Unsplash

Consider making origami with your child. It's a no-mess craft. 

Schools are closed and your little ones are home.

Maybe you need an activity to keep them busy while you work from home, or you’re looking for a positive distraction to keep the whole family’s spirits up during uncertain times.

Here are 12 easy activities to try with your kids this weekend.


Gratitude word cloud

Mental health experts say that making a list of things you’re grateful for can reduce anxiety and give us perspective when the world seems scary or out of our control.

Keep your child positive by having them decorate a sheet of paper by writing things they are grateful for in different colors.

Whether it’s the family pet, Grandma’s mac and cheese or their favorite stuffed animal, having a visual reminder of good things can help children remain calm and positive. Put it on the fridge or display it in their room so happy thoughts are never too far away.


Toilet paper critters

Take advantage of the impending spring season and have your child decorate them as warm-weather critters, from the sparrows soon to be chirping in your backyard to the bumblebees buzzing about.

Construction paper, markers, a glue stick and googly eyes bring these characters to life with minimal supplies.


Homemade play dough

Homemade play dough

Despite not having cream or tartar or food coloring, LNP | LancasterOnline's Jenelle Janci's homemade play dough turned out just fine. Recipe by DIYNatural.com.

Here’s a recipe from DIYNatural.com that I tried at home. I didn’t have cream of tartar on hand and it still came out just fine.

It’ll seem too sticky at first, but keep working with it until all the flour is incorporated. The finished result will resemble pizza dough if no color is added.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1 tbsp. cream of tartar (optional)
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 5 drops food coloring

Directions:

  • Mix together dry ingredients.
  • Combine warm water with food coloring, if using.
  • Slowly combine, finishing by kneading by hand until flour is absorbed. Add more flour if dough is too sticky.
  • Repeat for additional colors.

Zoo livestream

The Cincinnati Zoo has committed to hosting daily live streams during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide fun, education content to kids (and adults) stuck at home. The zoo calls the streams Home Safaris. 

Every day at 3 p.m. EST, the Ohio zoo will stream a live Home Safari on its Facebook page. 

Each session highlights one of the zoo's animals and includes an activity viewers can do at home. 

To check it out, visit Facebook.com/cincinattizoo


Science lessons

Having a hard time explaining to kids exactly why hand washing is so important?

The Weather Channel has a series of videos that might help. At weloveweather.tv/for-kids/, there's a two part series explaining how soap protects against germs, plus an explanation of how a rainbow appears and even an answer to the age-old question "Why is the sky blue?"


Free audiobooks

Audible, the platform of audiobook lovers everywhere, has launched Audible Stories, a website with free recordings of kids' stories in six different languages. Reading levels range from "little listeners" to teens, with titles including "Winnie-the-Pooh," "The Call of the Wild" and more. 

Check it out at stories.audible.com


The North Museum at home

north museum

The North Museum of Nature and Science is among five museums and historical societies in Lancaster County getting state grants.

The program offerings include downloadable virtual STEM boxes, virtual and guided tours of the museum and interactive activities. Some elements, like the STEM boxes, cost a small fee. Others are free, like live animal feedings every Saturday.

The programs are available for Pre-K kids, as well as those in grades 1-5 and 6-8.

For more information, visit northmuseum.org.  


Pen pals

Consider asking a family member to be your child’s pen pal. It’s likely they’ve got a little time on their hands and would be happy to connect with your child.

Writing letters is a great way to get kids away from screens while simultaneously improving their writing skills. Encourage them to draw pictures and to decorate their letters.


Bubble wrap art

It’s likely you’ve got some shipping materials lying around. If bubble wrap is one of them, let your child use it as a stamp with some paint and construction paper. It creates a neat, polka-dot pattern. Older children might experiment using different colored paints in a single stamp.

They could even use their bubble wrap stamp to decorate the cardboard box your package came in.


Storyline Online

Storyline Online is a free website produced by the Screen Actors Guild Foundation with an array of videos featuring celebrities reading books for children.

Wanda Sykes reads “The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake,” in which two mouse detectives go on the hunt for dessert thieves. Betty White reads “Harry the Dirty Dog,” a book about a pup who hates bathtime so much he runs away.

And Chris Pine reads “Clark the Shark,” which follows an enthusiastic sea creature’s journey to learning the importance of using his indoor voice. (That one might be particularly handy these days.)

 Each video is accompanied by a suggested grade level and run time, and a teacher’s guide giving parents some suggested questions to ask their children before and after the video to enhance the experience. To see more, visit storylineonline.net.


Educational electronic games

Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood

PBSKids.org has several educational games online for children that feature characters from its shows, including "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood." 

If your kids have earned a little screen time, consider checking out the games at PBSKids.org.

They’re simple but well-made and easy to follow.

“Symmetry Painter” lets kids get creative and creates a mirror image of whatever they “paint” to teach them the concept of symmetry. (Have headphones on hand for your little one, though — the narration is helpful, but the voices are a tad grating.)

Speaking of headphones, there’s also “Music Shop,” a game featuring characters from “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” in which a user drags instruments to each character, therefore playing a little riff. It helps kids identify different types of instruments and their sounds.

In “Flower Garden,” kids help the Man in the Yellow Hat and Curious George count flowers as they bloom. This game is available in both English and Spanish.


Origami

While kids should be allowed to get crafty, sometimes parents just aren’t in the mood for a mess of glitter and paint.

If that’s you today, consider letting your child experiment with origami. You’ll just need paper, scissors and a little bit of patience.

The blog The Spruce Crafts (bit.ly/SpruceOrigami) has a great roundup of kid-friendly origami projects, and origami-fun.com arranges its projects based on skill level. Consider trying these out yourself first before making them with your children so you can help them troubleshoot.

What to read next