children’s favorite backyard activity. They play gaga ball, basketball, and do back flips. It’s an exhilarating way to blow off energy.
As the coronavirus has shown us, children are extremely resilient. They are also highly adaptable. My experience with homeschooling six kids is that in the absence of screens, children find ways to entertain themselves. Boredom can be the impetus to make them develop their imaginations, creativity, and resourcefulness. You just have to supply them with lots of good books and a variety of activities. And be firm about keeping the screens off.
There are really so many things kids can do even though they’re “stuck” at home. Think of this time as an opportunity to develop new hobbies and interests while enjoying more family togetherness time.
Be happy and stay healthy!
Mary Cooney is a home-schooling mother of six who lives in Maryland. This article is republished from her blog, Mercy for Marthas, with permission.