These are weird times, my friends. Believe me, I feel it too. I know a lot of you have also had to scramble and rearrange your lives to have your kids at home more than usual this past week (or are potentially facing that prospect in the near future) and I’m in that same boat as well, as we’ve had our daughter at home with us for the past two weeks instead of in daycare. We’ve definitely had to be more creative and pull out a few tricks (and make a few desperate online orders!) to help fill the time, so I wanted to share some of our favorite things we’ve done so far (and a few that are on my to-do list) in case they could be helpful to any of you as well!
1. Sticker books: Elsie talked so much about these books that I had to get one for Lola a few months back and they are really fun! They also have animal versions which are really cute and we love these reusable sticker ones as well that I usually bring out for car trips (they have some large scale versions too).
2. Do kids yoga together: We usually take Lola to a free yoga class at the library on Mondays, but now that that’s out I found this fun series of kids yoga videos and she loves them! So far, the farm and jungle ones geared towards smaller kids are her favorite and we can either do them with her or they’ve also been helpful when I’ve had to make dinner to help keep her engaged for a bit.
3. Scavenger hunt walk: Get outside in some nature if you can! While playgrounds are out for now, being outside in general isn’t off limits. Whether you are in your yard or going for a walk around the block (with appropriate distancing if you pass someone), take a printable list with you and check off all the items you can find! Rainy day? Don’t worry, there are indoor versions too!
4. Make pet rocks: On your walk, keep an eye out for some good rocks and bring them back to paint, add some google eyes, or glue some yarn hair onto and keep as a pet (maybe come up with a food they like to eat and have them feed it every day and eat the snack when they aren’t looking). If you can’t get out for that walk or are short on supplies, you can also get a kit for this idea too!
5. On-demand coloring pages: Lola loves to color, so I find free coloring pages online and print them for her to color. If it’s one I know she’ll want to do multiple times, I print off two of them and give one to her to color and keep the other one as my “original” so I can quickly copy it on our printer (it has a “copy” function) without having to go and find it again online. There are a million free coloring pages sites, but this one is a good place to start with and you can do a general search online for specific characters as well.
6. Craft kit for their particular interest: There are so many craft kits online for specific things, so it can be fun to order a few to stash away for when you’ve run out of ideas and really need something new. I got Lola this robot kit and she’s going to love it! The nice thing about kits is that they come in all age ranges, so you can get things for older and younger kids to fit their development level. Jewelry kit? Dinosaur kit? So many to choose from!
7. Make cards for friends/people they miss: Lola asks several times a day about her friends from daycare that she misses, so we made them a card to send them and I think it was helpful for her to do something to let her know she was thinking of them (if you’re concerned about potentially mailing germs you can always text them a photo of your kiddo with the card).
8. Get dirty and have a popsicle bath! If you can get outside and dig in the dirt or run in the rain and get a little messy (and get those wiggles out), come back in for a popsicle bath! We definitely have a lot less complaints about bath time and hair washing when a popsicle is involved … or a lollipop … or whatever!
9. Start a music jar: Elsie started a music jar last year and it’s kind of been a “thing” that’s spread out to a lot of other families (ours included!). Todd is in charge of our jar and he’s usually the one that decides when to add in a new artist (the Queen week was my favorite so far), but you could do this daily with kids and maybe have older kids look up the artist and find out a fun fact about them as well.
10. Puzzles: Lola has gotten really into puzzles so I ordered a few inexpensive puzzle packs so I could bring a new one out every so often and she gets so excited to try a new one. Puzzles are also great because it’s another thing you can get in different skill levels and keep harder ones for younger kids to do as they get older. And for extra fun, two words—floor puzzle!
11. Sensory bins: I’ve shared it all in this post, but that table set up in the photo above is so fun and a great indoor activity that you can customize in different ways. If you don’t want to go the full table route, you can just buy some dried rice and beans (or make some rainbow rice!) and put them into bins or large bowls, throw in a few spoons, sand shovels, scoops, little cars or animal figures and have fun! You can modify this fitted bedsheet hack to contain the mess as well.
12. Make nature/food stamps: Find rocks, flowers, sticks, etc., and dip them into paint to see what shape they make when you use them as a stamp! Same goes for things like celery, potatoes, and other hard veggies (am I the only one who made potato stamps as a kid?).
13. Have a dance party: This is a HUGE one for toddlers especially who need to get those wiggles out at some point or, well, things just don’t go well. When I can tell she’s getting a little crazy with energy, we have a dance party to her favorite upbeat songs and it’s a great way to expend some energy if you can’t get outside! Right now, Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti” is her jam.
14. Have a new “friend” come to visit: This is actually my favorite thing we’ve done so far. If your kid is still in the stuffed animal phase, try ordering a new stuffed animal (or get one down from the attic that you had as a kid and you’ve been saving to give to them) and have it come to visit/live with you guys! You can totally hype up this event for days or weeks and receive calls and letters from the new friend coming to visit until they show up at your door (extra points if they bring a little suitcase with them with their belongings). You can even host a little party when they arrive with decorations and snacks! We did this for Lola and it made her SO happy!
15. Make a racecourse: Grab some cardboard boxes or large sheets of paper and draw roads to make your own racecourse for cars or anything with wheels! You can make bridges and ramps with the cardboard and things like paper mailing tubes from your recycling pile make the perfect tunnel as well.
16. Bake a treat: I think we are probably all eating our feelings a little bit right now, so let’s make it an activity with the little ones to bake some cookies, make some gummy bears, or some sticky buns. Cooking is a great activity for kids to learn as it teaches them patience and how to be a helper—we use these kid’s knives with Lola and she gets so excited to help with cooking.
17. Have a family movie night: Popcorn, snacks, and their favorite film … grab a cozy blanket and just relaaaaax for an hour or two. Snuggle those little bodies and take a few breaths. You earned it.
18. Paint! I know it can be a bit messy, but let’s face it—kids of all ages love to paint! I just got this easel for Lola that’s similar to what they use at her daycare (and it’s something I’ve wanted to have for her at some point at home) and I like that she can paint/draw with the paper roll attachment as well as have a chalkboard and whiteboard side. You can use paint dot markers or paint daubers, acrylic paints, or watercolors (these are Elsie’s favorites for her kids) and a waterproof smock like we have helps cleanup be a lot simpler as well. Throw in a mat for the floor as well if you have flooring you’re concerned about.
19. Make an animal craft: Pretending to be animals is a great imaginative play option and you can make it more fun (and fill up more time) by making a mask or costume to actually be the animal. There are lots of free animal masks online you can just print and cut or you can download patterns to sew masks as well (Lola and I have been working on this fox mask and I can’t wait to see her wear it!).
20. Outdoor chalk and bubbles: If outside is an option and the weather is nice enough, a driveway/sidewalk with some sidewalk chalk and bubbles is basically a pop-up party to a toddler! Here’s a DIY bubble recipe with wand ideas …
21. Play “library” and read books: Especially when kids reach the play acting age, it can be really fun to pretend you are a library with all their books (especially if they are sad their library is closed like we are). You can set up your library station in front of their bookcase and have their stuffed animals or other family members come through and pick out books to check out. Give them a stamp (and some ink if you want) and let them stamp the inside cover of a book when it’s checked out and make some library cards with the name of each borrower. When all their checking-out duties are done, sit down and read for a bit!
22. Video chat with loved ones and friends: Probably one of the best things about this happening in 2020 is that we have the video chat capabilities, so use it to your advantage! Do some Skype playdates to say hello to their friends, call their grandparents or cousins—let them feel connected to people they miss. It may help you feel not so alone and stir crazy to talk to other people too.
23. Learn a new skill: Is there a new skill milestone that you’ve been planning to do with your kid soon? Maybe now’s the time! Being inside a lot may make it a good time to potty train if they are ready, learn to ride a bike in your driveway, start some online music lessons … anything that will fill up some time and check a new skill off the list is a double win! We’ve been night potty training Lola and transitioning her to a big kid bed the past two weeks, so that’s been a nice distraction and something she’s been excited to learn. Now, just a note here that it should be something you are excited to do (even if it takes some effort and planning) and not something that will totally stress you out more!
24. Make your own playdough: While you can just buy it already made, why not make it an event and make your own? It’s really fun to make it yourself, kids love to help, and you can choose whatever colors you want to make as well.
25. Dress up party: Whether you already have some items in your dress up box or you just let them wear some of your clothes, choose a theme and have a dress up party! It could be a fancy tea party, you could get out swimsuits and pretend you are at the beach, or just have a silly category and try to look as mismatched as you can! My mom always had a big trunk full of thrift store prom dresses and whatnot that we loved to play with, so I have some pretty good memories from dress up play. Things like this mask kit can also be fun for dressing up and it’s a craft too, so it’s a double win.
For a final word, just remember that it’s OK to feel that this is a hard season—it is! It’s not the same as having your kids home under more normal circumstances, so don’t beat yourself up for doing things like more bribes or treats or screen time than you normally would like to just to make it through. We are all doing the best that we can and we are all in this together. If you haven’t used a visual chart with kiddos before, that can be a really helpful way to organize your days! Hope some of these ideas will not only help fill your time but also help make some happy memories along the way! xo. Laura
Credits // Author and Photography: Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.