Because of the coronavirus, families are facing unexpected long periods of intense family togetherness. Schools are closed. Many parents are working from home or not able to work at all. And it’s nothing like a planned family vacation, because this time you don’t have the distractions of amusement parks, restaurants or museums to visit. It’s just you and your family. Together. Without outside company. For a prolonged period.
The temptation will be to depend on screens. There’s nothing wrong with some screen time, but do limit it. Try to see this as an opportunity to make some memories. Here are some ideas!
- Take long baths: If your kids are anything like mine, they love to splash. Get out all the bath toys and bubble bath.
- Cook together: You don’t have to make anything elaborate, especially if your children are very young. The simplest idea? Make toast. Haul out your holiday cookie cutters and let the little ones make toast shapes. Bonus: They are more likely to eat something they helped make.
- Make some arts and crafts: Bring out all your art equipment and get creative.
- Tell some stories: Most children love to hear stories about their parents’ childhoods. Or, make the story about your child. Feel free to borrow from classic fairy tales, making your child the hero. (This is one time plagiarism is OK.)
- Read together: Hopefully, you have stacks of books. Haul them out. Cuddle under the blankets and have a reading marathon.
- Make a book: Use staples and plain paper to make a little book that tells the story of how you spent your quarantine. Include lots of drawings.
- Make phone calls: Call Grandma. Call your cousin. Call your old neighbors. Call anyone you think is willing to talk to your children, even if only for five minutes. You can use Facetime, too.
- Make your own movies: Use your phone to make simple short family videos. Encourage silliness. You’ll enjoy watching these later. Ideas: Ask your child to perform a pretend commercial for a food or toy they like, or have them act out a scene using action figures or dolls.
- Play beauty shop: Let your child comb and braid and play with your hair. Bring out all the hair ribbons and barrettes. This isn’t limited to girls, either. Little boys and dads can have and give makeovers, too.
- Have a fashion show: Get out all the Halloween costumes, old prom dresses, that crazy old outfit from the back of your closet — anything you don’t mind your child playing with. Take pictures. Provide amusing commentary: “Anna looks smashing in her witch dress from last Halloween, paired with her dad’s green St. Patrick’s Day hat and the lace gloves her grandma wore in her ’80s Madonna phase.” As an added bonus, you can use this activity as a way to sort out the clothing your child has outgrown!
- Play board games: It’s time to play all the board games. Even Monopoly! If your children are small, don’t be a stickler for the rules. Let them reinvent them. Maybe the new object of the game is to make stacks of money sorted by color.
- Have some outdoor time: While you don’t want to take sick children outside in cold weather, if you have a private back yard and if the weather allows, tear up a piece of bread and throw it around the back yard to feed the birds.
- Make music: Sing together. Teach your child old campfire songs, or learn the lyrics of a Broadway show together. Don’t forget to record your performances.
- Have a family room picnic: Place a blanket on the floor and eat dinner there.
- Throw a tea party: Do you have a play tea set? Use it to serve tea, juice, broth or whatever liquid you’re trying to get your child to ingest. Make tiny sandwiches to go with it. This is another time to use your holiday cookie cutters. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich shaped like a Christmas tree might be more readily eaten.
- Throw a silly dance party: Kids need to move their little bodies. While running indoors is usually frowned upon, dancing can be a fun and safe way to get all of that crazy energy out of their bodies! Use this time to introduce your kids to your favorite music.
- Start a garden: Whether it’s flowers or food, now is the perfect time to start some seedlings. Let your kids help you get the seeds started. They may be more inclined to help maintain the garden later if they’ve watched the plants grow from seedlings.
- Organizing old family photos: If you have stacks of old family photos you’ve always meant to organize, now is the perfect time. Your kids will love hearing stories about the people in the photos and you will get a feeling of accomplishment.