Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the word “quarantine” was only seen in dystopian movies and history books. But now, it’s as common in our vocabulary as “social distancing” or “the store was out of toilet paper.” Fifty years from now, parents who raised children during 2020 will get shivers up and down their spine at the mention of the word.
Keeping kids occupied after days of being indoors is HARD. That’s why we put together this post. Hopefully, it can give you some new ways to manage a world where everyone has to keep their distance.
But even outside of a pandemic, there are times when quarantining or socially distancing is necessary. Maybe you or someone you love is immunocompromised, or maybe your child comes down with some other kind of illness that you don’t want to spread to those around you. In each of these instances, keeping a kid occupied is still necessary and still hard to do.
Here are some ideas to help stimulate your creative side when it comes to finding activities for your family during a time of self-imposed isolation.
What Are Your Family’s Interests?
If you know there are activities your family will immediately enjoy, start there! Does your family love …
- Camping? Do it! Can’t? Camp out in the living room while watching an educational show on nature or looking at a book about birds.
- Dancing? Have a dance competition or set up dance breaks throughout the day.
- Sports? Find ways to kick a ball, work on hand/eye coordination, and compete. For older kids, introduce them to your favorite board game.
- Playtime? Engage with your child as they play with their favorite toys. Let them be who drives the story or the action so they don’t feel like you (the adult) came in and took over.
- DIY projects? Include your kids the next time you have a project. Obviously, there are few things more terrifying than a toddler with a hammer, so give them a toy hammer if they want to “help.”
Turn the Normal into Something New
Sometimes the answer to the question, “What could we possibly do today that we haven’t already done?” is right in front of us. Our homes are full of potential activities if we start looking for them.
- Turn the bathtub into the stage of an epic action figure sea battle.
- Let your kids help cook a meal. (Set your expectations low on how edible the food will be and prepare yourself for your kitchen to look a mess.)
- Time your kids on how long it takes them to complete a task or chore. Join in the competition; they’ll catch on that you’re making them do all the work.
Ideas When You’re All Out
The need for you to quarantine may only last a few days. However, you may find yourself in a situation (2020 anyone?) where you’re in it for the long haul.
When you run out of ideas, here’s a shortlist of people to turn to.
- Other parents have been where you are. Reach out to them and ask for ways they passed the time for inspiration.
- Pinterest is a great place to get creative ideas. Remember, some of the ideas that Pinterest Moms will throw out as “easy” and “affordable” end up becoming complicated and expensive. Look at the return on your investment with these activities. How much time will it take to set up compared to the time your child will engage with the activity? (Four hours or prep time for 30 minutes of play is not worth it.)
- Teachers and childcare workers direct and entertain children all day, every day. They are a wealth of knowledge.
- Your kids! Sometimes in our frantic need to entertain our children, we forget to ask them what they want to do. You may be surprised at the creative ideas they already have.
Our Favorite Activities
Everyone’s circumstances are different, so not every activity a parent can find is useful. However, we think these tried-and-true activities are helpful to most parents, regardless of their situation.
- Libraries! The public library is, perhaps, the greatest resource a parent in quarantine can have. With mobile libraries and drive-thrus, parents can check out stacks of books for their kids for absolutely free. Libraries often hold book reading challenges and virtual storytimes, so you may find that the hard work of organizing those things has already been done for you.
- Get outside. Whether it’s your backyard, a nearby park, or just a walk through your local neighborhood, getting outside allows kids to stretch their legs, feel some sunshine on their skin, and not feel confined by the inside of your house. This is obviously easier to do when the weather cooperates. But if you’ve been stuck inside for a week, braving the cold, rain, or heat may be worth it.
- Go on a drive or walk. Sometimes all that’s needed is a change of scenery to break up a monotonous day. Plop your kid in their stroller, wagon, or car seat and take a trip down a local scenic route.
The Elephant in the Room: Screen Time
If you’re stuck inside for long periods of time, chances are you can’t avoid some type of screen time.
The great thing to remember is that we live in a world where screen time can actually be constructive and engaging. [A reminder: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children under 2 years old not have any screen time (minus video chatting) and children 2 to 5 years old should have no more than 1 hour of screen time per day.]
- Video chatting with friends and family is one of the only screen-based activities that is green-lighted for the whole family. It’s still best to limit screen time for children younger than 2 years, and adult interaction is crucial no matter what.
- Public television offers great shows that teach on a wide variety of topics, such as counting, the alphabet, social responsibility, and conservation. In fact, for preschool-aged kids, “well-designed television programs, such as Sesame Street, can improve cognitive, literacy, and social outcomes for children 3 to 5 years of age.”
- Educational apps are accessible, affordable, and portable. However, they aren’t all created equal. The American Academy of Pediatrics found that apps created by Sesame Street and PBS actually helped with preschoolers’ literacy skills. Unfortunately, they also found that most other apps “have no such evidence of efficacy, target only rote academic skills, are not based on established curricula, and use little or no input from developmental specialists or educators.” Ouch. In summary, while apps from trusted sources are great for parents, any others you find probably aren’t helping your child.
Give Yourself a Break
Any instance where you feel the best option is to quarantine is probably a stressful one. Adding the burden of entertaining your child 24/7 is a lot, so show yourself some self-compassion, take a calming breath, and recognize that you are doing your best to make sure your child is taken care of and nurtured. If your child is enrolled at a Little Sunshine’s Playhouse Preschool, talk to your child’s teacher about ways we can help you facilitate an engaging, enjoyable environment in your home. We at Little Sunshine’s Playhouse are here to support you in that mission — we love your kiddos, too!