With kids being home during the COVID-19 outbreak, you may be wondering how to keep your little ones busy. I’m sharing some boredom busters for kids to keep you from losing your mind at home.
With the COVID-19 virus, lots of schools have extended Spring break or suspended classes. While that might be fine at first, I think a lot of moms are intimated and maybe even a little terrified that cabin fever will set in.
For homeschool mamas like myself, this is just another day for us! But that got me thinking that a lot of moms out there are probably scratching their heads trying to figure out how to pass the time at home. Most of what we do is learning activities, but I’m sharing some ideas that are mostly just boredom busters for kids that you can do.
Boredom Busters for Kids
Grab some old birthday balloons you have kicking around. Blow them up. Grab some spatulas from the kitchen and let your kids play indoor tennis or ping pong with them.
Laser Obstacle Course
Do you know those half-used paper party streamers that are at the bottom of your party decor drawer? Take them out and create an obstacle course. Cut various lengths of the streamers, tape across hallways, doorways, and walls. Let your kids crawl and maneuver around the course without touching any of the streamers.
Free Education Subscriptions
With lots of schools and daycares being closed, many education websites and apps are offering Free subscriptions for the duration of this outbreak. You can find a list of companies here.
I admit I’ve got some rambunctious boys and one thing they love to do is roughhouse. Mama isn’t too into that, but I do love a good sock fight. There isn’t much to it. Take some clean socks, ball them up and have your own indoor “snowball” fight.
Dramatic play is a type of play where kids are assigned roles and then act it out. Typically, there are lots of make believe props to help kids immerse themselves in make believe. For example, if you child is playing vet perhaps you make their stuffed animals the patients. Create forms or pretend x-rays, give them a doctors kit. You get the idea. Create a simulated environment.
Dramatic play is great for vocabulary, building social skills, modeling adult behavior, sharing, taking turns, fantasy/reality, helps them use their imagination, etc. Here are some ideas for dramatic play. We do dramatic play and let me tell you that creating the dramatic play center is just as fun as playing. For example, if we are playing store, the kids select boxes in our pantry to be the grocery store items and they help me set up the “pretend store” and cash register. The setting up keeps them just as busy as the actual activity does.
- Post Office
- Grocery Store
- Doctor / Hospital
- Ice Cream Shop
- School / Teacher
- Coffee Shop
- Beauty Shop
- Flower Shop
Here are some great ideas for dramatic play. Over the next few weeks, I’ll try to create some printable for y’all to use!
Watercolors, tempera paint, finger paint – it really doesn’t matter. Painting is fun sensory experience for any kid and it’s therapeutic. If you’ve got a small child and you are really worried about the mess, you can always do it in a dry bathtub then just give them a bath afterwards.
Indoor Water Table
Use your bathtub. Fill it up with a little water. Add measuring cups, toys, and other water-friendly things. We actually use a long, shallow (under the bed) Sterilite tub. I add some colored bath drops to make it more interesting.
Build a Fort
Come on, admit it, you loved building forts as a kid. My older brother made some really elaborate forts with tunnels and we’ve always found that sheets work the best because they don’t weigh as much. If you don’t want to build a fort, you can use a small pop-up tent. Set it up in their bedrooms or in your living room and watch how easy it is to get them to go to bed!
Indoor Picnic / Pinic
Lay a comfy blanket out, find a comfy spot in the living room and turn an ordinary meal into something special. Or better yet, have an actual picnic outside. Put a quilt down on the grass and take your food outside. Afterwards, lay on the blanket and gaze at the clouds. It’s funny how just switching up everyday things can change the mood!
Moon Rock Toss
Gather some small waste bins or other containers and line them up at different distances. For added fun, label points on them. The farther away the more points. Then crumple up balls of tin foil and take turns trying to throw them into the containers.
Cardboard Box Play
Maybe you are like me and you have a ton of cardboard boxes in the garage that you haven’t had time to cut down and put in the recycling. Well, there are lots of ways your kids can play with them and it will keep both you and them busy. Just take a look at some of these really cute ideas.
- 15 Super Fun Cardboard Box Projects For Kids
- 25 Cardboard Forts
- 30 Fun Things to do With a Shoebox
- 77 Totally Awesome Cardboard Box Crafts to Keep Kids Busy
- 25 Ways to Have Fun With a Cardboard Box
- 65 Awesome Cardboard Box Activities and Crafts
Full confession – I’m a nerd and I love jigsaw puzzles. We actually love to do jigsaw puzzles and now that my oldest son is getting older he is starting to get interested in them too. We love Thomas Kincade ones because they are pretty challenging. They take a while, they kill time, and the whole family can do it together.
Music is not only great for getting energy out, it’s great for lifting spirits. I put music on all the time for me and the kids and it helps us get out of a rut. Put on some tunes and get you and your kids dancing. If you want to get creative, try looking up a popular dance on YouTube and learn the steps. Suggestions (Cha-Cha Slide, The Hustle, The Charleston, The Cupid Shuffle, The Thriller Dance, Texas Two-Step, The Moonwalk, etc.)
All you need is a ball and empty plastic containers like water bottles. Set the water bottles up in a hallway or long room and try knocking them down. Traditional bowling uses ten pins, but you could use less if you wanted. Six works really well also.
Make Pasta Jewelry
You stocked up on a bunch of dry pasta, right? Why not let your kids use a little to make some pasta jewelry. All you need is a string and pasta with a hole like penne, elbow macaroni, rigatoni, ziti, etc. You can even dye it different colors. Here is how to color dry pasta.
Get your kids to draw self-portraits or portraits of each other.
Keep a Diary
If you’re kids are old enough to read and write, why not have them journal about the COVID-19 quarantine day by day. Encourage them to pen their feelings and observations about all the things going on around us right now. If you doubt the value of doing this, remember how Anne Frank’s diary has become a treasured account of the horrors of World War II.
One thing my kids really love is kinetic sand. If you haven’t used this, it is a lot of fun. It’s almost as if play dough and sand had a baby. It’s way easier to clean up than regular sand and its completely moldable. This can keep my little ones busy for hours. Sometimes I put little toys underneath the sand like little toy dinosaurs, plastic bugs, and seashells and let them excavate them in the sand. They absolutely love that!
We have a few of these that we pull out on rainy days. First, they are educational and they brush kids up on their alphabet, colors, shapes and early math skills. For older kids, maybe get crosswords, sudoko, mad libs and brain teasers.
10 and Up
Bingo is a fun game the whole family can do. You can purchase one online or you can use the one I created in my post, Valentine’s Day Bingo Game. You can print it out on your home computer and play right now. For square markers, you can use dry beans or pennies.
Memory Matching Games
Memory matching games are super fun for kids. You can certainly buy some online, however, I have a Halloween Memory Game you can download for FREE and print out on your home computer.
Make Your Own Play Dough
You can make your own playdough at home. It really is very simple. Just a side note, homemade play dough out very quickly, so make sure to store it in an airtight container.
Here is what you need to make it at home
- 2 Cups All-purpose flour
- ¾ cups salt
- 4 tbsp cream of tartar
- 2 cups lukewarm water
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil (or coconut oil)
- Food coloring (optional)
- Quart sized zip lock bag or storage container
Make Birthday Cards
Have your kids make some birthday cards for your family members this month. Let them use glitter, stickers, markers / crayons, sequins and any other spare craft supplies. Then mail them to people!
I love playing dominoes, but my preschooler loves to set up dominoes to knock them down. Challenge your kids to set up a long domino fall. We love using this set below, because it has 91 dominoes in the set.
Make Fake Snow
We do this all the time as a winter activity. We don’t get snow here in South Texas, so we make our own. All you need is 3 cups of baking soda and half cup of conditioner.
If you are doing this outside you can use sidewalk chalk. If you’re doing it inside, you just need painters tape or masking tape. All the jumping around wears them out and gets out their wiggles.
Make a Pretzel Log Cabin
We found this cute activity a while back on how to make a pretzel log cabin. All you need is some pretzel rods, confectioners sugar, and water. It was a fun STEM activity for my little guy.
Write a Soldier
If your kids are old enough, have them write a letter to a soldier and thank them for their service. Soldier’s Angels is one place to start, but it is more of a pen pal setup and they ask that you write to your soldier for at least three months. If you don’t want that kind of commitment, you can use Any Soldier. You can choose to send a letter or a care package.
Alphabet “Sand” Writing
My son loves to do this! Just get a mostly flat container, lid or tray and fill it up with salt or granulated sugar. Give your little one a pencil, paintbrush (use the pointy end) or another instrument and have them practice writing their letters in the “sand.”
Rice Sensory Bin
Make an indoor “sandbox” using colored rice. It’s very easy to make. You just get 4 cups of rice, 3 tablespoons of rubbing alcohol and food coloring. You can make batches of different colors if you want “rainbow” rice. Put it in a container and give your little one scoopers and any other toys they want. This keeps my toddler and preschooler busy for a long time! It’s very easy to clean up, but you can always do it outside if the mess bothers you.
Give your kids a stack of old magazines you have kicking around and ask them to make a collage of everything they like.
Blow up a balloon and challenge your kids to see how long they can toss is around without it touching the ground.
This is is kind of a no-brainer, but sometimes, I think people forget how versatile this one is. There are so many board games to choose from.
Some of our favorites for young children (ages 3-5) are:
- Charades For Kids
- Candy Land
- Connect Four
- Guess Who
- Chutes & Ladders
- Spot It Alphabet / Spot It Animals
- Disney Eye Found It
- Sequence For Kids
- Go Fish, Old Made, War, Slap Jack, Crazy 8’s
Ages 6 and up
This can be a fun STEM activity. Take various liquids of varying density and let your kids discover how the liquids separate. You can use liquids like water, oil, dish soap, honey, milk, rubbing alcohol, maple syrup, corn syrup, etc. As an added bonus, you can drop small objects like (a small ball, a cherry tomato, a popcorn kernel, a penny, etc.) and see if it floats or sinks through the different liquids.
Make Your Own Race Track
Don’t throw away the cardboard in paper towel roll. I save them for the kids to make their own racetrack. I tape some to the wall so my boys can put their hot wheels inside and see it come racing out. There tubes I cut in half lengthwise and we tape them all together to make a track. Don’t forget to add the dotted line in marker so it looks like a road. It’s funny. My kids have actual toy race tracks, but I’m always surprised at how making our own is so fun to them.
Take a Virtual Museum Tour
Lots of museums around the world offer virtual museums online. You and your kids can explore museums and their treasured works right from your couch! Take a look at these virtual tours.
Take a Virtual Field Trip
While we are on that note, lots of companies are offering a virtual field trip. For example, Cincinnati Zoo is offering a live animal show at 3pm every day via Facebook live. Here is a list of websites that offer virtual field trips right on your computer or mobile device.
Have a Treasure Hunt / Scavenger Hunt
Hide some candy, a toy or anything else your kids might like and get them to hunt for it. Alternatively, if you don’t want to hide a single item, you can do a treasure hunt version of “eye spy.” Basically a scavenger hunt. Ask them to find the following:
- Something red
- Something round
- Something old
- Something metal
- Something taller than you
- Something you throw away
- Something that starts with a letter ‘S’
- Something that moves
- Something you wear
- Something that can’t get wet
- Something that made of wood
- Something brown
- Something with numbers (but not a watch or clock)
You get the idea…use your imagination. Additionally, you can take this and give them an outdoor version of eye spy.
- A leaf
- Something with wings
- Moss or algae
- Spider web
Give your kids a list and this will keep them busy for a while.
Another fun STEM activity is to build sculptures out of nothing more than marshmallows and toothpicks. Stick the toothpicks into the marshmallow and keep building!
Draw Your Own Comic Book
If you have a child who loves to draw, encourage them to come up with a special character and have them draw their own comic book on paper.
Use some Washi tape, masking tape or painters tray and make a tic-tac-toe board on the floor. Take paper plates and write X’s and O’s with markers. It’s kind of silly how just making it large makes it more fun for kiddos. Take the activity outdoors on the lawn too!
Sink or Float Experiment
Grab a glass pitcher or other large see-through container (like a storage tub). Fill it up with water. Then gather small objects of varying sizes and materials. (examples: cork, coin, rock, bottle cap, toothpick, crayon, plastic toy, etc) Have your child choose one object at a time and have them guess if it will sink or float. If your child is old enough, have them record their findings on paper. Take the opportunity to explain why an object sinks or floats. If an object floats it is less dense than water. If it is denser, it sinks.
Water Displacement Experiment
I did this with my oldest son when he was both three and four. It’s a great STEM activity that introduces fluid mechanics to your child. We talked about Archimedes and his theory of fluid displacement. Like the sink or float experiment, you will need a large container full of water. Leave some room at the top. I like to use dry erase markers if the container is glass or plastic. Gather household objects of varying weight and size. Insert each item individually and watch how much the water in the container rises. Get your child to mark where the water rose with a dry erase marker. Fluid displacement is all about volume. When an object is immersed in a fluid, displacement occurs as it pushes the fluid out of the way and it takes it’s place.
Make a Cardboard City
Take some of those empty Amazon boxes and food boxes and turn them into your own cardboard city. Use wrapping paper of construction paper to cover them up and draw on them. Then have your kids get their toy cars and people and let them play in their city.
Other Helpful Things
Maintain a Schedule
At our house, we maintain a schedule. It isn’t rigorous, but it ensures that we are mixing things up during the day. Here is a quick look at our schedule over the next coming weeks.
This might sound overly simple, but reading is one of the best things you can do with your kids. Seriously, take this opportunity while we are all stuck at home and read to them! If your child is older, have them read classic literature. Great stories like Treasure Island, Call of the Wild, and Little Women never go out of style.
For More Ideas
Take a look at my other post, The Best Toys to Tame Toddler Energy.