Fun and simple activities to keep kids entertained and learning during school closures

Written by Inceptive
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Fun and simple activities to keep kids entertained and learning during school closures

With the increasing number of coronavirus-related school closures, parents and kids are spending much more time together at home. To help parents keep their little ones engaged, we have curated simple and fun activities to do at home. 


BALL/CAR RAMP

DIY Ball/Car Ramp (Image credit: Busy Toddler)
Ball/car ramp (Image credit: Busy Toddler)
  • Cut open the box so it is flat, then folded back the flaps and taped them down.
  • Then tape a broom stick to the back to make the ramp part nice and sturdy. You can also fold up the bottom to make it curve just like a ski jump ramp.
  • At the bottom of the ramp, add a basket to catch the balls (or cars). The balls may not always make it into the target but having something to aim for made it just a little bit more than randomly rolling balls down a cardboard box.
  • Try rolling other items and see which work best.
Source: STEAM at Home Child360[1] & Busy Toddler[2]


HOW BIG IS OUR YARD

How big is our yard? Measure distance and time game.
How big is our yard?
  • Walking around the house or backyard and count the footsteps.
  • Ask questions to your child like "How many steps from the couch to the front door?" "How fast can you do it?"
Source: STEAM at Home Child360[1]


NO THUMBS

No thumbs game
How much we use our thumbs! 
  • Tape your kids thumbs to the side of their hands and challenge them to do basic tasks such as opening a door or using a phone.
  • Be sure that the tape is not too tight as you don’t want to hurt them.
  • It doesn’t sound too difficult since they still have all their fingers, but it’s surprising how much we use our thumbs!
  • If they get through the basic tasks, have them do something even more challenging such as writing or tying shoelaces.
Source: UNICEF Kid Power[3]



PICK IT UP WITH YOUR FEET

Pick it up with your feet! 
Pick it up with your feet
  • You can also play the 'No thumbs' game by having your kids try to carry out similar tasks with their feet.
  • They can try basic tasks such as picking things up and opening a door, but also drawing and painting.
  • They’ll definitely enjoy seeing their own feet-art!
Source: UNICEF Kid Power[3]


A MINUTE TO WIN IT!

One minute games
One minute games
  • Give your kids simple tasks and see how far they get in one minute.
  • The tasks should be possible to complete in one minute, but not easy.
  • Some ideas include having all of the picture cards in a deck shuffled and face down, and then players have to sort them into their suits in order or stacking chapsticks in a tower using chopsticks to pick them up.
Source: UNICEF Kid Power[3]


LAUNDRY LOADS OF FUN

Make folding laundry fun
Make folding laundry fun
  • Showing kids how to sort clothes by type and color and counting are ways to teach basic math skills.
  • Even if children aren't capable of doing these tasks themselves, narrating your own actions will teach them new words and build their vocabulary.
  • You can also play "sock war" -- balled up socks make the perfect projectile to launch across the room.
Source: LAist [4]


FILM THOSE DANCE MOVES 

Record your child's dance moves
Create a family music video
  • Set up a playlist of your kids' favorite songs and record your kid’s dance moves or lip syncing.
  • Enlist older kids to edit clips together in a music video.
  • Later in the day or week roll out the red carpet and stage a family movie premiere.
Source: LAist [4]


SCAVENGER HUNT...FOR FEELINGS 

Help kids identify feelings and emotions through books
Help kids identify feelings and emotions
  • Find pages in your kids' favorite books where a character is clearly showing some kind of feeling.
  • Invite the child to use the magnifying glass, or their finger to point out the emotions they see and share their observations.
  • You can help frame the conversation with phrases like: "I wonder what [the character] is feeling”, “I see some clues from her face. I wonder what you see”, "Let's look for other clues."
Source: LAist [4]


PUTTING AWAY TOYS? TIRED. CLEANING TOYS? WIRED!

Washing toys is more fun than simply putting them away
Washing toys is more fun than simply putting them away!
  • "Anything that involves a bucket of soapy water and a scrub brush or sponges is often quite engaging," says Elizabeth Criswell, early childhood curriculum coordinator at the University of Minnesota.
  • Ms. Criswell says washing toys can help give kids a sense of responsibility and develop sensory and motor skills that help kids learn how their body feels and moves in space.
Source: LAist [4]



FUN WITH BUBBLE WRAP

Bubble wrap is a fun craft and sensory material
Bubble wrap is a great craft and sensory material
  • Roll out the bubble wrap carpet and let your child walk the “runway.”
  • Make a hopscotch grid with squares of bubble wrap or use permanent markers to write letters on the bubbles, and see how quickly your child can “pop” the alphabet.
  • You can even let kids paint the bubble wrap and then press paper down on top of it. When the bubbles pop, they’ll have spectacular “bubble print” paintings.
Source: Understood.org[5]


WORD-BUILDING CHARADES

Kids of all ages can enjoy a fun game of word charades
Charades is an easy fun game that will entertain kids for hours! 
  • Your child has probably noticed that some letters reach above the middle space on lined paper, while others stay inside it and some dip below it.
  • In this game, you translate the way letters look into body positions. For tall letters, you jump up; for medium-size ones, you stand in place; and for ones that drop down, you crouch. So for bag, you jump up for b, stand still for a, and you crouch for g.
  • Try a variation of this game -- act out simple phrases like brushing teeth, driving a car, swimming.
Source: Understood.org[5]


KIDS IN THE KITCHEN

Kitchen activities for kids can be simple and fun learning experiences
Kitchen activities for kids can be simple and fun learning experiences
  • Getting kids involved in the kitchen helps them develop their fine motor skills, eye hand coordination, and even early concepts of math and science.
  • When children are helping with tasks, you can ask questions like, “Can you hand me the biggest bowl?” or “Can you put the smaller forks on the table?⁣⁣⁣ You can ask children to take out the correct number of plates or utensils when setting the table for dinner.
  • Here is a list of suggested activities for under 3s, 3 - 5 year olds, 5 - 7 years olds, 8 - 11 year olds and children 12 and above.
Source: BBC Good Food[6] & The conversation[7]


SUN, LIGHT & SHADOWS

The sun, light & shadows offer fun, interactive science activities for kids.
The sun, light & shadows offer fun, interactive science activities for kids.
  • Experiment with different light sources and objects.
  • Move a light source closer to an object to make its shadow grow larger and vice versa.
  • Experiment and see what happens to the shadows of different objects when you tilt the light source or change its brightness, what happens to the shadow if the light source is dim?
  • Head outside and see how sunlight creates shadows with various objects such as trees, houses and cars. Learn how the sun's position in the sky effects the size of shadows. Observe shadows of trees and other stationary objects in the morning (or even outline them with chalk on a sidewalk, patio, or even balcony)⁣. Return in the afternoon to see if the shadows have moved or are different in some way. ⁣
Source: Stem Sprouts[8] & Science kids[9]


MYSTERY OBJECTS

Mystery objects is a great sensory activity
Mystery objects is a great sensory activity
  • Place a variety of objects in a pillow or similar bag. Invite the children to feel each object and try to figure out what the item is without looking. Pass the bag around so everyone has a chance to feel inside.
  • Place a few noise making items in separate jars. Such as beans in jar one, cotton in jar two, toothpicks in jar three, etc. Put a sample of each item in a line and have children shake each jar to see if they can match the sound to the object.
Source: Stem Sprouts[8]


OBSTACLE COURSE

An obstacle course is a fun way to help kids burn some extra energy when they're stuck inside
An obstacle course is a fun way to help kids burn some extra energy
  • Create a furniture course in your apartment or take chalk and make a course outside.
  • Set up some bigger physical obstacles like drape a sheet between two chairs, where your child has to crawl under or limbo under. Pile some pillows that your kid has to “mountain climb” over.
  • Decide on some fun ways that your kid can get from obstacle to obstacle. A few ideas: crab walk, bear walk, slither like a snake, walk backwards, walk sideways, dance, walk with eyes closed, walk with a book on her head, and so on.
  • Make sure you time how long it takes your child to do the course, because when she finishes it, you can say, “Great! Do you think you can beat your time?”
Source: Mommy Poppins[10]


BUILD YOUR OWN BALANCE SCALE

Hanger balancing scale (Image credit: Amanda Formaro and Fun Family Crafts)‍
Hanger balance scale (Image credit: Amanda Formaro and Fun Family Crafts)
  • You will need a plastic hanger, two paper or plastic cups, string/yarn, hole punch.
  • At the top of each cup punch two holes on opposite sides and string yarn through. Hang the cups on the hangar and place different items in the cup to see which one is heavier.
  • There are a lot of variations online to expand on the learning.
  • You can compare objects by size, or quantity. Or you can ask questions like, “how many Legos does this toy car weigh?”, "find how many Legos it takes to balance a scale with a toy on the other end".
Source: Hands On As We Grow[11]



JELLYBEAN TOWER

Building structures with jelly beans and toothpicks(Image credit: Lemon Lime Adventures)
Building structures with jelly beans and toothpicks
(Image credit: Lemon Lime Adventures)
  • All you’ll need is a pile of jellybeans (or large marshmallows) and toothpicks.
  • Start building by connecting toothpicks with jellybeans, create blocks, built towers, and buildings.
Source: Lemon Lime Adventures[12]

FREE EDUCATIONAL APPS, GAMES & WEBSITES

Free educational apps, games, and websites for kids
Free educational apps, games, and websites for kids
  • And finally here is a list of great educational games, apps, and websites from the Common Sense Media.
  • These resources are either completely free or full of quality free content for kids to explore.
Source: Common Sense Media [13]


We hope you find this list of kids activities useful. Have a great idea? Email us and we'll consider expanding the list.

[1] KPCC Documents (Southern California Public Radio. “STEAM at Home Child360.” DocumentCloud, www.documentcloud.org/documents/6809291-STEAM-at-home-Child360.html.

[2] “Make a DIY Ball Ramp from a Cardboard Box.” Busy Toddler, 28 Jan. 2018, busytoddler.com/2018/01/diy-ball-ramp/.

[3] “12 Interesting Challenges for Kids.” UNICEF Kid Power, www.unicefkidpower.org/challenges-for-kids/.

[4] Dale, Mariana. “Kids Stuck At Home? Here's How To Keep Them Busy And Grow Their Brains At The Same Time.” LAist, laist.com/2020/03/13/los_angeles_coronavirus_covid-19_activities_for_kids_if_school_closes.php.

[5] Morin, Amanda. “9 Indoor Activities for Hyperactive Kids.” Cabin Fever: Indoor Activities for Hyperactive Kids | ADHD Indoor Activities for Kids, Understood, 2 Mar. 2020, www.understood.org/en/school-learning/learning-at-home/games-skillbuilders/cabin-fever-indoor-activities-for-hyperactive-kids.

[6] LouiseBibby. “A Guide to Cookery Skills by Age.” BBC Good Food, 24 Apr. 1970, www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/guide-cookery-skills-age.

[7] Sonnenschein, Susan, et al. “5 Math Skills Your Child Needs to Get Ready for Kindergarten.” The Conversation, 21 Aug. 2019, theconversation.com/5-math-skills-your-child-needs-to-get-ready-for-kindergarten-103194.

[8] “STEM SPROUTS.” STEM SPROUTS | Boston Children's Museum, 1 Jan. 1970, www.bostonchildrensmuseum.org/stem-sprouts.

[9] “Sun, Light & Shadows - Science Games & Activities for Kids.” Science Kids - Fun Science & Technology for Kids!, www.sciencekids.co.nz/gamesactivities/lightshadows.html.

[10] F, Sara. “Build an Indoor Obstacle Course for Kids in 7 Easy Steps: Mommy Poppins - Things to Do with Kids.” MommyPoppins, MommyPoppins, 7 Dec. 2018, mommypoppins.com/new-york-city-kids/boredom-busters/build-an-indoor-obstacle-course-for-kids-in-7-steps.

[11]“Build a Balance Scale for Preschoolers to Explore Weights.” Hands On As We Grow®, 26 Oct. 2017, https://handsonaswegrow.com/balance-scale/.

[12] Dziengel, Ana, et al. “Engineering for Kids: Building with Jelly Beans.” Lemon Lime Adventures, 9 Feb. 2020, lemonlimeadventures.com/engineering-for-kids-building-with-jelly-beans/.

[13] “Free Educational Apps, Games, and Websites.” Common Sense Media: Ratings, Reviews, and Advice, 1 Jan. 1970, www.commonsensemedia.org/lists/free-educational-apps-games-and-websites.

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