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100 (Screen-Free!) Activities to Get You Through a School Shutdown

100 activities school shutdown 100 activities school shutdown

To be totally honest, I’m more terrified about being stuck at home with the kids for weeks than I am by the virus itself. I’m secretly hoping my kids will discover a magical cupboard in our house and disappear for several hours every afternoon. But we can’t count on that. So let’s try to focus on the bright side… look at all this time we get to spend with our kids now! It’s basically like having happiness on tap. But, for all those moments in between, here are 100 ideas for keeping the tantrums and fits of boredom at bay.

Backyard Busy 

Corona Crafts

  • Make a collage out of magazines or newspapers, old school style. Never gets old.
  • Decorate cloth napkins with fabric markers. Cuts down on single use paper napkins.
  • Make DIY binoculars by taping together two toilet paper rolls, painting them, and attaching a string as a strap. Just trust me.
  • Sock puppets, OMG. You have socks. You have buttons. You have yarn. Done.
  • Look, you can put googly eyes on pretty much anything—from a flower pot to a baby sister—and that’s your activity.
  • My 6-year-old spent hours with this dino drawing guide over winter break.
  • Tie dye t-shirts. Far out, dude.
  • Just set this giant box of craft supplies up one morning and let your kids do their own thing.
  • A DIY superhero mask kit by my good friends, Melissa and Doug.
  • Put butcher paper all over the house — on the floors, the walls, every table.
  • Play Doh, the perpetual MVP. Try this ice cream variety.
  • Make cards for grandparents and teachers.
  • Paint a birdhouse.
  • There’s something illicit for kids about being allowed to set up with a craft activity in a non-craft zone…for example, the dining room table. Time to get wild.
  • Use objects around the house to create personalized stamps.
  • Holy cuteness, have a tea party.

Game On

  • Our kids love Zingo, which is basically a toddler-friendly version of Bingo.
  • Have them play dress up. (In your closet, if you can bear it.)
  • Make a music jar with bands listed on folded pieces of paper and have everyone grab a new-to-them band. Then head to Spotify and play the band they selected. If you haven’t introduced your kids to ABBA, what are you waiting for?
  • We love cooperative games like Count Your Chickens because everyone’s a winner, which lessens those bar room-style brawls.
  • Two words: pillow fort. Can’t go wrong with a classic board game: Jenga, UNO, Clue or Connect4, to name a few.
  • Honestly, my kids love playing games with muffin tins. Try giving your kid a muffin tin and having him fill each well with different colored objects from around the house.
  • Just because school’s not in session, it doesn’t mean you can’t teach them something with these fun word games.
  • Make an escape room for kids. Muahhaah.

Quarantine Cooking

  • Here are snacks your kids can actually make themselves. That’s clutch ‘cause they’re going to be asking for food every ten minutes.
  • Buy a container of pre-made dough and some cookie cutters and let your kids go to town.
  • English muffin pizzas: layer cheese, marinara sauce & pepperoni on muffins, then bake at 375 for 10 min.
  • If the kids are going to be home all day, at least have them make dinner.
  • Jell-o has all these play kits now, FYI.
  • You can always get creative with food coloring. Bet you never thought of adding it to milk…
  • Cake pops, anyone?
  • Blend together some fruit and make popsicles. Who cares if it’s 40 degrees outside? You know the kids will still eat them.
  • Make s’mores in the oven by layering the ingredients on a sheet-pan & placing in the oven on broil for 2 min.
  • Have them see who can shake your martini shaker the fastest.

Quarantine Fitness

  • The host of the Cosmic Yoga channel is an actual earth angel.
  • Hot Lava never gets old.
  • There are so many types of races out there. Why stick to plain old running? There’s wheelbarrow, crab, bunny hop, frog jump, duck waddle… you get the point.
  • Put on the Johnny Cash children’s album and have a dance party.
  • Go on a nature walk. Bring a bag and let them collect whatever they want—rocks, sticks, leaves, tires, etc.
  • Pick up tetherball. If it’s good enough for the schoolyard…

Book It

  • Where’s Waldo holds up extremely well, although he could probably use a modern day lesson in social distancing.
  • This series of sticker books are super-cheap but I’d gladly pay double for the amount of time they keep my kids engaged. What did parents even do before stickers?
  • One Question a Day for Kids: A Three-Year Journal. Kids are obsessed with themselves, in case you couldn’t tell. So this personal time capsule should hold their attention.
  • What Should Danny Do? is a Choose Your Own Adventure-style book that keeps my kids entertained for over 20 minutes at a time.
  • Who wouldn’t want to doodle with Mo Willems?!
  • A new book by Jimmy Kimmel, The Serious Goose, is funny and requires multiple readings.
  • Our kids could pore over these National Geographic books for days. Okay, minutes.
  • I’m eying this guide for our resident LEGO lover.
  • I adore every single page of Arm in Arm by Remy Charlip. Your kids will be absolutely enthralled by the illustrations and wordplay.
  • These 5-minute stories have been helpful in guiding me through the mythology of whatever phase my kids are in, whether it’s super heroes, Star Wars, etc.
  • Since we’re all promoting proper hygiene these days, share the classic King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub by power children’s lit couple Audrey and Don Wood.
  • All three of my kids love crowding around Pirates Magnified, which includes a magnifying glass for search-and-find adventure.
  • In the updated storybook version of the beloved folk song This Land Is Your Land by Woody Guthrie, Kathy Jakobsen’s illustrations will immediately hook kids.
  • It’s no exaggeration to say that we’ve read Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go over 100 times and somehow manage to discover something new each time.

Weird Science

  • DIY lava lamps: Fill up a glass about ¼ full with water. Pour vegetable oil in until it’s almost full. Add a few drops of food coloring and an Alka Seltzer tab.
  • Adding this terrarium kit to the cart asap.
  • I’m sure there are hundreds of fun experiments in this collection.
  • Make a robot out of a tin can. So cool.
  • Have them grab a magnet and see which objects around the house it’ll stick to.
  • An erupting volcano is available for the more adventurous parents.
  • A Mega Fossil digging kit sounds mega awesome.
  • Invisible ink: pour lemon juice into a small bowl. Dip a cotton swab into the bowl and use it to write a secret message on white construction paper. The juice will fade as your message seeps into the construction paper. Use a blow dryer on low speed to see the message come back to life!
  • DIY magic bouncy balls? Done and done.
  • Crayola has a color chemistry kit. Of course they do.
  • Consider an ice cube igloo (if you dare).
  • Give in and make a batch of fluffy slime.
  • Make snow without freezing your buns off.
  • Dazzle them with DIY glass gem magnets.
  • What’s more exciting than weather? These experiments bring the magic of meteorology right into your home.
  • Celebrate Halloween all year round with spooky experiments.
  • And, finally, turn on the TV, ‘cause you earned it, Mama.

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Toby Lowenfels is a writer and mom of three in Culver City, California. Follow her daily musings at @tobyfels.