Enjoy the extra time together at home with fun ideas, virtual playtime, and learning. Plus, try this sample weekday schedule from the experts at Life Time Kids.
With so many children and parents at home together right now, getting in a rhythm and establishing a routine that works for everyone is important. We asked two Life Time Kids programming experts to gather guidance for making the best use of this time, and they offered 20 of their favorite ideas for keeping kids busy and engaged with activities that include learning, physical movement, and fun.
But first things first: Establish a routine.
Some parents are working full-time from home, and it can be stressful to try and stay productive while making sure children are safely engaged.
“Every family will need to experiment with finding a routine that works for them,” says Samantha Stark, director of Life Time Kids. “Depending on the age or self-sufficiency of your kids, parents who work full-time may need to alternate taking breaks to look after and engage with them.” She suggests trying to schedule meetings so they don’t overlap and one parent is always available to step in when needed to support the kids.”
You may have seen sample daily schedules circulating the internet from parents and educators. Take a look around for inspiration and craft one that best suits your children’s ages and your work schedule. Or try this sample routine created by Krystel Reierson, curriculum and events manager for Life Time Kids.
|8-9 a.m.||Brush teeth, make bed, breakfast, and kitchen clean-up|
|9:30 a.m.-noon||School assignments|
|Noon-1 p.m.||Lunch, clean-up, outdoor walk|
|1-3 p.m.||Personal time or at-home sports|
|4-5 p.m.||Prep and assist with dinner|
Many school districts are providing digital classroom experiences or have sent home packets of work the kids will need to do, but Stark says it’s a good idea to keep a go-to list of activities and resources for when kids aren’t busy doing their assigned schoolwork.
To help give you some ideas, she and Reierson gathered 20 of their favorite resources, ideas, and activities. These include academic activities, such as reading, writing, and science experiments, as well as options for remote socializing with friends and enjoying outdoor physical activity and playtime.
“While the circumstances of this added together-time may not be ideal, it’s a wonderful opportunity to create incredible family memories your kids will always remember,” Reierson says.
Learning and Brain Activities
1. Write letters. This is a great activity for connecting with the friends and family your kids can’t see right now. “Kids love getting mail, so not only is this helping my children enjoy writing, but the other child or family member also gets a bit of joy in their mailbox,” Stark says.
Alternatively, Reierson suggests using this time as an opportunity for community outreach. Send thank you notes via mail or email to teachers, nurses, doctors, community-service officers and first responders, daycare workers, and more to express gratitude for the extra help they’re providing during this challenging time.
2. Find natural art. Go on a walk and have your children search for an example of art found in nature. Encourage them to take a photo, explain why they liked it, and to create something with it during craft time at home.
3. Make art and crafts. Kids love drawing, painting, and creating with playdough or clay. Choose a new subject each day or let them explore subject matter on their own. The Art for Kids Hub on YouTube has guided drawing videos that are easy for kids to follow. Or download these coloring and activity pages from Life Time Kids.
4. Create a challenge. Put together an activity for your kids that involves solving a problem or beating the clock. They can build with Legos®, put together a puzzle, construct something with playdough, or finish a paint-by-number.
5. Read. Together or on one’s own, depending on your child’s age and ability, reading is a great way to explore other worlds while at home. Pick an author to focus on, a book series, or something new each day. Scholastic has a list of free at-home reading options sorted by grade level available here. If your child has a library card, take advantage of Hoopla, a free resource that allows downloading up to 20 e-books, audiobooks, or videos per month on each library card that you have.
6. Conduct S.T.E.M. experiments. Build a “challenge box” with supplies like tape, index cards, tinfoil, coffee filters, wood blocks, rubber bands, and more — depending on the challenge. Have your kids use the supplies to build a zip line, bridge, catapult, or other working structure.
7. Meditate. Spend time listening to soft music, nature sounds, or a guided meditation for kids like these from Headspace.
8. Listen to a story. Double up on the brain benefits of chore-time, puzzle solving, or other activities by listening to an audiobook. Or try a podcast for kids, like Story Pirates, Wow in the World, But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids, Ear Snacks, or Brains on!.
9. Have a forest-school day. These types of schools are growing in popularity and allow younger children to spend more time outside interacting with nature, getting fresh air, and enjoying exercise — without touching playground equipment. NurtureStore has a list of activities — such as making a leaf crown, painting sticks, measuring leaves, and more — that you can do with your child in the backyard or at the park.
Play and Remote Socializing
11. Create handshake alternatives. Challenge kids to come up with elaborate and funny handshakes they can record and perform on a video for relatives and friends.
12. Plan virtual playdates. Reach out to the parents of your children’s friends and schedule a quick calendar of events they can do virtually together. For example, you could plan days where they do a craft together, practice yoga following an online video, sing group karaoke, or play “pass the story,” where one family starts the tale and another takes over to tell the next part.
13. Explore old-school board games. Bring out your favorite games or order some new ones to try. Let each family member choose their favorite game and set aside an hour to play it together each week.
14. Write chalk messages. Go for a walk and bring along some sidewalk chalk. Draw pictures and write messages to neighbors and friends on their sidewalk or driveway. “It’s a great little pick-me-up when we are unable to see each other or hang out,” Reierson says.
15. Set up Facebook group story time. Set up a private Facebook group for families to join. Families take turns reading their child’s favorite book and sharing the video, allowing each family to be a “guest storyteller” in one another’s homes. Children love seeing their friends’ videos, and it also integrates literacy. Bonus points for homemade masks, costumes, or makeup!
16. Build an indoor fort. Use chairs, blankets, tables, cardboard boxes, and couch cushions to build a kids-only fort or a space for the whole family. Add some twinkle lights to add to the ambiance for snack time or story time in the fort.
Fitness and Exercise
17. Get outside. Plan to spend a minimum of 30 minutes outside every day, if possible. Fresh air is good for your health, and kids get restless being in the house all day. Get out into nature, take the dog for a walk, ride bikes, or go on a scavenger hunt you plan with the neighbors.
18. Have a family dance-off. Choose an artist of the day, week, or just your favorite playlist. Set the music to shuffle so every tune is a surprise. Create your own dance, freestyle it, or learn a YouTube dance that’s fun for the whole family and keeps you moving.
19. Hike a nearby trail. Exploring nature is a great way to get some exercise as a family and learn about native plants in your area. Bring along water, snacks, a book about birds or plants, a pair of binoculars, and a magnifying glass. You can even use an app like iNaturalist to identify species. The best part? No playground germs!
20. Do your chores. While this might not seem like the most fun option, chores teach kids self-reliance, responsibility, teamwork, and more. Plus, it’s a great, active way to use their energy for the family’s common good. Vacuuming, folding laundry, washing windows, and emptying or loading the dishwasher are all great movement activities for kids.
Lindsey Frey Palmquist is a senior copywriter at Life Time.