It’s official. Schools across the entire state of Washington where I live are now cancelled from March 17-April 24th at least. That is a long time!
As a homechooling mom, it’s business as usual around here. But, if you’re not used to having your kids around 24/7, this is going to be a huge adjustment. Let me help you keep your kids busy, so you can get some work done.
But, let me also encourage you to take advantage of this time. Get to know your kids better and enjoy each others company. In other words, don’t fill their entire day with activity after activity. Give them time to think of boredom busters on their own and just play for fun.
It’s definitely about finding a balance.
Now without further ado, here are 25 of my kids’ favorite ways to play together (or on their own).
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1. Baby in a Mailbox
My eight-year-old invented this game a couple of years ago. It’s a variation of house, which they also enjoy.
The premise is that she’s a baby who randomly shows up in the mailbox. Then the other siblings have to take her to the police and the doctor. Then they go buy things for her at the pretend store. And eventually they get to adopt her, so they have to go before the judge.
The story line always varies based on how many people are playing, but they all have a good time.
2. Nerf Gun
We’ve got a lot of Nerf guns, and my kids have fun playing together, or on their own. If you’re looking for some family friendly Nerf gun games, read this post:
For solo play, your child can:
- Create targets out of empty boxes
- Set up paper cups to shoot down
- Use a Nerf target to keep track of points
- Set up a shooting obstacle course
Then of course, they have to pick up all of their darts. You can have them count them before they start, and that way then can end up with the same number. We always seem to lose some when we play!
3. Dance Party
Gather some supplies. Turn on some music. Get moving.
My kids enjoy using:
- Big bead necklaces
- Dress up clothes
See who can dance the longest. Or let everyone show off their fanciest moves.
4. Frozen Ice Toys
Take some small toys (we like using those plastic animals that come in tubes) and put them in plastic containers. Fill with water, and then freeze for 24 hours.
The next day, use enough hot water to slide the whole thing out of the container.
Then, give it to your child and let them free the toy. They can use butter knives, chopsticks, or any other tools they think would work well.
This post provides more details:
5. Copy Cat Book
Have your child select a favorite children’s book, and then copy the style in a book of their own. Some books work really well for this, including:
- Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus
- If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
- Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
Read the book together, then give your kids a stack of printer paper and some writing supplies. Have them create their own versions of the stories, and then illustrate it.
This project may take several work periods, working a little each day. That’s a good thing!
6. Build a Puzzle
Puzzles are so good for kids! When they put a puzzle together, they’re working on their spatial sense. This post explains more benefits of puzzling for kids:
This month, we bought a new Disney puzzle. It’s 1500 pieces, which will be the largest we’ve done to date.
We try to make time-lapse films when we put them together, which is a lot of fun.
7. Color Cut Outs
I often print out big stacks of coloring pages for my kids, a variety of their favorite characters.
Then, they pick one, color it, and cut it out.
They keep their cutouts in a folder, in their school drawer. Often, they pull them out and create elaborate stories with them. It’s a lot of fun to watch them free play.
Mario might go save the day in Equestria, with the help of Twilight Sparkle and Leonardo from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. There’s a lot of crossover fun happening!
Here’s a post with more details, sharing how it’s beneficial for their cutting skills:
8. Free Play with Pieces to a Game
Yes, you can have your kids play board games by the rules. But, that’s not the only way to play.
My kids enjoy using the pieces to solo play. Favorites include:
Let your kids create their own ways to play. They will have lots of ideas!
Then just make sure every piece gets returned to the box when they’re done. Otherwise, you won’t be able to play “for reals” later.
9. Make a Comic
Challenge your child to make a comic book. You can either get them a kit like this one:
Or do what I do and just give them a ruler, paper, and pencils. They can create their own squares and then fill them in.
For inspiration, let them read comic books. We have some tubs of old Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Uncle Scrooge comic books, and my kids always love pulling them out and reading them.
10. Make an Invention
Have your child go outside and gather five or six random items. Then have them bring them inside and turn those into something. This fun “invention” game really works on their creativity.
There are more details in this post, at game number 5: Inventor.
11. Play with Legos
Bring out the Legos, and your kids will stay busy for a long time if they’re anything like mine. They can have free play time, or you can make it more structured by asking them to:
- Create a flat lay picture
- Build a vehicle (or animal, or building, etc.)
- Build something with their eyes closed
- Select 20 random pieces and then turn them into something
- Use only one color of Legos to build something
Need a good Lego set? This one has a variety of pieces that they can turn into anything.
12. Read a Book
Have your children read for at least 15 minutes each day. It’ll make them better readers.
To encourage reading, make books easily accessible in your house. And let them see you reading.
And if you’re dealing with a reluctant reader, read this post:
13. Indoor Bowling
Use cups and a plastic ball, and set up an indoor bowling alley. It’ll keep your kids busy for a while, and give them plenty of chances to set up the cups in the correct pattern.
This post has more details:
14. Indoor Hopscotch
With a roll of masking tape (use the painter style so it’s easy to remove), you can create a fun indoor hopscotch area. We extended ours, and went 1-20 instead of the traditional 1-10.
We left this on the floor for a couple of weeks, and the kids had a lot of fun using it during that time.
This post has directions:
15. Sew by Hand
With a needle and thread, and some scrap fabric, your child can learn the art of sewing. My nine-year-old has taught herself, and has made some fun things, like this rag doll:
Let your kids try hard things. They may fail, and that’s okay. It’s good for them to try and learn things on their own, and to get the chance to experiment.
16. Write a New Ending
What would happen if Anna ended up marrying Hans?
Or if Beauty never returned to the castle?
Let your child think about a favorite movie, television show, or book, and then write a different ending.
This will let them practice their writing, and give them a chance to imagine what would be different.
For even more creative writing prompts, check out this post:
It also shares how to make writing prompts accessible for non-writers and early writers, so everyone can participate.
17. Set Up a Store
My kids love playing store! It keeps kids busy for a long time.
They gather what they’re going to sell. Then they price everything. And set up the store.
Then they use the toy cash register and pretend money and take turns being the cashier. It’s great math practice too!
18. Play Toilet Paper Tag
For this one, you need a roll of toilet paper. Use a piece of tape to stick the end down, so it doesn’t unravel.
Now, one person is it. Their job is to toss the toilet paper and hit someone else. If you get hit with the toilet paper, you’re the new It.
Continue until it starts getting too chaotic.
Other toilet paper games:
- Toss the toilet paper into the bowl (think basketball style)
- Toilet paper origami
- See who can roll the toilet paper the furthest (with the tape still on)
Use your creativity and turn normal, everyday objects into fun games and challenges. It’s a good way to break up the day and keep things interesting.
19. Create an Obstacle Course
Look around your room. What stations for an obstacle course could you create? Here are some ideas:
- Couch cushion balance (stack them up and then sit on top)
- Chair crawl (going underneath them)
- Pillow slide (penguin style)
- Run around the table
Add in a few other tasks like:
- 10 jumping jacks
- 5 push ups
- Sing the ABCs backwards
And you’ll be golden. Your kids will have a blast doing the challenges.
20. Scrubbing Day
Have you ever seen the movie Pippi Longstocking?
She and her friends have a scrubbing day party. While you probably don’t want your kids to strap cleaning brushes on their feet and skate around, you can still have fun cleaning.
Put on some fun music and pour some soapy water on the floor (if you have floors that can withstand this). Then, pull out the towels and pass them out. The kids can skate around on them, soaking up the water.
Your floor will look better as a added bonus, and your kids will get a fun workout.
21. Drawing in Shaving Cream
Do you have any shaving cream (the spray kind?) Get a big pile of the stuff in front of each kid, and let them spread out the foam and draw in it. We always did this when I was in grade school to “clean the desks” and it does a great job getting glue off.
But, at home you probably don’t have a paste problem on your table. So, just let them have fun in it. They can write words, draw pictures, or even play something like Hangman.
22. Colored Bathes
If your child is old enough to take a bath safely on their own, this is a fun twist. As the water is filling, drop in two or three drops of food coloring. You don’t want to add so much that it stains their skin or your tub, so err on the side of less.
Then, you can add bubbles or toys or whatever, and let them play in the water for a while. The color makes it novel, which is always fun. And, it’s super simple to pull off.
23. Create a New Board Game
My kids love taking our favorite board games, and making new versions of them. They typically use either poster board or file folders for the board. Then they use little figurines or things for the markers. They pull a dice out of another game if needed.
The making of the game keeps them busy for a while. Then so does the playing of the game.
It’s a great activity to keep kids busy!
My kids have enjoyed creating:
- A Hatchimal Clue Game
- New Villainous Characters and Boards (one of my kids even made a Bowser one to take it out of the Disney universe…)
- Different maps for Ticket to Ride
- Brand new games
It’s a creative way to spend some time.
24. Make a World
If you’re hunkering down for a bit and want to keep your kids busy for a long time, this simple activity is perfect. Simply bring out the blocks, cars, and figurine/action figure type toys.
Then, let your kids create a world.
They might build houses with blocks over here. And a giant castle from Legos over there.
Then once the world is ready, they can introduce all the other toys.
It’ll be like the amazing play time Andy has in Toy Story…
Just kids playing, bringing the things in their imagination to life. And that is powerful.
Let them keep their world set up for a couple of days if you can. It’s not that messy, and even if you think it looks bad, it’ll mean a lot to them that you left it out anyways.
25. Make Trail Mix and Eat it in a Fort
This activity can be as simple or as elaborate as you’d like.
Let your kids make some trail mix. Mine like to mix a combination of these ingredients in a bowl and then mix it up:
- Chocolate chips
- Mini marshmallows
- Dry cereal
If we don’t have something, they just leave it out. This “recipe” isn’t really a recipe. They just dump stuff in they think looks good.
Then, they go make a fort. Usually it’s just a simple blanket chair combination, but recently they’ve been making more elaborate ones. (This really encourages team work which I love!)
Once the fort is ready, they sit inside the fort and eat the snack. Then they read or play in the fort.
We’ve had forts stay up for at least a week before, and they keep having fun inside them.
To give you even more ideas of ways to keep your kids busy if they’re home from school, here’s a quick list with some others:
- Paint a rock
- Stack rocks (how many can they get?)
- Make a foil boat
- Clean something
- Organize a drawer
- Select items to donate
- Have a movie marathon (Toy Story, Frozen, Despicable Me, etc.)
- Cook something
- Learn a new skill
- Practice an instrument
- Make an alphabet book for a younger friend, sibling, or neighbor
- Create a curling competition with brooms and a roll of masking tape
- Paint their nails
- Do some sensory activities
- Play a board game the real way
- Start a blog
- Start a business
- Cut out pictures of food from newspaper ads and glue them on a paper plate to create a breakfast plate, lunch plate, and dinner plate
- Play with bubbles
- Take a virtual tour of a museum
- Make a presentation board about a topic of choice
There are so many ways to keep your kids busy, even when you are self-quarantining.
Make it a fun time, one that you’ll all look back on fondly.