Early elementary school is a time for running and jumping and playing with friends, but in the time we are in, we have to adapt. We love play time, but my spouse and I are also trying to work at home, so we need to find a balance. We’ve been looking for some inexpensive, but fun ways to stay active, learn, and have fun while we are stuck at home. This is all the more important when we can’t go out and get some energy out running around indoor play areas as a family.
We strive for a mix of physical and mental activities.
Here are 10 of our favorites:
- Sight word game: I bought a couple of $1 packs of sight word flash cards at Target. I lay out a four by four grid of cards on the floor. Then I say, “hit the word go” or “hit the word that rhymes with hot.” I’ve seen various versions of this game where the kids are given fly swatters, but hands work fine for us.
- Stair catch: My son spends a fair amount of time playing football with our stairs. He has a very soft football (it was made to go in a pool, so it’s covered in nylon). He stands at the bottom and throws it at our stairs and then catches it as it come back down. Now, we have a staircase that is pretty enclosed and he can’t really break anything, so it works well for us, but it would vary depending on the set up.
- Balloon volleyball: This is an invention of my mother-in-law. She tapes up some streamers across the room. Then she blows up a regular latex balloon, and the kids hit the balloon back and forth with their hands, trying to keep it from hitting the ground. The balloon floats slowly enough that nothing gets broken and even younger kids can get to it before it hits the ground.
- Push up tag: When my son has breaks from distance learning and he needs to get a little energy out. We play a game where, if he does pushups, we tickle him. We kid with him and say, “if you do pushups, we are going to have to tickle you!” And he runs to a spot, drops down and does a few pushups, then we come over to tickle him and he pops up and runs to another spot to do the same thing. It’s great when he only has a few minutes between classes and he needs to get a little attention and a little energy out.
- Just Dance: Our kids love to play the video game Just Dance to get some energy out, but you don’t even need the video game. There are plenty of videos on YouTube of people playing Just Dance that you can put on a TV for kids to dance along with. Of course, if you don’t have the game system, it won’t rate their moves, but the kids still love to dance along, even without a score. Another option is GoNoodle, which is on YouTube, and encourages kids to dance and get the wiggles out.
- Learn to Draw videos: In school the kids started doing the Learn to Draw videos on YouTube. It is basically a step by step instruction for kids teaching them how to make some simple drawings. My kids love doing these, and they have gotten them a little more interested in art, which they were not always all that into. To be honest, some of these look pretty fun for adults, too.
- Clean out the backyard: Similar to the volleyball game, we got a couple sets of “snowballs” at Target last year. They are basically soft balls that are fluffy and can be thrown. We set up a row of pillows down the middle of the room. Each side starts with the same number of balls. The kids pick up the balls on their side, and throw them to the other side. If one side ends up with all the balls, the other team wins.
- The floor is Lava: A classic, but our kids still love it.
- Make cards for loved ones and those who need them: There has been a lot of sadness lately. One thing that has helped it to make cards for loved ones or others that we know would really like a card to brighten their day. The kids like to do that, and sometimes they use the Learn to Draw videos to make something that they think the loved one would enjoy.
- Helpful tasks: Every day both of our kids have to perform one helpful task before they can play any sort of electronic game. These are often chores (unloading the dishwasher, wiping down the bathroom, putting away laundry…), but sometimes they involve helping someone in the house that needs help. We try to emphasize that we are a team and we all need to do things to keep our house clean and working for all of us to enjoy.
How are you all keeping busy? We are all doing the best we can right now. I hope you find good activities for your little ones.