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Sick day? Snow day? Rainy day? No matter the reason, a day inside and away from your normal routine can be a little stressful — especially if school or day care is closed, and you’re trying to work from home while caring for your kids.
If you’re on the hunt for high-impact activities that will keep kids learning, growing, and developing while at home, check out the list below. We’ve rounded up 12 ideas to keep kids of all ages occupied and engaged.
If your toddler is used to going to preschool or day care, an unexpected day off might have them craving the structure and instruction they get every day. You don’t need to replicate their school day to keep them busy and happy — instead, try the activities below to keep them occupied before and after nap time.
Most toddlers love playing in the kitchen. When you’re home all day, you’ll definitely have meals to prepare. Instead of trying to keep your toddler busy while you cook, invite them into the kitchen and enjoy collaborating with them on your next meal or snack.
With plastic or silicone bowls and utensils, they can help do things like:
- wash fruits and vegetables
- mix dry and wet ingredients together
- scoop or stir ingredients
- mash soft ingredients, like bananas
Break out the bubbles
There’s nothing more fun for a little one than blowing and popping bubbles. Head to the backyard (if you can) or the balcony and enjoy some bubbly fun with your tot.
Make your own bubbles with:
- 1/2 cup corn syrup
- 3 cups water
- 1 cup dish soap (lots of parents swear by Dawn or Joy for bubble making)
Tip: Stir the corn syrup into the water first. Then gently mix in dish soap, trying not to form any bubbles in the process!
Use bubble wands, or see what you can find around the house — toilet paper rolls, kitchen tools, and straws are all good options.
For a less messy approach, you could also try a bubble machine.
While elaborate arts and crafts are likely out of your tot’s league, most young children enjoy creating and experimenting with paint. Extend the activity by providing a variety of objects they can paint with. They can try leaves, cotton swabs, forks, or even their own fingers!
Set up an obstacle course
Kids in this age range often love climbing, crawling, jumping, and rolling. Help them engage their physical side by setting up an indoor obstacle course.
Use Playzone-fit Stepping Stones to start. Then, add in household objects to create opportunities for your little one to go over, under, around, and through obstacles.
Kids in this age range love exploring new things as much as they appreciate structure and a schedule. You can help your little one feel excited about the day to come by offering up ideas like the ones below.
Create a scavenger hunt
Kids this age love a good scavenger hunt! Developing a scavenger hunt might seem like a daunting task, but there’s no need to come up with elaborate clues or hide special objects around your home.
Instead, create an open-ended scavenger hunt with prompts for kids to find “something red,” “something soft,” or “something they like to read.”
Let them build
It doesn’t take a lot of special materials for kids to have everything they need to get building. To get them started, fill a basket or box with:
- craft glue
- empty tissue boxes or shoe boxes
- toilet paper rolls or paper towel rolls
- scrap wood
- Popsicle sticks
- pipe cleaners
- other household finds
Task them with building a city, a town, or something from their own imagination!
Enlist their help with chores
While chores might not seem like fun for most grown-ups, kids often enjoy pitching in and helping with adult jobs. There’s no time like the present to help your child learn to sweep, load the dishwasher, or make their bed.
Kids this age are also often laundry champs. Keep them engaged by asking for help sorting laundry by category or color. They can also help pair socks and fold towels.
There’s nothing more exhausting for a parent than a child who needs to burn some energy. Instead of letting their energy build up all day, take frequent breaks from quiet play, school work, and screen time to get in some movement.
Make a list of 5-minute movement games and sprinkle these throughout your day whenever your child needs a little movement.
- Mother, may I?
- Simon says
- red light, green light
- freeze tag
As kids begin to grow into the upper elementary school age range, they often become more independent and ready to play or work on their own.
But just because they’re more independent than the younger kids in the family doesn’t mean they’re ready to plan their day’s activities on their own quite yet. Check out the activities below for some creative ideas!
Have them write a letter
When they’re out of school and not interacting with friends, older kids especially can begin to feel a little bit socially isolated. Encourage your child to do what they can to stay in touch with friends and loved ones by writing a letter to someone that they care about.
While any pencil and paper will do, offering up a stationery set can make this activity feel extra special.
Have them create a comic book
Writing a comic book is a great way for your child to stretch their imagination while they get in some practice reading and writing.
Help your child brainstorm the general outline of a story or show them examples of comic books you’ve enjoyed in the past. Then, step back and let them take over the creation of their very own comic book.
Go on a nature walk
If you’re able to, take a short stroll with your child. You don’t have to go far or head to a park in order to do this activity. Instead, see what you can find in your own neighborhood.
As you walk, encourage your child to point out trees, plants, and bugs they know the names of. If you can, take a picture of those they don’t recognize. When you get home, have your child spend some time researching the things they saw on their walk.
Let them become a ninja!
If you’re able to go outdoors, nothing will get your kiddo moving quite like having their very own ninja course to practice on. Consider a ninja course starter pack an investment in their creativity and physical fitness. They’ll get to spend time arranging and rearranging the obstacles as well as completing the course over and over again.
A day or two at home might seem like a breeze, but longer stretches may start to get a little challenging. If you’re away from your normal routine for a few days or longer, try implementing these tips.
Establish a routine
If your kids are away from school or aren’t participating in their normal activities, creating a daily routine will help them feel as normal as possible. Set a daily wake-up time and then block out the day for different sorts of activities like
- indoor time
- outdoor time
- school work
- creative play or crafts
- snack and lunch
Take shifts if possible
If you have a co-parent or another adult living in your home, try setting up a shift schedule so you both get some uninterrupted work time and downtime during the day.
While some families prefer to switch on and off by the hour, others prefer designating one parent in charge of mornings and the other in charge of afternoons.
Let go of the little things
It can be challenging to see your home a mess, the kids still in pajamas at noon, and your work day being crammed into shorter and shorter increments. Remember that this situation is temporary, and that eventually things will go back to normal.
Do your best to let go of the little things and try to find joy in the extended time you have with your kids.
While it can be tough dealing with schedule and routine changes, know that this won’t last forever.
Do your best to plan fun and engaging activities with your kids, but cut yourself some slack too. You’re doing great.
Julia Pelly has a master’s degree in public health and works full time in the field of positive youth development. Julia loves hiking after work, swimming during the summer, and taking long, cuddly afternoon naps with her two sons on the weekends. Julia lives in North Carolina with her husband and two young boys. You can find more of her work at JuliaPelly.com.