As more and more school systems close and families across the country follow mandates and start to socially distance themselves in order to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, parents are scrambling for ideas on how to occupy their children – off the grid. So, if you want to keep the phones, tablets, computers and gaming systems to a minimum – other than for the purposes of online learning – we’ve complied some great ideas for you and your children of all ages and complexities.
The first rule of thumb is to set and keep a predictable schedule – for all children of all ages. Since school, leisure time and all activities are now at home, perhaps consider a white board or chalkboard or simply type up a basic schedule in big, bold letters and hang on the refrigerator for everyone to see. Here at The Center for Discovery, we know that predictability in schedules helps end confusion and eases anxiety and fear in children and adults with complex conditions.
The Great Outdoors – Fresh Air and Fun
At TCFD, we have the great privilege of being located in a beautiful, rural environment. If you have access to the great outdoors, even just a backyard, here’s a few ideas to enjoy the fresh air:
- Decorate a shoebox and go on an adventure collecting favorite rocks, acorns, twigs, pinecones. You can even make animals from the treasured pinecones and acorns with pompoms, googly eyes, construction paper, feathers, pipe cleaners, and more.
- Go on a botany adventure! With a notebook and crayons/pencils in hand, try to draw local plants and observe what’s already budding.
- Collect rocks and categorize or paint them! Here at TCFD, we have a painted rock garden with inspirational pictures and sayings.
- Play balloon tennis. No racquets? No problem. Use your hands, which is great for hand-eye coordination.
- Ball Challenges. In partners, try bouncing a small ball right hand-to-right hand, and left-to-left.
- Obstacle courses are a fan favorite! The skies the limit – use hula hoops, sidewalk chalk, tunnels, paper circles for markers, sturdy tape.
- Digging in the dirt – obvious? Do not underestimate the power of a mud pie.
- Preparing the garden for planting – rake, weed and plant a vegetable garden.
- Build a slackline! Got two trees? Look around the garage for tubular webbing, carabineers and an old piece of carpet and voila – hours of fun trying to balance! Here’s additional information on setting up a slackline: https://www.instructables.com/id/Set-Up-a-Slackline/.
- Start a weeklong fitness challenge – indoors and out – jump rope, sit-ups, pushups, etc. Team up – kids versus adults to see who has the muscle!
- Potato sack races: an old game with a few old pillowcases equals endless fun.
- Three-legged races: team up adult and child and see who wins!
- Egg race: a few spoons and a few hard-boiled eggs and a relay! Plus a perfect protein snack when you are done!
- Bubbles, Bubbles, Bubbles! Everyone loves bubbles. Make giant wands and homemade bubbles mixed with some dishwasher detergent. Chase them. Pop them. Marvel at the rainbow of color in each! Check out a fun tutorial here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTQIgVFvFYE.
Too Cold to Head Outdoors? Check out these Ideas for Tons of Indoor Fun!
- Go camping! Build tents with blankets and pillows, and decorate with favorite stuffed animals, plastic figurines, flashlights, etc. Snuggle inside and read books and tell stories!
- Hunt for Treasure! Hide “treasure” all over your home and devise cleaver clues to bring your treasure-hunters closer or farther away from the cache.
- Cook, cook, cook! It’s a perfect time to spread your love for food and nutrition.
- You can have a bake-off challenge between siblings, or even mom vs. child!
- Another cooking lesson could be to teach your children to make Chia Seed Pudding or a “healthy” ice cream made from coconut or almond milk, with healthy flavorings like cacao powder.
- Smoothie Challenge. Find out who’s got the perfect recipe!
- Slime it up! Rather slippery slime over dough? Bubbling slime? There’s so many possibilities! Check out these great resources: https://epicfunforkids.com/bubbling-slime-recipe-sensory-tubs/ and https://www.thesprucecrafts.com/slime-recipes-4171511.
- Sensory boxes galore! Grab some plastic bins and fill them with rice, beans, buttons, beads, feathers, slime, or even dough. Hide your favorite toys inside and let the kids dig!
- Make sensory balls. Kids can fill balloons with dough, water beads, glass beads or slime and decorate!
- Make sensory pillows. Make small pillows from material scraps and stuff with bells, paper, foam, etc.
- Bag puppets! Remember them? A paper bag – construction paper and crayons? Bits and pieces of material and imagination and you are on your way to a fantastic puppet show.
- It’s all about art! Plan an art show by challenging your children to draw a picture and then make it come alive with materials from your house or backyard. Recently, students and residents from TCFD won a statewide competition making this amazing mixed-media work (link to blog post).
- Feeling silly? How about a dance party? It’s a great way to expel some energy, while also having tons of fun – great from the heart and soul.
- The Voice…at home! You don’t need a karaoke machine to get this going, just lyrics from your favorite songs – on your phone or on a Bluetooth speaker.
- The Wow Factor! Bring science right to the kitchen table. Make corn dance or homemade lava lamps. Who doesn’t love a fizzy baking soda-vinegar reaction? Here’s a great resource: https://littlebinsforlittlehands.com/dancing-corn-thanksgiving-science-activity/.
- Don’t have a lot of space? Try some simple kid-based yoga videos on YouTube and meditation Apps. In fact, even if you have space – try the yoga and meditation with your children. It’s a great break from your day!
Calendars! Calendars! Calendars!
It’s a well-known fact that all children (and adults!) thrive on structure, especially our community at The Center for Discovery.
- Use a calendar to challenge your little (or big) ones. Are they builders? Do they like Legos? Blocks? K’nex? Create a construction challenge for each day that outlines a different activity with their item of choice.
- Decorate for spring! Here in the Northeast, we’ve had quite a mild winter and the crocuses are beginning to show their purple flowers. Challenge your children to make arts and crafts each day to decorate your home. Tissue-paper flowers brighten everyone’s day!
- Kindness matters. At The Center, kindness and compassion are at the heart of our work with our residents and students with complex conditions. Make a list of loved ones – especially those who may be isolated by themselves. Put their names on a calendar day. On that specific day, call to check up on them. Have the kids use FaceTime or Skype or any other platform to show they care.
- There’s power in the written word. If you have a budding writer, use a calendar challenge to create short stories or poems each day.
- The art of the letter. Bring back the art of writing a letter. Reach out to grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends – both far and near.
- Make a coupon book! Have the children make lists of things they love to do. Ice skate? Make a coupon for ice skating at your local rink. The movies? Another coupon. Climbing a ropes course? There’s a coupon for that, too! Staple them all together and save for when things return to normal with the understanding that your children can turn in the coupon for a fun time with their loved ones.
Slow it Down
- Remember all those pictures saved on your phone? Start organizing them into digital albums.
- Books! Books! Books! Designate an hour each afternoon or evening to sit together and read aloud a picture book. Kids too old? Just cozy up on the couch and read. TV – off!
- Game Night (or day)! Get those competitive juices going and play some board games – or even simple card games.
- Movie Night! Grab some snacks (healthy, of course) and head to the couch for some old family favorites. Make a calendar with each family member’s choice and day of “showing.”
Jim Cashen, Assistant Chief of the Integrated Arts Department at The Center for Discovery, emphasizes the importance of being a role model, “Please continue to model proper handwashing and social distancing habits. Let’s try and remember our kids are looking to us for reassurance, strength, and hope during this uncertain and unprecedented time. We will persevere.”