As we approach the coldest months of the year, we may find ourselves amid another stay-at-home mandate with holiday travel and family get-togethers in the near future. Your family has likely celebrated birthdays and graduations, maybe even a wedding during the quarantine. As we fight to keep our children and ourselves entertained, here are a few fun activities and ideas to improve on the mundane and thrive in your livingroom.
Movie Theater with some Hidden Math
Nothing beats movie candy and popcorn while you stream a family movie. My family researched old kid movies from the 90 and enjoyed a few "classics" such as Mighty Ducks, Richie Rich and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. We even made a learning game out of it, giving each child a certain amount of fake dollars to decide if they wanted soda, popcorn, or more candy. It was an amazing evening and the whole family loved it.
So sometimes we let down all our defenses and allow all the fun stuff. Last spring we planned an all-night *ok, just an hour* nerf war. Several different versions of this game: Capture the flag version, build your own bunker, nerf guns in the dark. Months later we are still finding darts in every corner of the house but this was a fun evening.
Create your own Junior Chef
During quarantine in the Spring, I decided to use this extra time with the kids to teach a few lessons NOT covered in school. I taught my son to bake, with a pound cake, homemade bread and Key Lime Pie. He very much enjoyed the process. With my girls, I made sure they helped with things like chopping veggies and forming meatballs. With my middle, we even made homemade ravioli and handmade tortillas. The lessons they learned and the new appreciation I believe they have gained from the time in my kitchen, I believe these lessons will continue in their lives. Nothing beats teaching your overly picky eater to love new foods because he prepared them.
Need I say more? A family puzzle on the dining room table for all persons to work on together or alone throughout the day, it's peaceful and calming. I find puzzles amazingly inclusive because I can tell a younger child to find anything in this one color, and they can bring me back anything. They think they have helped! And when they truly did help, it's a family celebration! Puzzles! The cheapest week-long, quiet game you'll ever play!
Have your children "designed" and model their own outfits while you have Alexa play some awesome music while your children express themselves. This activity is bound to morph into a family dance party (which is a normal event under this roof) But I can guarantee it will make you laugh and entertain your family for an evening.
I normally don't like to create games with a winner and loser because, with three children, it's impossible to please and judge fairly based upon their large age gaps. So this activity was out of the norm for me but it was a quiet game that I contributed to ZERO for an hour. That is a win in my book NO MATTER WHAT! They loved it and it was amazingly fun to view the results. Each kid was given a place or setting we are familiar with (grandma's house, school, etc) and they were given an hour to build this scene with legos. I based the selections of locations on ages and general ability so to create an even playing field. The creativity warmed my heart and their pride was the real prize.
Sometimes things are uncomfortable. Talk advantage of this time together and have conversations about difficult topics with your kids. In the late Spring, we decided to focus on racism in our family with our children. Books and movies are great tools, as long as you are ready to follow up and have important conversations after. My favorite movie to illustrate this to children is Remember the Titans... so moving and the kids enjoyed it while following the message. We also bought some great books for each of our kids to encourage our family to talk more about race and discrimination.
Nail painting, make-up makeovers and dressing up with Mommy's real jewelry is not the usual kind of fun we have. But for very little money or planning (along with the risk of lipstick smudges on the furniture) this is an activity that could keep your kids entertained for an evening, feeling special.
Domestic Lessons for the Littles
My kids do their share of chores but more complex items or messier jobs that are better done when they are gone are a "fun" way to teach life skills and a way to get some chores done. Depending on the ages of your kids and the level of chore participation already, this one may not be helpful. Mopping, unloading the dishwasher silverware for our youngest and teaching our oldest how to do a load of laundry or prep the coffeemaker all made for easy lessons in "grown-up" chores. Mopping the floor was easily the favorite for all the kids.
Giving in to the little extra things that you want to say "no" to has been a common theme in 2020. For us, this includes taking their dolls for walks around the block. Not sure why this is an issue for me normally, maybe its the idea that I will most likely end up carrying the strollers myself all the way home. But I admit, this has become one of my favorite requests from my middle. We even upgraded her to a double stroller for her birthday now that these walks are more frequent.
Sidewalk Chalk Shenanigans
Sidewalk chalk created lots of entertainment. Pros: almost no cleanup, getting people outside, endless possibilities. This activity is perfect for the days that were surprisingly warm because fun can be created within minutes! We played several different games over the months of quarantine. To read more about these fun games, click here.
I may love board games more than most people but I also think that qualifies me to know a good one when I see it. Family Game Night has been a staple in our household for years, but we certainly used this one more during the lockdown. We have all the usual Checkers, Connect 4, Guess Who... And we love them! But we have also found that game nights work better when we all work as a team. This is why we love the Peaceable Kingdom games. Players have a singular goal and teamwork leads to the whole group winning or not. We have several but Race to the Treasure and Hoot Owl Hoot are our favorites! Nothing like yelling OGRE when someone picks an ogre.
My newest favorite game for when the little one has gone to bed early is a game called LineUp. I found this game in a catalog of unusual or educational gifts last Christmas and it has really kept us busy. Essentially you are looking at a card for 5 seconds and then you have to get back to the police station and complete a LineUp with cards of the same person but with minor details changed. This card is special to us because it tilts in favor of our middle child based on her skill set and she amazes us with her ability to quickly pick out the guilty party.
No matter what you play, family games are the perfect way to get off electronics and get your brains working in a different way.
Halloween in April
Now I know that Halloween has just happened but back in April, I had no idea that we would still be doing this. So when we were thirsting for activities in April, we faked Halloween and the kids loved it. Themed crafts, games and Halloween themed shirts. They even trick-or-treated at each bedroom door. If you are stuck inside, consider faking a holiday. Fourth of July in January? Easter egg hunting in the snow? Fill the time with family traditions. Kids will love it.
Have your little ones dress up in their own superhero costume. Make them if you want. Make some capes and get ready to train to be a superhero. Using this superhero PDF, your kids will be super in no time! And they will get a little exercise in the process.
Day of the Jedi
If your kids aren't into superheroes, maybe they would prefer the Force. Jedi training will keep your kids up and moving for a while. Finish the evening with some Star Wars movies, if you like but this training is the perfect way to start off your Day of the Jedi.
My youngest loves acting out the Frozen movies. She loves a closed-door so she can pretend to be Anna and sing "Do You Want To Be a Snowman?" for whoever is on the other side. So when she saw Daniel Tiger create a puppet show, she demanded that she makes puppets. And I decided this was a perfect activity for the day!
Popsicle sticks and construction paper were our materials of choice but brown paper bags, socks or even drawing on your hands can bring this act of creativity to life. We used a posterboard for background and scenery but the show itself was all the product of a three-year-old. And it was FABULOUS! Get out the scissors and let their imagination run wild.
Build a Change Reaction
Get your levers and ramps ready and build a change reaction, building a longer sequence each time. This activity was so fun for my oldest. We even took a slo-mo video of it to relive our excellence. Rolling a ball off and table, hitting a lever and bouncing a toy into a cup doesn't seem exciting but you'll never believe the joy that erupts when all the reactions are successful!