Fun, Hands-On Activities for Kids to Do at Home During Quarantine
Here are a few hands-on activities I have been doing with my own kids, as well as some suggestions from a local mom blogger.
As a mom who is both working from home and homeschooling, I’ve been trying to find fun ways to break up the monotony of school work, tablet time and endless TV for my kids. Yes, the mama guilt has set in. Many of my six-year-old’s first-grade assignments are on the tablet, and it has become a constant battle with him to focus on the reading and math assignments while he’s being tempted by Minecraft and YouTube on the same device. Thankfully, his teacher is planning many hands-on activities with good, old-fashioned paper, pencil, markers and crayons — and since the weather is getting nicer — things like outdoor scavenger hunts and writing and drawings about spring time. But, since it’s April, we still have quite a few rainy days in our future.
Here are a few hands-on activities I have been doing with my own kids, as well as some suggestions from a local mom blogger, Nicole Mineau of Between the Lines. We’ve both been sharing a lot of these ideas on Instagram and I thought it would be helpful to put them in a blog for parents.
1. Make Stuff Out of Recyclables: Gather a bunch of recyclables and construct cool things out of them. I had large and small boxes, paper towel and toilet paper rolls, cups and tin foil, and my kids made a castle and a robot out of the paper goods, then covered the models with tinfoil and construction paper using tape. Nicole Mineau and her son made an awesome truck out of cereal boxes, water bottles, jar lids and more.
2. Make Moon Sand: Make moon sand out of four cups of flour and a half-cup of baby oil. If you want more material, double the recipe. I didn’t have baby oil, so I used vegetable oil instead and it worked just fine. You can also make moon dough – a textural combo of Play-Doh and slime – by combining one cup of cornstarch and a half-cup of conditioner. The kids will have fun playing with the different textures.
3. Construct a Bubbling Volcano: We made a bubbling volcano as a great science experiment. My kids absolutely loved it and learned about chemical reactions. We constructed a cone shape out of a poster board and tape, and placed a milk carton underneath it with the opening accessible from the top of the volcano. We covered the paper cone with foil so the paper could not absorb the liquid. Then we took a plastic beaker and added 400 ml of vinegar, 100 ml cold water, 10 ml dish soap and 2 drops of red and yellow food coloring and stirred it together, then poured the solution into the milk carton. Next, we took a small glass and added half a cup of baking soda and topped it off with water and stirred it to make a slurry. To make the volcano bubble, slowly pour the baking soda slurry into the milk carton filled with vinegar, soap and water. Be sure to get all of the solution into the container and not have it pour over the edges. Step back and watch it erupt! Full step-by-step directions are here.
4. Learn Spelling Words with Sidewalk Chalk: Write positive and/or fun messages in sidewalk chalk on your driveway or along the sidewalks in your neighborhood. We also wrote my son’s sight words on the path leading up to our house to make spelling fun.
5. Spread Kindness Through Simple Art: Paint shells and kindness rocks with pictures and messages and leave them in places where people can find them to brighten their day.
6. Create Fairies Out of Found Materials: Create whimsical fairies from objects found in nature. Draw a fairy on a piece a paper, then cut it out. In place of the wings, find two leaves outside that are the shape and size that you want for fairy wings. Pick dandelions and other small blooms, and find rocks and small shells to use for the fairy’s attire. Bonus points if you construct fairy houses out of sticks, moss and rocks for the fairies to live in.
7. Make a Magical Potion: Use ingredients you have around the house or things you find outside. Combine water, sparkles, dirt, spices, pasta, pebbles and flower petals and mix it all up in a jar to create a magic potion. If you want it to be drinkable, then throw together a smoothie with yogurt, frozen fruit, a banana, and milk or juice and mix it in a blender. Talk about what spells you will cast and your hopes and dreams for the future (when all of this is a distant memory)!
8. Build a Fort: Build a massive fort out of all the blankets and pillows and furniture you can gather in the house. Place a blanket over the top, grab some flashlights and a couple good books and pretend you are camping…or just take a nap.
9. Bring Wildlife Into Your Home: Use the Google AR (augmented reality) 3D function to take pictures of wildlife in your living room or kitchen using your mobile device. Find a list of animals here. We searched for a “tiger” on google on my phone, and an option to “meet a life-sized tiger up close” pops up. Hit the “View in 3D” option and you can place the animal in your home environment using your camera phone. Then you can use your camera phone to snap a picture with the animal in your kitchen, living room or bedroom. This photo shows my son as the new (more humane) “Tiger King.”
10. Do Math with Real Money: Cut up cards with numbers with one through ten written on them and gather a whole pile of change, including quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies. Have your child turn over two number cards, and then use the change to add up to the number you flipped over. For example, if he or she flips over a five and a six, the child must use the change to come up with fifty-six cents.
11. Have a Backyard Scavenger Hunt: Have a spring scavenger hunt in the backyard with a list of things to find, including flowers, something yellow or pink, a stick bigger than their thumb, something that flies, etc. They will have a blast running around the yard looking for stuff.
I know it’s hard right now. It’s certainly challenging to be contained at home with small children and to find ways to get your work done while making sure their schoolwork is complete. We are all balancing a lot and it truly gets overwhelming (in fact, as I was writing this, my son shattered a glass all over the kitchen floor, because, of course that would happen). But I am also trying to remember that change is hard for them, too, and I am using this time to build memories with my kids by doing fun things they will never forget. If you break up the monotony with fun stuff, that’s what they will remember most about this precious time of being home with you. May the force be with you, parents!