woman and girl exercising together

Has coronavirus sent your kids suddenly home? Are they craving something to do nearly 24/7? Most schools and daycare centers are closed, and many parents have hours and hours of unstructured time with their kiddos. Despite this being a time of crisis, parents have an opportunity to create special memories with their children.

Now is an easy time to resort to lots of screen time, but experts recommend setting healthy limits. Studies show that too much screen time can impact brain development and attention span in children and even delay expressive language development in toddlers.

One challenge is that most parents have fewer community resources available to them than usual. Many libraries, gyms, museums, programs, and even parks are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Parents and caregivers are getting more creative than ever before to keep young minds engaged and hands busy. Here are some fun ideas.

Encourage Imaginative Play

Some are calling the coronavirus quarantine an unprecedented opportunity to let children be children and to have fun. Get them outside in the yard. Now is a wonderful time for children to build forts, do art projects, and dig in the dirt for worms (if possible). Imaginative play involves powering down the devices, providing children with open-ended toys or objects, and conceding to a little bit of chaos.

If your children aren’t used to playing this way, you can help spark their imaginations to get them started. It might also be helpful to rotate the toy supply of younger children. This makes newly rotated items more exciting and reduces clutter in their play area.

Plan Your Vegetable Garden

Spring is a wonderful time to get that veggie patch going and you can get the kids involved.

Many grocery stores sell seeds, so this might not even require a special trip to the garden supply or hardware store. Some helpful ways to get children excited about gardening involve including them in planning, reading books about gardening, creating a photo journal of the garden, or starting a compost pile.

One of the easiest and least expensive ways to plant a garden with a minimal amount of work and supplies is with direct seeding. Peas, spinach, lettuce, radishes, carrots, beets, melons, beans, turnips, green onions, and squash are all great candidates. If space is limited, do you have a patio, balcony, deck, or courtyard space you can use? If so, give container gardening a try with pots and planters.

boy watering plants on patio
No room for a backyard garden? Try container gardening on a balcony or deck. Image by Phichit Wongsunthi from Pixabay

Make Art Projects From Recycling Bin Materials

Art projects with kids are a wonderful way to engage creativity, but they often consume a lot of resources.

Raiding the recycling bin for artistic inspiration is an easy way to repurpose materials, reduce waste, and avoid trips to the store. Reuse plastic bottles, mason jars, aluminum cans, and cardboard to craft new creations. Make bird feeders out of toilet paper tubes, an egg carton dragonfly, or tin can creatures.

Learn a New Physical Activity

Despite exercise being excellent for the immune system, now is an easy time to become a couch potato.

There are so many resources available online for doing physical activity, such as learning Thai Chi or Qigong, Zumba dance, ballet, karate, yoga, and meditation. Although this does involve some screen time, the kiddos can be active at the same time.

Celebrate the Earth

There are many ways to engage children in caring about the planet.

Greenpeace has a Plastic-free Future Global Classroom initiative with lesson plans and games for children of all ages. There are opportunities to celebrate Earth Day remotely. You can even organize a virtual event and promote it on the Earth Day website.

Connect Creatively With Loved Ones

Due to social distancing, many people are feeling disconnected and lonely.

Think about your friends and family that might feel most isolated right now and consider fun and creative ways to connect them with the kids. This can involve making collages out of old magazines, tin can creatures from the recycling bin, or recording songs. Some families are using video conferencing to connect in unique and fun ways, such as playing hike-and-seek or singing happy birthday.

Create Fun Sewing Projects From Old Sheets and Clothing

Do you have any torn or soiled linens or clothing? If so, what creations can the kids make from them?

If you have a dog, there are many fun toys you can make, such as a braided toy from repurposed linens. If you have a young child, sewing buttons on socks is an excellent way to improve sewing skills — and a good start to creating a sock puppet! Older kids may enjoy sewing a simple pillow, drawstring bag, bean bags, or stuffed creatures.

What activities are keeping your kiddos busy? Share what’s working best!

By Sarah Lozanova

Sarah Lozanova is an environmental journalist and copywriter and has worked as a consultant to help large corporations become more sustainable. She is the author of Humane Home: Easy Steps for Sustainable & Green Living, and her renewable energy experience includes residential and commercial solar energy installations. She teaches green business classes to graduate students at Unity College and holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School.