Mom making slime putty with daughter You're stuck at home ... with your kids. If you're like most of us, you're trying desperately to keep it all together during the COVID-19 pandemic. But, kids are kids and they don't want to just sit around while you work. They want to DO things. And, if you don't channel those balls of energy into constructive pursuits, you'll wind up with some very unhappy campers (parents included).

To try to cut down on the constant buzz of "I'm bored," consider creating a list of fun and engaging activities with your child's input. Enlisting your child to help create their own personal list will give them ownership of the ideas and allow them to be part of the process.

Child Life and Creative Arts therapists at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) compiled a list of resources that may be helpful as you make your “What to do” list with your child.

Playing Picasso

According the our Child Life specialists, arts and crafts activities can be a great outlet for self-expression and creativity. They can even help children develop their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Consider decorating a window, creating a journal, or making a fun project with objects in the house. Check out these videos created by two of our child life specialists who demonstrate how to make a galaxy painting and shaving cream art.

A suggestion from one of our Art Therapists is creating a diorama focused on coping. While most dioramas are created for educational purposes, encourage your child to create a diorama focused on building positive mental imagery, fostering feelings of calm and relaxation, and thoroughly engaging in the creative process.

The focus of this project is to help your child create their own safe and calming place in nature using a cardboard box, magazine clippings, drawings and actual objects that evoke feelings or memories of being in nature. You can work on this project with your child or each member of the family can create their own. Once complete, consider sharing the projects with family members, allowing each to explain why they created what they did and what it means to them. You can also use this as a way to envision being in your safe and calm place in nature.

Connect with music

Music activities can be another great way to bond with your child, support their development and help release your child's creativity. It's also a great way to help kids learn their numbers (think Five Little Monkeys), letters (ABCs), parts of their body (Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes) and even animals and their sounds (Old McDonald's Farm). Singing songs during transitions and at consistent times can also help create a sense or routine, structure and normalcy during this pandemic.

For school-age kids, consider creating music as a family and being creative with movement – or combine the two! Your kids will love making music and dancing with you, even if you don't consider yourself a musician. You can even create your own instruments with materials you have a home and make up silly songs to a familiar tune – be creative!

Music is beneficial for people of all ages and can be used intentionally to impact mood. Don't be afraid to play music you enjoy to lighten up a rainy day, or use soothing sounds to ease into nap or bedtime. One of CHOP's music therapists provides suggestions about how to incorporate music into everyday activities with babies and toddlers or preschool-age children.

For adolescents with access to a smartphone or tablet/iPad, creating playlists and listening to their preferred music may be a helpful way to connect on an emotional level and to reduce stress. Apps such as GarageBand (Apple iOS) or Walk Band (Android) provide many opportunities to create music and can be easily accessed without any musical background.

Move your body

Movement continues to be important for our physical and mental health even as we follow social distancing rules. Young children often express themselves and their frustrations nonverbally, so providing opportunities for them to safely release energy may decrease the likelihood of meltdowns or tantrums. If your family can safely go for a walk, jump rope, or bike ride, you can enjoy some fresh air while exercising.

If you can't go out, consider some indoor exercise such as dancing, jumping jacks or, if you're feeling creative, jump rope made from paper bags (watch this how-to video to create your own).

A dance party can benefit your family in more ways than merely improving physical health: dance can give family members the opportunity to express themselves safely, to bond with one another, and to support positive interactions.

School-age children thrive with routine and structure, especially when activities are both fun and rewarding. Carving out time for movement-based games can break up the day and help with transitions. Consider involving them in family-based play and movement games such as Simon Says, freeze dance, Red Rover, Mother May I, parachute play with a bedsheet, and other childhood games that are safe to do in the living room or outdoors.

Older children in the family may be looking for opportunities to exert independence and control over their environments. Consider inviting them to join you in Zoom group exercise class, which can provide a space for bonding and help them feel a little more grown up.

Yoga can also have powerful health and wellness benefits. Cosmic Kids has fun yoga and mindfulness activities for younger children. Teens may prefer Yoga with Adriene, a specialty class for youth age 13-18. Explore and Learn There are also many online activities, movies, books and virtual experiences that can help your child learn a new skill, explore a new world, or spark their creativity for their next activity. Check out the links below, separated by age/school groups.

Explore and learn

There are also many online activities, movies, books and virtual experiences that can help your child learn a new skill, explore a new world, or spark their creativity for their next activity. Check out the links below, separated by age/school groups.

Preschool/kindergarten

Elementary school

  • Adventure Academy. Math, art, science and reading for kids. Free during school closers with code SCHOOL7771.
  • Kinder Art. Free and fee-based art lessons for K-8th grade.
  • Kids Learning Tube. YouTube channel that teaches using animation.
  • Mystery Science. Free, easy science for remote learning:
  • TIME for Kids. Free access to a library of grade-specific digital editions of TIME for Kids.

Middle school/junior high

High school

  • Arts and Culture. Virtually visit 500+ museums and art galleries around the world.
  • Coding course. Created by the Creative Computing Lab at Harvard, supports increased fluency with computational thinking.
  • Khan Academy. Offers a personalized learning dashboard of videos and practice exercises, including math, science, history, etc.
  • Supercharged School. Online science lessons and experiments. Free and paid content available.

Contributed by: CHOP Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy teams

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