Some folks have a store of canned goods, bottled water, and medical supplies for potential national emergencies and pandemics. I, on the other hand, have been stockpiling crafting supplies since the mid-nineties for just such a time as this.
With schools closed and social distancing in full effect, many of us find ourselves unexpectedly at home with little ones, and are looking for ways to fill their days. To assist, I have assembled a list of at-home activities—quarantivities, if you will—to get you through this.
Whether you have a closet full of 25-year-old scrapbooking supplies and half finished knitting projects, or you are looking to keep busy with everyday household items, here are some ideas to help you keep screen time to the minimum and create some family memories during these strange days.
Upcycle the Recycling
Given the number of toilet paper and paper towel rolls that have been sold in the last few weeks, I am guessing that we will all soon have plenty of potential crafting supplies. Use those empty tubes and some tape to create tunnel systems for toy cars, marble runs, telescopes, and rainsticks. All those Amazon boxes are useful, too, for building forts, cardboard houses for stuffed animals, and targets for Nerf guns. Junkmail, magazines, and the brochures for the vacations you are no longer taking are the perfect source for a collage art project. If you have a baby in the house, save those food pouch tops to use as beads and make some statement jewelry so bold that you can only wear it under quarantine.
Press a Flower
Spring is here in many parts of the country. Save some of those beautiful blossoms and create lovely art by pressing flowers or leaves in books.
“Minute to Win It” Games
The TV show “Minute to Win it” created countless fun and simple games with household objects. Host your own competition at home. The Hello Wonderful blog is an excellent source for crafting your own contests.
Even if you don’t have all the traditional embroidery supplies, your kids (above age 6!) can stitch simple designs and images onto t-shirts or blue jeans with the needle and thread from a sewing kit.
Take a Hike
Although visitor centers are closed, trails are still open at many state and national parks. (As are the sidewalks in your neighborhood, most likely.) Get out with your kids into the fresh air and explore nature.
Build an Obstacle Course
In your living room or back yard, create an obstacle course using household items. Set up simple activities like crawling over and under chairs, going through cardboard box tunnels, throwing stuffed animals into a basket, and a classic dizzy-bat ending.
Try Some Classics
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Break out the boardgames, puzzles, and cards! Read a book aloud as a family. Play charades.
Weave a Mandala
With sticks or pencils and some yarn, your kids can create lovely mandalas to hang in your windows or decorate the house. If you don’t have yarn, you can weave with fabric scraps or old clothes cut into strips.
Disposable drinking straws are so 2018, but if you have some around the house, challenge your kids to see how big a structure they can build using only plastic straws and marshmallows.
Rearrange the Furniture
If cabin fever has you longing for a change in scenery, mix it up at home. Ask your kids to help imagine how to lay out a room differently, and test out their ideas. If it looks terrible, don’t worry because no one is coming to your house anytime soon anyway.
Art School Home School
I love Los Angeles-based artist Arielle Goddard’s website Art Camp. On her blog, she gives simple art projects that are inspired by the work of contemporary artists. Your kids can learn about contemporary art while creating masterpieces of their own. I am incredibly proud of some of the pieces I have made from her tutorials, and my kids’ works aren’t too bad either.
Cook Up Some Fun
Get your kids helping in the kitchen and try some dishes that are out of the usual rotation. You can let the kids set the menu and plan the evening, or you could set up an “Iron Chef”-style competition and let them get creative with the ingredients of your choice.
Open a Home Theater
Stage a play with your kids and Facetime in an audience. The internet is full of free and inexpensive scripts, or your kids can make their own script or adapt their favorite children’s book. Costume and set design provide even more opportunities to get creative.
Decorate Your Parents
(This activity is inspired by my daughter’s favorite activity: decorating the baby. She loves to cover him with stickers, but this requires close supervision so the baby doesn’t choke on a sticker and the big sister doesn’t try to pick him up by his ears—again). A safer version is decorating the parent. It’s simple: The parent lays down and closes their eyes. The child covers the parent with stickers. It’s almost like napping, and you will get a free facial wax when you peel off all of the stickers later.
KonMari the Toys
Tidying the toys was the one part of Marie Kondo’s method that I just could not work up the courage to tackle, but now that we are constantly at home surrounded by all the tiny plastic, it is time. Since most toys spark joy for kids, try going halvesies: Bring all the toys from all over the house into one room, lay them all so you can see them clearly, then divide them into groups of four. The child gets to choose 2 from each group to keep and 2 to donate. (Warning: Your child requires a massive bribe at the end of the exercise, as mine does.)
Bathe the Toys
A little extra sterilization never hurt anyone, especially at a time like this. And for some strange reason, toddlers absolutely love to give their toys a bath. (This surprises me because I don’t feel the same way about giving baths to toddlers.) Fill a plastic bucket or plastic storage box with water and dish soap, and let the little ones scrub down all their favorite plastic friends with an old dish brush.
Spring Clean the Kids
The kids could probably use a few extra baths, too, and why not make bath time more fun? Break out of the ordinary bath routine by adding a drop of food coloring to the bath, playing with shaving cream in the bath tub, or enjoying a popsicle in the tub. Check out the Busy Toddler blog for great activities for preschoolers and all the best bath time.
Get a Pen Pal
Other kids across the country are also home with more time on their hands, too. Why not encourage your child to start writing to a kid in another state? Maybe you have a college roommate or a cousin with a kid your child’s age, and you can start fostering a friendship from miles away. You could even swap ideas with them about how they are keeping busy.
Plant a Garden
In many parts of the country, this is the perfect time to get a garden started. Many garden stores are allowing you to pay over the phone and do curbside pickup to minimize contact. Even if you don’t have a yard, you can start a few seeds in cups on a windowsill and be encouraged by watching new life grow.
Paint by Number
Paint by number may seem like an old-school craft, but they are having a comeback. As relaxing and contemplative as adult coloring books, paint-by-number kits often leave you with a finished product that you are proud to hang on your wall. For older kids (and adults), Pink Picasso’s paint by number kits are truly lovely.
Help your kids learn a secret code to send messages to their friends. They can even practice some classic spy techniques, like doing a “dead drop” somewhere in the neighborhood (basically putting the message where a friend can come by later to collect it), maintaining both social distance and operational security. Melissa and Doug’s blog has a great explanation of codes for kids.
Make a list with your kids of people in your life who may need a little extra love right now. Do you have neighbors or relatives who are at higher risk due to age or preexisting conditions? How about friends who live alone and may be feeling isolated, health care workers who may be overworked and under stress, or loved ones who are out of work? Then make a list of possible of possible ways to show these friends kindness, like FaceTiming or delivering balloons or decorations outside their home.
Connect through Conversation
Finally, the most important quarantivity on this list is to connect to the little hearts who are looking to us to make sense of their new normal. Communicate your values, talk about your sources of hope, practice gratitude, and model caring for you own emotional and spiritual health. This could be a defining event in their childhood and formative for how they learn to learn to handle adversity. Will they remember these weeks as a time of stress when parents were obsessively watching the news, or a time when their family got to spend extra time together? Will these weeks be “boring” or an adventure? This is what parenting is all about.