We live in the Seattle area, one of the hardest hit spots of the coronavirus outbreaks. Schools and offices are shutting their doors, parties and social events have been cancelled, and we are certainly trying to stay home as much as possible. And, of course, its winter, which means I’ve needed to come up with a plan to ward off cabin fever during these uncertain times. Here are my 6 key tips for keeping your cool and your kids busy when stuck indoors.
- Break the Day Up into Hour-Long Increments. This little piece of advice might sound insane if you don’t have children, but if you do, you’ll understand how days at home with little ones can feel never ending. Starting with breakfast and ending at bedtime, break up your family’s day into one-hour increments where you switch gears and move on the next activity. Obviously if you’re having a blast playing Monopoly, or if movie time stretches on to 90-minutes, keep going. But generally having something new to anticipate throughout the day will keep boredom at bay. I don’t know about your family, but when my kids spend too much unstructured time together, fighting and arguing tends to erupt, and my parenting patience starts to wane.
- No Matter the Weather, Spend an Hour Outside. Unless there’s a zombie apocalypse or a severe storm warning, put on your weather appropriate gear and get outside. Trust me, I live in the currently cold and rainy Seattle, so I understand wanting to stay warm and cozy. But staying indoors for an extended amount of time can make the best of us feel lethargic, restless, and agitated. Fresh air, no matter what the temperature, reduces stress levels, and we can usually squeeze a little bit of immune-boosting vitamin D out of the sun, even on the cloudiest of days. Not sure what do if the weather is sub-par? Plan a nature scavenger hunt, go for a bike ride, let loose and do some old-fashioned puddle stomping, build a fire and roast smores, or simply go on a reflective walk observing the beauty of nature.
Photo by Jenko Ataman
- Take on a Baking or Cooking Project. Assuming everyone is healthy and has clean hands, taking on a fun baking or cooking project with your kids is a great way to pass the time. Scroll through recipes with your kids and let them pick out something they’d like to make (and eat)! Cookies are of course a sure winner, but things like applesauce (my son’s favorite) are delicious, healthy, and can be stored in your freezer for a few months. Grab some children’s cookbooks or look online for kid-friendly recipes. Making homemade playdough can also be a hit because it’s both fun to make and play with! Recipes such as this one requires only a handful of ingredients, which most homes will already have on hand (I add essential oils to the mixture so my hands smell good)!
- Declare a 1-hour Stretch of Mandatory In-Room Quiet Time. Requiring your kids to spend an hour of quiet time in their rooms allows both kids and parents time to reset and recharge. I let my kids take any toys or books they’d like into their rooms, then they are expected to stay there until the 1-hour timer goes off (thanks Alexa)! As someone who works from home, this also gives me a chance to get some work done that I would otherwise be doing when the kids are in school. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so I have hit up our local toy and book stores for extra activities to keep the kids busy while inbound.
- Give Each Child a Dedicated Hour of Parent-Engaged Play or Connection Time. When stuck indoors for long stretches with my kids, I will give each child 1-hour of undivided attention where we can do anything (non-screen related) they’d like. For my daughter this usually means playing board games, doing art projects, putting together puzzles, or playing Barbies. For my son, we often read Harry Potter, build Legos, or play chess. I do have a rule that the other child can always choose to participate, or else play quietly on their own. Elizabeth, No Qualms Mom Founder, has a different variation on this rule: choose an audio book or quiet time, but no joining the other child’s dedicated time.
- Cuddle up and Watch a Movie. And finally, it’s time to give yourself a much-deserved break and let your kids watch a movie. But as you perhaps know, siblings who have spent and entire day together are probably not going to happily agree on what to watch. My little trick here is to let one child select their three top movies (we usually use the Netflix or Amazon Prime app), and the other child gets to make the final selection. If you have more than two children, just do a series of eliminations. Make it special with lots of pillows, blankets, and popcorn. Want to snuggle up with your kids and take in a flick? Great. I typically use this time to tackle my to-do list.
Photo by Flair Images
Yes, the days are long and the years are short, but the days stuck inside with kids can feel never-ending. Making a plan and sticking to a schedule can go a long way in protecting everyone’s sanity. And as I can attest as a survivor of endless power-outage inspired fireside games of Old Maid, you may even squeeze a few wonderful family memories out of your time together.
Photos by Nicole Vaughn unless otherwise noted.