10 Simple Activities to Bust the COVID Blues

Enjoy these simple and free ideas to keep your family happy, engaged and entertained!

By Sarah Hoffmann, Publisher, Macaroni Kid NW San Antonio July 20, 2020

If you are anything like me, you might be running out of ideas to keep your children occupied and entertained nearly five months into this new COVID Quarantine lifestyle.  At this point, you've played every board game multiple times, you've spent endless hours outside, you've done the crafting, read numerous books, have tried teaching various life skills such as cooking, organizing, etc., have resorted to allowing way more screen time than you ever imagined you would be ok with, reluctantly hosted a play-date or two and have started asking yourself, "what now??".  With things only seeming to worsen, an increase in restrictions, and uncertainty about schools reopening, we are faced with a lot of unknowns.  While the world may be facing a lot of chaos during this time, it is important to maintain some kind of peacefulness at home.  Keeping mom and kids happy and entertained doesn't have to be a big deal, you do not have to go out and buy new games, toys, books, etc.  Let's take it back a few steps and remember to enjoy the simple pleasures in life.  Here are ten simple ideas to keep your kids engaged, having fun, and happy with no stress, no mess, and are completely free.

1. Cosmic Kids Yoga

With over 400 videos on her YouTube Channel, Yoga Instructor Jaime has created some amazing content to keep your kids healthy, relaxed and entertained.  Cosmic Kids Yoga is unique because it is not just another instructional yoga video.  In each video, Jaime uses storytelling to take kids on a journey through classic childhood stories, popular movies (Star Wars, Frozen, etc.), and some original story lines created by the Cosmic Kids Yoga team.  Each story is told using body movements and poses to match what is happening in the story.  She also uses whimsical backgrounds and sound effects.  I have personally used Cosmic Kids Yoga in my classroom for rainy day recess, brain breaks, and even rewards.  I have also used Cosmic Kids Yoga at home with my own family to relax after a long day or just to spend some time doing something we don't normally do.  Cosmic Kids Yoga is one of my family's favorite group activities at home and I think you and your family will enjoy it as well!

Here are five of our favorite Cosmic Kid Yoga videos to get you started:

2. At Home "Drive-In" Movie

This simple addition to movie night is a favorite in our house!  Just throw some blankets and pillows in a laundry basket to make it comfy, give them their favorite snacks, turn on a movie and that's it! Simple!  And if you don't have a laundry basket like this, you can use an Amazon box, or any other plastic tote, container, etc. you may have that your child can safely fit in. It's also a cozy place for them to curl up with a book or tablet.

3. Star Gaze & Planet-Hunting

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(Images From Google Play Store - Sky Map Screenshots)

Did you know that all planets in our solar system, except Neptune, are visible to the human eye at some point throughout the year? And, even if you do not have a telescope, you can still see Neptune with high-powered binoculars! As long as you have an accurate sky map, you can enjoy constellation and planet hunting! On my phone, I have downloaded an app called "Sky Map".  Our family LOVES this app and we have spent a lot of time outdoors star gazing, identifying planets and constellations. Sky Map uses your phone's GPS/Compass to find your location. All you have to do is point your phone to the sky, move it around and you can see where the stars and planets are located.  With colored icons and lines along with labels, it is easy to identify planets, stars, and constellations. My son loves to use the map to locate and identify planets. You can also view a gallery of images from space and then locate those points of interest from your phone by clicking "Find in Sky".  

One fun activity you can do with your family is to draw your own sky map!  

How to Draw a Sky Map

  • Use the Sky Map app to see what planets and constellations are visible that evening
  • On a black piece of paper, use light-colored crayons or colored pencils (white, yellow, baby blue, pink, etc.) and recreate the map!
  • For a date night activity, pick a special date, like an anniversary, and draw the sky map from that night! Place it in a frame and display your art!

 There are so many fun ways to use this app with your family!

4. Nature Hunt: Create an Explorer's Journal

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(Images from Google Play Store - Seek by iNaturalist App)

There are a number of parks, trails, and day-trip locations ready to explore in and around San Antonio.  You can make a family walk even more engaging and fun with the use of Seek by iNaturalist.  This app uses your camera and it's image recognition technology to identify plants and animals.  The app also provides you with information about the species you discover.  My son loves to go outside with one of our phones and snap pictures using the Seek app, learning about new plants and animals, completing challenges in the app and earning badges!  Below is more information about the app from the Google Play Store:

"Found a mushroom, flower, or bug, and not sure what it is? Open up the Seek camera to see if it knows!
Drawing from millions of wildlife observations on iNaturalist, Seek shows you lists of commonly recor
ded insects, birds, plants, amphibians, and more in your area. Scan the environment with the Seek Camera to identify organisms using the tree of life. Add different species to your observations and learn all about them in the process! The more observations you make, the more badges you’ll earn!
This is a great app for families who want to spend more time exploring nature together, and for anyone who wants to learn more about the life all around them.

This app is safe for kids to use - learn more about the safety information HERE

Activities to do with the Seek by iNaturalist App

  • Complete challenges offered by app to earn badges
  • Create a discovery journal
    • Draw a picture of your discovery
    • Label your image
    • Write interesting facts about your discovery
    • Print and tape a picture of your findings with your journal entry
    • Draw your badges in your journal

5. Play Math Games with Cards & Dice

If you have a deck of cards or a few dice, there is an endless number of games you can play that are fun for the entire family.  Not only are these great additions to add to your family's game collection, but they are also educational and will help our kiddos hang on to important math skills.  Skills practiced include addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, comparing numbers, place value, and more!  Pretty much every game can be adapted to practice whichever skill you choose to work on.  Below is a list of some of our favorite sites to find new card and dice games.

6. Karaoke or Sing-Along

You do not need a fancy karaoke machine or an expensive Sing-Along edition of your favorite movie to have a fun and successful karaoke night!  There are two ways for your family to enjoy your favorite sing-along songs!

  1. YouTube
    • You can search for kidz bop, disney songs, and more, but include "Lyric Video" or "With Lyrics" in your search.  This will return a number of results with your favorite songs that include the lyrics for you to sing along.  
    • If you prefer a traditional karaoke experience, YouTube also has a lot of karaoke-style songs for you to show off your amazing singing skills - just be sure to search for the "Karaoke Version" of your favorite song.
  2. Favorite Movie
    • I never understood the need to purchase a special "Sing-Along Version" of a movie.  Wanna know a secret?  Al you have to do is turn on the captions! That's it!  You can turn ANY movie into a sing-along.  My family loves to do this with Frozen, The Greatest Showman, and more.

Here are a few YouTube videos and playlists you may enjoy for your own family nights:

*BONUS* - Add some more fun and excitement by turning it into a competition or talent show!  Dress-up, get some snacks and drinks, sit back, and pretend you and your family are on your favorite singing competition show.

7. Family Trivia

My family loves to play games, but we either get bored playing the same games all the time or not want to deal with the set-up/clean-up (Mouse-Trap and Pie-Face come to mind..).  One alternative to game night is using websites like Kahoot! and Quizizz.  Both offer free accounts to play thousands of trivia games!  While they are known for being educational resources, you can find both academic trivia games along with pop-culture/family trivia games.  My family likes to search for Disney Trivia and Kids Movie Trivia.  You can pretty much find any topic or theme you like!  To play at home, you can connect your laptop to a home projector or TV using an HDMI cord or screen-casting/mirroring program from your phone.

8. Re-write a Favorite Story

Growing up, I always enjoyed reading multiple versions of the same fairytale.  I really enjoyed, The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs (from the wolf's perspective), different versions of Little Red Riding Hood, and The Stinky Cheese <an and other Stupid Fairy Tales.  A fun family activity is taking your classic family-favorites are re-writing silly stories to tell at bedtime.  You can also have your little ones include their favorite characters from other stories, create illustrations, and use binder rings to put your new storybook together.

9. Reader's Theatre

One thing we have missed out on during this COVID-Quarantine is going to live plays at The Magik Theatre.  One activity your family might enjoy is taking those favorite or re-written stories and turn them into a play. You can dress up, use props, and create a play to perform with your kids or have them perform the play for you.

10. Dance, Move, Be Silly

This is another YouTube suggestion, but it is fun and will keep your family active.  You can find a number of YouTube videos to learn dances to some of your favorite songs.  Channels such as Kidz Bop and GoNoodle both have guided dance-along videos, fitness, and movement activities.  You can also create a free family account on the GoNoodle website to access all of their content.