As we continue to do our part to stay home, the name of the game is easy and engaging. The Kidlist team has been brainstorming activities you and your family can do to keep the mood light at home! Some of these ideas require a bit of planning — others, none. So scan for a little inspiration to help you out when you’ve run out of ideas!
Easy At-Home Ideas for the Stay-at-Home Order
Toy vignettes: If you have young kids, sometimes just taking out a few toys and arranging them in their play space is enough to inspire independent play. You might drag out the dollhouse and park a few toy cars outside, spread a blanket and set out a few books, or put a few puzzles at the table.
Minute to Win It games: These games usually require very few supplies and can keep kids engaged for much longer than one minute! Check out this mom’s ideas at Happiness is Homemade.
Baking: Nicole’s kids love to bake on a rainy day, and she loves the tasty outcome.
Box upcycling: Use your extra Amazon boxes to build a fort, and the next day turn it into a grocery store, or a veterinarian’s office.
Raid the recycle bin: Transform recyclables by using your old milk jug to make a bird feeder. Turn your used toilet paper tubes into musical shakers or confetti poppers. Or just put the clean recyclables out on a table with scissors, glue, and string and see what your kids create!
Make your own dollhouse: Charlotte is going to try to create this DIY dollhouse!
DIY playdough: Make your own play doh with this recipe.
Learn how to knit using your hands: Check out this You-Tube video to learn how to make a blanket using extra-chunky yarn and your hands (no needles required!)
Learn a new crafty skill: If your library has a Creativebug subscription, check it out for tons of instructional videos.
All aboard: Make a smaller version of Annie’s cardboard train.
Small parts play for littles: Play or build things out of loose odds-n-ends. Raid the recycling or toss in some craft supplies like beads on the table if you feel fancy. This open-ended play takes some of the pressure off craft-time.
Book marathon: Start a new book series together. Make it a challenge to read each book in the series. Create a family book club to talk about the stories over dinner. (Jill suggested taking a break between the books and watching the corresponding movies. Popcorn time!)
Old-fashioned radio nights: Listen to books on Audible or the library as a family. (Comment below with your favorite books to read together!) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, narrated by Stephen Fry, is now free on Audible.
Spring cleaning: Seize the day and do some deep cleaning and organizing of your home. Sara can’t wait to tidy up! Check out Marie Kondo’s ideas for Tidying Up with Kids. Annie and her kids divided their house into quadrants and are deep cleaning in stages, breaking it up into tasks make it more fun and manageable.
Board games: Head to your basement and bring up every board game you own. Make it a challenge to play every single game in the pile! Here are Annie’s suggestions for board games to play with big families.
Watch a movie . . . in a fort: Movies are a sure bet, but why not combine it with an activity? You can build the fort together with cushions, blankets, chairs, and tables. Eating popcorn and watching something together in a homemade fort makes it even more fun!
Podcasts: There are many kid-friendly podcasts that your family can listen to together. Charlotte’s favorites are Wow in the World and But Why!
Play with moon dough
Moon Dough Recipe
1 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup conditioner
a few drops of food coloring
Have you tried one of our favorite games? The second part of the article is a list of games that you can play virtually with friends.
Have an indoor picnic in your family room.
Listen to an audiobook together; It’s nice to snuggle up on the couch, make some popcorn and/or hot chocolate and listen together. Great screen-free option! Your local library has free apps that you can access and Audible is also offering free stories for kids.
Movie night! You can make it more fun by having your kids make admission tickets and a ticket booth with boxes or paper.
Make a picture with mixed beans! All you need is paper, glue, and a bag of dried soup beans.
Make a paper plate jellyfish with tissue paper and yarn. Check out our Instagram post below.
Make a scrapbook! My kids have been loving looking at their baby pictures and I haven’t had time to make them into any kind of book. You can print out photos or pick them up at the drive thru at Walgreens.
Create a home spa! Even my son enjoys a warm foot soak and massage.
Print out the coloring pages from the Art Institute Chicago and create you own works for art!
Make a handprint flower. Paint your child’s hand and have them stamp it on a piece of paper. Then they can add a stem, leaves, and scene around the flower!
Do the color changing milk experiment! It has a huge “wow” factor.
Create a color block painting. Do you know the artist Mondrian? He painted striking blocks of color and your kids can recreate his technique by using painters tape. Have your kids block off strips of their picture with painters tape (this type of tape can be removed without damaging paper or a canvas). Paint or color the remaining spaces, then remove the tape. Voila! They can then go back to paint the lines left behind black for the full effect, or leave them white.
Practice reading skills with a virtual storytime with family members. Have your kids read to their grandparents!
Build something out of cardboard! Check out the cardboard train I built my son for his third birthday. There’s instructions on how to build a full-size train to spark your creativity and it can easily be scaled down with those packing boxes kids love to play with.
Make necklaces out of big beads, pasta, or cereal and string. Then have a dance party with your new bling on!
Play “fortunately/unfortunately” by sitting in a circle and taking turns adding one sentence to a story. The catch is that everyone needs to alternate starting their sentence with “Fortunately” or “Unfortunately”. You come up with some pretty entertaining stories!
Make a rollercoaster on the wall with paper towel or toilet paper rolls and marbles.
Build a foil boat and see how many pennies you can add before it sinks.
Make rock candy. Your kids can learn about supersaturation and crystallization… not to mention have a fun treat at the end!
Pretend you are on a cooking show and video your kids making their favorite recipe. It makes for great family videos to remember this time!
Send a letter to a friend in morse code.
Make your own stop motion video. A friend found an app called Onion Cam2 and it’s easy to use.
Have a creative crazy hair day!
Make toilet paper roll characters to create your own play
This isn’t the most glamorous idea, but I highly recommend cleaning out your garage. I just pulled everything out last week and we discovered some great toys and games that we forgot we had! My kids got excited all over again.
Make friendship bracelets and drop them off at front doors to brighten someone’s day
Finger paint in the bathtub! Click here for a homemade finger paint recipe made especially for the bathtub.
Make your own puffy paint with the help of Kohl Children’s Museum
Vegetable stamps! When potatoes turn green or start to shrivel, it’s a perfect time to make stamps out of them! Leftover bits of celery also work great to create a masterpiece. Have your kids dip them in paint and use their imagination to turn the shapes into animals or a scene.
Make homemade paper from recycled paper
Alphabet scavenger hunt: Go through the whole alphabet and find things that start with each letter.
Color scavenger hunt: Same as above, but quicker!
I spy: Go on a walk around the block and play “I spy with my little eye…”
Chalk. Draw pictures, write messages, play hopscotch, and more.
Sticks: Just sticks. (Yesterday, I said, “Oh look, sticks!” and then my children played for an hour.)
Dirt + pot + shovel. Pot is optional ;)
Colorful ice cubes: Add food dye to the water in an ice cube tray and freeze. Pop them out onto the sidewalk; kids can swirl them around to make colorful trails and puddles.
Outdoor storytime: Everyone brings a book outside to read.
Extra scooters: Bring indoor ride-on toys outside.
Sharp ears: Ask the kids what noises they hear and write them all down.
Sundial: Make a sundial clock. So cool!
Bird watching: Go bird-watching in the backyard! This guide to common Illinois backyard birds can help.
Color outside: Bring the coloring books and crayons outdoors.
Pitch a tent in your backyard. You can use a play tent, camping tent, or fort from patio chairs and a tarp to make a nice “home base” to retreat to for snacks and coloring.
Bring crayons and paper outside to make rubbings of different textures outside.
Go for an animal walk! You can make it fun by thinking of animals that begin with all the letters of the alphabet. We did that one time while waiting in line at Disney World and it was actually fun!
Plant vegetable seeds in your backyard! Good seeds to plant right now outside are sugar snap peas, green beans, carrots, beets, and lettuce. Check out our guide to growing your own food for tips.
Play hide and sneak outside! My kids made up this game and it’s a riot. It’s like hide and seek, but the people hiding get points for every different place they hide while the seeker tries to find them. Don’t turn your back or they will switch their hiding spot!
Play bocce ball in your backyard! You don’t need a bocce ball set, just a few balls (they can even be different sizes) and choose one ball to be the pallino (white ball).
Make s’mores! You don’t need an outdoor fire pit- you can even use a candle or gas burner on your stove, then take them outside and enjoy.
Let your kids be the photographer for the day to capture your adventures or flowers popping up outside!
Make mud pies!
Blow bubbles with homemade bubble solution:
1 cup water
2 tablespoons corn syrup or glycerin
4 tablespoons dishwashing liquid
Play “red light, green light”
Find a mural in your neighborhood, take a picture, and tag @kidlist.
Don’t forget about our local parks with paved paths! It’s great to take a walk there and usually not as crowded as the forest preserve.
Play ring toss. If you don’t own the game, you can make your own ring toss game with paper plates and a paper towel roll.
Play croquet. If you don’t have a set, you can make one out of wire hangers, a baseball bat or golf club, and a whiffle ball! (Or click here to buy a croquet set on Amazon.)
Make your own nature arrangement! We found a nest on the ground and my daughter had so much fun styling it with found objects outside, like leaves, flowers, and feathers.
Make a bouquet with flowers from your yard.
Create a challenge course by setting up different obstacles, such as objects to jump over, balls to kick through a goal, wheelbarrow to transfer objects from one side of the yard to the other, and a broom handle to limbo under. The more challenges, the better!
Learn a new skill, like how to throw a frisbee or do yo-yo tricks.
Take a walk to look for lilacs, then post a picture in celebration of Lilac Time at Lilacia Park in Lombard! Lombard Park District also has templates available to make your own to hang in a window. Tag @Lombard_History @LombardHistSoc @Lombardparks #90YearsofLilacs #LombardLilacTime from May 1-17.
Launch Sky Ripperz into the air or at targets in your yard
Have a hula hoop contest
Make a lilac or dandelion crown
Skip rocks at a local pond or forest preserve
Learn how to skateboard! Jerics is the absolute best place to buy a complete. I investigated all of the options for my daughter’s birthday and they are an amazing local shop. The owner built the board for her!
Practice cartwheels and handstands on your lawn and tag your favorite gymnastics gym to give them a shout out!
Bird watching! Look for birds and try to identify what type they are. Click here for a great resource to help you.
Have a water balloon contest to see how far you can stand apart and still catch it without the balloon breaking.
Paint with water! It sounds simple, but my kids loved this for years. Wooden fences work especially well.
Have a picnic and read together in your yard. Some of my best memories with my kids have been reading with the sun on our faces.
Virtual Things to Do
Screen time doesn’t just mean TV shows and movies! These virtual activities mix things up and inspire kids’ creativity.
Virtual Field Trips
Many museums local to Chicago and nationwide offers online virtual tours and e-learning experiences.
- The Field Museum in Chicago has video episodes called The Brain Scoop. The Museum of Science and Industry offers experiment ideas to try at home.
- The Brookfield Zoo has a virtual field trip guide for your personal viewing.
- If you have a future astronaut at home, check out the NASA virtual tour!
- Our country’s national museums offer virtual field trips: The Guggenheim, National Gallery of Art, National Museum of Natural History- Smithsonian, National Museum of the Air Force. (Find more here.)
- Check out international exhibits such as The Louvre and then create some artwork of your own.
Fun Videos from Local Businesses
We are working with local businesses to curate a virtual library of video tutorials, game ideas, sports, and more. Videos are being added daily!
Every day, we’re updating our events calendar with live virtual events. There’s something about watching live — and knowing everyone else is tuning in live, too — that feels good right now! (Plus, live events tend to be a bit calmer than regular TV shows.)
Apps and Games
Printable At-Home Bucket List
We are taking photo and video submissions for our social accounts! Please DM or email me any activities and ideas you have, even if they don’t feel that creative or original. We want to share your photos so they can inspire others and remind families of things we can do! We all have our go-to things and it’s refreshing to see what other people are doing, especially since we can’t hang out!
Click on the image below to view and print the pdf. (It will be better quality than just printing the image.)
If you have more ideas, please comment below! Our resources for COVID-19 school closings page is the hub for more ideas, activities, tips, and information.