Published on March 17, 2020

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Photography by Frances Tulk-Hart

With everyone a lot more homebound, all the places you would normally take your children when they’re not in school (playgrounds, movie theaters, bowling alleys) are now off-limits. Since there are only so many times your little ones will want to watch Frozen II (yes, there is a limit), you’ll need activities that involve a creative approach. Luckily a lot of clever parents out there are coming up with ways to keep their families entertained, be it with mini science experiments or cardboard crafts. The best part? Most of them are using items they already have in their homes. We rounded up our favorite ways to pass the time with kids, because a little distraction goes a long way. 

Build the Ultimate Fort

Lauren Conrad went back to the basics: fort making. Her cozy canopy setup looks elaborate, but it’s really just white sheets and string lights suspended from the ceiling, so dig out those bungee cords from the garage, raid the linen closet, and refresh the living room.

Prep This Week’s Meals

Erin Boyle of Reading My Tea Leaves is focused on getting things done around the house because, as she notes, productivity can feel good. She tasked her daughters with writing up the grocery list and preparing simple snacks like apple slices with peanut butter. 

Turn a Cereal Box Into a Stage

Broadway might be closed down, but it’s showtime at Rudy Jude founder Julie O’Rourke’s Maine cabin. This takes some prep, but the payoff is worth it. According to the step-by-step on her Instagram Stories, you’ll need a cereal box, scissors, tape, paint, parchment paper, a flashlight, and chopsticks to craft a puppet theater. Once you’ve removed the tops and bottoms and cut a slit up the back of the box, make the opening for the screen, tape parchment paper over it, and then paint the front how you see fit. For the characters, O’Rourke traced figures from books and attached the silhouettes to the sticks. 

Decorate Found Objects

Next time you head outside to get some fresh air and move around, pick up a few rocks (the flatter the better), take them home, and paint them. Jessica Reed Kraus and her kids made ones that look like their family (they used larger rocks for the bodies and little round ones for the heads). Or with the help of some washi tape, you can map out a tic-tac-toe board

Teach Them a Science Lesson

Seasoned DIY-er and Oh Joy! founder Joy Cho followed this three-ingredient recipe from Elmer’s blog for luminescent slime, which calls for the brand’s glow-in-the-dark glue, baking soda, and contact lens solution. 

Upcycle Popsicle Sticks

Kelly Mindell of Studio DIY is setting a theme for every day to get her son, Arlo, excited about the schedule. On Ice Cream Day, the pair constructed a treat stand out of Popsicle sticks—he painted the roof and she hot-glued all the parts together. If you’re really feeling bored, go above and beyond (Mindell created a gate that swings open on string hinges). 

When in Doubt, Just Paint

Greeting cards, printer paper, coasters—odds are you have plenty of canvases sitting around. When A Beautiful Mess blogger Elsie Larson hands her little ones a brush, she doesn’t set a lot of rules. She allows them to use regular acrylic paint since the ingredients aren’t all that different from washable versions and she embraces the mess. 

Add to Your Art Collection

Now’s the time to grab a pencil and paper. One easy idea we love, courtesy of Lunch Lady Mag: Draw a family portrait and hang it up. Or if you’re not feeling very artistic, write funny notes and hide them around the house for the family to find.

Keep the Same Craft Going 

Rebeca Raney, the artist behind the upcoming Brooklyn-based kids’ craft festival Ray’s Beret, likes to extend projects for as long as possible. One day she’ll work on creating Shrinky Dinks characters with her child, and the next day the mom-daughter duo will make simple clothes for them out of felt, pipe cleaners, and thread. 

See more stories like this: 
This Artist DIYed a Pocket-Size Scented Pillow to Comfort Her Son
A Simple 3-Minute Meditation to Do When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed
You’re Never Too Young to Learn How to Properly Set a Table

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