Spring break started this week, and as of now we have an additional week of spring break tacked on while the teachers prepare for online education. I suspect there will be several more weeks of closures while we try to flatten the curve and slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. With schools closing and everyone encouraged to socially distance from one another, there will be a LOT more time to spend together at home. My kids are a little older (11 and 12), and while I could think of a million fun things to do with them to keep them entertained when they were little, I am finding it harder as they get older. They seem to have forgotten how to entertain themselves, and without friends to play with, they tend to resort to screen time. I have nothing against screen time, but after a few days days of this I’ve gotten a little ragey and want them to get off their butts. I’ve been wracking my brain coming up with stuff for them to do – alone and together as a family – and I thought I’d share with you here my 26 activities to do with older children.
ENTERTAINMENT: (or as we call it in our house, “Forced Family Fun night”).
1). When my kids were younger, we played a LOT of board games. Our favorites were SORRY!, Guess Who (not really a board game, but still fun), and Sequence (we still play this one). Now that they’re a bit older, we’ve been finding new games to play. Our current favorite is Rummikub. I also plan to teach them how to play Cribbage and other favorite “cabin games” (games we usually only play when up at the cabin with grandma). Yahtzee is another favorite that can also teach them some math skills (or to count dice quickly if nothing else).
2). Card games. When I was a kid (gen-X here), I would play solitaire by myself for hours. I also played Yahtzee and Monopoly by myself, but I think that was just me being weird… When they were younger, Go Fish! was a favorite, as well as Uno and a never-ending game of War. These days we play Skipbo and Phase 10. We also taught the kids to play 31 (click here for a You-tube video on how to play) and Golf on vacation by the pool last year, and spent a lot of time playing those two games.
3). Zoos are closed, but the Cincinnati zoo is having a Facebook live show weekdays at 2pm central time. Each day they highlight a different animal, and include an activity you can do from home. https://www.facebook.com/cincinnatizoo/
4). Puzzles! Always a good option and something you can do together (just make sure to wash your hands before and after).
5). Xbox/Playstation/Nintendo/etc. Play WITH your kids! Lord knows how many hours I spent playing Mario Kart growing up. It’s always more fun to have someone to play with.
6). Virtual museum tours. Google Arts and Culture partnered with over 2,500 museums and galleries all over the world to bring the arts to you. Click here for some, but you can also Google your favorites to see what’s available online. The Louvre in Paris is also offering it’s own virtual online tour, where you can visit their different exhibition rooms and galleries: https://www.louvre.fr/en/visites-en-ligne
7). Does your child like to draw? This is something fun for all ages. Check out Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems. Another idea is to have your child find something at home (still life or otherwise) and try to draw a picture of it. My 11 year old LOVES to find photos on her phone and try to draw them. Some are creepy, some are cute…I’m just happy she’s creative.
8). Build a fort! This might be more for younger kids, but I find that the older kids can get much more creative with it. It makes a great quiet space for reading books, too.
9). Coloring. This is fun for kids of ALL ages (and adults!). It can be a great stress reliever, too. You can Google __________ coloring pages (insert favorite character, animal, etc) and hundreds of options will pop up. Print them off and color away!
10). Journaling. Staple some papers together or use an old notebook, and just start writing. This is helpful for kids and adults. Sometimes writing things out helps ease our fears and anxiety, and it’s a great way to keep up with your penmanship, too, for those who are still learning to write legibly.
11). Math: We use Khan academy a lot at home, but some other free math websites are Funbrain (K – 8th grade) and Math Game Time (pre-K though 7th grade). We also download math facts sheets and work on those (you can time them and see how much they improve over the next few weeks!).
12). Reading: This is a no-brainer, and so easy to do. Whether it’s reading together or reading alone – it’s a great way to keep entertained, have some down time and use your imagination. Book reports are something that could be implemented if you want, or a reward for reading X number of books (think BOOK IT!, but you have to have your personal pizza at home. And yes, I do feel old now that I typed that out). An online option for working on reading skills is Into The Book – an online education site for practicing reading strategies.
13). Science: NASA Kids Club has endless topics to explore. You can also have your kids pick a topic and do a write-up on it. Great way to make sure they’re retaining what they’re reading and practicing their writing skills. The Science Mom has “Quarentime” online science school via their Facebook page (here) Monday through Friday from 10am to 12pm central time. You can also google “science experiments” and find numerous ones that can be done at home with things you already have (slime anyone?).
14). General: The National Geographic website has all sorts of interesting things to look through. Nat Geo Kids is great for younger ones, and has a lot of great info/learning opportunities about geography and animals.
15). Start learning a new language! Duolingo has free learning online. As our world is becoming smaller and more connected, this can never be a bad thing.
16). Back in my day, my cousin, my brother and I would have sock fights. Some of my fondest memories as a kid were of these epic battles. We would build forts out of couch cushions, make a home base, gather all the balled-up socks we could find, and chuck them at each other for hours. Good times…
17). Take a walk! Whether it’s walking your dog, or just going on a family walk, getting outdoors is great for the mind, body and soul (as long as you stay 6 feet away from everyone). Check out a new path, or visit a state park (currently open to the public, but subject to change. Click here for the latest from the MN DNR).
18). Ride a bike. As with walking – find some new routes/paths to keep it interesting.
19). Fishing. My oldest loves to fish, and will often go to a nearby lake in the summer to see what he can catch. Now that the ice is melting off the lakes, you can find a little lake near you and fish for panfish.
20). Yoga, together or alone. There are thousands of (free) yoga videos on Youtube, and Do Yoga With Me has free yoga videos online from beginner to advanced. Cosmic Kids Yoga on YouTube is a fun one for the younger crowd.
21). Basketball/kickball/playing outside. Some playgrounds are being closed down, but that doesn’t mean you can’t play in your own yard. We have been playing a lot of basketball (washing hands before and after), throwing around the football, and playing kickball. On a nice day, it’s great to get outside.
22). Cooking together. Breakfast, lunch and/or dinner, it’s always a good time to teach kids to cook. I remember the days that my kids would “cook” for me by putting some spinach on a plate with a string cheese and an apple. There were several other “meals” they made me (such as the one below). Adorable, but I like to think they’ve learned a bit more since those days (or are at least capable of more). Basic cooking skills such as turning on a stove/boil water for older kids, and learning to use a can opener can be good things to do. I think I’m going to have a scavenger hunt for every single food item we need because if they ask me one more time where something is (even after I’ve told them or showed them 100x) I might lose it. I may include my husband in this game as well…
23). Chores/yard work. My kids know not to tell me they’re bored, because I can ALWAYS find something for them to do and it usually involves cleaning. Clean the windows, clean the bathroom, vacuum, empty the garbage/recycling, take out the compost, clean their room, fill up the dog food, clean out the car, walk the dog, mow the lawn (or shovel snow – you never know what you’ll have with a MN spring)…the list goes on and on.
24). Movie night! When I was a kid, we’d have “pizza night” every Thursday, where we’d have pizza together as a family and watch TV. I always looked forward to it, and this might be a good time to implement it. We’re always so busy with sports and activities…it will be nice to slow down for a bit and watch something the entire family can enjoy.
25). Teach life skills. I think this is just as important as what kids are learning in school. Life skills are lacking with a lot of kids (I say kids, but some adults, too – I still bring my clothes to my moms if I need a button sewed on). Maybe I can learn along with them? Things like changing a car tire, checking the battery life, filling a bike tire, sewing a button, reading a map, learning how to do laundry, etc. I know I am guilty of doing everything myself at home typically because it’s easier for me to do it than to show them and then have to re-do it sometimes, but this is important, and a great time to start teaching the basics.
26). Facetime with extended family members and friends. Whether it’s from your phone or computer, give them a call! Let them see your face. We can still “see” each other and keep our distance.
Will we do all of these things? Probably not, but if I run out of ideas, it will be nice to have somewhere to look. Parents – don’t be too hard on yourselves to constantly keep your kids entertained or busy. This may be a good time for ALL of us to slow down a bit, learn to be OK with some quiet time and our own thoughts, and also enjoy some Netflix. Balance is key. We don’t know what next week (or even tomorrow!) will bring, but being forced to slow down a bit and spend time with family will be good for us, and hopefully it will be good for you as well. If you have any ideas to add to this, I’d love to hear them! Leave a comment below.
(Also, sorry for the lack of quality photos with this post. My OCD self is learning to let go a bit right now, and to be OK with things not being exactly perfect. For pretty photos of cute babies and families, please see litterally ALL of my other blog posts). :)
xoxo (or a virtual elbow-bump),