As we all face this reality of weeks, maybe even months of social distancing, we are faced with the same question, “How do I keep my kids busy, without too much electronics, and get my work done too?”. These are difficult times. Your patience will be tested, you will get on each other’s nerves and you may resort to a lot of electronic time! It’s ok! No one will judge you! However, there are options! If you have ever volunteered in a preschool, you may have noticed that the kids move easily from one activity to the next through a wonderful little method known as…. STATIONS!
So, exactly why do stations work? With stations, you are providing your child with five or so activities to choose from, not their whole closet or shelf full of toys! In my experience, when children (and grown ups too) have too many choices, they can’t decide! Having a few options to choose from also gives children the power to make the decision on their own as to what they want to do. NO POWER STRUGGLE! If you have more than one child, children can play at separate stations or work together to complete an activity. At the end day, everyone is happy! You can give yourself a pat on the back for being a great parent and your children are happy because they had fun!
Stations That Have Worked In My House
- Table Activities – I usually put one or two activities on my kitchen table.
- Crayons, coloring books or blank paper
- Scissors, glue and old magazines
- Play dough
- Lacing or sewing
- Sensory play (cotton balls, or popcorn with scoops, funnels and tractors)
- Building – I always like to put at least one building activity out. Building is a great activity that can keep children busy for a while. First they build it, then they play with their creation! Plus, you can brag that you have your own Makerspace at home!
- Lincoln Logs
- Marble Run
- Exercise – This is an important one when everyone is cooped up inside and can’t release pent up energy!
- Laser tag
- Nerf gun war – (Have them wear safety glasses)
- Ride bikes, scooters or roller skates in the garage
- Just Dance or Wii
- Dance party in the living room
- Balloons – Put a balloon over a vent! Toddlers love this! Older kids also like just bouncing a bunch of balloons around!
- Reading Station – Pick a cozy little nook and place some must-read books in a basket, along with some kid or family magazines. Then, let your little or big ones settle down with some good old-fashioned literature!
- Car races – Kids love to race cars!
- Ramp – I use a sled and tilt it up on our hearth. Then, we get Hot Wheels and send them down!
- Remote control
- Pull back and go
- Musical Instruments – Being a former music teacher, I have instruments on hand, but you can always make your own and then play them along with some music on the radio!
- Pretend play – My kids love it when I set up some pretend play.
- Science experiments – Science is so fun! We love to put on our goggles and make things bubble on our kitchen table! There are several ideas on Pinterest or see if you have a science book or science kit that has been collecting dust that you can pull out of your closet!
- Board Games – This social isolation will be a perfect time to pull out those family board games!
Themes are always fun! They take a little more preparation, but the payout is usually worth it.
- Ice Storm – I did this one in the winter of 2017, and it’s probably one of my favorite! The ice storm didn’t end up being as bad as the meteorologist predicted, at least in our area, but we had fun being stuck inside for a couple of days!
- Game – Don’t Break the Ice
- Building – Build an igloo (Discovery Kids – Build and Play Construction Fort)
- Pretend – Dog sled (Get a sled and some stuffed animals.)
- Art – Ice painting (put colored sugar crystals on paper and use an ice cube to create color as it melts), painting snow (Place some snow in a bin, then color it with colored water and medicine droppers.)
- Snack – Snowman Soup (A.K.A. hot chocolate), build a snowman (marshmallows, pretzel sticks, chocolate chips)
- Around the world – I borrowed this one from my Mom, who borrowed it from my sister! Pick a country and pretend to travel there! Pretend to take a plane, boat, train or spaceship! Read about it in a book. Draw some of the landmarks and then eat some food from that country! I also like to play some music on Pandora from that country!
- Zoo – Place stuffed animals around your house. Make a train out of chairs and then grab your baby dolls and toy cameras to make a family day of visiting the animals! My kids also like to eat at the “café”! I make a menu that they can choose from and fix it for lunch (It’s usually chicken nuggets or hot dogs!)!
- Science Center – Think of science experiments or activities that you can mimic at home. One activity that we did was we made parachutes out of popsicle sticks and tissue paper. We then tested our creations by blowing them up in the air with the cool setting of our hair dryer. (Make sure you supervise this activity, so that your child doesn’t get burned!)
Keep in mind, during this period of social isolation, make sure you take time to interact with your child, provide them with avenues to socialize with their friends (virtual playdates), and that they get exercise! This is a stressful time for everyone, including your child! Providing them with as much normalcy as possible is important to alleviate any fears that they may be having!