Schools Out? Ask a Homeschooler: 51 Activities to Keep Them Busy
With the recent events surrounding COVID19, many schools have taken preventive measures and canceled school for the time being. What does this mean for many families? The questions I keep getting are, “how will I curb the boredom?” and “how can the learning continue while they are at home?” While some schools are offering online assignments, many have not had time to prepare for such long closures. Lucky for us, we’ve had years of experience of doing school at home and we are more than happy to share some of our favorite activities and resources! (Scroll to the bottom for a full list.)
Let’s start out with a fun activity that requires a bit of prep, but will keep your children occupied for hours! St. Patrick’s Day is one of my children’s favorite holidays and as such, I go BIG this time of year. THIS themed sensory box will keep them busy for days AND it is educational! I surprised the kids with this last week, and every morning they still play with it for hours. So far, they have created cakes for their customers, pizzas and they are constantly creating new treasure hunts inside of it (along with my husband’s car keys..whoops). I love open ended activities like this where they can use their imaginations. As an added bonus, you can reuse the rice for an Easter sensory box next month. Pull this out when you are needing some quiet time or if playing outside may not be an option.
Another fun and simple St. Patrick’s Day themed learning activity- gold coin multiplication! You can use any sort of holders such as muffin tins or ice cube trays, if you don’t have cupcake wrappers. For the items, any identical objects will work! HERE is a link to this fun activity. A huge benefit to having your children home, is being able to go over core concepts in a 1 on 1 environment. Hands on learning is becoming less common in schools, but activities that use multiple parts of the brain are shown to have higher retention rates. I introduced this activity with my 6 year old son (he will be 7 in a few months) and he loved filling up the cupcake holders.
Next up- card games! The best part about card games, is everyone always has a deck laying around. A great game for the younger crowd and that also fits into k-2 math curriculum is “War”. Learning “greater than” and “less than” is fun and easy when playing this game, and the rules are very straightforward. My son and I played a 45 minute hand today and by the end of it, we were so fast! Another great card game is “Crib”. This works well for all ages, but it is especially great for learning addition facts. My 6 and 9 year old often request to play Crib for our game nights, and now they are way faster adding than I am. (Stick to Black Jack if you want to teach money as well…or make money off your kids)
If your children are a bit older and are needing some academic help that you don’t feel comfortable providing, Khan Academy is a wonderful resource. We use this often when both kids are being introduced to a new topic on the same day, and they both want to learn at the same time. The best part about Khan Academy? It is completely free! Lessons are divided up by grade, subject and topic along with SAT, LSAT, MCAT (and more) test preps. Definitely check this out if you want to keep the learning train rolling!
To keep the creative juices flowing, try this creative writing exercise we do on a regular basis. The night before, I lay down a blanket and set up an entire scene (this is just as fun for me as it is for them). I use some of their toys, kitchen utensils, crafting supplies and random little objects I find throughout the house. When they wake up, they will get to create their own story using ideas from the scene in front of them. So many good stories have come out of this and my children have developed a strong love for writing.
Try the 1000 Hours Outside challenge! This is our second year doing it, and let me tell you, you will not regret one minute of it! Not only is getting outside incredibly important for your health (barring you are well), but so many fun opportunities can arise. One of our favorite outdoor activities is a homemade scavenger hunt. Since my children are older, I like making mine a little tougher. I will list things like certain colored leaves, specific tree or plant species, a particular shape of rock and my favorite- animal tracks! Scavenger hunts provide a great opportunity for getting outside into nature, but they can also be done in smaller park areas.
While outside, look for some large flat faced rocks and have a rock painting party! The kids and I are part of a rock painting/hiding online group and it is like a grown-up scavenger hunt. Paint your rock, hide it in your community, and brighten someone’s day!
Streaming documentaries. We are very much a screen-lite family due to our busy schedules, but on days where we can’t be outside due to the weather, we love watching documentaries. Some of our favorite documentaries on Netflix are: “Our Planet”, “Brain Games”, “You vs Wild” and “72 Cutest Animals”. On Disney+: “One Strange Rock”, “Wild Yellowstone”, “How Dogs Got Their Shapes”, “World’s Greatest Dogs” and “Rocky Mountain Animal Rescue”. Can you tell we are animal lovers? Many of these shows fit in well with k-6 curriculum guidelines, making it a great indoor activity.
Activities to keep your sanity
Hide and Seek
Toilet paper roll house (I KNOW y’all have enough to make a fort out of it)
Mission Impossible (expert level: the entirety of your house)
Shoe box habitats
Walking a neighbor’s dog
Shoveling your neighbor’s driveway/pulling your neighbor’s weeds
Painting rocks to hide
Reading a chapter book together
Sensory box (click here)
IXL (our library offers it for free)
Nature scavenger hunt
Toilet paper roll animals
Sledding (if you still have snow)
Worm collecting (for those with rain)
Baking (amazing for fraction learning)
Pretend your children are on a cooking show and they have to create a unique dinner time meal
Decluttering old clothes and toys from their rooms
Video calling a grandparent
Toilet paper roll races
Fort building (we get pretty serious in our house)
Rock candy making (super simple with only 2 ingredients)
Outschool classes (a favorite among homeschoolers)
Toilet paper roll binoculars
Leaf collecting and then crafting with them
Google Mad libs (if you have a Google Home)
Lego competitions (make a Lego ball maze. Who can build the tallest structure? Who can support the most weight?)
Making a family band with household items
Spray paint art (water and food coloring in a spray bottle and go wild!)
Explore a new playground (if you feel safe doing this in your area and depending on each cities protocols)
Spa day (a personal favorite of mine. The kids massage me with lotion and think it is the greatest thing)
Mystery Science Online (Free during school closures)
Writing a letter to someone far away
Netflix, Hulu and Disney+ documentaries
Creative writing exercise (listed above)
Baseboard Challenge (You think I’m joking, but my kids honestly love this “game”. Grab a cleaning cloth and whatever you use to clean your baseboards. Have a race from one end of the house to the other to see who finishes first. The stairs are my kids favorite to clean haha)
Old fashioned telephones (grab 2 cans that I know you stocked up on at the store, poke a hold in each and add a string. Kids are amazed at this “technology”)
Look through old pictures (we sometimes spend hours doing this)
Create a family tree
Study the geography of your family’s history
Spin a globe and whichever place you land on, create a common meal there
Reach out to those in need to see if they need anything (this would make a great daily acvitity)
And there you have it. Fifty one activities that will hopefully tide you over during the extended school closures. I would love to hear from you with what activities are keeping your family busy! Stay healthy, everyone!