The pandemic has canceled tons of outings, activities, and extracurriculars, leaving our family calendars relatively empty.
It’s one thing to quarantine with children in summer, when the sun is up and the temperature is warm.
You can certainly watch a movie, or pull out a board game from the cabinet, but that’s not what you want. And you can only play The Floor Is Lava so often.
Below are over 30 ways to keep your family from getting into wintertime depression due to the pandemic. These ideas were chosen and recommended based on the following criteria.
Simple. After a long day, no one wants to spend hours cleaning up, getting out all the supplies, and spending another hour crafting. These activities require very few supplies, and you will already have the necessary materials around your house. They’re turnkey. You can save more complicated crafts, such as building a periscope, pencil catapult, or coin-powered batteries — for Saturday afternoons. These, let’s be honest, can also be quite long.
Novel. These activities are sometimes a bit strange and unusual, which can be a refreshing change from the usual entertainment.
All of these ideas have been field tested by the McKay family and we have given our approval. Some ideas will keep your child entertained for quite a while, others will provide a quick diversion and laugh. Some of these are quick and easy, while others will keep your child entertained for hours (sometimes to your dismay!). This list can be used to help you choose a few things to try each night to keep the kids entertained in some memorable, interactive, full-bore goodness.
Flour Mountain Game
You can use the flour you have if you’ve given up on the early-pandemic baking frenzy and now have a lot of flour. This is a great game for those who don’t mind getting messy, but it’s best to do it before you go to bed.
Put a heap of flour onto a plate and mold it into a mountain shape. A toothpick or match should be placed at the top of each mountain. Each person will use a butter knife and a toothpick to remove a portion of the mountain. You can make any size cuts you like, but they will naturally shrink the closer they are to the toothpick. The person who makes the toothpick drop first must pick it up with his mouth. This is likely to lead to flour getting all over the face. If your children are like ours, they might be tempted to make the toothpick drop first, as they want flour all over their faces.
In the past, we’ve spoken a lot about roughhousing. Scout and Gus are now 7 and 10 years respectively. We’re still doing it on long dark nights and even more.
As the children grew older, I invented a variety of roughhousing games. “Sleeping Giant” is the favorite. It was inspired from the Odyssey’s story of Polyphemus.
I place the children in a cave (usually a space between our bed and the wall), and then block the entrance with the rest of my body. The kids pretend I’m asleep and they have to move around to avoid touching me. I try to make it difficult for them to look at me by moving my arms up and down to avoid that.
If they manage to get away from me, or if I catch them three times, it’s a battle royale. They do jiujitsu locks against me when I throw them on my bed. It’s a great time.
This classic trick will amaze your child. Hold your child in front of a doorway and ask her to raise her arms so that her back is against the doorframe. For 60 seconds, hold the position. Take her forward for 60 seconds and feel her arms floating toward the sky.
Try this: Put your head through a piece of paper
Divide a piece of paper into four pieces and ask your child to cut one slip. He should then make a hole in the paper so that he can put his head through it. He will laugh at his failure. Then he will be delighted to learn the clever trick to make the impossible possible.
Poor Kitty Game
Everyone in the family, except the one who will play the role of the cat, should sit down. The cat plays three meows, then crawls onto all fours to reach one of the family members. The person playing the cat must then pat the “kitty’ on the head three more times and say “Poor kitten, poor kitty, and poor kitty.” The “cat”, should be as funny and silly as possible.
This game was found in a 1960s book on children’s activities. It was so bizarre, it made us all laugh before we even began. As we played, we laughed and took turns nuzzling and meowing at each other.
Heads up, Seven Up
This is the game that your elementary school teachers suggested you play when it was pouring at recess. It’s not as much fun when there are only four to five people involved. We do our family version with one participant having their eyes closed or thumb up while the other three participants are potential thumb taggers. This way, the eyes-closed participant has more taggers to guess between. It’s still a lot of fun for our children. It’s all about devising subterfuges to deceive the person who did the thumb tagging. Here’s a refresher.
Invisible ink is a favorite of children, evokes the world of secret agents and pirates, and it’s easy to see why. Problem is, the traditional formula for invisible ink, lemon juice + heat, doesn’t work very well. We have found the recipe that works, which you can find here. You probably have all the ingredients you need in your kitchen right now.
This was a great game that we played the other night, even with only four family members. Both the kids and their “DJ” enjoyed the game. They each picked their own song from Spotify and were the ones to start and stop it while the rest of the family walked around empty chairs.
One round of the fight for the last chair turned into a fracas. A lip was broken and blood was spilled. McKays are not foolhardy.
As an alternative to musical chairs, you can also use “River Rat”. The river is represented by family members standing on either side of the small, rectangular area rug. The music will be started and stopped by one person. Family members move back and forth across the rug when the music is playing. If the music stops, the river rat is out of the game.
The Challenge: Get up off the floor without using your hands
wrote about the Sitting-Rising Test a few years back. It is a physical test that can predict your mortality. You will live longer if you have fewer appendages to lift yourself from a seated position. You’re more likely to die the sooner you have fewer appendages.
It’s a fun way to have fun with your children and test your ability to kick the bucket. Try to see if your kids can lift themselves off the ground using only their arms, legs, or knees. Find out if they have more than one method to do this.