Parenting little kids, it can be said, is about getting through the day with your wits intact.
And as many Americans are now firmly in week two of self-isolation, many parents are turning to quick, attention-grabbing activities with their kids to help pass the time. Maybe it’s a compact at-home “indoor playground”; maybe it’s a good, ole-fashioned card game (looking at you, Go Fish); maybe it’s a scavenger hunt.
So HuffPost Parents asked not only our community of parents from the newsroom but also our Facebook community for advice and ideas to help the kids (and us) get through it all.
Take it outdoors
“I created a neighborhood walk bingo board and an “out for a drive” bingo board. They were a big hit with my 2- and 4-year-old. Happy to share! Very easy to make and can be adapted to where you live. Some items on the driving one included a dump truck, fire truck, mail truck, etc. We drove around for about 40 minutes eagerly looking for them all!” ― Elise Daigle
“My kids wanted to help me while I was planting seeds. So I gave them each a bucket of dirt and some “seeds” and let them dig and plant in their own buckets. It would be ideal to do this outside if it’s nice, but it was cold & rainy here in Maryland so I just let them make a mess on a tarp-covered table.” ― Emily Shea
“Set up a car wash. Bucket of clean water, bucket of soapy water, unused toothbrushes, and small towels. Then they bring the toy cars through the car wash. Keeps my 4-year-old busy for at least 45 minutes.” ― Robin Withall Chesnut
“Fire drill. Make them leave the house as quickly as possible and stay in the garden while I’m checking everyone is out (having a cuppa in peace).” ― Joanne Mitchell
“I’m an artist, so luckily we have a lot of paint and art supplies on hand. We painted signs of encouragement for our neighborhood and posted them at our tree facing the road. We have done some drawing and making our own board games. Art is therapy!” ― Brooke Elkins
“We make our own play dough: 2 c flour; 1 c salt; 4 tsp cream of tartar; 2 tbsp oil; 2 c water; and food coloring of your choice. Blend dry ingredients, heat oil and water on medium heat and blend in dry ingredients until the dough forms. Then add food coloring. The process of making it is quick and cheap ― and it keeps the kiddos busy much, much longer.” ― Samara Mackereth, head of video, HuffPost U.K.
Try a scavenger hunt
“Fun art; shared drawings; zentangles can be done by several people taking turns. Found object mandalas: start with a treasure hunt to collect six of something and then arrange them on table or floor in a circular pattern; finger paint in pudding or applesauce ― works even for olders who are open. String yarn all through the hall and living room and see who can go through the maze without touching the yarn.” ― Jayne Heetderks
“Try an indoor scavenger hunt. There’s a bunch of great lists on Pinterest! Create a spot where they have to put all the things, make them do one at a time, then make them put it all away.” ― Rebecca Zamon, manager of audience development, HuffPost Canada
“My kids are 4 and 5, and we enjoy kitchen scavenger hunts. Find something taller than you, then shorter than you. Then find something red (and any other color). Find something shaped like a rectangle, etc. Can be used for every room. The kids have a blast and I totally count it as ‘learning time’ and give myself a pat on the back 😂” ― Eileen Conlon Blanco
Go back to basics
“I’m working from home, which is challenging. A great idea I had to get silence during a conference call was to give my 6-year-old measuring tape and ask her to measure all her toys and chart it on a sheet of paper. She was so busy seeing which toy could ride the imaginary roller coaster that the silence continued even after the call!” ― Kerry Phillips
“My 3-year-old was jumping all over me and I needed a break, so I gave him a hug and asked him for a favor: Can he find me three blue Legos? He said OK, then ran off and spent 30 minutes playing by himself! 😱 He eventually brought me the blue Legos, so then I sent him for two yellow ones. 😂😂 It worked the next day too!” ― Carrie Mess
“We each get a cup of juice/water and we count the sips. Mommy gets her special juice. Keeps everyone busy for a good 30 minutes, the rest of the day everyone is busy dashing off to go pee so, ‘bingo!’” ― Awelani Nemukombame NB
“A friend, who is also a mother of two, posted a picture on Instagram of a ‘mystery jar’ for her kids to play with. The kids will pick a piece of paper out of the jar and have to do the activity; it’s anything from ‘do a puzzle’ to ‘do 2 worksheets.’ I tailored it a bit and added ‘get a sweet treat,’ ‘do jumping jacks.’ It’s an easy thing to get the kids out of a funk or split up the moments.” ― Kate Auletta, senior editor, HuffPost Parenting & Culture
“I froze a bunch of small toys in ice cubes and let my kids “excavate” them. They loved it and spent easily a half-hour quietly and happily destroying ice.” ― Rae Elegant
“I let my 6-year-old son play with an entire can of shaving cream in the bathtub and write his letters/numbers/pictures with his finger. Then he took a shower to rinse it all and also bathed himself. Dual-purpose, lol.” ― Kristin Janae
“Simon Says! Simon says do 30 jumping jacks.” ― Jeffie Chenault
“We get our farm animal toys ‘muddy’ (with cocoa powder + water) and then give them a bath in soapy water with an old toothbrush!” ― Anna Joy Tough
“Somebody once told me that in any difficult situation with my kid, I should add water. As funny as it sounds, it has helped me a lot. So today, when things started to get rough, I asked our son (3) if he wanted to take a bath. Lifted his mood instantly and gave me a few moments of calm.” ― Jana Romeo
“We built a fort! Fully equipped with Christmas lights and everything. Joy for days.” ― Emily Trcalek
“Red Solo cups and pingpong balls have kept my kids entertained for hours!” ― Sarah Bizzaro
Try practically anything else
“A friend of mine made a dice-rolling game, where you roll a 1 and have to do 10 jumping jacks, roll a 2 and you have to do 10 squats, etc. We started doing it too. The kids think it’s hysterical.” ― Kate Auletta
“Our group of moms started a story time FB Live where we read stories. We each take turns reading while others tune in. The real fun is watching the kids be total maniacs while we are trying to read. Lolz.” ― Kristy Laufer Nelson
“I swear by: Cosmic Kids or other Yoga YouTube videos; making brownies or cookies; having a music band out of pots and pans (while you have your headphones on); virtual Disney rides; Google Earth ‘I’m feeling lucky’ and learn about some new place; longer baths; we’ve been watching ‘MasterChef Junior’ and ‘America’s Test Kitchen for kids’ and then have my older daughter help meal plan; make them sort socks as a matching game.” ― Kate Palmer, head of HuffPost Life
“Trying to find STEM activities: toothpick and marshmallow building, float or sink with different items, pattern block pictures and graphing along with arts and crafts, outdoor time when we can, and our daily structured school time. Not always easy but we’re making the best of it and staying positive! Playing music throughout the day helps a lot too.” ― Keri Rinaldi
“I showed my 6-year-old the Cha-Cha Slide and the Macarena from when I was younger and he loves it. We now do it anytime we are feeling antsy to get the wiggles out!” ― Roya Malaekeh
“My 20-minute activities are: Run races (and mix it up: race your kids, time each other, skip vs. run, do the chicken dance while you run, etc.); GoNoodle.com (pick 5-6 and do them with your kids and laugh and kind of get some exercise), and tic-tac-toe (and let them win enough times to make it last 20 minutes).” ― Hillary Frey, executive editor, HuffPost
“Most days I owe my sanity to dance-offs with the kids courtesy of Alexa.” ― Stephanie Wiseman
“20 brick challenge: 20 Lego/Duplo bricks and they have to build as many models as they can.” ― Amy Russell
Quotes have been edited and condensed for clarity.
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