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27 Activities for Kids at Home

Sometimes, even a rainy weekend stuck at home is difficult for kids. Now, with schools closing due to COVID-19, children and parents everywhere are off-schedule, stressed and going stir-crazy. To help out, I made a list of activities for kids at home.

Backyard Fun

  • Play Ball- Catch and kicking a ball around are always fun. Try using a laundry basket and see who can toss the ball into the basket from an increasing distance away. Or, use empty soda bottles to make bowling pins and play backyard bowling.
  • Get Dirty- Playing in the mud or digging in the dirt is fun for littles. For something more structured, save seeds from fruits and vegetables to plant and see what sprouts or tend an existing garden.
  • Picnic- On sunny days, take meals outside. If you don’t have an outdoor table, grab a tablecloth or bed sheet to spread on the ground and sit on.
  • Explore Nature- Observe insects, compare plants and leaves. You could also download a plant identification app and use it to learn about plants growing in your yard.
  • Sidewalk chalk- Patios, driveways, and sidewalks become canvases.
Backyard fun activities for kids at home

Indoor Crafts

  • Break Out the Art Supplies- Drawing, painting, cutting and pasting can be fun for all ages. If they need a little motivation, give a general theme and have awards for the most creative, detailed, colorful, etc.
  • Think Outside the Box- Old magazines, newspapers, junk mail, cereal boxes, cardboard tubes, etc. make creative art supplies. Tubes become telescopes or binoculars. Cutout pictures and letters to make collages.
  • Playdough- Use store-bought or make your own. I think it’s easier to clean up than slime, but of course, that’s an option, too.
  • Go Big- If you have any large cardboard boxes, get creative with them. Rolls of butcher paper or the plain side of wrapping paper are great for large murals or full body tracing.
Artwork activities for kids at home

Indoor Games

  • Board games- Break out the ones you have, invest in a couple of classics like Candy Land or Monopoly (Amazon means not having to leave the house), or create your own.
  • Charades– No pieces or props are needed to take turns acting out and guessing your favorite books, shows and movies.
  • Pictionary– Similar to charades, all you need is something to draw on and draw with.

Advanced Crafts

  • Share Your Skills- Do you sew, knit, or crochet? Whatever your craft, think of a beginner lesson and teach it to your children.
  • Learn Together- Do you have supplies for a project that never happened or a skill you never got around to learning? Look up tutorials or YouTube videos and learn it together.

In the Kitchen

  • Make Cookies- Or cake, or brownies. Baking introduces basic cooking skills, reading instructions and fractions. Depending on what you’re making, all of the measuring and mixing can be done without needing the stove or oven until it’s time to bake.
  • Let Them Help- Give them options and let them help with meal planning. Older kids and teens can be more hands on with meal prep. Even little ones can help with washing vegetables, setting the table, mixing and measuring.

Educational Screen Time

  • Stream Documentaries- Netflix and other streaming services have tons of documentaries available. Pick a subject your child is passionate about, or look for something fun and quirky and watch it together.
  • Khan Academy– This website has lessons on just about anything you want to learn for all ages.
  • Preschoolers- PBS Kids has games and videos for all the PBS Kids shows. Starfall.com is a fun way for kids to learn ABC’s and reading basics.
  • Google Sketchup– My kids enjoy playing around with this drafting program (website).

DIY Toys

  • Dress up- Look in the back of your closets for old clothing and accessories, or dig out old Halloween costumes. Or, make a super hero costume from an old t-shirt.
  • Blanket forts- Use blankets, pillows, couch cushions, whatever you can think of to build a hideaway for the kiddos to hang out.
  • Bath time- While not exactly a toy, playing in water is fun and calming for little ones, so if they’re getting a little stir-crazy, let them play in a bath. If older kiddos are feeling antsy or stressed, suggesting a bath or shower might help them, too.

Storytime

  • Break out old favorites- Keep a basket of books in a handy spot, like on a coffee table to make it easy to grab one and read.
  • Read aloud- Adults can read to everyone or have older children read to younger ones. Beckett doesn’t always like listening to me or reading on his own, but he sometimes enjoys reading aloud to Thaddeus.
  • Explore new books- Many public libraries give you the ability to checkout ebooks online. Project Gutenberg has over 60,000 books online for free. Or, try Kindle Unlimited to get unlimited access to tons of ebooks and audio books for a low monthly fee. Use this link to get your first month free.
  • Write your own- Take turns making up stories or turn it into a project by folding paper books and adding illustrations. Pre-k and younger can draw pictures to tell their stories.

What at home activities do you like to do with your kids? Please share your activities for kids at home in the comments.

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Homeschooling amid COVID-19

More science at the library

With schools across the nation closing in an attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19, I’ve seen many parents reaching out to homeschooling parents for advice. I think it’s important to note that even homeschooling right now looks much different than normal. Many homeschooling families take part in weekly co-ops that have stopped due to the virus. We love going to the library, either just to see the cool science displays and get books or to go to story-time and chess club. Now the library is closed other than the drive-up window. Public parks are off limits as well. Even something like grocery shopping, which, if nothing else, gets us out of the house is no longer an option for the whole family. In short, just because we homeschool doesn’t mean we’re used to being home all day, every day either.

Science at the library before COVID-19

Having said that, there are some things that may make the transition easier. Some of it will depend on your school’s plan for the time away. Students with online classes will have less flexibility than students with assignments to do at their own pace.

Breathe

One thing that is always recommended to new homeschoolers leaving public or private schools is to take time to “deschool”. Basically, that means to take a few weeks or months to not do formal schooling. Instead, relax, play, let children do the things they enjoy, visit museums, libraries, bake together, watch favorite movies together. The “deschooling” time is to give children and parents time to connect and adjust to a new normal. This time also helps parents learn what types of curriculum and learning resources are a good fit for their children.

Obviously, under the current circumstances a full “deschooling” period isn’t practical or necessarily needed, but taking a few days to chill is definitely a good idea. Right now, everyone is stressed and cooped up. Trying to achieve something remotely like a normal school routine will be so much easier if everyone has a little time to process the changes.

Formal school time doesn’t have to take 8 hours

In school, there’s 20-30 different students with different needs and different personalities, all assigned to one teacher. Under those circumstances, lessons will take longer. At home, students work at their own pace with a teacher able to give them more one on one time, if needed. Sometimes, if the student finds the subject particularly difficult or very interesting, it takes longer than a single subject would in a classroom. Most often, though, it takes far less time.

I’ve seen the color-coded schedule charts floating around on Facebook that map out a typical eight hour school day. If that works for your family, great! If you’re finding that formal assignments are done by noon, and you have no idea what to do with the other three or four hours of school, don’t panic. Know that is more of the norm for homeschooling.

Learning isn’t always on paper

Children learn through play. Adults learn through play, too, we just usually call it something else. Unstructured playtime lets children use their imagination, problem solve and learn through observation.

Baking teaches reading instructions, measuring, fractions, and vocabulary, as well as the basic life skill of being able to prepare food. Spending time outside allows children to observe nature, as well as the physical benefits of fresh air, exercise and sunshine.

Homeschooling making slime

Even screen time can be educational. Gaming teaches problem-solving. Many shows, even some you wouldn’t expect, incorporate educational elements. If nothing else, kids need time to relax with something they enjoy just like adults. With all the sudden changes and concern over COVID-19, kids are likely to be feeling anxious and stressed, too. A little grace is good for everyone.

Home economics is a class, too.

Obviously I’m not saying turn your children into your own little housekeepers. It’s important, though, for everyone to have basic cooking and cleaning skills. When everyone is home all day, there’s more cooking and cleaning to be done, and more time to do it. Teach little ones to help with age-appropriate chores. Older kids and teens can take on more responsibilities.

Online educational resources

I plan to write a longer resource and activity post next week, but if you need something to get started, here’s my personal favorites:

  • Starfall.com Pre-K-3rd grade. The free site has tons of stuff, and if you decide to upgrade, the full paid site is only $35/year.
  • MobyMax K-8th grade We use it mainly for some of the math and reading, but they cover just about every subject.
  • Khan Academy Everyone. Seriously, it’s K-adult and covers a multitude of subjects.
  • Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool This is a complete, free K-12 homeschool curriculum. You can jump in anywhere and pick and choose, or use it all. Most of it is done off of the computer, so it’s good if you want to limit screen time.
  • Discovery K-12 This is another complete K-12 curriculum. Unlike Easy Peasy, most assignments are completed online. Student accounts are free, but if you want a parent account it’s $99/year.

The last two are more geared to people homeschooling long-term. They might be helpful, though, if you need a little more help in an area or for the elective-type classes.

Shop updates

On a different note, I finally have Lavender Tea Tree Charcoal Soap back in stock. This time, because of using red palm oil instead of refined palm oil, it is a deep olive green instead of charcoal grey. It’s the same soap otherwise, though, and will be ready to ship on Monday.

Currently all of my handmade soaps are 20% off.

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Want to be Featured?

Want to be featured

Want to be featured?

In the past, I often featured handmade or vintage shops on Fridays. Over the years, the world of crafting and blogging has changed dramatically. I would love to resume Feature Fridays, but with a broader scope.

Handmade shop and websites are still welcome. I also want to feature guest writers sharing tutorials, tips, advice, recipes, etc. Categories that I feel are a good fit for this blog are crafting, sewing, sustainability, refashioning, healthy living, parenting, hair and beauty tips for busy moms, homeschooling and homesteading. I am open to other topics as well, so if you are interested but don’t quite fit into one of the above categories, please contact me anyway with your idea.

Guest posts will be promoted across my social media sites frequently throughout the week they are published and then periodically after.

Handmade shop/website features

For handmade shop/website features, answer the questions in the following list and email them to csloan@subearthancottage.com. I will contact you before your shop is featured and if any clarification is needed. You can give as much or a little info for each section as you are comfortable with sharing. Be sure to include links to your shop, web page and blog, if you have them. If you sell your products in a brick and mortar store and would like to include that info, you may include that as well.

I also choose a favorite item from your shop on the week that you’re featured and briefly tell why I like it. The first image from your shop for both your favorite item and my favorite item will be included in the blog.

  • Name and Business Name
  • Tell us a little about yourself and your business.
  • What made you get started in your business?
  • Anything else you’d like to share?
  • Tell us about your favorite item listed in your shop.
  • Links to your shop, website, blog, etc.
  • Email address (This will NOT be published)

Guest posts, tutorials and everything else

Please contact me at csloan@subearthancottage.com with your idea. If you already blog, a link to your blog or site where your writings are published is also helpful. Newbies are welcome, too. I’m also not opposed to reposts if they are a good fit and your own work.

If I think your idea is a good fit for SubEarthan Cottage, I will let you know and we will work out the details from there.

Matisse Creativity Mug Mugs featured
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8 Healthy Snacks for Kids on the Go

healthy snacks

One of the best things about homeschooling is that we’re not tied to a schedule. We can take advantage of off-peak hours to visit parks, museums, and libraries, or take day trips just to explore. Being on the go, though, means at some point someone is going to say they are hungry. Eating out or grabbing convenience store snacks is expensive, not to mention usually not healthy. Better to be prepared with snacks so whenever that first little voice says, “I’m hungry!” I can offer them a snack before they get the idea that a trip to McD’s sounds like a great plan or have a hunger-induced meltdown.

healthy snacks and chess at the park
At the park during homeschoolers-only hours. We also bring chess boards and snap circuits everywhere.

Here are some of my favorite healthy snacks for kids on the go. Keep in mind the age and ability of your kiddos when choosing snacks. Things like nuts and grapes can be choking hazards for little ones.

Healthy Snacks for on the Go

  • Fresh fruit Fresh fruit is a perfect, portable snack. Choose fruit that requires minimal prep work to keep it fresh without having to keep it cool. Things like bananas and oranges are easy to peel on the go. Apples and pears are great for kiddos old enough to bite into them whole. They can also be sliced and stored in an airtight container with a little lemon juice to keep them from browning if you know they will be eaten within a short time. Grapes are perfect, if your kids are old enough to handle them without choking.
  • Fresh vegetables Fresh vegetables are another good choice. Celery or carrot sticks, bell pepper slices, and cherry or grape tomatoes are all portable. Nut butters or shelf-stable dressings can be brought along for dipping if that makes them more palatable.
  • Dried fruit While I think they are gross now, raisins were one of my favorites as a kid, and my children love them as well. Dried cranberries are also nice.
  • Trail mix Trail mix is nice, because you get fats from things like nuts, seeds or coconut to help balance the sugars from the fruit. Make your own to tailor it to your families liking and dietary needs.
  • Dry cereal Choose one that has less sugar to keep is relatively healthy.
  • Applesauce While I don’t like the trash created from single use items, the applesauce pouches are great to keep in the car for those times when you find yourself out and forgot snacks or errands took longer than expected.
  • Hard boiled eggs Bring along a small insulated bag or ice chest to keep them cold. If you peel them ahead of time, they’re easier to manage on the go.
  • Popcorn Pop your own and season it with salt and herbs to avoid the weird microwave popcorn butter. I either pop it on the stove in coconut oil or use my air popper. If I use the air popper, I give it a light mist with olive oil to help the seasoning stick. Two of my boys like it with just a little salt. Finn and I are more adventurous. Some of our favorite seasoning combinations are salt and black pepper, chili powder, dill weed, or even a little bit of cayenne pepper. Do be cautious with popcorn, as it is a choking hazard for little ones.

All of those snacks are easy to make work with gluten, dairy and nut-free diets, if you make your own trail mix and choose a cereal based according to your dietary needs.

What about drinks?

Along with healthy snacks, it’s a good idea to bring along something to drink. We like to bring a big water cooler along with cups when we’re out for a long time. We have a one gallon one like this, or we just bring along our big five gallon cooler that we keep filled with filtered water for home.That eliminates the need to buy bottled water and cuts back on sugary drink splurges.

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healthy snacks
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Impromptu Science and a Reading Nook

More science at the library

With the winter plague finally leaving our household, we’ve been able to get out a bit more. One of our first excursions was to our local public library. Finn found a book he’s been searching for after seeing it mentioned in a news interview on the effects of video games.

Science at the library

Gravity Lesson: Science at the Library

The little boys took more interest in the library’s science display. This month’s display involves peanut butter jars weighted to represent how much they would weigh on the moon and each of the planets. Beckett enjoyed feeling the different weights. It didn’t take Thadd long to become more interested in seeing if it was really peanut butter in the jars, so I had to redirect him to the toys. In case you are wondering, though, the lids are glued securely and there is a note on the table saying the contents are actually peanut-free.

More science at the library
No, he was not successful.

Earthworms: Science on a rainy day

Tuesday was rainy, but not that cold yet, so we went for a walk. With all the rain, earthworms were everywhere along the curb. We stopped and watched a few making their way back to the soil. Beckett had few questions about what they ate and why they came out in the rain. At home, we researched the answers together. I love it when lessons happen organically like that. It helps the information stick more than if I created a lesson on earthworms and provided the answers to his questions before he had the chance to even ask.

Earthworm Sally
I think this one is Sally.

Our Pop-up

In between household projects, Christopher turned our gutted pop-up camper into a little outdoor room using salvaged materials. It’s not completely finished out yet. When Beckett and Thadd saw it, though, they couldn’t wait. They had to grab pillows and hang out in the cozy little nook immediately.

Camper outside.
From the outside. The siding came from a house being torn down for new construction.
Inside the camper.
Enjoying the new hideaway.

How do you encourage impromptu learning? Comment below with your ideas, resources and experiences.

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Homeschooling and Socialization

About two and a half years ago, we decided to homeschool our children. Oddly, one of the biggest concerns many people have about homeschooling is socialization. Odd because often more outgoing, talkative children are told that they aren’t at school to socialize, so it seems strange that school is deemed the best place for children to learn social skills.

Many families join co-ops or other homeschooling groups to give them time to be around their peers. We haven’t really found a homeschooling group that fits us well, so we have taken a different approach. If you’re in a similar spot, or just looking for fun, inexpensive after-school activities, these options may work for you, too.

Libraries

Most libraries offer storytime for younger children. This is fun and free for the little ones, and gives older children quiet time to find new books to read or to do research. Our libraries also offer activities for all ages in the afternoon and on weekends. For us, just between the two libraries we frequent, we have activities available at least four days a week.

Interest-based clubs

Chris enjoys playing chess, so each of our boys has taken interest in it from a young age. We’ve found two free local chess clubs: one meets at a library and is for children, the other meets at a bookstore and is for all ages. We primarily go to the one at the library, but occasionally go to the other one. One of our complaints about school socialization is that it really only allows children to interact with their own age group, whereas outside of school they need to be comfortable holding conversations will people of all ages. The bookstore chess club offers them the opportunity to meet people of all ages who share a common interest.

Almost ready for chess club…

Depending on their hobbies, you may be able to find clubs by asking around at libraries, bookstores, shops, or searching online. I’ve even known of people to start their own through Meetup and Facebook.

Museums, zoos, and other attractions

Many places have special homeschool days, sometimes with cheaper admissions or special tours. These offer the opportunity to meet other local homeschooling families. At the very least, it’s a fun field trip. Last year, we went to a Texas Rangers game on their homeschool day.

Take a class or join a team

Our city rec center offers a variety of classes from dance to martial arts for less than we’ve found elsewhere. Beckett is currently taking a Wing Jitsu class that Finn took alongside Chris back when B was a baby. They also offer soccer, baseball, and basketball teams for all ages. Some of our libraries have a Maker’s Spot where they offer classes for older children and adults on how to use the equipment. Ours has 3D printers, sewing, embroidery and long arm machines. Art, music, crafting and language classes are also options. My oldest took a kids’ art class at a local art center.

Beckett getting one-on-one instruction on his first day.

Parks and playgrounds

Never underestimate just getting out and playing. Parks are free and depending on the time of day, there can be tons of kids. Go afterschool or go during school hours to meet families with younger children and homeschoolers.

No one else today, but still tons of fun.

Daily life

Something that seems to get overlooked is the little social interactions that happen without thinking. Young children learn a lot just by playing with parents, grandparents and siblings. If you take your children with you to the grocery or the bank, they are likely to get little lessons on how to greet people, approach people with questions, politeness and all the other interactions we take for granted. My kids go everywhere with me. Sure sometimes makes simple errands take F-O-R-E-V-E-R, but those little lessons they get are worth it. Mostly. 😉

You have no idea how long it can take just to get to this point.

On a final note, as important as socialization is, children also need to learn how to be at peace with themselves. Sometimes I think we underestimate the need for quiet alone time. Make sure to allow plenty of unstructured downtime when planning activities for your children, regardless of whether they are homeschooled.