Tag Archives: fun quarantine activities for kids

More Screen-Free Activities for Kids

By Tracey Dowdy 

On a scale of “Guess How Much I Love You” to “Lord of the Flies,” how are things at your house? Learning to parent through a pandemic is something none of us expected to have to do, yet here we are. 

For many parents, understandably, screen time limits have become more like suggestions rather than rules as we try to navigate uncharted and often choppy waters. If you’re flat out of ideas and looking for activities to fill an afternoon or more, here are some fun options. 

Plant a garden. I know it may seem a little late to get started, but there are plants you can start now, indoors, to transplant in the spring. If you’re not sure where or what to plant, the Old Farmer’s Almanac has a guide that drills down to specific towns in the U.S. and Canada from Fairfax, Virginia, to Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia. Just type in your zip or postal code to bring up your planting calendar. If an outdoor garden isn’t an option, you kids can plant an indoor herb garden. You can even teach your children how to grow pineapples, avocados, onions, garlic, or a host of other vegetables from the parts you’d typically compost or throw in the trash. 

Organize. With the holidays fast approaching, there’s a good chance that your children will be expecting – and accepting – new clothes, toys, books, and games from Santa and Hannukah Harry. This is a great time to go through closets, toy boxes, and playrooms to purge things the things your children have grown out of. This is a job you could easily do on your own, but it’s an opportunity to teach your children generosity. It has been a challenging year for many families, with many parents out of work due to the pandemic. Donating unused clothes and toys teaches your children to think beyond their own needs to the needs of those around them. It teaches compassion for others and gratitude for what they have. Be aware that some charities are not accepting donations right now, but here’s where you can donate clothes and toys right now. 

Write a book, scrapbook, or create a memory box together. While it’s true that many of us will be happy to see 2020 and this pandemic in the rearview mirror, we’ve lived through a significant event in world history. Why not document your family’s experience for grandchildren and generations beyond? Have your kids write a letter to their future selves about what they loved and hated, their favorite pastime in quarantine, what they thought of virtual schooling, what they missed, and what they learned. Write your own letter, documenting what it was like to parent during this season. You can gather photos and publish your own photobook of “Our Life in Quarantine 2020,” or document the whole year in a “2020 – What a Year for the Mathesons!” Include snapshots of virtual school, what you did in your downtime, relevant news stories, rallies, or protests you participated in, socially distanced playdates and proms, information about the election – whatever resonates with your family. Or, create a scrapbook or memory box of letters and items that remind you of this season. 

Write a book together. Has your family started cooking together? Compile your favorite meals you’ve prepared over the past several months, write out the recipes, include photos of the finished dish, or even better, your children actually preparing and eating it. Voila, you’ve just published a cookbook! Or, have your child write a story, letting their imagination run wild. Along with writing the text, have them draw the illustrations, then print a hardcopy or publish it online to share with family and friends. 

Get in the kitchen. For a few weeks at the beginning of quarantine, my husband and I did a live cooking demonstration for family and friends then gave the meal to a local viewer. It was silly, fun, and a great way to feel less alone while we were all housebound. If a live demo isn’t a good fit, do your version of Iron Chef, the Great British Baking Show, or Top Chef, and see who makes the best brownies, cupcakes, or grilled cheese. Since eating out options are limited, learn how to make restaurant favorites at home, or teach your children how to make family favorites or recipes handed down through the years. 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

20 Activities to Help with Your Child’s Cabin Fever 

By Tracey Dowdy

No matter how laid back your parenting style or how independent your child, weeks of self-quarantine and observing the stay-at-home-order can make even the introverted-est introvert a little stir crazy. 

Hopefully, this list of ideas can help stave off the madness a little longer.

  1. Set up a treasure hunt. Hide ten or fifteen things around the house and play “Hot and Cold” as they walk around looking for the items. 
  2. Turn the treasure hunt into a tidying up game. Give your kids a basket or a bag, and whoever comes back with the most toys at the end of a minute wins. Keep “playing” until all the toys are gathered up, then work together – or send them on their own – to put them away. 
  3. Get moving together. These dance and exercise videos are a great way to work out some of the sillies. They’re easy enough for everyone and an excellent way to connect as a family.   
  4. Make Elephant Toothpaste. A fun activity that doubles as a science experiment? Yes, please. 
  5. Watch an animal webcam. Zoos and aquariums around the world have set up webcams on their animals, so even if they can’t see them in person, kids can virtually visit their favorite animals. 
  6. “Visit” a museum. Many of us had to cancel Spring Break and vacation plans this year, still some of the world’s most beautiful museums, including the Louvre, the Guggenheim, the Smithsonian, and the British Museum are offering virtual tours. 
  7. Visit a National Park. The U.S. National Park Service has webcams set up throughout its parks, so it’s easy to take your kids on a field trip or family adventure.
  8. Visit Mars. While you’re exploring, why not head to outer space and explore Mars with through NASA’s Curiosity Rover.
  9. Make a craft together. Cincinnati’s McHarper Manor is offering a free arts and crafts lesson on Facebook Live every day at 1 PM EST. Each day they post what you’ll need for the next day’s craft project on their Facebook page. 
  10. Bake together. Even if you don’t have a lot of ingredients on hand, there are plenty of things you can bake, including one of my family’s favorites, Three Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies that only needs peanut butter, sugar, and one egg. (Easily substitute other nut butter if there’s a peanut allergy in the house). 
  11. Master a meal. As long as you’re in the kitchen, teach your kids to cook a favorite meal like tacos or mac and cheese. They’ll be proud of their accomplishment, and you’ll be grateful for another go-to meal and a second pair of hands in the kitchen. 
  12. Chat with a princess. Have a Disney princess obsessed little one? They can FaceTime with their favorites via Video Call or a recorded video message. 
  13. Make slime together. There are lots of recipes out there, but this one doesn’t use Borax, making it even more kid-friendly. 
  14. Work on those fine motor skills. If your little one is accustomed to Occupational Therapy services through school, Mama OT has excellent suggestions for working on motor skills with everyday objects around your house. 
  15. Plant a herb garden or create a terrarium. PBS Kids has a fun tutorial on Growing Seedlings in Egg Cartons, and NASA has instructions on how to create a mini terrarium garden
  16. Make hand soap. At a time when washing your hands is more important than ever, making their own soap can be a great motivator to make sure they’re scrubbing away all those germs. 
  17. “Explore” America on a glider. The Smithsonian Science Education Center has an app that allows you to “soar above five real-world terrains in the United States while learning about different types of land and water features. Kids can test their knowledge of land and water features after every flight through an in-game assessment.
  18. Listen to a podcast. There are heaps of family-friendly podcasts directed at kids. Some are silly, some are educational, but all of these are interesting a provide a break from screen time. 
  19. Hang with Bill Nye, the Science Guy. Kids can even do a home science experiment with him!
  20. Learn to Code with Grasshopper. Google’ Grasshopper, its tool for teaching kids how to code, is now available on the desktop through a web-based app as part of its Grow with Google initiative. MommyPoppins also has resources for kids just getting into the ins and outs of coding.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Animal Webcams to Entertain Kids During Quarantine

By Tracey Dowdy 

At a time when going on family adventures or even just getting outside to enjoy nature is a challenge, zoos and aquariums around the country are trying to fill the void with home safaris, virtual tours, and webcams of their most popular – and in one case usually hidden animal exhibits.

Kids can “visit” The Dallas Zoo through behind-the-scenes footage and educational videos on social media. Look for the hashtag #BringTheZooToYou.

Take your family whale watching at the Georgia Aquarium. Zookeepers have set up a webcam on their beluga whales so that kids can watch these magnificent and graceful animals. 

Check out what those cheeky penguins at The Shedd Aquarium are up to. Keepers have allowed the penguins out of their enclosure while the aquarium is closed and have shared footage of the penguins’ explorations on social media. The penguins so inspired the Field Museum of Chicago, they let SUE the T-Rex out to explore

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is live-streaming a home safari on its Facebook page each weekday at 3 p.m. Past live streams (archived on their page) include the poison dart frog, Zulu the lady ross turaco, Eurasian eagle owls, and even watching Chinese alligators being fed their lunch.

The San Diego Zoo has ten live webcams featuring the zoo’s koalas, penguins, tigers, and other animals as well as archival footage of giant pandas that were returned to China.

Monterey Bay Aquarium has webcams set up on jellyfish, penguins, and sharks and even peek at the birds and sea mammals — like harbor seals and sea otters — that find refuge in Monterey Bay. Plus, for the first time, kids can watch the aquarium’s sea otter exhibit via webcam to see rescued sea otter pups interacting with their foster moms. Under normal circumstances, guests aren’t able to watch the pups learn and explore because they aren’t supposed to get comfortable around humans. 

The Aquarium of the Pacific has seven different live streams, including two separate penguin live streams – one that shows what’s going on above the water; the other what’s going on below. Kids can also watch a jellyfish exhibit, or explore a shark lagoon webcam with several species of shark. There’s a mesmerizing live tropical reef live cam at the Blue Corner Reef off the corner of Palau, considered one of the most beautiful Coral Reefs in the world.  

As a bonus, The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary near Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, has fifteen live stream cameras on their resident koalas. Kids can watch the Young Koala Tracker, the Koala Forest, where most of the female koalas live, or the Koala Train, where they snuggle together. There’s one camera that is devoted to where they sleep, which – because koalas sleep 18 to 20 hours a day – is where they spend most of the time. As a bonus for those of us on the opposite side of the world, the cameras switch to night vision when the sun goes down so you can see what the koalas are up to In the dark. They also have live streams of bearded dragons, birds, dingoes, and the perentie, the fourth largest monitor lizard in the world.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.