We are living in uncertain times. What will the days, weeks, even months ahead be like? This uncertainty and concern for the future can be really stressful and scary. Sometimes the most important thing we can do for ourselves and our kids is to focus on what’s around you in this moment. Obviously, just telling your children to do this is probably not going to be successful. One of the best ways to help our kids’ (and our own) brains stop worrying about the future is to get involved in a project or challenge. Here are some ideas to create fun, distracting challenges to help your kids live in the moment (and maybe help you get some of that work done if you’re lucky enough to be able to work from home).
Activity 1: scavenger hunt with riddles for clues
Write the clues on pieces of paper and hide them near the items around the house that lead to the next item and clue. For example, if you go in order of the list below, start by telling the first riddle about water, and hide the next clue for “window” where kids would look for the answer to the water clue, i.e. bottles of water or the kitchen sink.
These riddles will be hard for younger kids (and for some adults!). If the riddles are too hard, try playing 20 questions to get the answer, or the classic game of telling players when they are “getting hot…” or “colder…” when they move closer or farther away from the target.
- WATER clue: My temperature decides my state. Below 32 degrees you can hold me in your hand. Above 212 degrees, I turn to a gas and disappear. And in between I’ll run through your fingers.
- WINDOW panes: I’m made of sand that has been heated until liquid. Now I am solid and you can see right through me.
- SILVERWARE: People need me for dinner, but never eat me.
- STOVE: I get hot but never sweat, and when you get too close to me, you probably hear adults say, “Be careful! Not too close”
- HEATER: In the summer time you don’t want me around, but in the winter you can’t get enough of me.
- FRIDGE: I’m always running, but always stay cool.
- TOWELS: I become wetter the more
- CLOCK: I have have hands, but no fingers and never claps. A face but no eyes.
- PIPES: You barely see me, but I connect your home to everyone else’s underground.
- EGGS: I have to be broken to be used.
- CANDLE: I’m tall when young and short when old.
- OVEN: I have a door but you never go through me.
Activity 2: Challenge obstacle course
Below is a list of challenges or activities using household items. Some of these activities are great for practicing fine motor skills used for writing (like pinching, grasping, and using careful, precise movements) and for coordination between eyes and both hands. Some also use early numeracy skills like sorting, counting, and number recognition, or early literacy skills like letter recognition and name spelling. Feel free to use these ideas as a foundation and switch out other materials or change letters to numbers or vice versa to practice different skills.
Using timers makes everything more fun. See if you can beat your own best time for one kid, compete against a sibling, or make it collaborative so the “team” of siblings tries to beat their own time working together.
Gross motor and going outside activities:
- Play the basketball game “Horse” with a sibling outside. Or do an indoor version with a wastepaper basket and balls of paper. Or if one kiddo alone, set the challenge of having to make 3 baskets from 3 areas marked with tape or similar.
- Hopscotch! Outside with sidewalk chalk, or inside using painters’ tape, or squares of paper.
- Lily pad gross motor hop: Create lily pads with numbers on them (sidewalk chalk outside, pieces of paper or painters’ tape inside) and roll dice to practice counting and number recognition. Kids have to hop to the number they roll (either like a frog, or one legged, or another silly way). You can also try making it like a board game and roll to beat the other players across the “pond” based on the number of hops, or go across and come back to the start.
- Letter scavenger hunt. Write each letter of child’s name(s) on popsicle sticks, clothespins, cut up egg carton cups, pieces of paper on a string etc, and hide the letters around the yard, in trees, bushes, or around the house. Kids have to find all the letters to spell out their name. (If you have plastic eggs from last year’s Easter egg hunt, this could also be a fun way to hide the letters!)
- Mindful scientist: Go outside or stay in. Find:
- 5 things you can see
- 4 things you can hear
- 3 things you can feel or touch
- 2 things you can smell
- 1 thing you taste.
This is also a great anxiety reducer for kids (and adults) to bring us back to the present when we can’t stop worrying about the future.
Sorting and fine motor activities:
- Use a spoon to sort all the dry beans from a bowl filled with dried rice and beans.
- Fine motor beading: thread beads on spaghetti, or pasta onto pipe cleaners or yarn, or cheerios on toothpicks. (A trick from my childhood: yarn can become frayed at the end and make it difficult to thread. Wrap a piece of tape around the end of the yarn to make it more durable and easier to thread through materials.)
- Stacking plastic cups into a tower.
- Sorting items (marbles, pasta, beans, cotton balls, etc) into empty water bottles (put a timer on it, or race a sibling)
- Cut up pieces of different colored paper, kids have to sort the paper into color piles
- Create a bowl full of small pieces of paper with a different letter on each piece of paper. Kids have to spell out their name using the letters on the pieces of paper.
- Fine motor scooping. Fill a bowl with small items like legos, ping pong balls, beans, etc, kids need to use a spoon, tongs, chopsticks, or something similar to move the objects from the bowl into another container. Perhaps a container with a smaller opening like a glass, jug, empty water bottle, or if sorting items from the bowl as well, sort into the cups of a muffin tin.
- Spend 30 minutes drawing the punchline to your favorite joke. I.e. What do you call an alligator in a vest? An in-VEST-igator
- Draw a picture of everyone in your home (including pets). Include a silly hat, or swim fins, or a new hairstyle for everyone.
- Draw a mashup of two of your favorite things. Draw your favorite super hero like a Harry Potter character. Or your favorite food out of legos.
- Amalgimal: create an amalgamate (join two to create one) of two or more animals. Write out different animals (don’t forget bugs, amphibians and sea creatures!) on pieces of paper, mix the pieces of paper in a bowl, and draw an animal created from the two prompts you choose. I.e. an amalgimal that is part lion part octopus, or part dragonfly part bunny, etc. Or check out @amalg_imals on Instagram for daily prompts.
- Create your dream house/town/superhero.
Activity 3: Combine the two!
You could make a whole day challenge by combining the two activities. When kids solve a riddle they find an activity or challenge they have to complete to get to the next riddle, and so on. If you are going for a long time, consider adding a few special surprises, maybe a special snack, a sweet treat or other surprise to keep engagement up.
Above all, have fun! These are challenging times but they will not last forever.
Text: © Kids In Transition to School 2020
Image: © Syda Productions | Dreamstime.com