- Even as we get out more and begin to interact with each other, “social distancing” remains important to limit community spread
- With many schools operating remotely and many of us working from home, we’re still spending a lot of time at home cloistered with our families
- In uncertain times, keeping children occupied helps keep them calm, so here are a bunch of fun social distancing activities to make time at home go faster
Slowly, but surely, the world is going back to normal. But, novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is still a problem, especially with all those rotten variants circulating.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control continues to ask us to remain cautious and stay a safe distance of six feet (two meters) apart as much as possible. To follow these social distancing rules, many of us are still working from home and some kids still attend school virtually to maintain COVID-19 safety efforts.
Although in-person events and parties are ramping back up, many people want to stay safe and continue social distancing a little while longer to help with COVID-19 disease control. But seriously, all parents know that we've been doing this for a long time now, so the same old social distancing activities are getting stale.
Keep boredom at bay for all the kids
If social distancing is boring for you, it's even more so for kids. The key for parents is to have a quiver of safe activities at the ready to keep their children engaged throughout the day. Social distancing is a great way to make sure we're spending time together and creating wonderful memories during moments that might otherwise be scary for children.
Whatever you do, don't let your guard totally down yet. Remember to wash hands or use hand sanitizer anytime you come in contact with frequently touched surfaces. Also, wear masks as much as possible to protect from coronavirus disease.
Here are 46 fun social distancing activity ideas you can do with kids in your apartment and around the building to keep them entertained as we do our part to maintain community health through social distancing.
1. Keep the learning going
Education doesn't have to stop at three o'clock. There are a number of online resources kids can enjoy from the comfort of home. As a bonus, many are actually fun to enjoy with friends! Check out Baamboozle, PBS Kids and Funbrain, among many others.
2. Read everything
Whether your local library remains closed or opens with socially-distanced 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."
Download, purchase or check out these and other classics. Bonus points if you schedule a regular storytime to engage with the kiddos.
3. Go to the movies at home
No matter what happens with the pandemic, your socially distanced home theater is always open. Create film festivals around themes and have a super binge sesh or enjoy one a day. For example, watch the entire “Avengers" or “Harry Potter" sagas in chronological order. You can even post a review of them together on sites like Letterboxd.
Streaming services like Netflix, Prime, Apple TV+, Disney+ or Hulu make this easier than ever. Create a legit theater experience with popcorn, dimmed lights and movie-sized candy. Go all-out with a movie projector adapter that's usable with your phone or tablet. Or, if you're enterprising, DIY one for nearly nothing. Make it a Netflix party to remember!
4. Play sports outdoors
If you can find an open area, you can play some sports without the threat of close contact due to COVID-19. Mark out end zones with twigs and practice your Nerf football spiral, make a game out of a Frisbee toss or set up a mini-golf course around the landscaping. These safe activities are also great exercise, plus they get everyone outdoors!
5. Play indoor sports
No greenspace to turn into Wrigley Field? There are plenty of sports you can play indoors without breaking your vases.
Set up a plastic bowling set in a long hallway, or play balloon volleyball indoors with the couch as a makeshift net. Remember that paper football in middle school? Teach your kids how to fold the perfect triangle and start flicking some finger field goals. Practice makes perfect!
6. Host a video game tournament
Just let technology be your stadium. Break out the Wii Golf or Mario Kart and set up rules for a tournament. Keep track of everyone's high score and try 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. Now is also the perfect time for your kids to teach you how to play their faves like NBA2K20 or Minecraft. This is a great group activity.
7. Host a board game tournament
Games don't have to stop at the video sort. From Candyland to Trivial Pursuit to the Game of Life, there are classic games for all ages. Have a tournament or divide into teams, adults versus kids. Believe it or not, new games have come out since you were playing Battleship and Sorry as a kid, so give those a try, as well!
9. Get outside
It's always important to stay active outdoors. Strap on the hiking boots or sneakers and hit your local wooded trail or park. The more ventilated the area, the lower the risk of transmission, but keep those masks on around other people. And don't forget to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer as soon as you walk back in your house.
10. Get fit without a gym
Not willing to venture to the apartment or public gym just yet? Stay home and keep in shape from the comfort of your own home.
You don't have to let your kids have unfettered access to the Bowflex or stationary bike, though. Do bodyweight exercises that require absolutely nothing, or buy awesome exercise equipment for children, who should still be getting 60 minutes of physical activity a day. A few push-ups, jumping jacks and other exercises are all it takes to stay fit!
11. Camp out
If it's warm where you are, try sleeping in the great outdoors either on the property (with permission from the property owner or manager) or nearby. 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. 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!
12. Go fishing
What better way to social distance than an activity for a solitary, quiet endeavor? Get the kids outdoors by letting them learn how to fish. Gear is pretty cheap online, and in many states, kids can fish without a license (check your local ordinances). This is a great way for small groups to safely gather outdoors without close contact.
13. Plant a garden
This spring is the perfect time to plant a garden. If your building or complex offers outdoor space to plant flowers and vegetables, it's a great opportunity to get started.
If you don't have a community spot to plant, a garden box on your porch or patio is a wonderful substitute. A few weeks is all it takes to see results!
14. Teach cooking skills
Have you seen “Top Chef Junior?" Children as young as 10 can make full food masterpieces in the kitchen. Maybe your kiddo isn't the next Wolfgang Puck, but there are plenty of things youngsters can do in the kitchen to feel like they're helping, from mashing potatoes to baking cookies together. This fun, flavorful activity is even helpful at teaching measurements, plus they'll learn to make their own food!
15. Try international cuisine
Teach your children about food from around the world by ordering a different cuisine every week or even every night. Try something a bit more uncommon like Ethiopian or Brazilian food, then take a few minutes to talk about the culture and history of the area.
16. Visit the museum, virtually
Maybe you can't visit your local art gallery while 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 the National Gallery of Art.
And with virtual walk-throughs on Google Arts & Culture, exhibits at many world-renowned museums from around the world are at your fingertips.
17. Have a singalong
Nearly every single song ever recorded is on YouTube somewhere. Make 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 children and teach them how to "Do The Time Warp, Again" or the "Macarena."
Need more people? Set up a Zoom call with friends, loved ones or neighbors and go to town with a virtual karaoke night!
18. Learn an instrument
Now is a perfect time to pick up a new instrument! Break out the old Casio and get the little ones 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 out there. If they really take to it, you can always hire a pro later on.
19. DIY crafts
Set up a craft station in the living room with everything from crayons and paper towel rolls to safety scissors and construction paper. Artistic ability is optional — all you need is your imagination and a few resources to have fun in a big way!
20. Chalk it up
Buy a bucket of sidewalk chalk and let your children safely draw to their hearts' content on the sidewalk or while supervised in the parking lot. They can even chalk out a hopscotch court and turn it into exercise!
Or, pick out a wall in your house (if allowed by management), and cover it in chalkboard paint for a wonderful, permanent canvas to use any time of day or night.
21. Start a giant LEGO project
Clear out a corner of the living room, set up a card table and embark on a mission to build the biggest LEGO construction project your children can come up with. 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.
22. Dive into a scavenger hunt
Take hide and seek to the next level! Grab a pad of paper and jot down a couple of dozen items for the kiddos to find. 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.
Take your scavenger hunt one step further 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.
24. Have a virtual playdate
Set up laptops or tablets on both ends and turn on the Zoom or FaceTime. Let kiddos chat or free play with a friend, or direct them through planned activities and projects. As bedtime approaches, let them leave the cameras on for sleepover gossip and giggling until they fall asleep. They'll have so much fun they'll forget they're not together.
25. Save memories in a photo album
Help your children document everything happening in photos and sort through them. 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 for printing into a real old-school photo album.
26. Make a time capsule
Have the kids gather odds and ends, newspaper clippings, printed out photos and personal notes and seal them up in a time capsule box (available under $15 from Amazon).
Store the box away and set a reminder on your phone's calendar to open it up a year, five years or a decade from today.
Offer your services to pet-sit while neighbors are gone. Stay home all day for your furry houseguest, and your children will have an instant companion to keep them from being lonely. This is great for families that love the company of a furry friend, but don't have the schedule (or allowance in their lease) to have one of their own.
28. Watch animals via live-stream
Can't have a dog in your apartment, even for a couple of days? Check out live-streamed pups for a dose of cuteness! Keep coming back and get to know the dogs' daily routines. San Diego Zoo also offers live-stream animal cameras for polar bears, koalas, apes, elephants and many more
29. Get politically involved
Do you have a political candidate or local town legislator you support? Contact the campaign and find out if you can volunteer from home, like sending out mailers or creating a Facebook video. It only take one person to make a difference!
30. Teach the grandparents to video chat
Do your little ones have grandparents or even great-grandparents who aren't smartphone-adept? Teach them how to stay in touch the modern way! Apple makes it easy with FaceTime and Android offers Google Duo. Or, set up a Skype or Zoom account for your parents. Chatting with faraway loved ones is a great way to stay connected while social distancing at the same time.
31. Start holiday shopping
Might as well spend some free time curating gift wish lists with our kids because it's gonna be time to shop before you know it.
32. Enjoy drive-in movies
Many children have never been to a drive-in movie, but the pandemic has breathed new life into this industry! Whether it's a professional or temporary set-up, it's bound to be fun.
If the facility's rules allow, pack a picnic, pop up a giant bag of popcorn and head to the theater for a night of movies under the stars and in the fresh air. Some require you to stay in your car, but others allow space to set up blankets or patio chairs.
33. Watch a football game with your fan group
Still not up for heading to the stadium to catch NFL or college games? That doesn't mean that your family has to sit on the couch and watch the game in isolation! Hit up your fellow season ticket holders, friends or local fan group and hold a virtual game watch party over Zoom. Make game day snacks and drinks just like you'd have at the game, dress up in your best lucky jersey and log in for kickoff.
34. Have a trivia contest
Zoom chats don't have to just be for school, meetings and catch-ups with grandma. You can have a trivia night with friends over video! There are a number of apps and websites that offer online games that are fun to play like JackBox and Houseparty.
35. Help with the home improvement
Now, we're not promoting child labor, but while you're finally getting around to all those home or apartment improvement and repair 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? Children can tap on a nail or help hold the measuring tape. This is great for working on how to follow instructions.
36. Fix the car
Similarly, why not let the little ones assist in car maintenance? Teach them 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 do something more advanced if they're old enough.
37. Wash the car
Let the the kiddos help you wash the car to a sparkling finish. Honestly, there's a good chance your children made a lot of the interior mess themselves.
Within the rules of your apartment community or neighborhood, give your car a top-to-bottom clean. Let them vacuum the inside, hold the bucket or clean the tires. They'll have a blast getting all soapy or spraying down the car (or each other) with the hose.
38. Take a day trip
A day trip is a great way to safely get out of the confines of your home. 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, or find a road known for its beautiful fall foliage. Before you head back, grab takeout from an interesting restaurant, or pack a picnic ahead of time and pick out a roadside or park bench or table to nosh at.
39. Get bubbly
Remember how fun blowing bubbles was when you were young? Grab the kids and find a spot outside your apartment or off your balcony to play with this classic toy. See who can blow the biggest bubble, the most bubbles or get their bubbles the furthest distance without breaking. The best part is there's virtually no cleanup!
40. Learn to code
Coding is something children are learning younger and with greater frequency than ever before. Maybe you're a coding “n00b," but don't let that stop you from pushing your children in the right direction. There are plenty of online tools for kids to get them excited about coding like Scratch and Code Monster.
41. Escape to space
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. Keep an eye on them 24/7 via their webcams. Also, check out some really cool “STEMonstrations," space-themed science experiments performed just for kids by the astronauts themselves.
This 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 from right outside your apartment.
43. Make your own playdough
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, the little ones will enjoy hours of play. Most recipes are found online and only involve a few ingredients like flour, salt, vegetable oil and cream of tartar. If you have extra, put it in an airtight container and drop some off with friends!
44. Get a pen pal
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 then write back to them.
You can certainly start a pen pal relationship with a friend or someone you know across the country or across the world. But what about a complete stranger, like an elderly person in a faraway state or a lonely kid in a foreign land? Not sure where to start? There are many services online that hook kids up with pen pals.
45. Do a deep clean
If you have an older kid, their room can probably use a clean-out and scrub down. Do a total purge of old or broken items. Make sure to donate anything you can. Move everything out, then scrub down the carpet and walls. This is time to make the indoors really shine.
And now the fun part: 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. Their friends will be so jealous.
46. Join a club
Help your child find an online club that meets virtually or outdoors in a socially distanced space. Be sure to join one that matches his or her interests, like art, chess or drama.
Socially distant, but safe
Social distancing, staying home and avoiding close contact due to COVID-19 might be necessary for a long time to help with coronavirus disease control. However, the things we can do to stay sane, feel comfortable and keep our minds occupied are only limited by our imaginations.