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10 Activities To Do with Your Kids During the Covid Shut In

(Or Any Time You Need a Distraction)

By Jody HolmanPublished 4 years ago 6 min read
Don't let the scoundrels get the best of you!

I am not a parent who is above bribes. Nickels, jelly beans, a few minutes of screen time- pick your poison. But I have learned that these “incentives” need to be coupled with at least a tad of interest and a skosh of engagement by your target rascal or they can fall flat.

As all of us are housed up now, I was thinking, nay, empathizing with you parents who are home with 4 and 6 year olds. My boys are teens now, and I have been relieved from the job of Master of Entertainment on a daily basis, but since this “sheltering in place” is not entirely different from my past 17 years raising two boys as the captain of the quotidian activities, I thought I would share some tried and true activities that I fell back on time and time again. These activities may feel a little “old fashioned” but they are intended to be a break from the screen, to provide easy opportunities to engage your kids, and some may even give you a chance to have 15 or 30 minutes to yourself (yes, can you imagine?!)

1) Easy games on paper- remember Hangman? {Make this fun with some goofy words to keep your kid interested: bookkeeper, lynx, boogerface, peepeehead- you get the idea).

And how about Pig in the Pen? These are both easy to make by hand or print out from your computer (Excel is easy) to have at the ready.

Plus, don’t forget codes… we used to do these a lot. Sentences like “Charlie kisses slugs” go a long way.

2) Treasure Hunt- I used to make a few of these at a time and keep them, rubber banded, in a jar, ready for hiding at a moment’s notice. While the hiding does take a few minutes, if you can do it while kids are sleeping or otherwise distracted, you are set up for a good 10 to 30 minutes of lone time if you do it right. Make sure you have a lovely “prize” at the end: an ice cream cone, some stickers, or maybe it is some screen time, which might give you a WHOLE HOUR of time! Your clues can be as complicated (poems, limericks, vague hints, e.g. “There once was a boy named Cal, who slept with this cute fuzzy pal”) or as easy (“under the kitchen table”) as you have the energy for. For younger kids, you can draw. If you have two kids, you can color code the clues so they alternate the reading and finding, or you can do two hunts at the same time (I know! Mind blown, right?!).

3) Hide the towel (or sock, or…) This is really the lazy man’s version of hide and seek, as you can likely sit in your chair for most of it. My grandfather used to play this with me for what seemed like hours (probably 15 minutes in “adult-time”). Find a colored hand towel and hide it in the room you are in- a part of the towel must be visible without having to lift or open anything. (Hiding it on you is not out of bounds!) I have never met a kid who doesn’t love this game. If you have two, they can play it together. If they lose interest, change rooms!

4) I Spy- This game requires observation and creativity from your kids, and not too, too much involvement from you. It is a good chance to get outside, but it works anywhere. “I spy something brown”, or “I spy a ladybug”, or “I spy a buffalo”…. These can be items in artwork, toys, or real… This game is a great entrée into 50 Questions, which is fun for older kids. Teach them how to ask alive or dead?; can you touch, taste, smell or see it?; animal, vegetation or mineral?, etc. As my kids aged, they would get me with “an atom”, “patience”…. Aaaaagh.

5) Kahn Academy- I have to put in a plug for this wonderful learning portal. While this IS screen time, I never counted it as so. They are particularly good with math. It takes a little time for you, the parent, to set up the account and correct level for your kids, but I used to have my kids do 30 minutes of it every morning. It is reward-based (badges, avatars), but I also used to dangle long-term learning rewards (bribes) for my kids in addition: a movie outing, or dinner at favorite restaurant, or trip to amusement park for every 200 minutes my kids completed.

6) Make a book- While this sounds hugely complicated, it is not. Pick a topic your kids like and ask them to write about it- either instructions or explanations or a story. This can be a project they do every day for a wekk or a month. Hand them a pile of paper, and let 'em rip. It should have illustrations and writing. My 10 year old did this over the course of a month or two… we used Blurb to publish a bound, hardback book about mythical creatures. I will treasure it forever. You can also just use a hole punch and cardboard to fashion your own hand-bound book.

7) Cookie decorating- Some kids love to bake, but often the long, precise process is too messy for the time you have, and/or too complicated with young’uns in tow. Think about just making the dough by yourself (let them use it like Play Doh) while you bake the cookies. If you have the time to order icing in bags that don’t need attachments (I like Betty Crocker Ready to Use Icing), they are great. But you can also make your own Royal Icing with confectioner’s sugar…. https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/10197/royal-icing-i/?internalSource=staff%20pick&referringId=842&referringContentType=Recipe%20Hub

8) Matching Socks- Don’t laugh. This is one of those chores I hate, and thus, was willing to pay top dollar for help. I would throw my enormous pile on the floor and pay a nickel per pair. Bonus- it took them FOREVER!

9) Ed Emberly’s Drawing books- As an art teacher, I have come to realize that one of the greatest frustrations kids face in expressing themselves is their inability to draw the things their imaginations create. Ed Emberly was one of the books I used as a child until it was worn through, and it is still my go-to for giving kids a chance to explore their creative sides capably. He has a number of books, from animals to monsters, to trucks and cars. If your kids are a bit older, one of my favorite projects is teaching them a little trompe l’oeil by drawing a hole in your paper. Here are a few links to easy holes:




10) Run the Stairs- On rainy days, I would have my kids run the stairs- first to the top, then to the next one down, then to the one lower, etc…. This kills several birds with one stone (fun and exercise!). Often we would grab a huge towel and I would gently bump them down the stairs on it- feet first, as a reward. Always worth the giggles!!

Bonus for Springtime: Easter Eggs- Even if you don’t celebrate Easter (think Fabergé), decorating eggs can be a fun project. You do not need messy dyes. You can use pens, crayons or juices and spices from your kitchen. After boiling and cooling the eggs, put a little white vinegar in a bowl of hot water with a spice such as curry, chili, turmeric or cranberry juice. Leave the egg in until colored. If you rub it gently with your fingers or a paper towel after, you can get a beautiful, marbled effect. After, you can hide them (count how many you hide!), or make a lovely egg salad.

And, of course, READ. Read standing, read sitting, read walking or lying down, read with a goat, read on a boat, read, read, read!!!


About the Creator

Jody Holman

Wanderluster, wine drinker, pro photographer and travel designer. NorCal boutique studio for weddings and portraits, but I love to discover new corners to write about, shoot, and share through creation of unique itineraries.

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