MY LIFE: Things to do with your kids when you’re all cooped up

My daughter is home on holiday break right now and I’m battling this very issue. I figured if I am, surely I’m not alone. I did some brainstorming with my daughter and came up with some ideas we thought might work. We’ve done many of these, in fact.

  1. Anything art-related like painting or coloring. You can use gel pens and an adult coloring book, your kids can go nuts with their crayons and some scrap paper or a coloring book made for children. Or, if your child is like mine, she’ll want to color in the adult coloring book too! For painting, watercolors probably work best and are the most forgiving, both in terms of how they work and what they might do to your clothing and the area surrounding you.
  2. Reading together. If your children enjoy it and will stick around in one place, try reading together. Take turns so you’re not using all your energy. But with what energy you have, your children will really appreciate it if you go to the trouble of sound effects, funny voices, etc.
  3. Putting together a puzzle. You definitely don’t have to spend a lot of money to get some cool puzzles. They’ve gone out of vogue, so you can find tons at thrift shops and other discount stores. Just make sure it’s easy enough that your children won’t get discouraged.
  4. Musical or athletic performances. Here’s one where you can simply watch most of the time. Our children love performing for us, so when you’re not feeling well, tell them you want to see what they can do. My daughter is a competitive gymnast and jumps at the chance to show me her new skills.
  5. Take a walk around the block with a list of things to find. Make a quick list of items commonly — or less commonly so they have to work a little harder — found in your neighborhood. I often use things like a pinecone, a cat in a window, a red door, and silly things like lawn gnomes and skateboards.
  6. Boardgames. I think sometimes we rely too much on videogames and other electronic stimulation to entertain ourselves and our children. Why not go back to basics? You can find a lot of classic games at thrift and discount stores. Think Monopoly (or Monopoly Junior if your kids are younger), Clue, Sorry, Chutes and Ladders, even Trivial Pursuit if you think your kids can handle it. Card games fall under this same general category.
  7. Pretend games. Do your children like to run schools, a cafe, or a hospital? You’re the customer, so you stay in one place, while they dress up and run back and forth providing the pretend customer service.
  8. Blocks/Tinker Toys/Legos. Anything you can use to build stuff can take up a bunch of time and not demand too much energy from you. Let your kids go nuts making entire cities. Yes, there’s more clean up, but if you have bins, just shove it all in one of those when you’re done.
  9. Indoor playgrounds. Chuck E Cheese or anywhere else you can trust your child in without worrying if they’re out of sight for a bit is a godsend when you don’t feel well. Some places are better than others, but most average to large cities offer multiple choices.
  10. Pillow and blanket forts. Let your children build while you lay around, supported by extra pillows and blankets. Kids love making forts and though you may have to help with design so the whole thing doesn’t collapse, overall it should be a good time for you to rest while still entertaining the kids.
  11. Tell stories. What child doesn’t like to hear about themselves as babies? Or about you when you were their age? If those ideas don’t work, try making stuff up. Do it yourself or as a collaboration with the kids. Write it down if you want. Illustrate it. Get your kids to bring you props for the story. It will get them moving!
  12. Write letters. Whether you do on email or with paper, a lot of kids will get a kick out of crafting a letter to someone like a grandparent. A bonus is that the grandparent gets the benefit too, when they receive the letter or note. Many older people are lonely and this is a great way to keep them connected.
  13. Homemade Pictionary. All you need is crayons/colored pencils/markers, and paper. Having something to prop up the paper on is even better. Take turns drawing and guessing.
  14. Activity games (for them). Anything where you’re the boss works. Red light/green light, Simon, and tons of other games can be played with you in bed or on the couch.

Do you have other ideas that work for you? Tell me in the comments!