Stay at Home Activities to Do with Kids
Spend enjoyable time at home with simple crafts, fun games, and lots of music and movement. When circumstances like the recent pandemic keep you close to home, here are a few must-have ideas for your toolkit.
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The recent year of closures and stay-at-home orders has left many parents and caregivers with more hours of child care to fill around the house. The scramble to teach little ones, as well as keep them busy while you work at home, is definitely a challenge.
Stuck-at-home doesn't have to mean stuck-for-things-to-do with the kids. Entertain and educate through play with fun and easy options kids will love.
- Learning through play = hands-on fun that results in making observations, inspiring creativity, and boosting fine motor and cognitive skills.
Let's get ready to plan some at-home activities with the kids.
Stay at home activities
These go-to activities are simple to set up using basic craft supplies and household materials or recyclables. They can easily be modified for available materials as well as play space, and number and ages of kids.
Tips for learning at home with preschoolers
1. Use materials you have on hand.
- No cardstock or construction paper? Save paper from envelopes or calendars. Recycle cardboard from cereal boxes and other packaging. Besides becoming a canvas for artwork, cardboard is useful for making templates as well as bookmarks and small cutouts.
2. Keep setups simple.
- Keep supplies to a minimum so kids don't get overwhelmed. We don't need all the markers and crayons at the same time, or more than two or three colors of construction paper. This makes clean-up easier too.
- Use a tray or tote to organize and transport materials.
- Provide activities that don't require elaborate instructions or construction. Process art is all about letting kids work with materials to their own satisfaction. Results don't have to be perfect or match a preconceived image. The nice pictures you see on Pinterest are for inspiration only! Those perfect finishing touches and well-made crafts are just a guide, especially when it comes to kids art.
3. Alternate quiet and noisy, clean and messy, table time and movement activities.
- Your setup will determine the type of play you want to provide throughout the day. Invite messy play with an inexpensive plastic shower curtain. Cover a table or floor space to contain the paint or sand play.
- Set up a corner of the room for less-messy pretend play with a large cardboard box: is it a castle? a boat?
- Schedule quieter activities leading into lunch or nap time: place busy books or puzzles on a table or floor, or picture books in a comfy chair.
4. Organize materials for easier setups and cleanups.
- Display your play materials on shelves, or in baskets in a corner of the room: music basket with instruments; reading basket with books, another for blocks; shelf with puzzles, another for art materials such as crayons, markers, sticker books and paper.
- Recycle materials every few weeks or so. Archive current toys to a closet or large plastic bins. Rotate materials on the shelf or in the baskets with 'new' toys from storage.
- Keep just a few choices on display at a time to avoid overwhelming or overstimulating your child.
5. Be inspired by music.
- Movement is your best friend: tap into your favorite tunes and be silly, be imaginative, even make up games if you want. Who can move like a bear? a monkey? a fish? Move your legs and arms like a swimmer, a skier, a mountain climber.
- Play homemade instruments in a marching band.
- Clap and sing along with your favorite songs any time of day, especially when you need a distraction or calming force.
Indoor and outdoor activities
There are so many choices for indoor and outdoor activities on the internet, including suggestions that keep you close to home during a pandemic. Our list of simple go-to activities is a great place to start.
Make a list of common household items for older kids. Use pictures or verbal suggestions for toddlers and preschoolers. Can you find things that are the color blue? Can you find things that rhyme with hat? Supply boxes or baskets to gather items, or simply point to items when they are found.
Ideas for a hunt can be as simple as finding toys of a certain color, toy animals, or toys that make sounds.
Recycle coffee cans, a laundry basket or cardboard boxes for a game of toss. Add masking tape lines on the floor for distance, or add numbers to the containers for added math play.
A bowling game is easy to set up with snack containers or cereal boxes.
Form a marching band with everyone playing an 'instrument' made with household items: clap pot lids together, tap wooden spoons together, tap a spatula on a large round plastic lid.
Put on a favorite play list and move or dance with the music.
Prompt imagination and support language skills with homemade puppets and puppet shows. The performance area can be as simple as a blanket draped over two chairs, or a stand-up theater constructed from a cardboard box.
Simply set out basic craft materials on a tray and let imaginations soar. Paper, stickers, crayons and markers can get creativity started.
Provide hands-on fun and learning with simple experiments.
- Observe fizzy reactions with a mini volcano.
- Race toy cars down an inclined plane.
- Roll a marble through a maze of recycled corks.
Scavenger hunt or search-and-explore
Use all the senses to search and discover outdoors.
Look for specific colors: green leaves or yellow flowers. Count the number of twigs you can hold in one hand; play I spy insects with a magnifying glass.
Identify sounds: wind blowing through trees, dog barking, car horn honking.
If there is no playground equipment such as swings or a slide in your yard, there are lots of ways kids can play with simple games and toys.
Have a picnic or read a picture book on a blanket spread on the lawn or deck.
Relay races can be as simple as running from point A to point B. You can add other challenges like running backwards, hopping on one foot, or rolling an object to the finish line.
Place pine cones on the ground to make a nature trail for a game of follow-the-leader.
Make letters of the alphabet with twigs.
- Play with rocks and stones: place rocks in a long line; tap rocks together; paint rocks.
- Make a tree puzzle.
- Collect earth materials to mix in a jar.
- Measure snow with a snowman gauge.
- Play a game of toss with snowballs.
- Make a maze with piles of snow.