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Whether you are looking for new ideas to try with your children (or for them to try alone and free you some time), here you will find a compilation of suggestions, from old time favorites to some new, including links to free books, resources and downloads.
Being an author, I need to start with the obvious: let’s find some joy in reading new books or rereading our favorites!
Ok, finding new books at the library is not an option now, but have you tried reading e-books to your children? Perhaps you are not fan of yet another screen-related activity, but this can well be a good option at the moment, since you can find new titles (many of them for free!) without leaving the safety your home. You could just happen to find new favorite titles and authors, and buy them later (when all this is over) in paperback or hardback if so you wish.
My own picture book, The Monster Who Loved Throwing Stones, can be downloaded for free for a limited time here. More free books for children and teens can also be downloaded at this link. I have also learned that Amazon is offering a two-month free trial of Kindle Unlimited to new subscribers in the US, allowing you to read all books in the Kindle Unlimited library for free during two months and for 9.99 USD per month afterwards. You can check the offer here.
Or if you would like to find some new reads for yourself, you might want to check out this free promo, put together by several authors to help out and reach those in isolation.
If you need some time to work, get something done or wind down, or you just don’t have it in you to read another book to your little ones at the time being, you can give a try to YouTube channels featuring book readings. I would suggest that you check out Madge’s Story Time (my picture book “The Monster Who Loved Throwing Stones” is featured there!), Story Time with Mr. Whiskers, Ms Becky and Bear Story Time and Jamie Bryant (I love the Skunk in the Shower story!)
We all need to keep active in order to stay in good health and for the children it might be especially hard to be confined indoors and have so little activity. So find a song you all love (even if it is Baby Shark! Lol) and have fun!
Would you like some recommendations? My children and I love to dance to the Freeze Song. We dance, twirl, skip and hop to the tune and stop when the singer says, “Freeze!” My youngest doesn’t get tired of it! We also love the Chicken Dance. My six-year old prefers more complicated choreographies, like these dances that were popular among kids here in Norway last year and the year before BlimE dansen 2018 and 2019. The first one is against bullying and the second about inclusion, because “we are all good enough.” I have no way of checking if these titles are visible outside of Norway or Scandinavia, but I sure hope you can watch them and enjoy the choreographies with your children, even if you can’t understand the lyrics! You might also want to check this Dance Tutorial for 3 to 7 Years Kids.
Maybe this is already a regular activity in your home and you are looking for new ideas, or perhaps your children are small and you have been wondering if it is time to give it a try. Whatever the case, check out the YouTube videos Simple Baking for Toddlers with an easy to make recipe that you can try with the youngests in the house and 14 tasty Dessert Recipes for Kids to Make in Five Minutes. Some of the recipes in the second video are made with premade ingredients (ice cream, chocolate fudge, pastries, and others are made from scratch but look simple enough to try). I can cook Full Episode Compilation can also give you extra ideas, but remember you don’t need to make anything especial, just involve them in whatever you need to do, while keeping them safe from hazards.
Nothing like giving a fancy title to a regular chore to make it more interesting! Just let your children use some scarves or bandanas to dress up with and give them some titles like “top cleaning assistant” (or something more creative! Maybe Elsa-vacuum-leader and Spiderman-dusting-manager, depending on your children’s preferences) and get to work! And a bit of music can enlighten the mood. You can play their favorite tunes or perhaps “Just Whistle While You Work from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”
You could give crafts a try if you feel so inclined and are not afraid of the mess. Activities like painting, creating salt dough ornaments, and making our own play-doh are always a hit at home. My favorite websites for tips and activities are The Artful Parent and Happy Hooligans.
At the time being, The Artful Parent is offering a free two week trial of their Kids Art Spot membership trial, and a 50% reduction in the membership price (7.99 USD per month afterwards). And I must say I love Happy Hooligans because they have a fantastic and supportive online community via their Facebook Page.
And you don’t even need to follow a video! Just use your imagination or ask your children what they want to build/make. As I write this post, my children and I are making a PJ Masks Headquarters using cardboard boxes, toilet paper rolls and paint.
You could also try an inexpensive online class. Udemy.com offers a wide variety of art, music and writing workshops at affordable prices. Most of them are aimed at an adult audience, but you will find several that are either addressed to children (like Building Kids’ Confidence Through Art) or simple enough that they can be followed by a kid.
How about using your phone to create a film with your children? Get together and decide what the film is about and then get to action! You will surely enjoy watching it together later! (and could send it to your loved ones in isolation!) If your children are older and are allowed the use of the tablets or phones, let them create a movie and surprise you with it. You can just enjoy the individual scenes in your phone or tablet’s gallery or try to edit the scenes together. I haven’t tried it yet, but found this post featuring five video editing apps for kids that could be of interest if you have a potential movie maker at home.
There are a few theater related activities for your children to try, depending on their age. Dressing up with old clothes (or letting the kids dress up in your clothes) is always fun. You could all play pantomime, have a lip-sync performance, make puppets or play the “Emotional Animals Game,” which can be perfect for the younger ones. To play you just need to make two dices, one with different animals on the sides and the other with different emotions, then just roll the dices and act out whatever you roll. You can check a blog post about the game here. And if your kids are older, you could write a play and have the whole family perform it!
At home it is very popular to play “Tag, you are it” with balls. Instead of just chasing and touching the other and making them “it,” we chase each other over the living room and kitchen with small soft balls. At some point we throw the ball, and whoever gets hit becomes it.
We tried yet a new version of the same game after my son’s birthday, when he was given a poo emoji stress ball. So now we chase each other and try to place the “poo” in the other’s clothes or throw it at them. Whoever gets touched by the ball becomes a “very smelly it.” I never imagined how much fun this toy would be for my children, but it is!
By now you might be tired playing the same puzzles and board games over and over, so it might be time to create new ones!
When it comes to puzzles, just find a drawing or a photo and a jigsaw pattern and put them together using Word or PowerPoint. Here is a video showing you how to do it. All you need to do afterwards is print your puzzle, cut the pieces and have fun!
And if you don’t have a printer, don’t worry. Just let your children draw something or pick an image from a magazine, glue the page to a cardboard to make it stronger, draw random triangles in the back, cut them and voila! I remember making one like that when I was in second grade and keeping it for years.
Making a board game can be a bit more time consuming, but maybe even more fun (and isn’t the point to get our children occupied a while longer? You could start by checking online a game you would like to play but don’t have and make your own version of the board and the pieces. An easy one to make is Snakes and Ladders. You can find a tutorial here, but you don’t really need it. My sister and I made one when we were children and we didn’t have a model, tutorial or instructions. We just took a piece of paper, divided it in squares, wrote numbers in each one, drew small pictures, and connected some of them with ladders and some with slides. We had lots of fun playing it.
We also tried making more complicated games, like a treasure hunt or police and thieves, but we didn’t really knew our own rules for the last one, so at the end there was no really a way to capture the thieves! However, we had a blast making the games and spent many hours creating them.
You can probably make up dozens of new games using things that you already have at home. But if you cannot come up with ideas, this video with suggestions is unbeatable! I unfortunately couldn’t track the original video, so I am posting the link to the Facebook Page that shared it. Here you will find ideas for races and competitions, trainings, games that you can make with just some boxes and potatoes, with cups and small balls, or with just about anything you might have at home! Whoever made this video just rocks!
And if you still want more ideas, you can check out this page: 75 Fun Indoor Games For Kids.
Screen time might be a lifesaver during these tough times, and cuddling up together to watch a movie might be just what we need at some point or another, when there is no time or energy to try anything else. So choose any film your children have been wanting to watch and stream it or watch again a favorite film. You can let your kids watch the movie alone if you need to disconnect or get something done or, if you have the possibility, just drop everything else and enjoy the film with them! And don’t forget the popcorn!
Your children will certainly be missing their grandparents, closest relatives and friends, and doing video calls in between via Skype, WhatsApp or Facetime can help them feel connected and could potentially free you some time, since they will be happy talking to their loved ones and will need minimum supervision.
Grandparents or other relatives can read a story for your children via video, or just listen to your children as they show them the work they have done during the day. It is also possible to hold a dance or lip-sync competition or play a game across the distance, like Bingo or just about any other board game (let the other side use a dice and your children can move the pieces for them). It might be challenging, but it will help your children feel connected with those they miss (while keeping them busy!)
If you need to rest and there is nobody to help you out, you can always try some of these games, ingeniously thought by other parents who needed to have some time off: play spa, hair stylist or massage therapist (of course you are the client or patient and get to relax or lie down, and your kid gets to do the work), lost toy detective (get them to search for a misplaced toy or other household item and offer a reward if it is found), or just organize a scavenger hunt (this takes time to prepare, but will keep them busy for a while, while you rest). And of course, if you have more than one kid, you can always play the “quiet game” and offer a prize to whoever manages to stay quiet the longest.
Do you have any suggestions to add to the list? I would love to hear them! Please comment below or send me an email.
You might also want to check 15 Tips on How to Talk to Your Children about Corona and 26 Tips for Keeping Your Sanity During Corona Lockdown
About the author: Edymar Ablan Pacheco is a journalist and children’s book author. You can download her first book, “The Monster Who Loved Throwing Stones,” for free for a limited time by clicking here. By subscribing to her Reader’s List you will also be receiving free coloring and activity pages, mazes, printable jigsaw puzzles and more!