We’ve been here for a while now—stuck inside, trying to find ways to keep our kids occupied. At various points this year, we’ve recommended everything from dance parties to online workouts to throwing couch cushions on the floor and letting them bounce their energy out. They’ve done Camp Kinda (with new adventures all the time!). They’ve read their books. They’ve had screen time. So. Much. Screen time. What else is there to keep them busy?
You asked, so we’re really digging deep now. Here are 5 things you might not have tried yet:
1. Teach them how to do laundry. Then make them do all of it—the whole family’s. Sort it, wash it, dry it, fold it, and put it away. That’s a solid couple of hours right there. Once they’re done, try them on other household chores that need doing. Washing the windows with a spray bottle of water? Preschoolers love doing this. (From the inside, of course—we don’t recommend putting them on a ladder.) Sweeping, vacuuming, organizing their Legos by color? These are all good activities for a cold afternoon.
2. Put them in charge of dinner. They don’t have to have mastered oven skills to be able to put food on the table for the family—after all, even younger kids are perfectly capable of getting cereal, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or chips and salsa ready for dinner. If you have a big sib in the house, make them head chef and let them and their sous chefs do everything from planning the menu to putting it on the table. (You can be nice and do the dishes. Or not.)
3. Get them started on a very large puzzle. Puzzles are such an old-school, analog activity—your kids might not even realize how fun they can be. Small puzzles can be done pretty quickly, but big ones can be delightfully time-consuming, and some libraries even have them available for checkout. Get the kids started on a 100-piece project and then enjoy whole minutes of quality silence while they work. (Insert usual choking hazard warning here if you have babies or toddlers in the house. Those pieces are small!)
4. Introduce a community service or volunteer project. You might not feel comfortable sending your kids to volunteer in person right now, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways they can support their community. Challenge them to put together a donation box with good-condition clothes, books, and toys they no longer wear or use. When they’re ready, they can come with you to drop the donations off at a drop box or a local shelter that can use them. Another option is a letter-writing campaign. Ask them to identify a local cause they care about—like cleaning up the parks, planting trees, or improving pedestrian or bike safety—and encourage them to write to their local or state representatives, advocating for their cause. Or maybe they have another idea for how to support their neighbors—ask them to brainstorm and propose a solution to a problem they see in their community. The young leaders behind projects like Liam’s Lunches of Love or the #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign make for great inspiration.
5. Start a journal or scrapbook about this year in their lives. Whether they’re interested in keeping a “diary” or not, all kids can benefit from the opportunity to reflect on their experiences. Give them a notebook and tell them it’s their world—they can write, draw, paste artifacts from the news or their lives, or just stare at the blank pages. Whatever direction they go in, consider a chance for them to document how they’re feeling and what this year has been like for them. Sharing (with you or anyone else) is purely optional.
“Teach them how to do laundry. Then make them do all of it—the whole family’s. Sort it, wash it, dry it, fold it, and put it away. That’s a solid couple of hours right there.”
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