If you have school-aged children, having them at home for extended periods of time, away from the structure that school provides, can be. . .challenging. Kids are eager to learn, move, and explore, qualities we should all hope to maintain throughout life. Providing structure can make the experience of being at home for long periods of time a positive one, and it doesn’t have to be complicated. Opportunities to learn and explore are available with resources at home. Here are several ideas that can help satisfy children’s inquisitive nature, and make the most of learning tools you have available to you.
Social distancing still allows for time outdoors, which can help reset the day. Being outside presents many great opportunities to teach children about the beauty of nature and it gives kids a chance to discover and enjoy the wonder in simple things.
- Using tree branches, you can make a wind chime, a walking stick, or decorate it to represent the season.
- Start a small garden. Gardening teaches kids about the plant cycle and instills a sense of ownership in caring for the plants- bonus: maintaining the plants can be built into the daily routine and help structure the day.
- Collect flowers (and even weeds) and using a magnifying glass, explore how they vary. You can then press the flowers between heavy books (putting the flowers between sheets of parchment paper). After about a week, they’ll be beautifully preserved and can be glued onto paper and framed, making a unique gift or decoration for home.
- Make leaf prints with tempera paint and paper. Have your child turn the leaves over (to the vein side) and lightly paint them with tempera. While the leaf is still wet, press the painted side onto a piece of paper to create a print. This activity could also be done on card stock and used as a postcard to family and friends.
- Dig! Using hand shovels, make small trenches that you can float sticks, toy boats (or make popsicle stick rafts!), or race marbles like this elaborate example:
- If you’re limited with space, you can still use your back yard to encourage physical activity. Using yoga mats, pool noodles, hula hoops, balloons, slides, etc. build a course that has kids jumping, twirling, doing exercises like crunches or planks, balancing, tumbling- and getting tired out! Find some outdoor obstacle course ideas here.
Indoor time doesn’t have to be mundane- crafts that are age-appropriate can incorporate learning opportunities, help children develop fine motor skills, and also encourage bonding time with family members.
- Better Homes and Gardens is a gold standard when it comes to crafts and creative projects. These 50 activities are sure to entertain the whole family and do not require extensive supplies.
- Highlights Magazine showcases 31 activities that use household items (like toilet paper rolls, paper plates, etc) that will get the creative wheels turning.
For more ideas- check out our Pinterest board showing more creative (and easy!) kids craft ideas for all ages.
Screen time is a wonderful way to keep kids occupied while also providing learning opportunities and entertainment. Many venues around the country (zoos, museums, and libraries, for example) are now offering virtual tours, online story time, and lessons for kids at home. That is in addition to many online resources opening up their subscription services, making them free for public use during this time. If you’re feeling guilty for parking the kids in front of a screen-don’t! This is a unique time where kids may utilize technology more often than normal, but don’t allow that to leave you feeling like they aren’t learning. Active screen time- utilizing resources that get them up and moving (like following dance routines, ballet, yoga, etc) are also great options to encourage physical activity.
Internet providers have pledged to help keep people connected to work and learning resources during this time. Most are expanding data plans free of charge to accommodate more frequent streaming and data usage due to work and school needs. Many carriers are also waiving overage and late fees. We found that most are also offering internet plans at a reduced rate to help those that need internet access but may be facing financial hardship. And, all carriers we checked have also opened up their WIFI hot spots for public use, enabling those who aren’t able to purchase an internet plan to still have access. Consumer Reports shares more info about specific carriers here (but we recommend you also check with your provider about the details of your account).
- San Diego Zoo – The San Diego Zoo is now ramping up their resources to help keep kids occupied and learning while at home. There are activities, writing prompts, live camera feeds of the animals, and games offered- all surrounding the exciting topic of animals and our planet.
- Scholastic Learn At Home – Scholastic’s new Learn at Home website offers free daily courses for kids. Each daily lesson includes age-appropriate writing, reading, and enrichment activities, and they’re even offering virtual field trips.
- PBS Kids – PBS is a long-standing trusted resource for information and educational tools. PBS Kids offers an extended array of activities that guide kids through learning about topics in an age appropriate and fun way. There are also games that reinforce the lessons, tips for parents if they’re seeking creative ways to pass the time, and also videos showcasing kids’ favorite shows like Arthur, Daniel Tiger, Pinkalicious, Super Why!, and others.
- Lakeshore – Lakeshore offers over 1,000 activities including a huge selection of free, printable resources for kids of all ages. There are craft ideas, word searches, and even lesson plans for parents to use while guiding their children at home.
- Dictionary.com At Home Center– Provides English language lessons for students in grades pre-K to 12. All of the material has been created or approved by teachers, and includes spelling, grammar and word challenges, as well as fun family activities and writing prompts.
- Khan Academy – Khan Academy is world renowned for offering free educational resources for ages 2+. There are early education resources for young children all the way to AP course support, SAT/ACT prep lessons for young adults and even college course resources. They’ve partnered with institutions like NASA, The Museum of Modern Art, The California Academy of Sciences, and MIT to offer specialized content. There’s also a free app, Khan Academy Kids, available to supplement the learning experience. Sound impressive? It is- and it’s always free.
- Tiler Peck Ballet Classes – Tiler Peck, a principal dancer at New York City Ballet, is teaching daily ballet classes every day at 1 pm EST via Instagram Live. Throw on a pair of ballet slippers and join in as she takes dancers through basic stretching and ballet positions. She even throws in some pointe work at the end for more advanced dancers.
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See you for class tomorrow at 10PST/1EST on my IG LIVE! Should we throw in some Swan Lake arms tomorrow!? Perhaps a step from a story ballet every class? Let me know what you think! I love dancing with you guys everyday! 📸: @lsweaters #turnitoutwithtiler #dancetogether #bettertogether #dance #ballet #ballerina #swanlake #odette
- Cosmic Kids Yoga – This is an outstanding resource if the kids need to get the wiggles out, but it isn’t quite time to head outdoors. Yoga can help kids build strength and also teaches them mindfulness while they follow along to a story paired to yoga moves- active screen time at its best.
- Storytime From Space – Reading is always a great way to pass the time- how about having stories read by astronauts while they’re in outerspace?! Storytime from Space does just that- out of this world! Also available are videos and other curriculum tools.
- America’s Test Kitchen For Kids – ATK offers recipes, activities, and experiments for kids using things most households likely already have stocked in the pantry.
For other sites and ideas to help beat boredom and still maintain a creative learning environment, read here and here.
While adults may feel the weight of how uncertain these times are, it is also an opportunity to strengthen ties with our loved ones, especially our children. These activities will certainly help pass the time but don’t forget to also set aside time to relax together. This period is unique and uncharted territory; spending time with loved ones can help reduce everybody’s anxiety. If you have any ideas or resources that you’d like to share, leave them in the comments below!