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Love in the Time of Corona: 25 ways to keep your family occupied during quarantine

This “new normal” really sucks; I’m not gonna lie. I’ve wallowed and raged as much as the next girl but, really, that only gets us so far. In fact, it pretty much gets us nowhere. So, while we’ve all got a bazillion balls we’re juggling in the confined air of our homes, here are some ways for you to get out of your own heads and remember what fun feels like. Kids optional.

1. Dance Party

To be honest, this is our family’s Friday night tradition anyway. But, it’s been hard to keep the days straight so we’ve slacked more than I’d like to admit recently. I’m all for retaining as much normalcy as we can, so I’m officially reinstating this Friday’s dancing! It’s a win-win. Good music, the kids get their wiggles out, the grownups get a little cardio, and we all get to shake loose the crap of the week.

2. Family Game Night

Our game cupboard sees frequent use. Though there are some games that I’ve strategically placed at the back so the small fries hopefully don’t see them. Full confession: I hate Chutes and Ladders. I always lose. ALWAYS.

3. Popcorn & a Movie

Microwave, air popper, premade. Whatever you’ve got, it doesn’t matter. We have an air popper (best $20 I ever spent) and it is quite literally the best popcorn I’ve ever had. Throw in some popcorn kernels (we have blue corn kernels in our pantry). Once popped, drizzle with some sunflower oil, toss, and then sprinkle with fine sea salt. Yummo! Some recent film faves include The Call of the Wild and Jumanji

4. Backyard Campout

If you’re outdoorsy like our family, this is such an easy & fun way to break out of the routine (just make sure it’s not supposed to rain…or snow!). We have two tents, actually. So, the small one is the one that gets dragged out back; this is only inconvenient because of our GIANT dogs that like to cram in there with us. The thing about backyard campouts though, is that you have to commit. Dinner is al fresco; roast some hot dogs over the fire pit (or BBQ)…same goes for dessert. Is there anything better than a s’more??? I think not. Then cuddle up with your sleeping bags and go to sleep with the stars.

5. Bike Ride

This has become our daily PE. At first, it was just to get our son’s insane energy out. But, it quickly became something we all look forward to. We even saw a bald eagle when biking on the nature trail just two miles from our house! HUGE bonus.

6. Dog Walk w/ Scooters

…or really anything to do with the dog. See above when I mentioned our GIANT canines, and our son’s crazy energy…one PE session daily is not enough. And, heck, we have this herd of animals because of our kids, so they have to take part in walking them!

7. Grow Your Own Veggie Garden

I love to garden, just not necessarily veggies. But, my kids have loved their veggie garden for the past two years. It’s easy for us to continue it. And, yay, science! We happen to have two raised planters dedicated to their garden, but if you have an open space that gets a good 6 hours of sunlight, you’re golden! Plant away! Might I recommend Swiss Chard, tomatoes, carrots and chives?

8. Modern Family Portraits

Break out the paints and each of you paints one other member of your family, dogs included. You can do this any number of ways. Put each of your family members’ names in a hat and have everyone draw one name. That’s who you’re painting! If you have washable finger paint, but no paper/canvas, then the wall is perfect! That will be temporary though, so make sure to take a picture before you wash it away. If you’re like us, and have an art cupboard full of supplies, break them out and have fun. Make sure you find homes for your new works of art once they’ve dried!

9. Build a Better Box Fort

After you’ve let all those amazon boxes sit for a few days, reduce/reuse/recycle.
Wyatt of the aforementioned insane energy LOVES building all kinds of structures. He’s my scavenger kid who is always repurposing something for a new invention. If you’re getting lots of Amazon deliveries now, or any delivery really, save those boxes outside or in the garage for a few days to be safe and then let your kids have at it. Box fort challenge accepted!

10. Dressed-up Dinner

Fancy clothes, ‘cause why not? I mean, I’ve basically been living in my leggings for the past 2.5 weeks. This is alarming not because they’re leggings, but moreso because I only own three pairs. So. Much. Laundry. At any rate, why not have a dressed up dinner? We’re not dressing up for anything else, so Tuesday seems like as good a reason as any. Make sure to break out the good dishes too, if you’ve got them!

11. Sensory Walk

I absolutely cannot take credit for this idea. It is so brilliant and such a great way to focus and use up physical energy at the same time. And, bonus, it’s not just for kids! Take a look HERE.

12. Fence Chalk Painting

This isn’t Gramma’s chalk drawing! Break out the old chalk bucket, grab some blue painters tape, and create your own (temporary) modern masterpiece on your fence. The bonus is that the entire neighborhood gets to enjoy it!

13. Baking Contest

Fair warning: this can get messy. We did this for the first time in February of 2019, during our school’s mid-winter break. Our kids were obsessed with The Great British Baking Show at the time, and it inspired our hydrangea cake decorating competition. The key is to bake and/or decorate the same item so they can be easily judged. Once you’re all done, get skype/facetime/zoom ready and call your fave family member to judge your culinary works of art!

14. Rock Painting Yard Art

We live in Rockland County…aptly named as there are rocks everywhere! Grab some from your yard and break out the paints again…if you want to keep things neat, spread some butcher block paper or newspaper down before you start. Once your rocks are dry, seal them with some polycrylic spray and they’ll be able to withstand the elements while being beautiful garden decorations!

15. Little Free Library

The mom of one of our kids’ friends suggested a book swap recently. Such a great idea since libraries are closed. But, given the time we’re living in, precautions need to be taken so that we’re not sharing anything other than books. So, if you love the idea of a “Little Free Library” but don’t have the time to make a cute library house…you just need a rubbermaid box. Browse through your book stash and put them in that rubbermaid. Let them sit outside/in the garage/in the shed for a few days in literary quarantine. Then, when ready, place on your front porch for friends to swap and share. Just remind everyone to please wear new gloves before reaching in and browsing!

16. Family Book Club

Might I suggest Harry Potter? Potterheads unite! If this isn’t the perfect time to reread everyone’s favorite magical series, or get into it for the first time (lucky you!), I don’t know what is. My daughter and I have both read the entire series several times. Now, with more time at home on our hands, we have finally peer-pressured my husband and son into reading the books too! And, they’re loving them! So, it’s become something of a family book club.

17. Mindfulness Mondays

My cousin is a yoga teacher and can twist herself into a fancy pretzel. I cannot. However, yoga is such a great way to give yourself a few minutes of quiet and space. There are so many free yoga apps available for TV, or your device of choice. Get the kids involved and focus on stretching and strengthening your muscles for a few quiet minutes as often as you like!

18. Family Photos

It’s a strange time; don’t forget to document it. You don’t need a fancy camera; whatever you’ve got on hand is great. If you happen to have a self-timer on your camera, use it to get in the frame with your family!

19. Postcards to Pen Pals

We visit at least one national park every year. It’s our family’s bucket list to visit them all. And, every time we visit, the kids pick out postcards to send to their friends & cousins. But, as with all best laid plans, I think they’ve only ever sent two. So, we have this stack of pretty awesome postcards just waiting to be used! Now’s the time to write to that pen pal and reconnect!

20. Make Your Own Board Game

Pretty straightforward, and it definitely doesn’t have to be complicated. Your game has to have a board/playing surface, player tokens, and rules. No cheating!

21. Family Iron Man Contest: run/bike/wild card?

If biking and scootering haven’t absorbed all your energy yet, this is a great one for those weekends when you’d like to be active outside, but still need to be socially distant. It’s a race; so, put your sneakers on. Get your helmets ready. A run and a bike are staples. For fun, the third race can be a family wild card. Something silly like frog jumps usually works for our crazy crew! Winner gets all the ice cream!

22. Video Game Smackdown

Rainy days got you down and inside? Join the kids for a video game smackdown? I SUCK at Mario Kart, so it’s extra fun for the kids when they challenge me. I’m seriously, awesomely B-A-D. But, the point is for the parents to get in on the fun with our kids.

23. Make Ice Cream

My mom used to make homemade ice cream every year on our birthdays. I can still taste the strawberries! So yummy. Back then, it was a MUCH more long and involved process. I remember rock salt being necessary. Today, though, it is so easy! We bought an ice cream maker a few years ago and it is so fun, usually in summer months. But, heck, if any time calls for ice cream; this is it!

24. Paper Airplane Cornhole

Corn hole is such a fun backyard game…you know, the game with the wooden board with holes in it…and the bean bags that never ever seem to make it into those darn holes? Here’s a great twist for a rainy day. Using a large side of a cardboard box, paint it a fun color and cut three holes out. Assign each hole a point value (10, 20, 30, etc). Now, make 3 paper airplanes for each player. And, have fun!

25. Water Balloon Batting Practice

Save this one for a warm, sunny day. Grab a bucket and fill up a few dozen water balloons. Then, grab your baseball bat (even the toddler plastic kind works) and have batting practice. Fun for everyone…the pitchers and the batters!

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