Self-isolation. Social distancing. House arrest. Lockdown.
These are terms most of us have never dealt with before, and honestly, they are scary. The rapidly changing measures the global community needs to take to stop the spread of the pandemic is enough to make your head spin and even though the idea of spending two weeks at home with nowhere to go might have seemed like a fantasy a few weeks ago, now it might seem like a prison sentence.
I’m struggling. My husband is thousands of miles away in another country right now and is unable to come back to Canada right away because he’s traveling for medical help. I’m taking this all in on my own with my four kids, and I can’t say I’m doing a very good job.
In fact, earlier today, I had to reach out to my doctor about treating the unprecedented levels of anxiety I’m facing. Not because I am worried about anything in particular, per se. I am, undoubtedly, relieved to be free of commitments and on order to stay home and connect with my kids.
But my stress levels are so high, that connection isn’t really happening right now. I get set off by the tiniest thing, like my three-year-old flooding the bathroom (again), or my five-year-old crying because I asked her to pick her toys up off the floor (again), or my eleven-year-old forgetting to put out the green bin for collection (again).
Even now, on a night when I intentionally left my alarm clock off so I could get as much extra sleep as possible, I’m wide away at four in the morning, my brain an endless reel of useless thoughts.
So, I thought I’d try to be helpful and put together a list of activities we’re doing in our house to try and turn this from an anxiety-filled situation into a fun and memorable vacation. This is, after all, spring break.
I’ll keep adding to the list as we come up with new ideas. I’m also sharing photos of our self-isolation spring break on Instagram as I’m able, although I’ve had to make the decision to avoid social media and media in general as much as possible to preserve my sanity right now.
What to do with kids when you’re in self-isolation
1. Get outside as much as you can.
The vitamin D you absorb from the sun will boost everyone’s mood and the endorphins released through exercise will help reduce stress levels.
We’ve been very fortunate here to have our first sunny spell of 2020, and we’re taking full advantage of it. We are going for a walk or bike read each morning and playing in our backyard in the afternoon.
2. Do Yoga
Continuing with the exercise theme, if you’re stuck inside, why not try some gentle yoga stretches. DoYogaWithMe is one of my favorite websites for free yoga videos.
They have a database of classes across a full spectrum of difficulties, styles, and lengths. My favorites are the yoga for runners series. They’re also offering a two-month free subscription in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
3. Get crafty.
Just before we went into self-isolation, we had a birthday party for my daughter.
One of her friends gave her a bracelet making kit and I’ve never seen my kids whip through a craft kit so quickly. They’ve probably made twenty bracelets so far.
After they use up the kit, they plan to move on to crocheting and scrunchy-making. Go with whatever your kids are into and what you have on hand (though Amazon and other stores are still delivering supplies at this point, so if you don’t have craft supplies at home, you can still take advantage of that!)
4. Listen to audiobooks.
Libraries are shutting down now that gatherings of 50 people are banned. My kids were pretty devastated to learn this news, though they optimistically pointed out that this means we get to keep our current loans for longer.
But audiobooks aren’t going anywhere. Why not fall in love with a new series? Scribd is my top source for audiobooks. A few we’ve read and recommend:
- The Strange Journey of Alice Pendelbury
- The Cactus
- The Gifts of Imperfection
- The Art of Racing in the Rain
- Hidden Figures Young Readers’ Edition
- The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
- Emily’s Runaway Imagination
5. Write books.
I’m a huge fan of National Novel Writing Month, which has inspired my kids to write many stories in the past few years. Now is the perfect time for you and your kids to write the books you’ve been dreaming about.
Haven’t dreamt of writing a book yet? Check out this list of writing prompts to spark some ideas. If you’ve never written a book before, I’ve found these two resources tremendously helpful:
6. Make music.
If you have any instruments at home, spend time playing them (or learning to play them). I took piano lessons a few years ago but had to drop them as I never had any time to practice. Hello, Time!
My kids have started taking lessons recently as well, so we’re hanging out and learning new songs on the piano.
(As an aside: I had meant to rent a guitar at the beginning to the week so we could try that too, but by the time I called the store, they were discouraging everything but emergency instrument rentals. That got me thinking about situations that urgently required a guitar. Does being stuck at home alone with kids indefinitely count as an emergency guitar situation?)
7. Make more music.
We’re also exploring Garage Band. My kids are really into composing music, so I picked some songs from Incompetech and challenged them to try to recreate the songs using Garage Band. You can find great Garage Band tutorials here.
8. Have dance parties.
This is always a go-to activity in our house when moods are low. Throw on some of your favorite music and jump around (get up, and get up, and get down, am I right?). Again, exercise=endorphins=less stress. Here’s one of our dance party playlists.
9. Movie marathons.
I’m not usually one to rely on screens for kids’ entertainment. Not that I don’t wholeheartedly believe in doing so. Sometimes I wish I could just park them there all day.
The challenge is what happens when the screen goes dark. In our house, it’s an ugly scene. I try to avoid it as much as possible.
But, hey, desperate times call for desperate measures. I’ve told my kids that if they meet certain targets for their schoolwork each day, they can watch as many movies as they want. How’s that for motivation?
If you’re up for it, why not grab a Disney+ membership and relive your favorite childhood memories with your kids?
10. Baking and cooking marathons.
We’re all trying to avoid stores right now and even when we do go, the shelves are pretty sparse. If your pantry is looking a little uninspiring, why not mix things up and try out some new recipes?
Our grocery order has been delayed twice this week due to excess demand so we’re relying on a lot of rice and pasta right now. Last night before bed, my daughter threw some rice pudding ingredients into the slow cooker and I enjoyed a delicious warm breakfast in the middle of my sleepless night.
We’ve also been using the time to bake more and to eat more wholesome meals. We’ve made banana muffins and banana bread, homemade pizza, and regular bread.
I’m also on a mission to use up old food and not let anything go to waste, so we’ve made artichoke dip, beet salad, and copious amounts of chili. Not everything is a hit, but at least my conscience can rest easy knowing there is no longer a half-empty jar of artichokes in the door of the fridge.
11. Learn a new language
While my girls plug away at their Rosetta Stone French lessons, I’m on a mission to pick up some Spanish. Because of my husband’s medical condition, we have recently realized we’ll need to spend winters in Mexico from now on. (Poor us.)
But all the Spanish I know, I learned from Dora. Azul. Abuela. Hola! Soy Dora.
So, I’m going to use this unexpected break as a time to hop in DuoLingo and start studying! Duolingo offers free lessons in over thirty different languages through fun and simple games and activities. It’s perfect for both kids and adults.
Also, Fabulingua, an app that teaches kids Spanish through interactive stories is currently offering free access to their full app to support families who are trying to keep kids busy at home.
12. Facetime with friends and family
We’re all in this together right? Community self-isolation: alone, together.
I think everyone is struggling with feelings of loneliness and disconnection right now. Yes, it’s possible to be lonely, even when you’re in a house full of people.
Reach out to friends, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins over Facetime and see how they’re doing. Sometimes it’s fun to just leave Facetime running while you’re both doing activities so it feels like you’re together. We love to call my husband at dinnertime so we can eat together virtually and then we leave the phones on while we both do our dishes.
We don’t need to go through this alone. Let’s take advantage of the time offered to us to connect with those we love in new and deeper ways.
13. Start a gratitude journal or list
Many of us are experiencing great disappointments right now, in addition to fear and anxiety. Trips and vacations are cancelled. Events that we’ve looked forward to and worked hard toward are cancelled or postponed.
It seems like each day something we’ve been counting on falls out of our reach.
In a time like this, I think it’s extremely important to remember how blessed we still are. We have so many things to be thankful for: clean, abundant supplies of fresh water, access to food and shelter, warm homes with cozy beds and people we love in them, books to read, movies to watch.
I’d fallen out of the practice of gratitude journaling in recent months but as my anxiety levels have spiked, I’ve found much comfort in taking time to list all of the good things we still have to be thankful for.
This exercise is especially good for kids who may be having a harder time coping with the disappointments and losses caused by all the cancellations. Helping them focus on the positive will help lift their spirits and ease them of their own stress.
This is the perfect time of year to get outside and start working on the garden. Working in the garden can help calm nerves and restore your connection to the natural world. It’s the perfect antidote to the endless cycle of bad news on the TV, radio, and computer.
Here are some things you can work on:
- Preparing your garden beds or containers
- Mixing soil
- Starting seeds
West Coast Seeds is my favorite resource for gardening info, supplies, and of course, seeds. They are still processing orders at this time, so why not come up with a garden plan and spend some time digging in the yard with your kids?
15. Prepare for Easter
It’s hard to believe that Easter is just around the corner. With all the changes going on right now, preparing for a time of celebration might feel odd. Should we be celebrating right now? How will our celebrations look different this year? What if we don’t feel up to it?
But if we’re self-isolating with kids, we need to keep a couple of things in mind. First, they’re going to pick up on our stress. If we’re immobilized by fear and unable to think ahead to the future, our kids will notice and absorb this. We need to let go of the things we can’t control and learn to find joy in the freedoms we still have, including the freedom to celebrate Easter.
Second, activities that bring a sense of normalcy to our days are helpful! Our kids are looking to us for cues on how to react to the changing world. If we are taking self-isolation measures in stride, there’s a better chance they will too.
So, if you’d normally be gearing up for Easter right now, go ahead and do it!
Here are 30 Easter Crafts for Kids that will brighten up your fridge or mantle.
If you want to plan a special meal for Easter—even if there will be fewer people at the table than usual—here are some ideas for a Vegetarian Easter Brunch.
Also, check out these ideas for Creative DIY Easter Baskets and Christ-Centered Easter Family Traditions. If there was ever a year for crocheting your own Easter baskets, I feel like this is the one!
So this is what we’ve come up with so far, but I’m sure we’ll have more to add to this list as the weeks go on.
What about you? What are you doing to pass the time in self-isolation with kids more enjoyably? Share your ideas below!
Sophie Agbonkhese is a writer, homeschooling mother of four, and a recovering overachiever (who occasionally relapses). She is the founder of My Cup Runs Over, a site dedicated to helping busy women simplify and enrich their lives. When she’s not writing or debugging websites, Sophie spends her time reading, dancing, bullet journaling, reading, gardening, listening to audiobooks, and striving fruitlessly to have a clean house for at least five minutes.