With so much uncertainty surrounding the current pandemic, one thing on many parents’ minds is how to keep their
sanity child engaged and learning during the current school closures.
While the idea of “homeschooling” can be overwhelming, what your child really needs during this time is you. There is a lot of talk going around about keeping their routines. While that is important, it doesn’t mean that you are expected to make your home be just like school. Keeping your child entertained over the next few weeks doesn’t have to be stressful, it doesn’t have to be structured or formal, and it doesn’t have to be Pinterest-perfect.
You can easily create fun and engaging play-based activities using materials you probably already have on hand! Here is a list of 65 different ideas to keep your child busy without you having to run to the store.
All of these activities can be adapted to meet your child where they are at academically. For example, if your child already knows their letters, try calling out sounds or words that start with that letter. For math, try using objects to show the numbers or starting with basic addition.
Paper + Coloring Supplies
- Write your child’s name with bubble letters (or print it off!) and have them trace in the lines with different colors to create a rainbow name.
- Write shapes, letters or colors and have your child go on a scavenger hunt and mark off items as they find them!
- Provide a writing prompt and have your child draw a picture of their story or write the words depending on their level.
Crumple up paper and have an indoor snowball fight (then see #38!).
- Color! Don’t underestimate the power of free coloring!
- Draw shapes, letters, or numbers on a piece of paper and have your child use stickers to make the form.
- Using a piece of paper, sort stickers by a common factor (color, size, animal, shape, whatever you have).
- Write your child’s name and have them make the letters with stickers.
- Write shapes, letters or numbers on the stickers and place on favorite toys (hotwheels, legos). Have your child read them as they play!
- Write shapes, letters or numbers on stickers and on a piece of paper and have your child match the sticker to the spot on the paper.
- Use stickers to label body parts and learn about your child’s body.
- Use stickers to make a connect-the-dot picture; have your child place stickers on a piece of paper and then draw lines between each sticker.
I know what you’re thinking: Water??? But let me tell you, water can be such a powerful learning tool!
- Freeze toys in water! This is always a huge hit! Add in any little toys, food coloring, poms, whatever! Provide warm water to help your child free the toys! We like to do this for a dinosaur excavation!
- Make colored ice cubes to practice color mixing
- Have water colors? Try painting ice!
- Have a spontaneous bath! Mid-day baths are always a good way to shake things up. Add in popsicles for a big hit!
When the weather cooperates, chalk gives you the perfect opportunity to get outside!
- Draw some shapes, letters or numbers on the fence, sidewalk or side of your house. Use a squirt bottle (or hose) to have your child spray away what you drew.
- Draw shapes, letters or numbers on the sidewalk and call them out for your child to jump on.
- Draw colored circles on the sidewalk and have your child find objects around the yard that match that color.
- Dip chalk in water before coloring – it creates a whole different medium.
- Throw them into a sensory bin! Have your child dig out the pieces before putting the puzzle together.
- Hide the pieces around the house for a little hide-and-seek before putting the puzzle together.
- Trace the pieces of a puzzle onto paper and let your child create their own puzzle.
No need to buy new toys to entertain your child during this time! Have a lot of legos laying around? Cars? Moana figurines? Here are a few ideas for any toys you already have:
- Play hide-and-seek! Hide the toys and let your child find them. You can create a simple recording sheet to add another level OR add another step (ex. Find and then sort by color).
- Use a hamper or colored targets (construction paper) for a fun gross motor tossing activity.
- Trace a bunch of different toys onto paper and have your child match the toy to its outline. You can stretch this activity by hiding the toys for them to find before!
- Sun out? Take the toys and a paper outside to do some shadow tracing.
- Sort the toys by color, size, etc.
- Make your favorite sugar cookie recipe (or snickerdoodle!) and use toys to make imprints in them.
- Write numbers on Post-it notes so your child can make a number line. Change your starting number and how many you offer to adapt for your child.
- On a sheet of paper, write lowercase letters. Write uppercase letters onto Post-it notes and have your child match them! You can also do numbers and counting objects (dots, flowers, stars..)
- Sort Post-it notes by color! This can be done on a table or can be adapted into a game by designating spots in your house for each color.
- Use them to make patterns! Don’t have different colors? Draw shapes onto what you do have!
- Write the letters of your child’s name for your child to practice building their name.
Dry Erase Markers
- Write shapes, letters or numbers on a window or mirror and call out for your child to erase them.
- Using a mirror, have your child try to draw their face on the mirror.
- Free color with dry erase markers.
- Make shapes to drive on or line toys up on.
- Use the shapes to sweep or toss paper snowballs into.
- Have a car lover? Tape off roads on the floor for your little one to drive on.
- Make an obstacle course! Straight lines for straight walking. X’s to jump on. Circles to spin. Get creative!
- Have a hallway? Tape off a “laser field” for your child to climb through by draping tape between walls. You can also use streamers or TP!
- Weave yarn around and through the hamper and stick toys inside for your child to rescue
- Use to toss and catch balloons! Have your child play alone or with someone else!
You know all that online shopping you’ve been doing? Now you have a use for all those boxes!
- Let your child climb in and color!
- Use the boxes to build! A fort, a robot, a crawl through maze! Get creative!
- Make a play mat – draw on roads, trees, buildings for your child to use while they play.
- Use to make egg-shaped ice cubes for an EGGScavation (see what I did there!?); throw a mini toy inside and let your child free the toy!
- Balloon round-up! Blow up balloons and write letters, numbers, shapes or even animals if you’re artsy on them! Create a coral with masking tape as a place to gather the balloons into!
- Set out colored sheets on the floor and have your child find objects that match the color.
- Cut out fun shapes for kids to jump on. Add any numbers, letters, etc. to add in extra practice!
- Tear little pieces of paper and glue into a beautiful mosaic
You know you’ve got some from all that toilet paper you’ve been hoarding *wink*. TP rolls can be used for a lot of fun things!
- TP rolls make great tunnels for cars
- Create a tube drop! Use masking tape to adhere to wall and then let your child drop items down the tubes! (poms, cotton balls, cheerios)
- Painting! You can make circles or add a rubber-band (or hair tie) to make it into a heart!
- Make binoculars!
Misc. Household Items
- Oobleck: 1 ½ c. cornstarch. 1 c. water (food coloring optional). Mix with hands, trust me on this! It should feel like a liquid when you rest your hand in it and like solid when you squeeze it!
- Playdough: 2 c. flour, 2 T. oil, ½ c. salt, 2 T cream of tartar. 1 c. boiling water (food coloring optional)
- Fizzy Blocks: 1 c. baking soda, 1 tsp. Gelatin, ¼ c. water (food coloring optional). Scoop into ice trays and freeze. When ready to use, provide white vinegar and squirt onto blocks for a fun, fizzy surprise!
- Use toothpicks and mini marshmallows for some fun STEM building.
- For no mess painting, place paper (or printable coloring page) into a Ziploc bag. Add a few drops of paint and let your child squish the colors around
- Create a writing tray! Just add sugar or salt onto a cookie sheet.
- Coin sorting in muffin tin.
- Set toys in Jello for a slimy and messy excavation.
- Hidden colors! Place food coloring in muffin tin. Cover with baking soda. Pour on vinegar to expose the colors!
Still feeling overwhelmed? Remember to take a deep breath and don’t forget to get outside. Let your kids play, explore and use their imaginations. You’ve got this mama! And if you’re still not sure, feel free to reach out; I am happy to help!
Tasha Emmerson is a licensed elementary school teacher and literacy specialist. She is married to her college sweetheart, Tristan, and mom to two exceptionally gifted boys. Passionate about play-based learning, she launched her Tiny Learning Box subscription-service, offering kids educational opportunities delivered to their door. You can learn more about Tasha on her website, Confessions of a Tiny Teacher, or by following her on Instagram @confessions_of_a_tiny_teacher.