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Kids stuck at home? How to keep them busy

A mom reading to her two young children.

Families are doing their part to help stem the coronavirus outbreak by keeping children at home. But that doesn't mean it's an easy thing to do. It can be especially difficult if parents are also working from home.

One way parents can ease home-life stress is to keep their children occupied with fun and educational activities. Some of that may involve more media use than usual. Some may involve taking work breaks to play offline with your children.

Here are some ideas from the American Academy of Pediatrics and others:

  • Make a plan. Sit down and talk with your kids about what your daily structure will be like and when you can schedule breaks from telework or schoolwork to connect with each other.
  • Get in touch with your children's teachers and ask what educational online and offline activities your children can do.
  • Sign up for the daily activity newsletter at PBS Kids. This can be especially helpful if you have any preschoolers around.
  • Make video calls if kids are missing their school friends or other family. They can connect via Skype or FaceTime during shelter-in-place or social-distancing measures. (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends keeping at least 6 feet of distance between you and others not in your immediate family.)
  • Use media together. For example, watch a family movie together and talk about it with each other afterward.
  • Steer your children to podcasts and audiobooks they can listen to.
  • Read books with your children. Reading together strengthens your bonds with your children and helps their development.
  • Make time for active play. Bring out the building blocks, balls, jump ropes and buckets and watch the creativity fly.
  • Hold egg races. Make some hardboiled eggs and bring them outside with some tablespoons. Have fun telling children where they have to walk, run or jump while keeping their egg in the spoon.
  • Take walks together. It can be a nice break, if only to get out of the house. Just be sure to practice social distancing when you come across other people.
  • Go on a scavenger nature hike. Ask everyone to find specific items, like a big leaf, a pine cone and an acorn. The person finding all the required items first wins.
  • Bring out a large puzzle for your child to work on. This can be especially helpful if your child doesn't have any siblings to play games with.

And here's an important tip for you, moms and dads: When you're getting stressed out by news or social media feeds, take a break. Protecting your mental health will help you be a stronger parent for your kids.

Are you struggling to explain the COVID-19 outbreak to your children? Find some tips here.

Reviewed 4/29/2020

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