14 Activities for 14 days (or more!) of Social Distancing with Kids

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It’s a national emergency. A Pandemic. All the toilet paper is sold out. And schools are closed for the foreseeable future. It’s a scary time, but we have to try and keep it as fun and normal as possible for our kids while they are home.
Chances are the last few weeks of your life have been saturated by a steady stream of news surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a scary time with lots of unknowns. Schools are closing, people are being asked to work from home, and everyone hopefully will practice as much social distancing as possible. Sure, it’s not going to be fun,we are social creatures after all. But I’m a firm believer that we all have the social responsibility to not spread this virus further and do harm to those at risk. So as everyone stocks up on supplies and gets ready to hunker down until further notice, part of my quarantine preparation also involves ways to keep my kids calm and have some structure throughout their day. Yes, there will be a lot more iPad time than usual, but I also want some fun activities to keep us all sane and active!  So here’s a few non-tech activities that can be modified so that kids of all ages can have a little fun during this uncertain time. Feel free to share your ideas too, we all are going to need as many resources as possible!
14 Activities for 14 days (or more!) of Social Distancing with Kids
  1.  Get outside and Get Dirty! We’ve been cooped up all winter, so now’s the time to enjoy the changing weather and let your kids get outside and play, even if that means them being covered in mud! I’ve always felt like kids imaginations soar outside and the messier they get, the better! My daughter could spend hours playing “restaurant” outside. Buckets of water, dirt, a stick. She’s happy! Plus if you’re working from home you can set up an office outdoors and get some vitamin d while your child serves you a delicious concoction of mud soup!

    What a little mud? Kids learn so much by just getting messy (plus it makes a great face mask for you!)
  2. Take a Bath or Shower! Once you’ve gotten your kids all dirty, let them get clean! I swear water is the solution to cranky kids and cranky parents! I grab random cups/bowls/measuring spoons/whisks from the kitchen and see what they can create. Make it extra special by putting on swim suits and pretending you’re at the pool, or bring in some food coloring or finger paints and watch the magic happen!

    Nothing can reset a long tough day like water! Both my 5 year old and my 8 month old can’t help but smile when in the tub or shower!
  3. Lego fun! For some (older) kids, Legos are always a hit! But you don’t need new expensive sets to get their creative juices flowing. I saw a great idea somewhere to write three words on index cards and have your child pick one to build and then you guess which one they picked! It’s like Pictionary with Legos. This can keep them busy, let them use their imagination, and let you get some stuff done.

    Legos are a great way for older kids to be challenged and entertained!
  4. Get baking! This is a time to let the house get messy, after all, it’s not like anyone will be over to see it! It’s also a fun interactive way to work on things like math and measuring! It can be as easy as some marshmallow treats using any cereal you have on hand or recreate you’re own Great British Bake Off at home!

    They’ll make a mess, and I make no promises on how it will taste, but the kids will have fun!
  5. Sensory Play! While you may want to save those dried beans and pastas for meals, you have lots of things in the house that can make for some fun sensory play! Grab a plastic container and find different things to put in there! Water is always great- just like bath time you can use all those kitchen items to play with. Shaving cream is a blast for kiddos, add some food coloring for some tie dye fun!

    Kennedy takes her shaving cream play very seriously! It was definitively a bath night!
  6. Easter Eggs! It doesn’t matter if you celebrate the holiday or not, those plastic Easter eggs are a great way to entertain kids. So if you’re making a run to the store, grab a pack. Depending on the age of your kiddo, you can make it fun and educational! We are working on sight words right now so I put the sight word in the egg, then hide the eggs, have Kennedy find them, open them, read them, and then match the sight word to the word wall (make your own word/letter wall by using posts it notes!). Try this with letters, making sentences, even math problems! They’ll want to do it over and over!

    You can put anything inside an Easter egg and hide it for the kiddos to find! They can match it to pictures on the wall or create their own sentences with words!
  7. Fort building! My greatest memories as a kid was just getting as many sheets and blankets from the house and making the biggest fort we could. Again, my motto these next few weeks will be to “let the mess guide their imagination”. Let your living room be turned into the coolest fort ever and then pop some popcorn and watch that movie together in the fort (because we all know there will be lots of movie watching!).

    Forts: fun for the whole family!
  8. Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt! Yes, we need to keep our distance from others (hi 6 foot rule), but we can still get out of the house! Think of some things you would see on a walk in your neighborhood and make a family scavenger hunt. It can be as simple as things such as leaves/stick/stop signs. The kids will love racing around to find things and everyone can get some of that energy out! Don’t forget to give those neighbors a wave from across the street!

    Think of things around the neighborhood and make a scavenger hunt list! The kids will love to go out and find everything and we all get some fresh air!
  9. Obstacle Course! this works inside or in the back yard. You make it, they do it! Or have them make one for you too-we are all going to need to get those wiggles out! You can use anything as obstacles, and it’s always loved by kiddos!

    We love to make obstacle courses in the backyard. It helps get everyone moving and we get some sunshine and giggles!
  10. Build! Think of all the trash and recycling in your house and what magic it can be for kids! Clean those cans and grab those toilet paper rolls and let them use their imagination! All it takes is some random items and tape and you’ll have the next leaning tower of Pisa in your house! Make it a competition to see who can make the highest tower without it falling! Or put those amazon boxes to use and see what kind of fort/house you guys can build (then pull out the markers to decorate!). What we see as garbage, a kiddo sees as building blocks!

    Before you recycle all those boxes and trash, have your kids make something! Build a tower, make a marble run. One moms trash is another kids creation!
  11. Playdoh! this is always a great go to, and even older kids and adults love the sensory input from creating. Google a recipe to make your own to make it an extra special activity! Grab as many random kitchen utensils as possible to create different things. Write a bunch of ideas on small pieces of paper and have the kids draw from a hat and create what they got (like Pictionary with playdoh! I seem to have a theme). Have a friendly family “competition” to see who can make the most realistic creation. Grab paper clips and beads and make robots! The possibilities are endless!

    Kennedy and her robot playdoh creation! A few googly eyes, some cut up straws, paper clips- she created the rest!
  12. Daily Challenge! Have your kids create daily challenges with their friends! I saw a great idea from a friend on Facebook- her son is starting a “LEGO Master Kids” daily challenge. My friend is going to email out details and the daily schedule to whoever is interested and the kids will build and share each day! Then they get to be the judges!  This works for so many different things: Lego challenges, baking challenges, playdoh challenges, you name it- kids LOVE these little competitions and it will keep them connected and engaged with their friends while also providing a fun daily activity.

    Kennedy has been loving the show Kids Baking Championship and has been recreating some of their challenges. Now she wants to have her friends bake the challenge at their house and then they can compare!
  13. Treasure Hunts! Much like a scavenger hunt, but with a prize at the end! This can be done inside or outside, and really the prize at the end can be anything! Make different clues on post-it notes to hide around the house and watch everyone run from place to place to find the “treasure”. Clues can be easy or hard, with words or pictures. Older children love to set them up for younger kids, and the younger kids will love to set them up for you! While they’re hunting, you can get some work done or take a little time for you!

    Here’s Kennedy writing “clues” for a treasure hunt. She loves it when I set them up for her, but she also loves setting them up for me! Nothing fancy, just simple clues that lead to different spots and eventually to the “treasure”
  14. Make a Family Journal! This is a pretty historic, albeit scary, moment for all of us, and one that will be talked about for years to come. Your kids may want to hear about “that time the world was quarantined” and what you did as a family. Take some pictures that you can print later, write down the words and feelings your children have (even if it doesn’t relate to COVID-19 at all!). Make a daily journal entry as a family each night. Have your kids color pictures of what they did that day. We may be surprised to see this experience through our children’s eyes.  What we see as a scary and uncertain time, they may view as a really special time at home with their family. Or it may help us all process the feelings that we have and open up a space to answer questions kids may not even know they want to ask. It doesn’t have to be anything special or fancy, but something to hold on to and look back on years from now when they are learning all about this time in school.

    This is a scary time, and there are so many unknowns. I want my kids to be able to express how they are feeling and have something to look back on in the future when they read about this time in their history books.
And in the chaos of the next few weeks, don’t forget to take care of you too! If you need to use the iPad more than usual so that you can sit down for a few minutes of silence or call a friend to have an adult conversation- do it! There are some great learning resources online and movies and shows are great too (Frozen II is being released on Disney + early just for this occasion!). Turn off the news if it becomes too much. Our mental health as parents right now is really important for not just us but also our kids. Our options for self care may be limited, so cut yourself some slack if you need to do things you normally wouldn’t to give yourself a break! When in doubt, reach out to others! We may not be able to hang out in person, but we still can find ways to communicate and support each other!
And also, don’t forget to wash your hands!
Kathryn
Kathryn is a stay at home mom to her smart and spirited 5 year old daughter Kennedy, her new baby Croix, and three furry pets. After finishing grad school in NYC, Kathryn decided to embrace the cold and move to Madison. Despite plans to only live here for one year, she fell in love with her husband Joe and all the city has to offer. After a childhood of moving around internationally, she has enjoyed putting down roots in Madison but still loves to travel as much as possible. When not adventuring with her family, you can find Kathryn running around her neighborhood and local trails, writing with a strong cup of coffee, or making a mess baking in the kitchen with her kids.

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