As you know, efforts to flatten the curve of the coronavirus mean that Virginia children (K-12) are done with their school year. Preschool and daycare cancellations are intermittent and unpredictable. More and more parents are finding themselves scrambling to keep their kids educated and entertained on their own. 

Fortunately, there’s plenty of creative, educational activities parents can do for children in every age group. It’s best to include activities that engage different parts of the brain. For example, make a list of activities that include sensory play, arts and crafts, free play, and more physical activities for older kids.  Keeping a general routine, not necessarily a strict schedule, provides stability in an otherwise hectic time. Regular mealtimes and sleep, with a variety of activities and relaxation sprinkled in, can make this unexpected “vacation” seem more normal.

The most important thing to remember is to keep your expectations realistic. There will be days when most things do not go according to plan, or when your kids do not play well together. That’s okay. What matters is that you and your children are following local guidelines for social distancing, washing your hands frequently, and staying home. 

Activities For Baby (Ages 2 months - 1 year)

Much of an infant’s learning in their first year of life occurs naturally from observing their environment and everyone in it. But if you are looking to liven up your baby’s daily routine, try these easy, sensory activities that can help stimulate baby’s development. 

  1. Make a ‘treasure box’ full of safe toys made up of different textures (e.g. metal, sponges, toothbrushes.) 

  2. Place toys in front of baby during tummy time to encourage reaching/crawling.

  3. Attach a piece of yarn to a favorite toy/object for a DIY pull-along toy.

  4. Play ‘floating catch’ with scarves or non-toxic bubbles.

  5. Incorporate reading baby books into your nighttime routine.

Activities For Toddlers (Age 1 - 3)

When it comes to keeping this age group entertained, remember that simplicity is best. Toddlers have short attention spans and do not easily understand directions. Allow them to explore the object/s you give to them and to enjoy it in a way other than you intended, as long as they are safe doing so. 

  1. Mix flour and water together in bowls for fun, sensory play. 

  2. Stick pipe cleaners into a colander. 

  3. Add food coloring to yogurt and use it as edible paint. 

  4. Make a runway with bubble pop.

  5. Tape paper onto a coffee table for a large drawing surface.

Activities For Preschoolers (Age 3 - 5) 

As children grow from toddlers into preschool students, they can participate in more advanced types of play, and learn how to cooperate and share with others. This is a good time to encourage independent play.

  1. Break out cardboard boxes and art supplies and let them decorate it. 

  2. Play I Spy with color. 

  3. Lay on a blanket outside and find shapes in clouds. 

  4. Build a dollhouse from shoeboxes

  5. Make a fun collage from old magazines. 

Kindergarten Activities (Age 5)

Some of these activities can be done without adult supervision, but others will require the help of an older sibling or adult. Since five-year-olds are about to make the transition to grade school, it is good practice to let them play on their own and develop problem-solving skills. 

  1. Make personalized bookmarks.

  2. Put a few ice cubes and a wooden spoon in a bowl for a sensory experience.

  3. Make a blanket and pillow fort. 

  4. Build an obstacle course, indoors or outdoors.

  5. Write a postcard or letter to a relative. 

  6. Have a designated board game or card game night. 

  7. Go for a walk (stay away from playgrounds and keep a distance of 6 feet from others.)

  8. Download an educational app.

  9. Create an indoor scavenger hunt. 

  10. Have them help you prepare a simple lunch/dinner in the kitchen. 

Grade School Activities (Age 6 - 12)

This age group tends to spend more time on screens than others and often find it hard to disengage from them. Consider setting a time limit on screens, even if the gameplay is educational. The key to a well-balanced day at home is a mix of screen time, free play, education, and exercise. 

  1. Craft DIY hand puppets

  2. Write letters to friends. 

  3. Have a living room/backyard picnic.

  4. Teach them how to bake from scratch. 

  5. Bird watch with binoculars.

  6. Listen to audiobooks.

  7. Put the mattress on the floor for safer gymnastic play.

  8. Have weekly video-calls with family members. 

  9. Make an indoor hopscotch area.

  10. Make fizzy sherbet.

How To Support Teenagers

Teenagers will not need nearly as much attention as younger children, but their desire for independence presents a different set of challenges to parents. Here are a few ways you can help make social distancing easier on your teenager:

  • Be more relaxed about their social media usage

  • Encourage them to practice mindfulness

  • Validate their frustrations

  • Set a good example by engaging in healthy habits

  • Encourage them to put structure in their schedule 

Figuring out how to keep your children busy while you work at home can be a fulltime job in and of itself. That’s why it’s crucial to let your kids find their own solutions to boredom from time to time. It takes practice for kids and parents to find out how to fill unstructured downtime, but it gets easier as time goes on. Once kids get used to settling down into a routine, they can expand their attention spans and get better at learning how to entertain themselves independently. 

Capital Area Pediatrics is the leading pediatric practice in Northern Virginia. We are continuing to provide excellent care to our patients, while also helping to stop the spread of COVID-19. If you are concerned about COVID-19 symptoms or want to know how to keep your family safe, read our Coronavirus Resources for the most up-to-date information and resources. 

To be seen by one of our pediatricians, find a Capital Area Pediatrics location near you. Please call our office before coming in if you have a fever and a cough with a travel history, or if you’ve had direct exposure to a confirmed Coronavirus patient.  We are now offering telemedicine for some of our visits!