This past August was definitely not what we expected – everyone came down with Covid (my husband and I are both vaccinated) over the course of two weeks so it became a rolling quarantine situation where we were all home for the entire month (then my husband had to have his appendix out, but that’s another story!). Our six-year-old was an absolute trooper as she missed out on the rest of her summer day camp and wasn’t allowed to see anyone for the month. And thankfully her case was mild and only necessitated one day of fever-fatigue-four straight hours of television. We also have access to an outdoor space near our apartment which we took full advantage of. But there were rainy days and days where we just didn’t feel up to going out, which left us with the problem of what we were going to do. I know so many of us have lived through this situation in the past eighteen months, which made it even harder when you have one or two parents working from home at the same time. Here are some recommendations for some indoor activities (and some you can bring on your next travels!) which might be helpful for those of us heading into a Northern Hemisphere winter and those on the edge of ending lockdown in the Southern Hemisphere. Hopefully, some sanity will be saved somewhere!
This coloring book is many pages of funny and cute doodly-type cartoons with plenty of big and small spaces for those who want to do a million colors blended together or others who just like each character to have their own color. This is definitely an outlet for creativity and no, you don’t have to stay inside the lines! There is no wrong way in art. It also comes with five double-sided 50/50 pencils so you get ten colors right out of the gate and can jump right in. What it doesn’t have is a pencil sharpener so definitely don’t forget to bring your own! We’ve added some podcasts to listen to while we color which usually leads us to a solid hour of pencil work. Highly recommend Circle Round from WBUR and Story Time from Bedtime FM.
This is the perfect game for kindergarten through second graders (and possibly a good refresher for math-challenged adults such as myself – ha!). The concept is obvious if you have ever played bingo, but the twist is doing the mental math of adding and subtracting to see if you can claim a card. There are six double-sided cards (one side is addition, the other is subtraction) so when you’re just starting out (like our newly minted first grader) we have found the addition to be a good jumping-off point (with minimal frustration), and eventually, we’ll be able to use both sides. It can easily be played with just two players (simply pool the cards face down and then take turns choosing one), but is definitely more fun when you can rope more people into it. This is a good STEM alternative to our other favorite word/picture game, Zingo (also highly recommended!).
We really love Ravensburger Kids puzzles and have been working our way up from the basic 24 piece ones (when we were in the throes of the toddler/preschool years) to our first attempt at 300 piece ones during our month in quarantine. They have so many different themes that it will either be hard to choose the right one or you’ll be able to zone in instantly to one that will keep your little engaged for quite a while. Yet another thing that I love about this German-based company (apart from their commitment to sustainability and high-quality products) is when I visited their website to do some research for this article, I noticed that there were some products they weren’t shipping right now, in order to nudge people towards ordering from their retail partners who have been struggling during the unexpected lockdowns of the past eighteen months. Our 300 piece favorites have been African Waterhole, Underwater Adventure, and (my favorite) World Landmarks Map, which took way longer than I thought. With older kids, you can also make it more fun by timing yourselves to see how long it takes to complete the puzzle. One additional 80 piece puzzle I recommend is The Princess’s Bed by New York Puzzles. This was gifted to us and at first, I thought we would get through it in no time at all, but the illustration made you prematurely cheer for a connected piece, only to realize it was slightly off.
A wonderful family friend of ours dropped by with a big bag of activities for us during our summer stay-at-home time and these were a huge hit, to the point that we managed to get through all of them in three days despite my insistence that we could only do one more page and that would be it (is it ever really it?). Our unicorn/pink-loving child was very excited by the Little Sticker Dolly Dressing series by Usborne, including mermaids and fairies as well as different traditional dresses from around the world. These are perfect portable activities since they aren’t too big, if they get bent or rolled up they aren’t broken, and with between 250-300 stickers in each book don’t be shocked if there is extended focus and quiet time from the younger set. Our daughter also liked to make up stories behind the different characters which adds another level of creativity to it. The stickers are pretty easy to extract, but you might need to assist smaller hands along the way. Or you might just get roped into it anyway – there is something oddly satisfying about a perfectly placed sticker. If you want to add another basic STEM element, the Paint By Stickers series by Workman has also been a lockdown lifesaver and we have spent a lot of time carefully placing stickers to match the numbers in the image.
My in-laws have gifted our daughter a subscription to Highlights Magazine for the past three years and by far and away her favorite activity has been the Hidden Pictures. So you can imagine my overreactive parental joy when I discovered that they publish entire books that are just hidden pictures (because, if the above sentence wasn’t obvious, I too am a big fan) and I immediately purchased several of them for some winter lockdown entertainment. Fast forward to our August indoors and in the aforementioned big bag of activities we found the ultimate challenge . . . . The Hardest Hidden Pictures Book Ever!! And they aren’t kidding. While most of the ones in the actual magazine and the easier books are in black and white and use somewhat similar illustrations, this jumbo-sized edition has crazy puzzles, uses some real photos, and a myriad of different drawings. Not to mention that a lot of the pages double as coloring in activities too. This book is for ages 8-12, so I have been assisting in working her way through this book (and to be honest there have been many times I have been stuck) but there are heaps of other age options on the Highlights website.
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