Even as our worlds are opening up more and a little bit of normalcy has come to our lives, many of us are still working from home and a lot of kids are attending school virtually to maintain social distancing efforts. Novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is still a consideration in our daily lives, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control continues to ask us to remain cautious and stay six feet (two meters) apart as much as possible and "remain out of places where people meet or gather."
Protecting ourselves and others during the continuing pandemic means in-person events both large and small are still on hold, parties are postponed, many stores remain closed and restaurants are at minimal capacity. In an abundance of caution as the seasons change, a lot of us are still staying home as often as we did in the spring and participating in social distancing activities so we don't become infected or infect people around us.
Months into the crisis, spending time at home away from our friends and neighbors remains frustrating and boring. If it's dull and dreary for you, it's even more so for kids. Keeping them busy and occupied with social distancing activities is difficult while they're isolated from extended family, best friends and schoolmates. So, how do we keep kids from surrendering to the monotony and stunt the constant cries of, “I'm boooooooooooored?"
The key is to have a quiver of ideas at the ready to keep your kiddos engaged throughout the day. Social distancing can be a great opportunity to spend quality time together as a family and create wonderful memories during moments that might otherwise be scary for children.
Here are 50 fun social distancing activities you can do with kids in your apartment or around your building to keep them entertained as we do our part to maintain community health through social distancing.
Just because school is online doesn't mean the learning has to stop at three o'clock. There will be plenty of homework and after-school assignments, but as an add-on, there are a number of opportunities to increase learning from the comfort of your own home.
Use the time your kids would have wasted on a daily bus or carpool commute to get ahead. Looking for more? The Scholastic company even offers free online classes for a number of grade levels.
Even if your library is closed or open with restrictions, that doesn't mean you have to stop reading. Now is a perfect time to introduce your kids to some of your childhood favorites like “Encyclopedia Brown" or Judy Blume or “Choose Your Own Adventure."
If you don't have a stash from your childhood home, nearly everything is available to order from Amazon and most public libraries have apps with free digital books that come with your membership. Have regular storytime each afternoon, or have them read their favorites out loud to you.
Most movie theaters are still closed, but your home theater is always open. Create film festivals around themes and have a super binge or dole out one a day. Watch the entire “Avengers" or “Harry Potter" sagas in chronological order or get your kids caught up on classic kid flicks they may have never seen. You can even post a review of them together on sites like Letterboxd.
The choices are endless. You can choose from free-with-subscription streaming options from Netflix, Prime, Apple TV+, Disney+ or Hulu, or small fees for theatrical releases available on-demand from home like "Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs," "H is for Happiness," "Pets United" or "Mulan."
Create an entire theater experience by serving popcorn in movie theater boxes from Target online, turning down all the lights and breaking out the movie-size candy. For something extra, turn your phone or tablet into a movie projector for a giant display on a blank wall with an adapter from Amazon for as little as $20.
Or, if you're enterprising, DIY one for nearly nothing.
Even if it's just one you and one kid, if you can find an open area, you can play some sports. Mark out some end zones with twigs and throw around a Nerf football behind the house, play a little street hockey in your driveway, make a game out of a Frisbee toss or set up a mini-golf course around the landscaping. Many schools are forgoing gym class right now, so this gets your kids a little exercise.
No backyard to turn into Wrigley Field? There are plenty of sports you can play inside the house without breaking your vases.
Set up a Nerf bowling set in a long hallway, or even set up a few Dominoes and try to knock them down with a marble. Set up on either side of a coffee table or couch, blow up a balloon and boom, volleyball is on.
Remember folding up a paper football in middle school? Teach your kids how to fold the perfect triangle and start flicking some finger field goals.
Just let technology provide the stadium for you. Break out the Wii Golf or Mario Kart and create rules for a tournament. Play for days or play for streaks. Track of everyone's high score and keep trying to beat it. Or, play online in tournaments with your friends and neighbors who you can't visit in person. Have everyone donate some prizes for the best scores or longest winning streaks.
Conversely, now is the perfect time for your kids to teach you how to play their faves like NBA2K20 or Minecraft.
Your games don't have to be limited to the video sort. If you have some old board games stored away, now's a great time to teach your kids your favorite childhood titles. From Candyland to Trivial Pursuit to the Game of Life, there are classic games for every age group. Have a tournament or divide into teams, adults versus kids.
Believe it or not, new games have been created since you were playing Perfection and Sorry as a kid. Check out some of the awesome new games you can find at places like Five Below online.
You can play as many games as you want at home, but your kids might still miss attending sports in person. We've sat through a baseball, hockey, soccer and basketball season with no fans in the stands. And even with college and professional football season upon us, stadiums and tailgate lots remain empty with no opportunity to bundle up the kids and take them to a game.
The players miss having you and your kids at the game as much as you do. So, what a great opportunity to show your support from home. Dress your kids up in sports gear or replica uniforms, take a picture and hop on Twitter or Instagram and send it to their favorite player along with an encouraging message.
Want to do more? You can even donate to the player's favorite charity in your child's name.
Just because you're social distancing doesn't mean you have to be stuck in the house and sedentary. Depending on guidelines on exposure from local authorities, grab the whole family, strap on the hiking boots or sneakers (and masks!) and hit your local wooded trail or park.
If parks are closed in your area, you can still hike or walk (or even bike) around the neighborhood or through town. Just keep maintaining that six-foot distance from strangers you encounter along your path.
The more ventilated an area, the lower the risk of transmission, but keep those masks on around other people. And don't forget to wash your hands as soon as you walk back in your house.
Most apartment complex gyms and exercise yards across America remain closed, and even if your local membership gym is open, you may still not feel comfortable in that environment, which is understandable. So, you'll just have to keep yourself and your family in shape in the comfort of your own home. Whether you have a stairclimber or treadmill or just a few free weights sitting around, you can stay fit and so can your kids.
You don't have to let your kids have unfettered access to the Bowflex or stationary bike. There are plenty of places to buy awesome exercise equipment for children, who should still be getting 60 minutes of physical activity a day — even when you're self-quarantining.
Parks around you closed after sunset? If it's warm where you are, try sleeping in the great outdoors right in your backyard. Set up a tent and sleeping bags and bring all the essentials like trail mix, hotdogs, old school water canteens, Coleman lanterns and, of course, s'mores, while leaving the screens inside. Light the flashlights, tell ghost stories and doze off underneath the stars. Don't have the yard space? Have a camp-in in the living room!
What better way to social distance than an activity meant to be a solitary, quiet endeavor? Whether you live near the ocean, by a lake or just at a local fishing hole, get the kids outdoors by letting them learn how to fish. Gear can be had pretty cheap online, and in many states, kids under a certain age can fish without a license (check your local ordinances).
If you don't know how to fish, just turn to YouTube. You might even reel in dinner. Just be sure to check local regulations and wear masks when around others.
And again, if you're fortunate enough to live in a region where winter isn't quickly approaching, now is a perfect time to create a family garden. If your building or complex offers a spot to plant flowers and vegetables, it's a great opportunity to get started (as long as you order seeds and supplies online).
If you don't have a community spot to plant, building a garden box on your porch or patio is a wonderful substitute. Maybe, in a few weeks, you'll have flowering buds and the beginnings of a great salad.
Have you seen “Top Chef Junior?" Kids as young as 10 are creating masterpieces in the kitchen. Your kiddo might not be the next Wolfgang Puck, but there are plenty of things kids can do in the kitchen to feel like they're helping, from peeling garlic to mashing potatoes and, of course, baking cookies together.
And if your kid doesn't have what it takes to become the next Iron Chef, they can help set the table or load the dishwasher.
Not really a cooking kind of family? Of course, you know most restaurants have stepped up their carryout games and you have probably ordered more takeout in the last six months than the last six years. But how deeply have you considered the history of the food you're ordering? What a perfect global community teaching opportunity.
Teach your kids about food from around the world by ordering from a different cuisine every week or even every night. Chinese one day, Mexican the next. Try something a bit more uncommon like Ethiopian or Brazilian. Or, find food from other spots in the U.S. like a cheesesteak shop or a deep-dish pizza place. When you're done, write up a Yelp review together.
You may not be able to visit your local art gallery during social distancing, but that doesn't mean you don't have access to some of the world's great museums. Many famous institutes have their collections online and host virtual tours, including places like the Guggenheim Museum and National Gallery of Art.
And with virtual walk-throughs on Google Arts & Culture, you have exhibits at many world-renowned museums from around the world at your fingertips.
Nearly every single song ever recorded is on YouTube somewhere. Create a playlist of your kid's favorite songs, grab a couple of hairbrushes to use as microphones and blast the music for a perfect singalong. Or, curate a playlist of your favorite songs from when you were their age and put on a show for your kids and teach them how to Do The Time Warp or the Macarena.
Need more people? Set up a Zoom call with friends, family or neighbors and go to town with a virtual karaoke night, taking turns singing — or performing long-distance duets! You can even join up with a virtual choir and singalong with people all over the world!
No music classes in virtual school? Has band been dropped from in-person schools? Now is a perfect time to start learning a new instrument! Break out the old Casio and get the kids started on piano lessons or go shopping for a learner's guitar.
In our digital age, there's no need to hire an expensive private teacher. There are plenty of free lessons on YouTube or cheap video subscription services.
Set up a craft station in the living room with anything from crayons and paper towel rolls to safety scissors and construction paper to something more advanced. Artistic ability is optional — all you need is your imagination.
If your child has art class in school, reach out to the art teacher and see if there's anything from their lesson plan your child could get working on. Or, just create something to take to show-and-tell when school returns.
Buy a bucket of sidewalk chalk and let your kids safely draw to their hearts' content on the sidewalk or in a safe part of the complex or building's parking lot. Let them create the biggest art project they can imagine. You can even chalk out a hopscotch court and turn it into exercise.
Too cold for outside chalking (or concerned about a crowd of children gathering)? Pick out a wall in your house, preferably in a basement or playroom, and cover it in chalkboard paint and your wall becomes your kids' canvas.
Clear out a corner of the living room, set up a card table and set out on a mission to build the biggest LEGO construction project your kids can create. Grab as many LEGO bricks as you can find (you can buy them by the pound on Amazon and eBay) and let your kids' imaginations go wild. Forgo the fancy LEGO movie-branded sets and let their minds be their guide.
It's hide and seek to the next level. Grab a pad of paper and jot down a couple dozen items and let the kids go scavenging around. The great thing about a socially-distanced scavenger hunt is that it can happen almost anywhere — in the house, around the building or even on the internet.
Or, take your scavenger hunt to the next level with Geocaching. If you don't know what Geocaching is, it's basically a worldwide multiplayer digital treasure hunt where you search for scavenger items by GPS coordinates. Download a free app, see what's in your area and get on 'caching.
It's a wonderful way to get out but stay isolated and completely socially distant. But don't forget, if you take a treasure from a cache, leave a treasure!
We have to be careful who is in our bubble, and even if we're seeing friends more often, it's still smart to limit the number of people coming inside our houses — or even not allow that at all. While we may be letting kids congregate with neighborhood friends outdoors, in-home playdates and sleepovers still should be avoided.
But your children still want to stay in touch with friends and buddies, so why not create a virtual playdate? Set up laptops or tablets on both ends and turn on the Zoom. Let kids chat or free play together or direct them through planned activities and projects. And as bedtime approaches, let them leave the cameras on for sleepover gossip and giggling until they fall asleep.
We're in the middle of a very memorable time in our history, and we're in it with family. With their phone or with a real camera, let your kids document everything happening in photos, and then, sort through them as a family.
Curate the perfect slideshow and help them upload their photo-documentary to your Facebook, stream it to a digital picture frame or screensaver or even send them out to be printed into a real old school photo album.
It may seem like years since January, but don't forget 2020 is the start of a new decade. Ask the kids what their memories were of the last 10 years and have them gather some odds and ends, newspaper clippings, printed out photos and personal notes from the family and seal them up in a time capsule box (available under $15 from Amazon).
Store the box away in an attic or bury it in the backyard (just remember where it is if you move) and set a reminder on your phone's calendar to open it up a year, five years or a decade from today.
Are any of your neighbors staying with relatives out of town to keep them company or trying to take a socially-distanced vacation? Offer your and your kids' services to dog-sit while they're gone. You can be home all day for your furry houseguest, and your kids will have an instant companion to keep them from being lonely or a special guest during Zoom school. Great for families that love dogs but don't have the schedule (or allowance in their lease) to have one of their own.
Just keep in mind, if you have to take the pupper out for a walk, wear a mask, keep six feet away from your neighbors and strangers and wash your hands based on CDC guidelines when you come back in.
Can't have a dog in your apartment or home, even for a couple of days? Well, that doesn't stop you from enjoying watching some. How about checking out live-streamed pups? Keep coming back and get to know the dogs' daily routines.
Cute puppers doing dog things for the entire world to see? Yes, please!
Campaign rallies and neighborhood canvassing are on hold while we're social distancing. Do you have a presidential candidate or local town legislator you support as a family? Contact the campaign and find out if you can volunteer from home, like sending out mailers or creating a Facebook video. There's still time!
Do your kids have grandparents or even great-grandparents who aren't smartphone-adept? If you've been putting it off, now is the perfect time to teach them how to video chat over their phones with their little ones while everyone is staying inside. Apple makes it easy with FaceTime and Android offers Google Duo, but if you're not used to using it, there's still a learning curve.
If your senior family members have laptops but not a ton of computing experience, create a Skype account or download Zoom for them. And if your kids are tech-savvy, they can teach grampa and grandma how to set up the video platforms and they'll be able to see each other's smiling faces whenever they want!
If you thought that back to school shopping was weird this year, wait until you experience Christmas shopping, especially if Black Friday is all-virtual. Believe it or not, holiday deals are already live on Amazon, with Prime Day scheduled for mid-October, kicking off the holiday shopping frenzy.
So, no time like the present to spend some of your free time curating gift wish lists with your kids because it's gonna be time to shop before you know it. And just because you may not be able to visit Santa at the mall this year, it's no excuse for your kids not to stay off the naughty list.
For most of us, our kids have never been to a drive-in movie. Well, all that can change in 2020. With many traditional movie theaters closed or people not interested in hanging out indoors, drive-in movies have made a comeback in a big way.
If you're lucky enough to have one near you, professional drive-ins have reopened or been made anew around the country showing first-run movies on the really-big screen with crisp audio coming right through your car stereo. And in many places, ad hoc drive-ins have been set up in fields, behind supermarkets or in empty parking lots showing classics (which certainly may be new to your kids).
If the facility's rules allow, pack up a picnic, pop up a giant bag of popcorn and head to the theater for a night of movies under the stars. Some require you to stay in your car, but others allow space to set up blankets or patio chairs next to your vehicle to watch from.
With live, in-person music concerts mostly verboten, many musicians and bands have found creative ways to hold non-virtual shows drive-in style. Pop up drive-in concert venues are springing up all over, in parking lots, at farms and parks and even outside stadiums.
Just like a movie, you can enjoy a real live concert from the comfort of your car with sound from the stage or pumped in over your radio. But unlike movies, fans are encouraged to interact with the show with flashing headlights and honking horns in place of standing ovations.
We're not heading to the stadium to catch NFL games or college football from the stands. But that doesn't mean that you and your kids have to sit on the couch and watch the game in isolation! Hit up your fellow season ticket holders, family or local fan group and hold a virtual game watch party over Zoom. Make gameday snacks and drinks just like you'd have at the game, dress up in your best lucky jersey and log in for kickoff.
Set up your laptop with a webcam by your TV facing your crew on the couch, and have everyone else do the same, and you can all experience every touchdown and bad call together, watching everyone react in real time.
Those Zoom chats don't have to just be for school, meetings and catch ups with grandma. You can have a family trivia night over video! There are a number of apps and websites that offer online games like JackBox and Houseparty that let you play curated and fun games while you laugh and play along on Zoom.
Or, go for an easy old school Zoom trivia game by naming a host who can read questions off the cards from your old Trivial Pursuit or from an online trivia site of your favorite movie or TV show and have everyone answer privately in the chat or be the first to raise their hand and get called on. Hand out virtual or real prizes to the winners — or just the funniest answers.
Now, we're not promoting child labor, but while you're finally getting around to all those home or apartment improvement projects, why not let the kids help (safely). Painting the bedroom? Let them fill in the spots along the corners or stir the paint. Putting up some bookshelves? Your kids can tap on a nail or help hold the measuring tape. No matter what your project, what a great opportunity to show the kids how it's made.
Similarly, why not let the little ones assist on your car maintenance. Sure, we're not driving as much these days, but your car has to stay in top shape. Teach the kids how to change the oil, fill the washer fluid or check the tire pressure. Let them start the engine so you can watch from under the hood. Or something more advanced if they're old enough. Good automobile maintenance knowledge is important for a child, learning skills they'll use their whole lives.
Are your kids too young to help with fixing (or the car is already in tiptop shape)? Then let them help you wash the car to a sparkling finish. Especially if it's just been sitting around getting dirty, your car probably needs a good clean inside and out. Honestly, there's a good chance your kids made a lot of the mess themselves.
Within the rules of your apartment community or neighborhood, give your baby a top-to-bottom clean with your babies. Let them vacuum the inside, hold the bucket or clean the tires. They'll have a blast getting all soapy with the sponges or spraying down the car (or each other) with the hose.
Now that your car is primed, why not hop in for a socially-distanced day trip to nowhere? Visiting other cities or staying at hotels may not be on your pandemic to-do list, but that doesn't mean you have to stay cooped up in the apartment. Sit the kids down, pop open Google Maps, and pick a spot a few hours away and back and enjoy the ride while you play “I, Spy."
Plan a route that takes you by gorgeous scenery or offers views of mountains and lakes. Crank up the tunes and take a drive through a nearby city to catch the sights from inside the safety and comfort of your car. Find a road known for its beautiful fall foliage. Before you head back, you can grab takeout from an interesting restaurant you find and eat in the car or pack a picnic and pick out a roadside or park bench or table and eat socially distanced before heading home.
Remember how fun blowing bubbles was when you were young? Well, it's just as fun today and it's easy to lose yourself for hours bubbling over! There are so many cool bubble-making toys available online these days, you'll barely know where to start. Hit up the online stores and grab a few, along with a selection of colorful bottles of bubble soap.
Grab the kids and find a spot outside your apartment or off your balcony and let the bubbling commence. See who can blow the biggest bubble, the most bubbles or get their bubbles the furthest distance without breaking. The best part is virtually no cleanup!
TV and movies are great, but has your family ever written and produced their own play? Pick a weekend and make it theater weekend. Spend Saturday coming up with an idea for a play to write and sit down with the kids and suss out the storyline and create the dialogue. Having trouble? Make it Mad Lib style. Ask the kids to think of an animal, a place, an event or anything you can build a story around, then write it!
On Sunday afternoon, help everyone learn their lines, create costumes and sets and practice for the big performance. Then Sunday night, invite family and friends to watch via Zoom as you perform the World Premiere of your brand new Broadway show. You could be sparking the imagination of the next Aaron Sorkin.
While it may not be something you did as a child in the pre-internet days, learning to code is something kids are learning younger and with greater frequency than ever before. They may even be starting to do it in school. It's a skill that can open up a ton of doors as they reach high school, college and the workforce.
You may be a coding “n00b" yourself, but don't let that stop you from pushing your kids in the right direction. There are plenty of online tools for kids to get them excited about coding like Scratch and Code Monster.
The most socially-distanced humans on the planet aren't even on the planet. They're the astronauts currently aboard the International Space Station 240 miles up, usually three at a time serving very long missions. If you're jealous that these space travelers get to escape the planet for a little while, you and your kids can keep an eye on them 24/7 with webcams pointed back at Earth live around the clock.
And as you watch and learn about space travel and the importance of space science, you and your child can check out some really cool “STEMonstrations," space-themed science experiments performed just for kids by the astronauts direct from NASA.
You don't need your computer to keep an eye on the astronauts on the International Space Station. NASA provides an entire site dedicated to tracking when the ISS is overhead and viewable with the naked eye or with a telescope or binoculars.
And it's not just the ISS. All this home time, especially as it gets darker sooner, is a great opportunity to explore the stars and planets with your kids and teach them all about astronomy. You can stargaze with or without a telescope right from your front yard. No front yard? Bundle up and get out on the porch. No porch? Set up a telescope pointed out your living room window.
If you're handy and have the space in your apartment backyard, find a good, solid tree (and some instructions on the internet) and create an amazing elevated play space that will last your kids years. Let them help with the design, sit with them while you order your supplies online with delivery and allow them to assist in construction by hammering a few nails or painting.
But the best part of building a treehouse is when it's done so you and your kids can enjoy using your new treehouse, socially distanced a few feet off the ground. Before you start, check with your complex or neighborhood management and your local zoning and building codes.
Did you know you can make playdough (or, officially, Play-Doh) at home? Not only can you and your kids make your own batch in your kitchen together — in as many colors as you can imagine — but when you're done, you have hours and hours of playdough fun to be had.
The recipe is fairly simple and can be found online, and only involves a few ingredients like flour, salt, vegetable oil and cream of tartar. And no baking necessary!
Do your kids know you can send actual letters? In the mail? On paper? In the digital social media and email age, your kids may not know the excitement and anticipation of waiting for a letter in the mail, and reading a note someone took the time to create and writing back. What a great time to get a pen pal!
You can certainly start a pen pal relationship with someone you know across the country or across the world. But what about a complete stranger? An elderly person in a faraway state or a lonely kid in a foreign land. Imagine your kids' wide eyes as they get a postcard in the mail from another continent with a strange stamp and return address.
There are many services online that hook kids up with pen pals. And while you're doing so, you're doing your part to help support the U.S. Post Office, as well!
If you have an older kid, their room is probably gross. No kid likes cleaning their room, but staying at home is a great opportunity to do more than just pick up toys or put away laundry. You and your kids can move everything out of their room. Everything. Clean furniture, sports gear, knick-knacks and mementos piece by piece as you move it. Then, in an empty room, do a deep clean of the walls and carpet.
And now the fun part: Your kids probably didn't design their room, and now is the chance. As you move everything back in, rearrange the room exactly as they want it. Put up new posters, hang fun new blinds or shop for a new bookcase or desk online. You can even paint a wall or two if you want. Let your kids really own their room.
We've already mentioned learning to cook together, learning from ordering takeout and even learning how to fish. But don't forget the simple pleasure of just having a meal with your family. Whether you cook yourself (or with your kids), order pizza or Chinese or even go out safely to an outdoor dining restaurant, having meals together on the regular is one of the best unintended consequences of quarantine and social distancing.
Back in the normal days (do you even remember them?), commutes to and from work, the school bus and afterschool activities and everyday life of going to the movies or attending shows often kept us from sharing the dinner table each night. These days, we are all home more and have the ability to eat together at a consistent time.
And if you are working from or staying home and your kids are in virtual classes, that's 100 percent more lunches you get to have together than you did before!
There are a lot of things your kids aren't doing on the weekends. Hitting the mall, going over other kids' houses and little league are canceled or severely curtailed, so there's often no rush to jump out of bed early on a Saturday or Sunday.
So, if you don't have to be up super early and your kids are pretty self-sufficient, let them hit the hay late and wake up whenever they want. And they can let you sleep as well by giving them the OK to get up and watch TV or YouTube on their own.
Social distancing and staying at home may be a part of our daily lives for a long time. But the things we can do to stay sane and keep our minds — and our kids — occupied are only limited by our imagination. These are just 50 great social distancing activities to do with the kids and family between virtual classes and Zoom family get-togethers. There are hundreds more tasks, games and adventures to be had with your newly-found family time.