Struggling to keep your family entertained during the COVID-19 crisis? Here are some creative tips to keep your loved ones busy and sane while staying at home.
As we continue to do our part to slow the spread of the coronavirus, it has become clear that we are living through one of the strangest times in modern history. Of course, human beings are social creatures by nature. Spending weeks, and now months, cooped up in our homes can be challenging, even for the most introverted among us. While this struggle exists across all demographics, the difficulty can be magnified for those of us with children at home.
With schools closed across the country, our youngest family members have lost the stability of their daily routine, which provided outlets not just for learning and education, but also for physical activity and social stimulation. Many schools have implemented tools and procedures for distance learning, but you’ve probably learned that this takes up much less time in the day than you might expect. While it really isn’t possible to recreate the typical school day experience at home, we hope these family-friendly activities will help you keep your kids active, engaged and entertained.
1. Start a family book club
In a traditional book club, all participants read the same book and then meet up to discuss their thoughts. While this approach works well for adults, it is understandably less effective in a family setting. Rather than trying to find a single book that will interest each family member regardless of age, reading level or personal interests, try shaking up the book club model itself!
In your family reading club, let each family member pick a book of their choice for the week. Every day, set aside one hour during which each member of the family (parents included) reads their chosen book. On the seventh day, use that same hour to share a summary of what you read that week, whether you liked the book and what you plan to read next. This is a wonderful opportunity to instill a love for reading in your children, and there’s no reason you couldn’t maintain this routine after the quarantine is over!
2. Institute a weekly family game night
Regardless of whether your family members share a competitive streak, almost everyone enjoys playing the occasional game. We recommend breaking out a deck of cards or a board game for your weekly game nights. If you don’t already have a wide selection of games at home, this is the perfect time to start building a collection. You can find all of the classics, like Monopoly, Scrabble or Uno, for sale online at stores like Target, Walmart or Amazon. If you’re looking to try something new, explore Kickstarter, where many imaginative creators are showcasing the inventive new games they’ve built from scratch.
3. Supplement school work with puzzles and brain teasers
If you’ve been scrolling through Instagram during these past few weeks in quarantine, then you’ve probably noticed some of your friends have taken up a somewhat unexpected hobby: puzzles. While puzzles never totally disappeared from the mainstream, they are definitely making a comeback during this time of social isolation. Taking some time each day to put together a particularly difficult puzzle focuses your brainpower and exercises your cognitive muscles. Not a big fan of traditional jigsaw puzzles? Give Sudoku, word searches or crossword puzzles a try instead!
4. Explore your creative sides with a daily arts and crafts hour
When was the last time you picked up a paintbrush, made a friendship bracelet or crocheted a scarf? If you’re wracking your brain trying to remember, then this is the ideal time to rediscover your creative side. After the kids have finished their schoolwork for the day, dedicate some time to arts and crafts. During this time, you can decide whether the entire family will collaborate on one shared project, like building a birdhouse, or work on separate creative projects of their choosing.
At the end of the quarantine, you can set up an exhibition in your living room to show off all of the magnificent art your family has created. Who knows, you might discover that you have a future van Gogh, Frida Kahlo or Jackson Pollock in your ranks!
5. Make it a movie night
Weekends are especially tough in quarantine. Before we began social distancing, Saturdays and Sundays were the days where we engaged in all the fun activities we didn’t have time for during the work and school week. Going to parks, swimming at the beach and attending social and cultural events are all off-limits for the time being. But there is one popular weekend activity that we can pretty easily recreate at home: going to the movies!
To make this fun for everyone, we recommend taking turns picking the film, or perhaps even putting everyone’s ideas in a hat and choosing the winning movie at random. To capture the experience of attending a theater, dim the lights, pop some popcorn, pour yourself a tasty drink and grab your favorite sweet treat.
6. Host a family science fair
If the early closure of schools prevented your children from completing a science project this academic year, consider hosting your own series of science projects at home. There are many basic experiments you can conduct using items you already have in your home. If you’re willing to make a small investment, do a little digging on Google to find an experiment you think will interest your kids. You’re likely to find all of the ingredients and supplies you need on Amazon. To mimic a real science fair, you can host a Zoom call to allow your kids to present their projects to friends and family, who can act as judges. They are likely eager to take part in something fun to break up the monotony of their own day.
7. Stay active with a neighborhood scavenger hunt
With parks and playgrounds closed, ensuring you and the kids get an adequate amount of exercise each day is no easy task. If you have a front or backyard to work with, you’re in a great position to get outside to play a game of kickball, run a relay race or toss a baseball back and forth.
If you live in an area where outdoor space is limited, you can liven up a walk around your neighborhood by turning it into a visual scavenger hunt. Each day, write up a list of items or sights to search for. Even if you’ve taken the same walk three weeks in a row, having something new to look out for can make this daily habit feel like an adventure.
8. Get cooking
While we aren’t all born with the natural talents necessary to become the next Top Chef, most of us have been forced to break out the skillets and spatulas in recent weeks. For those of us with a limited repertoire of recipes under our belts, this can be a challenge. With more time on our hands than ever, there has never been a better time to expand your cooking knowledge. And if you have kids, this is an excellent opportunity to teach them essential cooking skills.
At the beginning of the week, before you do your grocery shopping, hold a quick family meeting to discuss some exciting new recipes you’d like to try out. Use this time to draw up your shopping list, schedule each dinner and decide who will be the ‘head chef’ for each meal. On their designated day, the head chef will be in charge of orchestrating the creation of the meal and delegating smaller tasks to the rest of their family members.
9. Gamify the household chores
With the entire family spending more time at home than usual, you’ve probably noticed the house getting dirtier faster. Many people, and most kids, are not huge fans of cleaning, but keeping your living space tidy is just as important for your family’s mental health as it is for their physical health. Since everyone has an equal part in making these messes, it only makes sense that each family member should take an equal role in cleaning them up.
To take some of the drudgery out of the need for more frequent cleaning, consider gamifying the process. There are many ways to accomplish this. For example, establish a standard chore chart and assign a point value to each task. Washing the dishes after dinner might be worth three points, while vacuuming the living room or cleaning the bathtub might be worth five points. Whichever family member accrues the most points at the end of the week earns a predetermined prize or privilege. With an attractive enough incentive, even the messiest teenager can be turned into a real neat-freak.
10. Find interesting ways to lend a helping hand
In times like these, it is normal to feel a bit aimless or even powerless. One way to regain a sense of purpose is to look for helpful ways to contribute to humanity’s larger cause. While this is a bit trickier when circumstances force us to keep our distance from other people, there are certainly ways we can help from the safety of our homes.
If you have the necessary equipment and sewing skills, you and your family can sew face masks for friends and neighbors who may have trouble acquiring them on their own. If you live in an area with a large homeless population, consider ordering some basic supplies online and putting together personal care packages that can be dropped off at a local homeless shelter. A backpack with toothpaste, deodorant, socks and other basic toiletries and supplies can make a huge impact on someone’s daily life. Know of a nursing home or hospital nearby where patients are alone in these scary times? Write some simple, heartfelt letters of encouragement to help lift their spirits. These are just a few ideas, and we’re sure you and your family can come up with plenty more on your own!
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