Where I live, so many kid-friendly locations are closed because of the pandemic: museums, libraries, movie theaters, city/town recreation programs, the YMCA, and so on. I’m sure many of you, like me, are struggling to work from home while keeping your kids busy and trying to get them engaged in their school’s remote learning (if their school has been able to set that up yet, which ours hasn’t).
To help you out, we’ve rounded up many reader favorites (from this great comment thread from last week), most of which are either already in your house or available to purchase online. (Remember to practice social distancing as much as possible, all!) We’ve added a few of our own, too. If you have suggestions for other indoor and outdoor activities, educational resources, physical activities, crafts, and electronic/online activities, please share them in the comments!
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Here are a few ideas on how to keep your kids occupied during the pandemic:
- Marble Run
- Lego (including books full of ideas of what to build)
- “Dinosaur egg” excavation kits
- Puzzles, e.g., Melissa & Doug
- Playing dress-up
- Baking together
- Board games and card games
The practicality of these (and the enjoyment you get from them) will depend on what the weather is like in your area, of course!
- Walks/hikes (did your neighborhood do a no-contact shamrock hunt yesterday? it’s a great time to join a Facebook group for your building or neighborhood…)
- Bike rides
- Sidewalk chalk
- Water table
- Sand table/sandbox
- Stomp Rockets
- Velcro catch and toss set
- For the littles: “painting” an old box (with water) is lots of fun!
Screen-Free Educational Activities
- Reading (see our posts on the best books for kids who hate reading and favorite kids’ books)
- Handwriting without Tears
- Beast Academy (math)
- Multiplication flash cards
- Reading Comprehension & Fluency: Grades 2–3
- Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding: Grades K–2
- Drawing With Children
- Busy Toddler: Playing Preschool
- Make a doll bed or stuffed animal bed
- Craft kits from ALEX Toys
- Finger paint, watercolors, etc.
- Kinetic sand
- A kid-sized castle to color (buy or use a cardboard box)
- Craft supplies to use
- Pipe cleaners
- Googly eyes
- Pom poms
- Colored paper
- Repurposed items for crafts
- Shoe boxes
- Tissue boxes
- Toilet paper rolls
- Paper towel rolls
- ABCmouse (30-day free trial)
- Khan Academy
- Podcasts for kids, e.g., Wow in the World, Six Minutes
- Google Earth: educational resources / Google Earth: Voyager
- Virtual tours of museums
More Ideas to Keep Kids Occupied During the Pandemic
- These Library Apps Let You Access Movies, Books and More — For Free [The Penny Hoarder]
- “What If Coronavirus Means Your Kids Are Stuck at Home?” [The Cut]
- “13 Things to Keep Kids Entertained if Quarantined for Coronavirus”[USA Today]
- Free Activities for Kids (100+ Easy Ideas!) [Yummy Toddler Food]
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What are folks feeding their kids for lunch? My toddler has school lunch and my second grader packs her own lunch and school lunch one day a week. To keep the kids busy, I’ve been fine with throwing worksheets at my 2nd grader, and letting them run wild about the house and backyard in general, but then I remember that I still have to feed them, and I’m out of ideas. i mean on weekends we often eat out or cook a lunch, and when I’m home by myself, I often eat Triscuits out of the box and cold soup from the Tupperware (we don’t have a microwave), but I feel like I should have an in between option for the kids? Or maybe lunch is just a social construct and I should give them the Triscuits and cold soup too? Also a little resentful that I have to spend my “lunch break” with my kids.
Soup and crackers is lunch. I would heat the soup on the stove, though. Cold soup probably won’t go over well.
Get a microwave if you’re going to survive this.
Cheese and crackers with soup and maybe some fruit, sandwiches, leftovers from dinner the night before, peanut butter and crackers, etc.
I hear you – daycare usually covers this. Scrambled eggs with cheese was a big hit today.
Pb&J, tuna sandwich, frozen pizza plus veggie, dinner leftovers, turkey& cheese sandwich. Go on Pinterest to find ideas. But treat it as you’re packing a lunch for all of you.
Hi it’s me your forgotten friend a sandwich. Two pieces of bread, a filling. Done. Mine get peanut butter and honey or tuna salad, and those are the only options.
What on earth?!? No. Don’t give them cold soup. Put a pot on the stove and heat it up for heavens sake. How are we this helpless?!?
Beth @ Parent Lightly says
So far: sandwiches, chicken nuggets (cold or warm), chicken patty sandwiches, egg sandwiches, quesadillas if I have a little more time.
I have a two year old so this probably wouldn’t work for a 2nd grader, but she’s been subsisting almost entirely on fruit, yogurt, frozen turkey meatballs, bagels or tortillas with cream cheese and the occasional fruit/veggie pouch, so the prep time for her meals is basically non-existent. (To clarify, she eats this way because she’s picky, not because I’m not willing to cook, but a happy side effect is that I don’t have to cook.)
Kiddo has PB&J every day this week. Thinks he’s in heaven.
My picky 2.5 YO typically eats some combination of chicken nuggets (frozen so we microwave them), yogurt, peanut butter toasted english muffin, applesauce, grapes, apple slices, hot dog or macaroni and cheese for lunch. We had browning bananas so I made banana bread the other night and I’m pretty sure kiddo has had that for a main course at least 3 out of the most recent 5 meals…at least it has some protein from the eggs, I used half whole wheat flour and it has fruit in it?
We always send them to daycare with dinner leftovers, so we’re basically doing exactly the same thing only it gets freshly reheated! Or PB&J and sliced veggies and fruit.
I don’t have kids yet but I’ve been feeding myself by making a hamburger rice bowl at the beginning of the week that I can reheat for several days. So, basically a giant rice cooker with cooked hamburger and veggies, substituting different sauces each time I made it.
One was soy sauce with more asian style veggies.
Another was basically a deconstructed stuffed pepper. Corn, pepper, onion, garlic, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, spices, hamburger, rice.
You could do a mexican style one w/ taco themes.
Make a giant post and you will get at least 6 bowls out of it.
I make a ‘menu’ of easy lunches and rotate through them. It helps them know (like school) what to expect and almost all of these can be prepped the night before or thrown together easily. My rotation is usually:
Breakfast for lunch, taco or quesadilla (shredded chicken), pb&j, turkey roll-ups (if I can get deli meat) OR meatballs (these freeze well), and BLT’s. Add either fruit or veggies plus milk to all of these, and a carb of some sort.
It mirrors my daycare recipe of starch + milk + fruit + veggie + protein. If one day that’s a handful of peanuts, a glass of milk, an apple, and carrot sticks so be it..
I like this menu idea. I didn’t think of it until now, but my kids were very into knowing their school lunch menu, so this would probably help them. Thanks for the suggestion!
We had spaghetti-os today, but have also done deli meat+cheese sandwiches and pb&j. Carackers, apple slices or halos, and baby carrots, sliced peppers, and celery (ants on a log) are also turning into lunch staples.
You guys, I have to buy SO MUCH MORE FOOD now that my kids aren’t getting “extra breakfast” (they normally have yogurt and/or cereal at home, but daycare & before-care also serve breakfast, so they eat again there), lunch, and afternoon snack at school. I had no idea how much they eat!
My husband stays home (and wow, am I grateful right now!), so he’s looking for some educational things for our 7 year old. When I got home yesterday, son was so excited to show me the math program (I wish I remembered the name) they were working on, where he learned how to add and subtract “really big” numbers. He had the whole multi-digit carrying thing down pat. He wanted to print out the certificate at the end of each unit and put it in his backpack so he can show it to his teacher when he goes back. It was so sweet.
At the advice of a friend, we just ordered a bounce house for our basement. It hasn’t arrived yet. According to our friend, it has been a lifesaver for her two young kids on cold, rainy days, also extremely popular for play dates. It’s not cheap (about $200), and you need space for it, but I’m psyched for it to arrive.
Can you suggest one? Right now this may be the thing that saves us
My friend has the Little Tikes Inflatable Jump ‘n Slide Bounce House, so that’s what we ordered. It comes with a blower for rapid inflation.
Just wanted to clarify that we are not having play dates right now.
I ordered that this morning! My husband thought I was kidding. I was like “remember when we measured the living room and I told you it was in my cart?”
This literally made me laugh out loud.
I also ordered this! I have a one and three year old and am trying my best to manage it all, and a bounce house will be a great piece of fun in such a dark time.
We have this for outdoor play. I had no clue it could come inside. Our lives might be changed.
I am expiring with jealousy in my small NYC apartment.
Any suggestions for gross motor toys for relatively small spaces? My 2 year old walked super late and has always been gross motor delayed. We/her ped weren’t too concerned, because she was getting lots of gross motor time at school and making slow but steady progress as she tried to keep up with classmates. Now that we’re all home I’m not sure how to help her continue making progress. We do go on daily walks, but since she’s walking well at this point I don’t know how much good that does for her development.
We have been practicing somersaults with my 2.5 year old (bend over, tuck your head, push off with your toes), and trying to jump (she sooo doesn’t get this yet). I also sit on the couch and help her twirl in circles (I would totally barf but she loves it). She uses her chairs from her table to climb up and look out the tall windows. She pushes around her doll stroller (you could also use a shopping cart). And then I just ordered a bunch of outdoor balls to practice throwing and kicking (size 3 soccer ball, mini kickballs, the fisherprice basketball hoop).
You can also encourage dancing – we do a lot of baby shark and the “jump up jump down” song at the end of sesame street where elmo does his dance.
Obstacle course? Dance parties. Chasing each other. Our daycare used to have tons of “hop” games in the 18-36 month rooms. Pick a theme, print pictures with that theme and hop between pictures (maybe secure them to the floor if you think they’ll slip). Cosmic Kids Yoga on YouTube. Our kiddo (4) went to VBS for the first time last summer, and they learned songs that have movements. I can post a link to the videos if you’re okay with religion, or I am sure there are other YouTube videos of songs with movements (“dance” seems like way too strong of a word – think Baby Shark here).
We had this in our NYC apartment and used it for 5 years. It comes apart for storage and is really light so easy to carry around. https://smile.amazon.com/Little-Tikes-First-Slide-Blue/dp/B008MH5H4M?sa-no-redirect=1
Kid tunnels that you can velcro together are great for this. Or a kid trampoline.