Easy Activities For When You’re Stuck at Home During the Corona Quarantine
Sharing some simple ideas for activities to do with your children while they’re home for self imposed COVID-19 quarantine.
I think it’s fair to say that most of us were thrown a curve ball this week and have just learned that we will be stuck in our homes with kids for the indefinite future. Our school district has scrambled and has been amazing about providing digital learning opportunities and we can access lots of academic materials online, but I wanted to share a quick brainstorm of simple activities and projects that my kids have always enjoyed that using easily available materials and supplies.
I love this one. All you need is craft glue and table salt. Draw a picture or trace a coloring page with the craft glue. Generously pour the table salt over the glue and let dry completely. Once dry, you can ‘paint’ by touching a brush with watercolor paint up to the salt and watch what happens. The paint magically spreads along the salt. Click here for more info.
Take advantage of the warmer temperatures and go find some smooth rocks. Give them a good scrub and paint them with acrylic craft paint. Alternatively, place in a pot of boiling water, and then remove and let your child color on the rocks with crayons. The warm rocks will melt the crayons… caution younger children not to touch the rocks with their fingers at first!
This is an oldie but goodie. Make a ‘glue’ using flour and water… the consistency should be like a thick gravy, typically one part flour to two parts water. Stir until there are not clumps. Microwaving for 30 seconds helps! Grease the outside of a bowl with vegetable oil or vaseline. Cut or rip strips from newspaper. One at a time, dip the strips into the flour mixture and then pinch the paper between your fingers to remove excess paste. Smooth onto the bowl. Let the first layer dry and repeat. Build up 3 or 4 layers, let dry and then remove from the bowl. Paint with craft paint. Note: remove the paper from the bowl can be hard. I’ve had to sometimes make a cut in the paper along one side, remove it, and then patch with a few more layers of paper mache.
Place marbles or small balls into a muffin tin and coat with craft paint. Place the marbles into a baking dish lined with paper and tip the pan to ‘paint’ with the marbles as they roll back and forth.
Matchbox Car Painting
Similar to the marble painting, squirt some craft paint onto a paper plate and run a toy car through the paint to coat the tires with paint. ‘Drive’ the car on a piece of paper and see what happens when the paint coated wheels touch the paper.
Make your own squares by folding and cutting computer paper and look up basic origami folds online.
Eric Carle collages
Start by painting a bunch of paper with paint brushes or fingers or sponges or more! Let the paint dry and then rip/ cut the painted paper to create pictures a la Eric Carle. Maybe start with a spring garden or colorful Easter egg! We made monogram tags using this technique here.
Cut strips out of construction construction paper. Fold another piece of paper in half and with the folded edge facing you, cut parallel lines stopping about an inch before the edge of the page. Open up the folded piece of paper and weave a strip of paper under and then over the parallel cuts on the solid sheet of paper. Take a second strip of paper and weave it over and under the parallel cuts but make sure you alternate with the first strip. Repeat weaving each strip, alternating with the one above it, until you’ve filled you’ve paper paper.
Tie Dye Paper Towels
Fair warning, this can be a little messy, but kids love it. Grab a handful of paper towels and fold each of them in half then in half agai… then in half again. Repeat until you can’t fold anymore. Fill a few ramikens with water and add food coloring to each of them. With an eye dropper or small tea spoon, drop the colored water onto the paper towel and see what happens!
Scavenger Hunt/ Treasure Hunt
This takes a little adult preparation, but it’s one of my kids faaaavorite activities. For the scavenger hunt, make a list of items that your kids might find around the house (e.g. paperclip, golfball, die, violet crayon…) or outside around the yard (e.g. bird feather, acorn, four leaf clover). Send the kids out with their list and see who can find the most items on their list! For younger children, draw/. print out pictures of each item.
For a treasure hunt, set up a series of clues leading your kids around the house. You’ll need to place the clues accordingly for this to work. I.e. Clue #1 will lead the kids to the laundry room where they will find Clue #2. And so on and so on.
Picture Book Celebrity
One of our favorite adults games is Celebrity where you divide into two teams and everyone adds 5-10 celebrity names each to a bowl. People draw names and try to get their teammates to guess their celebrity. In this kids’ version, let the kids choose characters from favorite picture books to describe. For example: This character is a girl who wears an auburn cape and tries to protect her grandmother from a wolf.
Write a commercial/ video tutorial
One of my kids favorite writing assignments is the one where they get to teach their class something like how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Let your kids plan and write a commercial from costumes to the script to any music they want playing in the background. Film with your phone and let them enjoy the finished results!
Only the best imaginary game in town. Grab some scrap paper for taking orders. Set a fancy table. Find some discarded food packages or have your kids color their own food. Sky’s the limit. The more invested you are, the better this game is! Cloth napkins? Yes! Apron and towel over the arm? Do it! Name your restaurant. Make umbrellas for the drinks… you see where I’m going with this?
Decorate for a party
Are you *having* a party? No way because… social distancing. But grab some paper and make some elementary school paper chains (cut them into strips, staple the ends together to make a loop and then repeat, interlocking the next loop.). I made these EASY paper garlands for Christmas a couple years ago. Maybe you cut out large letters and make your own banner. Pinterest is your friend so head over there for fun ideas on budget party decorations!
Independent play is like the holy grail of parenting, right? Kids are engaged but they DON’T NEED YOUR HELP! No promises these ideas will work forever, but in parenting world, 20 minutes is close enough.
Grab some old catalogs and cut out a bunch of faces. Have your kids color in the bodies in all sorts of funny themes. If your kids are older, they can cut out their own people and it might be fun for them to mix and match from all their cut outs! For smaller kids, they can simply cut out pictures that correspond to certain letters.
No explanation necessary. When we frame this as a “puzzle museum” for some reason our kids are more invested. If you’ve already gone through the puzzles you own, reach for those magazine or print out a family photo and cut your own puzzle!
I love watercolors because there’s not too much that can go wrong besides spilling the water and that’s something I can handle! If you’re lucky enough to have some crayons, draw a picture with these first and then paint on top. The crayons will “resist” the watercolor and it’s always been a favorite effect of ours. Did you know if you sprinkle table salt onto your watercolors while they’re still wet, you end up with a cool mottled effect? (Put a cookie sheet down first for easier cleanup.)
String beads on pipe cleaners
We happen to have a stash of pony beads, but I bet you could order some on Amazon. We use them for everything. Younger kids love stringing them on pipe cleaners, and older kids can make jewelry the old fashioned way by stringing them onto yarn or twine. In a pinch, lots of pastas are hollow so you could sub pasta for pony beads. And if you really want to get creative, pony beads make wonderful ornaments if you pop them in to the toaster oven like I did here.
Painted brick/ painted pavement
If it’s warm, send the kids out to *paint* the bricks or the concrete or the asphalt outside your house. In most cases the pavement will change colors so it’s like a never ending canvas and I’m always amazed how entertained my kids are by the simplest activity sometimes.
Car race track
This takes a little prep work on your end, but if you have young boys… this is a great hack. Use masking tape or painters tape to tape of an intricate race track for matchbox cars, etc. My sons always loved driving their cars around the house in this manner. Bonus points if you happen to have a leftover wrapping paper tube or cardboard boxes as you can make ramps and other 3D elements for the cars.
Disclaimer that sensory play isn’t the neatest play in the world, but these ideas are all relatively easy to clean up and something about being messy inside is so exciting for kids!
Died Pasta/ Rice
I know it seems crazy to use non perishables for free play, but you can always leave them UN-colored and they can be cooked eventually. To die pasta/ rice, place it in a ziplock bag with 1 tbsp rubbing alcohol and a few drops of food coloring. Seal the bag and shake the bag to cover the pasta/ rice with the color. Let air dry on paper towels and let your kids enjoy their own sensory bin. We’ve also enjoyed COOKING spaghetti in water colored with food coloring and then letting the kids play with it. I would not recommend eating this when you’re done, but that’s more to do with the manhandling of the past than the color!
Alka Seltzer in oil
This is an oldie but goodie and so easy to do if you have alka seltzer tablets on hand. Fill a plastic bottle or tall glass with 1/2 water and 1/2 oil. Add a few drops of food coloring. Then drop 1/2 an alka seltzer tablet into the bottle and watch what happens. It’s like a volcano in a bottle. (Don’t worry… this should be mess free… nothing will come out of the container.)
I shared my favorite playdough recipe ever a while back. I grew up making playdough and it’s the easiest thing to make in a pinch so… lay out your cookie sheets and get ready for some playdough!
Baking Soda and Vinegar
When we were trapped at my mother in laws after Hurricane Sandy, this activity entertained my kids for ages. All you need is baking soda and some white vinegar. Pour the baking soda onto a baking dish or cookie sheet. Mix a few drops of food coloring into the vinegar (we like to have a few different colors so the kids can see how the colors mix together). Let your kids drop the vinegar onto baking soda and watch what happens!
Shaving Cream Painting
Again… sensory play isn’t the neatest, but this is surprisingly easy to clean up if you let if dry up first. It’s as simple as squirting a dollop of shaving cream on a table and let the kids have at it! Bonus points if you want to make these fun marbled designs with the shaving cream!
Paint in ziplock Bag
Squirt some paint into a ziplock bag. Get as much air out as possible and seal the ziplock bag well. For extra measure, grab some clear tape and seal the end one extra time. Your kids can use their fingers to ‘draw’ on the paint within the ziplock bags. Add two complementary colors to a single bag and let your child explore color theory to see how the colors mix.
I shared the best bubble recipe EVER last year. It does require one curious ingredient that you’ll need to get from Amazon but might be worth having on hand. If you don’t want to grab the secret ingredient, just pull out your dish soap and let the kids play with bubbles outside anyway. To make simple bubble snakes, Poke a straw through the bottom of a solo cup and then place a sock around the mouth of the cup. Dip the sock into a soapy mixture and then blow gently through the straw to make soapy bubble snakes.
Paper Airplane target practice
I did this recently on the news and it was a BIG hit for my kids! Cut out circles from a sheet or a cardboard box or a piece of poster board and have the kids try to fly paper airplanes through each hole. Make the holes larger or smaller for varied degree of difficulty.
Go through your recycling bin and let the kids ball up discarded paper. Divide the paper balls between the kids, clear out the room and let the snowball fight commence!
Hide the thimble
This isn’t active persay, but it was a childhood favorite of ours. Find a thimble (or other small object) and take turns hiding it in the designated room. Our rule was always that you couldn’t move anything to hide the thimble… so not placing it in boxes or cabinets, for example.
Wash the car
Yeah. Literally wash the car. We rarely do this so it’s a treat for my kids. If the weather is warm enough, grab a bowl of soapy water and a few sponges. Turn the hose on and let the kids at it!
I rarely get involved with the kids forts which means they’re usually not very sturdy. But help your kids make one by moving around larger furniture rearranging couch cushions, etc. Channel your inner engineer and try to make the biggest most elaborate blanket fort ever! Best part is the quiet reading nook you’ve created for later in the day!
Don’t overthink this one. Line up the kids outside and give them their directions. “Hop to the corner, skip around the bush, walk backwards down the driveway.” If you want to kick it up a notch, look for objects around the house that they can jump over, weave around, climb through: hula hoops, benches, empty flower pots, pool noodles, etc.
If you have any favorite/ easy indoor activities for your kids, drop a link and share them in the comments below! Sometimes the simplest ideas are the most fun and goodness knows we all could use the virtual pep talk to get through these next few weeks!!!
Good luck, everyone!!!