My kids were stuck at home for a few days recently with strep throat. Just those few days had us going stir-crazy and made me wonder how we made it through those long months of school closure during the pandemic and all that at-home time together.
But once I told them no more video games, they tuned out the screens and turned up the creativity, which, as a parent, is always really great to see.
Need help coming up with some ideas of what to do at home with kids that don't involve Mario, Fortnite, or Five Nights at Freddy's? Here are five ideas to engage your kids:
1. Send them on a scavenger hunt
Scavenger hunts can be a great way to get your kids up and moving, and encourage them to use their problem-solving skills. My kids are old enough to do their own scavenger hunts now — they each set up clues in a different part of the house, and then take turns completing each other's hunts.
But if your kids are younger or need help setting up a scavenger hunt, here's how to do it:
- Decide where you're going to hide your "treasure." This can be just a small prize for the winner.
- Then design your clues leading away from the final location – it’s definitely easier to plan the scavenger hunt backwards!
- Don't make your clues too complicated — be creative with your hiding spots but consider the children's ages and temperaments when designing clues. Your clues can be word jumbles, simple riddles, or rhymes like "It's getting late, it's almost time for bed, but first find the clue where you rest your head."
Once you've hidden everything, give your kids the first clue, and let the fun begin!
Paul-Daniel Florea | Canva
2. Learn to play chess
Chess is a great game to develop strategic thinking, problem-solving, and patience while promoting focus and concentration. But not sure where to start in teaching your kids this classic game? Magnus Chess Academy makes chess fun for kids!
Online classes with Magnus Chess Academy are a really great way to teach your kids everything from the very basics of chess to the intricate strategies of the game.
Brand-new players are welcome! In fact, Magnus Chess Academy has partnered with Macaroni KID to give kids a $5 trial class that includes a live lesson with a coach and practice games with other kids. Give Magnus Chess a try, and maybe you'll discover you have the next Bobby Fischer on your couch!
3. Stir, squish, and stretch slime
No matter how old my kids have gotten they still LOVE to make slime! For several years, slime was banned in our house, but now that my kids are older, I've relented a bit. It's easy and cheap to make and always provides lots of entertainment. Here's the recipe we use:
- 6 oz. bottle of Elmer's glue
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. of contact lens solution (Needs to contain Boric Acid and Sodium Borate. Check the label before buying to make sure it has the right ingredients!)
To make it: Squeeze glue into a glass bowl. Add 1/2 tsp. of baking soda. Mix. If you want more stretchable slime, add up to 1/4 cup water and mix in. Add 1 1/2 Tbsp. contact lens solution. Mix thoroughly, then knead with your hands.
You can add a bit of water to make it more stretchy. You can also add glitter, food coloring, and other fun things. Experiment!
Natallia Boroda | Canva
4. Build a fort
If you have a big box, great. Kids can decorate it with paint, markers, stickers, and other craft supplies to make it their own. If they're old enough, they can cut out doors and windows. Don't have a big box? Blankets, sheets, chairs, tables, and other pieces of furniture can all be rearranged to create a cozy hideaway. You can also use clothespins, string, and other household items to secure the blankets and make the fort more sturdy.
When they're done? Add pillows and blankets and give them flashlights to read by when they're inside.
Pro mom tip: Have them build the fort in a room where you don't mind it staying up for a few days so they can keep adding to it or spending time playing in their creation, and it's not in your way.
Tima Miroshnichenko | Canva
5. Bake up some together time
I love to bake with my kids. Not only is baking an excellent way for them to learn (measuring is math!) but they also seem to open up to me when we're in the kitchen about whatever is happening in their lives.
And, of course, there's the bonus of enjoying the fruits of our labor together, whether indulging in a warm slice of banana bread or savoring a gooey chocolate chip cookie fresh from the oven.
Kate_Sept2004 | Canva
Keeping kids entertained at home without resorting to video games can be challenging, but it's also an opportunity for creativity and bonding. So next time you're facing a full day at home, don't despair! Scavenger hunts, chess, slime-making, fort-building, and baking are just a few fun ideas to engage kids while promoting creativity, problem-solving, and learning. Try one of these activities and watch their imaginations soar!