Constantly staying at home is hard for young children who thrive in routine. It can be just as challenging for their parents who are trying to balance work and parenting obligations. 

Schools are closed, and the weather in New England has been dreary, which means kids have been cooped up indoors. Laura Need, MD, a pediatrician at Mount Auburn Pediatrics, has some tips and activities for parents to keep their kids busy at home:

1. Create a Memory Book

It’s always great for kids to have a project at the ready and this COVID-19 global pandemic is a historical event that we haven’t experienced in our lifetime. There are plenty of memory book ideas you can get online or make you can make one yourself.

“The memory book is something they can work on alone or with parents and it is something kids can put down and pick back up. You can go back and look at it,” Dr. Need said. “It is a keepsake of the time.”

2. Bake and Cook

Many parents have showcased their kids’ baked goods on social media. Baking is an enjoyable activity for kids and an educational one.

“It’s not that we make cookies every day in regular life, but we do cook,” Dr. Need said. “It’s important for kids to learn life skills, and cookies can be a fun intro to this.”

Baking and cooking also requires kids to use their math skills.

3. Do Household Chores

Speaking of life skills, kids should learn how to do chores, Dr. Need said.

The pre-pandemic hustle of working full time, school, and activities left parents frazzled and kids over-committed. This often meant chores fell by the wayside because everyone was tired.

“With everybody at home right now, this is a good time for kids to start learning about chores,” 

Dr. Need said. “Our busy modern lives mean chores haven’t been as organized as in the past.” 

The family dinner has become challenging, but now is a perfect time to restore this tradition. A child can learn to set the table, do the dishes by hand or load the dishwasher, or help with cooking, just to name a few meal-time chores.

4. Incorporate Games Into Daily Exercise

One way to get children more engaged in daily walks is to turn them into a game. Small children can play “I spy,” looking for all the objects of a certain color, or a specific shape that day. Older children can photograph one spot — say, a tree or blooming flowers — and see how it changes over the weeks.

Dr. Need suggested children, in the ages of 8-11 roughly, can take photos if they have a camera.

“This gives them more ownership of the project so they don’t have to ask to use mom’s phone all the time,” Dr. Need said.

5. Pre-Plan Daily Activities

A way to give children more structure is to have a list of activities ready for them. These can be written on a piece of paper and placed in a hat or box, or you can write the activity on a Popsicle stick and have kids draw one from the pile.

“You can include art activities and reading, as well as chores,” Dr. Need said. “The children will draw an activity blindly; they don’t ‘choose’ it. This can be really helpful for those ‘I’m bored, Mom! What should I do?’ moments.”

This pandemic has reshaped the day to day lives of everyone.  But, by working together, we can help our kids get through these disruptions  and thrive