Fun things to do at home with kids from crafts and baking to indoor gardening and camping!
When your children look back on the COVID-19 pandemic, what will they remember? While we are still adjusting to the new normal, working from home with kids at home, we are making the most of the time together. In our attempts to nurture body, mind, and soul, we’ve been keeping active, learning, and practicing mindfulness (and baking up a storm). We hope you enjoy these fun things to do at home with the kids while social distancing!
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Choose Your Own Adventure
Enlist your kids’ help and get them to make a bucket list of fun things they’d like to do that don’t involve being around other people. You might be surprised at the things they come up with! Display the list in a common area (fridge / bulletin board), or put each idea on a small piece of paper and put all the bucket list items in a jar so you can randomly choose one when you’re bored.
Camp in the back yard (or living room)
Pitch a tent in your yard or living room, tell stories by flashlight, and invite friends to join via Skype / Facetime / Google hangouts / Zoom. My girls have been sleeping in a tent since school was cancelled and said they plan to camp until social distancing measures ease up!
These spooky stories are suitable for 8-10 year olds:
- Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
- Haunted Canada
- A Series of Unfortunate Events
- The Witches by Roald Dahl
- Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy
Camping at home must haves:
- The Luci Light Color Essence Lantern is a cool, solar powered inflatable lantern. Pop it in a sunny window by day to charge, and enjoy white or colorful lights by night. Available from All Out Kids (a family-run Alberta store) and Amazon.
- Glow sticks are always a hit
- Bluetooth speaker: This Anker speaker has great battery life, is waterproof, and has LED lights!
- Kindle Paperwhite (waterproof) or Kobo Clara HD touchscreen e-book reader, or Amazon Fire Tablet (this super affordable tablet works with the Overdrive app so you can download e-books from Calgary Public Library!)
Campfire and S’mores
Keep the camping theme going with a backyard fire and s’mores. This is a good time to use your pie iron or Dutch Oven, make foil pouch dinners, or finally make those creative desserts you’ve been eyeing on Pinterest (banana boats, anyone?).
Campfire must haves:
- Fire pit – choose one with a metal screen to provide some protection from sparks
- Camp chairs
- Coghlan’s cast iron cooker (perfect for grilled cheese or campfire “pie”)
- Telescoping roasting sticks
- Dutch Oven (For recipes, check out America’s Test Kitchen Dutch Oven Cookbook)
- ZIP Firestarters (last 15 minutes and even get damp wood burning)
- Firewood – try a local gas station, Kijiji, or Facebook Marketplace and practice social distancing when picking it up
- Aluminum foil
- Barbecue lighter (makes it easier to light kindling/fire starters)
Grow your own herbs and greens
Try your hand at indoor gardening, or start some seedlings. Microgreens (pea shoots, beet shoots, wheatgrass, sunflower shoots), leaf lettuces, kale, spinach, arugula, garlic, herbs, and radishes do well indoors and don’t need too much space. If you want them to grow faster, invest in an LED light, position it about an inch above your plants once they sprout, and program it to stay on for 15-16 hours a day.
Indoor gardening materials:
- Aerogarden Harvest 360: This semi-automated LED garden is super productive and easy to use (my mom has one). It even tells you when to add water and fertilizer! This 6-pod system is good for producing greens or herbs for a small family. For one or two people, consider a 3-pod system so you don’t end up with too many greens.
- Organic seeds: these are from Caribou Seed Company, a Canadian company
- Organic vegetable and herb potting soil
- Organic earthworm castings (natural fertilizer)
- Perlite is recommended to improve aeration and drainage, but if you don’t have any, you can use a bit of sand from the sandbox to improve drainage
- Flower pots: make sure they have drainage holes in the bottom and come with saucers (or you will need to put a tray under the pots); the Dollar Store also has affordable ceramic flower pots.
- LED Grow Light: if you are just growing a few plants, this 3 light set-up is very convenient; simply clip it to a table or shelf.
- Watering can or measuring cup
- Popsicle sticks to label your plants (best price at the Dollar Store)
If you’d like an all-in-one system with LED light programs and automatic watering, splurge on the Aerogarden Harvest 360. Small but mighty, it produces a lot of veggies effortlessly!
Bake all the things
I grew up baking and love it so much. It’s comforting, rewarding, and the finished product is always healthier and tastier than anything I can buy in a store. If you’re new to baking, here are some tips on getting started as well as a few of our favorite recipes.
- Start with muffins; they mix up quick and the recipes tend to be quite forgiving. Just don’t overstir them! This banana muffin recipe from Taste of Home is a family favorite, especially with dark chocolate chips. Stay tuned for my gluten free version (best gluten free muffins ever)!
- Cookies require a little more time because you have to shape them, but they’re always worth the wait! We love these Big Soft Ginger Cookies. Roll them in sugar and flatten slightly with a fork before baking. Pro tip: let margarine or butter warm up to room temperature before baking (take it out the night before). Do NOT melt the butter in the microwave or your cookies will spread out too much.
- Bake bread. It’s satisfying, delicious, and easier than you think. No yeast? No problem. Make your own sourdough starter (takes 7-10 days) and then you’ll never need to buy yeast again! My girls made their own starter, named her Millie, and tend her every day. A great resource with helpful photos and instructions is Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day. We’ve made Reinhart’s sourdough, French bread, pretzels, and pizza and every recipe turned out fantastic.
Do you have any recipe requests? Let me know in the comments below!
Crafts are a fun way to pass the time at any age. Some easy spring-themed crafts include the following:
- Build a bird feeder: DIY Craftsy has tons of tutorials so you can make a bird feeder with items you already have at home.
- Make a mud kitchen and let the kids paint with mud! If you do this on a warm day, you can avoid messing up rain gear and just hose the kids off before they come in.
- Create beautiful art with tree branches. How to build it has ten tree branch crafts for you to try.
- Make a memory jar of trail treasures found during this time. All you need is an empty jam (or pasta) jar. Soak it to remove the label, let it dry, and then let your kids put beach glass, shells, small river rocks, sand, feathers, pine needles, and pine cones (make sure they’re dry first so they don’t go moldy) inside. If you don’t have sand, you can color table salt with chalk and layer different colors between other items.
Friendship bracelets or paracord bracelets are always fun too. We’ve been making and sending friendship bracelets for friend’s birthdays because they’re light enough to send with a birthday card (and since we already have stamps, we don’t need to go to the post office! Social distancing win!). All you need is embroidery floss and instructions (youtube video).
Phys. Ed. with mom is my kids’ favorite subject! Check out our story: 20+ ways to keep kids active while social distancing for lots of fun ideas.