Update (3/24/20): How Apartment Guide is responding to coronavirus and taking steps to help renters and property managers during this challenging time.
Schools are closed, non-essential stores are shut down, parks and recreational facilities are gated off, restaurants aren't seating guests and many of us are working from home.
As we protect ourselves and others from exposure to novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and government officials have asked Americans to practice “social distancing" so we don't become infected or infect people around us. The CDC terms social distancing as "remaining out of places where people meet or gather" and maintaining about a six-foot (two-meter) distance between each other.
To avoid exposure, we're spending more and more time at home away from our friends and neighbors. While this can be frustrating and boring for us, it's even more so for kids. Keeping them busy and occupied is a difficult task while they're isolated from their friends and schoolmates. So, how do we keep our 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 30 fun things 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 out doesn't mean the learning has to stop. Some kids will be sent home with assignments to work on and others will still have to participate in virtual classes.
But either as a replacement or as an add-on, there are plenty of opportunities to increase the learning from the comfort of your own home so your kids can get a bit of a jump. The Scholastic company is even offering free online classes for a number of grade levels.
Just because your library may be closed 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." Not only will your kids enjoy reading with you, but they'll also be learning while missing school.
If you don't have a stash from your childhood home, nearly everything is available to order from Amazon (just sanitize them as soon as they're delivered) 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.
The movie theaters may be 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 from Netflix, Prime, Apple TV+ or Hulu. Disney+ even released “Frozen 2" and “Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker" early to help with cabin fever.
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. Without gym class to get them active, 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 by the time school starts back up again.
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 their favorite professional sports teams and players. NBA, MLS and NHL players are sitting at home just like you are. Baseball and NFL players are in limbo. They miss the game as much as you do. 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 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 and avoid places with a lot of surfaces to touch like playgrounds. The more ventilated an area, the lower the risk of transmission. Don't forget to wash your hands as soon as you walk back in your house.
You may not be able to go to the gym (even the one in your building or complex) while social distancing, so you'll have to keep 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 free access to the Bowflex or stationary bike, there are plenty of places to buy awesome exercise equipment for children, who should still be getting sixty minutes of physical activity a day … even when you're self-quarantining.
Parks around you closed? 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.
The warm weather is almost here in much of the country (and already spring-like in others), so now is a perfect time to create a family garden. If your building or community offers a spot to plant flowers and vegetables, it's a great opportunity to get it started for the season (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. And by the time we're all back to school and work, you'll have flowering buds and the beginnings of a great salad.
Have you seen “Top Chef Junior?" Kids as young as ten 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? While most restaurants may be closed for the time being, those with takeout and delivery services are still going. 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.
Some amazing bands are even making this a communal online experience so you can participate across the miles. The Dropkick Murphy's are streaming a crowd-less show live online and unique open-source choral cover group Choir! Choir! Choir! is hosting a worldwide “Social Distan-Sing-Along."
Are your kids missing music classes in school? 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. And when school starts back up again, they can join the band!
If you and your kids already know how to play instruments, learn some new music together. Family-friendly Canadian band Arkells have been holding daily “Flatten The Curve Music Classes," live Instagram sessions on how to play some of their songs.
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 an art class in school, reach out to the art teacher and see if there is 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 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 of dozen items and let the kids go scavenging around. The great thing about a social distancing scavenger hunt is that it can happen almost anywhere: in the house, around the building or even on the internet.
While officials are setting limits to the number of people that can gather in one place, for your own protection and the safety of others, children should also avoid congregating with neighborhood friends or having playdates and sleepovers. But your children still want to stay in touch with their friends and buddies from school, so why not create a virtual playdate?
Set up laptops, tablets or Facebook Portals on both ends and turn on the video sharing. Let kids chat or free play together or direct them through planned activities and projects.
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 while they're off school in photos, and then sort through them as a family. Curate the perfect slideshow and help them upload their photo-documentary to your Facebook.
It's 2020 and the start of a new decade. Ask the kids what their memories were of the last ten 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? 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. Great for families that love dogs but don't have the schedule (or allowance in their lease) to have one of their own. Make sure your apartment will allow this beforehand!
Just keep in mind, if you have to take the pupper out for a walk, keep six feet away from your neighbors and strangers and head back in when you're both finished, and wash your hands based on CDC guidelines when you come back in.
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.
Do your kids have grandparents or even great-grandparents who aren't smartphone-adept? Now is the perfect time to teach them how to video chat with their little ones while everyone is staying inside. Apple makes it easy with FaceTime, but if you're not used to using it, there's still a learning curve. Not an iPhone family? Most Android phones have native video calling.
If your senior family have laptops but not a ton of computing experience, create a Skype account for them. And if your kids are tech-savvy, they can teach grandpa and grandma how to setup the video platforms and they'll be able to see each other's smiling faces whenever they want!
Everyone knows back to school shopping, but what about out of school shopping? Just like heading to school in the fall, you'll need new clothes and supplies for the summer too. With warm weather around the corner, it's not too early to start shopping! Put together a list with your kid, then hit the online stores and stock up on back-to-summer supplies and necessities before the rush.
No school means no alarm. If you don't have to be up super early to work from home, let your kids hit the hay late and wake up whenever they want. And they can let you sleep as well by giving them the okay to get up and watch TV or YouTube on their own.