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20+ ways to keep the kids busy

Last Modified: May 11, 2020

Community, Family Medicine

Kids active

This post was written by Molly Gerke, BS, CCLS, certified child life specialist, Parkview Health.

During these times of social distancing, stay at home orders and protecting your family, you may find yourself getting a little overwhelmed by trying to create projects for your little ones to do. Don’t worry, we’re here to help! Our team of certified child life specialists compiled these lists with acitivities and games to keep your children busy and engaged at home.

Meal planning and prep
  • Find kid-friendly recipes that young cooks can easily help make.
  • Get the kids involved in meal prep for family meals. Have them take the green tops off of the strawberries or shred lettuce for a salad.
  • Let your little aspiring pastry chef try his or hand at decorating. Bake a simple cake or batch of cupcakes and let him add the flowers, characters or any special decorations they’d like.
Family games
  • Go visit someone who your children haven’t been able to see and play tic-tac-toe or a word puzzle through a window using window markers.
  • Do family game nights and the winner of the game gets to pick the next game to play.
  • Start a happy heart hunt in your neighborhood. Post on a community facebook page or message board inviting others to play. Then make a heart display and put it up in your window. Take a walk around the neighborhood and count all of the happy hearts in your neighbors’ windows.
Get moving (gross motor activities)
  • Toss it: Set up paper plates or cut out circles on the floor and practice tossing a small toy onto certain ones.
  • Blow up a balloon for each child and have a contest to see who can keep it off the ground the longest.
  • Go bowling: Use cans or empty bottles and a tennis ball and have a bowling match.
  • Kids yoga: YouTube is filled with many free videos for little ones to try yoga. One of our favorites is Cosmic Kids Yoga. Give it a try! 
  • Go skating: Put paper plates or exercise sliders on the floor and go skating in the family room.
  • Active puzzle: Get a small puzzle with 6-8 pieces and spread them around the room. Have them do a movement when they arrive at each piece to collect that piece (hop on one foot, jumping jacks, bear crawl, etc.) and then have them assemble the puzzle. place it back together.
Pretend play
  • Make puppets: Use old socks or brown paper bags to make puppets and then put on a puppet show.
  • Organize a treasure hunt: Draw a map of the inside of the house with treasures hidden in different rooms and have them work together to find the treasure. You can also cut out letters or shapes/pictures and have those as the clues. In the end, they have to figure out how they all go together to form a complete picture or word.  
  • Play restaurant: This can be done with real food or pretend. It can also be a fun way to have the little ones serve a healthy snack.
  • Story time:
    • Let each child pick out a book to read each day of the week.
    • Create a blanket fort and have story time inside the fort.
    • Depending on the book, assign a theme to each day.

For example: “Green Eggs and Ham”
–Meals could be centered around the theme as well as different activities
–Activities: Create an obstacle course around the house that connects with the story
–Sensory tables or bins could also be tied to the theme

  • Go camping: Build a fort with blankets or set up a small tent inside and have a campout. Tell stories, eat camp food and maybe sleep in the tent in sleeping bags for a special treat.
Fine motor activities
  • Build it: Use toothpicks, mini marshmallows and or grapes to build a building.
  • Cut it: have safety scissors available to use on construction paper to have kids cut out shapes.
  • Tracing: Write out letters and words for kids to trace and learn letters.
Additional links and resources

The internet is brimming with creative ideas for keeping kids busy. Here are some of our favorite sites with suggestions parents will love.

Playworks – Great reading resource. – Kids can explore news about different animals and plants – A free resource for remote learning during COVID-19. – These 5-minute breaks help answer children’s random, but real questions in relation to science


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