I have been slowly gathering resources and ideas to keep our household running as smoothly as possible during these stressful times being stuck at home with kids. Here, you’ll find resources for stay at home kid activities, crafts for kids to do at home, and games to play!
I anticipated these preparations when I first learned about COVID-19 (also called the Coronavirus). Now, like many schools across the country, the school where my current kindergartener and second grader attend (and where I work as a part-time librarian and substitute teacher) has decided to close for at least two weeks.
Since I’ve been preparing for this moment, I’m excited to share these fun resources, games, exercises, and craft activities for kids with you!
Every family will have unique needs, but I hope the ideas I provide here will help you navigate the coming weeks of complete abnormalcy.
How to talk to kids about COVID-19 (aka Coronavirus)
One of the hardest parts of being stuck at home with kids during an unprecedented (in our time) global pandemic is that children are very perceptive.
They know that something is going on and that that something is wrong.
So before we can get to the fun part, we have to make sure that our children are aware of what’s going on, but not overwhelmed or scared.
As parents, it’s our job to make sure we explain what is happening in simple terms. We’ve compiled a great list of kid-friendly resources to help you explain what is happening:
- Free coloring book about practicing good hygiene to prevent illness
- Cartoon graphic to help provide some basic information about COVID-19 in several languages
- Another cartoon, this one from NPR about Coronavirus
- Talking to Children About COVID-19 (Coronavirus): A Parent Resource from the National Association of School Psychologist
- Two GIFs about ways to “Flatten the Curve” and “Stop the Spread”
- Video and other resources from BrainPop to help answer some questions your kids may have about coronavirus.
Hopefully, these resources will help ease your child’s anxiety and allow you to move on with your new life (for now!) of staying home with your elementary-age children.
Stay At Home Kid Activities
Most stay-at-home moms and moms who homeschool have a ton of these go-to resources already on lock (we salute you!).
For those of us who work, or who are otherwise unused to having our elementary-age children at home, we’re all in a panic about how to properly educate and entertain our children while they’re home.
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to educate and entertain at the same time. That’s why we’re here to help you figure out fun games to play, entertaining ideas for kids, and great stay at home kid activities!
Storytime at Home
First and foremost, check out your local library’s web page and social media accounts.
Many libraries are working hard to provide resources for patrons who are unable to visit the library because of quarantines and closures.
You might find storytime videos, links to activity pages and ideas, and information showcasing free online resources available through your library system.
While looking at your local library’s website, check out features like
- Overdrive & Libby (digital books, audiobooks, and videos)
- Freegal (music), Kanopy (videos, including lots of animated picture book videos and language learning videos)
- Hoopla (books, music, TV shows, and more)
Not all library systems participate in all of these digital platforms, and you will most likely need your library card to access these free resources, but they will provide you with tons of entertainment and learning opportunities at no extra cost.
Other great storytime resources:
Storytime Online is a free resource that features picture books read by various celebrities. Caregivers might get a kick out of seeing which famous faces appear on the website, and there is a nice variety of book selections.
Kate Messner, former teacher and author of dozens of children’s books, has an amazing compilation of author videos that showcases books for various age groups, drawing lessons, and other extension activities connected to their work.
Educational Resources at Home
See what your local school is offering home access to. Teachers might be sending kids home with packets of work, online access codes to websites they use in the classroom, and more.
Many of these websites or apps will be familiar to your kids, so they will be easier for them to use at home than lots of new programs.
If you need more ideas, though, here is a long list of companies that always or are temporarily offering free access to families while so many children are out of school.
Many of these will require a caregiver to sign up for access first, so take the time to look at a few before expecting them to be ready for use.
Resources/Tips and Tricks for Educating at Home:
- Scholastic is also offering 20 days of free K-9+ lessons, and BrainPOP is making more of their content available for free.
- Both of our kids can be fairly sensitive to high tension and violence in movies and television shows, so I often check Common Sense Media for age recommendations on movies and more. They have some great lists of recommended apps, too.
- Here is their list of some of the best free educational app options out there. We’re particularly loving the PBS Play and Learn Science app.
- Podcasts are another great learning and entertainment option. My kids love But Why? A Podcast for Curious Kids, Wow In the World, and Brains On.
- When we need to relax at nighttime or have quiet time during the day, Be Calm on Ahway Island is on frequent rotation.
Combine Education and Play
I’m planning to put on fun podcasts during Lego and puzzle time, and while the kids are doing art projects in the coming weeks.
Here are some other ideas of educational and fun stay at home kid activities, from family time to craft projects to games to play at home when bored.
(1) Cook together
Both of our kids are very interested in cooking, so we’re going to use the extra time at home to spend more time in the kitchen with them.
In my pre-isolation grocery run, I tried to grab more flour, sugar, eggs, and a box or two of easy cake mixes for some fun baked goods.
I also have English muffins, small pizza crusts, and tomato sauce ready for making individual pizzas that they can help top.
(2) Build a real or imaginary garden
Are your kids interested in gardening? Order a free seed catalog to plant a real or imaginary garden.
The kids will get outside, get fresh air, and learn all at once!
(3) Learn about space exploration
Interested in space exploration? Look up videos of past rocket launches and pictures from various telescopes.
Have a telescope of your own? Even better! But there are also free stargazer apps you can use, too. These apps allow you to hold a phone or an ipad up to the night sky, illuminating the many constellations and planets for you to see. It’s awesome.
Plan a night where you’ll have a picnic dinner in your yard, driveway, or on your porch.
Eat dinner under the stars and look at them through the telescope or stargazer app.
(4) Virtually explore a zoo
Many zoos and aquariums are finding ways to reach out to patrons and making at-home life super easy (well, as much as possible) even while their gates are closed.
Cincinnati Zoo (home to Baby Hippo Fiona!) is going to have “Home Safari Facebook Live” videos each weekday at 3PM highlighting some of the amazing creatures at the zoo, and they have a bunch of older videos already available on their FB page for animal loving kids.
(5) Expose your kids to the arts
Check and see if local children’s theaters, concert halls, operas, orchestras, performing arts centers, etc. are making any of their backlog of videos of performances live.
Consider creating a sharing circle of friends who share previous performance videos of children’s recitals and shows.
Not only can your kids appreciate their peers’ artistic endeavors, but they can feel more connected to friends they might not be seeing for a few weeks.
Here are a few other artistic resources to enjoy:
Twelve renowned museums are offering virtual tours.
BroadwayHD offers a 7 day free trial, and another month is $8.99 plus tax. Take a look at the Family Friendly options category.
Berliner Philharmonie has a free Digital Concert Hall with over 600 concert videos, including one featuring memorable Star Wars films’ scores.
Burning energy + games to play when kids are bored at home
If you are lucky enough to have yard space or safe places to go for long walks, yay!
We live near a few playgrounds, but we have a good size yard and live on a pretty quiet street where we can take walks with our dogs, so we will probably avoid local playgrounds.
By avoiding them, this means that they are less crowded for families without yard space.
(Editorial note: The data on playground safety is mixed. The surfaces on playgrounds aren’t sanitized as often as in many other locations, and COVID-19 can live on surfaces for long periods of time. However, open-air play is considered safer than indoor play in terms of contagion.)
In addition to walks and outside time, get creative with the items you have around the house!
We will be doing basic activities like:
- Climbing stairs
- Carrying and pushing medicine balls
- Stretching with exercise bands
- Having lots of dance parties
- Jumping jacks
- Sit ups
- Push ups
- Running in place
Most of these items we have on hand, and some are free for everyone. They’re also fun for my kiddos (not as much for mommy!)
We will add bursts of easy activities like these throughout our day, sometimes doing quick competitions on who can do the most in a certain amount of time.
Active screen time!
And, of course, there will be screen time. Please don’t expect parents to keep their kids home for weeks on end and maintain any sanity without some screen time.
We are long time fans of the Cosmic Kid Yoga Youtube channel. My 5 yo kiddo with sensory processing disorder and ADHD will often do several videos in a row!
Go Noodle is another great resource with a multitude of silly and fun videos that will get your kids up dancing and moving around.
I am also excited to try the 21 day free trial to Fluency and Fitness since our 5yo is in the early stages of learning to read and our 8yo has struggled with reading and could always use reinforcement.
Crafts for kids to do at home can help them connect with others
Connecting with others during a time of social distancing will be essential for mental health.
Phone calls and FaceTime with grandparents will be a daily event for us, since we are restricting visits in order to do our part in keeping the grandparents, great aunts and uncles, and great grandparents safe and well.
Since my kids will be missing their friends, we will also work on making FaceTime, texts, and videos to send to friends a regular part of our routine.
And when family and friends post pictures and videos of their little ones on social media, I will be making extra effort to share those with my two.
The reminders that the important people in our life are happy and healthy will also help to alleviate fear and anxiety in all the kids involved.
Turn connection into craft time
You can also turn connection into craft time! Pull out a pencil and paper, and use the piece of paper to make easy crafts like cards.
We’ll make cards to send to our friends, and hopefully, they’ll send some back!
I am stocked up on stamps, blank cards, envelopes, and various art supplies so that we can work on cards and pictures to send to family and friends to brighten their days.
With a husband and dad who works in healthcare, we will be working on thank you cards and pictures to send to work to share with his colleagues as they help take care of the sickest members of our community.
We will get through this
While I am trying to make life as normal and positive for my kids as possible, I will be thinking about how lucky we are to have a stocked pantry, Wi-fi, and health insurance.
And we’re so lucky that, because I’m a teacher, I am easily able to stay home with the kids while they are out of school.
Our safety net is strong, so we will be looking for ways to donate to help the people in our community who will suffer the most as we see the health and economic impact of COVID-19.
Love and light to all.
What are your favorite stuck at home kid activities?
Additional resources for managing social distancing
Other articles for dealing with life during Coronavirus
Tessa is mommy to NL (age 7) and FR (age 5), school librarian/teacher, doctor’s wife, and the keeper of all the schedules. She has a Master’s in library and information science with a K-12 school library certification and an undergraduate degree in English, and she works at an elementary school library. She writes about living life with OCD, anxiety disorder, and depression, helping my children learn to navigate life with anxiety, ADHD, sensory processing disorder, auditory processing, dyslexia