Keeping Kids Calm and Engaged While Stuck at Home

During these challenging times, children and teens require a sense of consistency and normalcy. With the disruption of daily routine, everyone has been experiencing that “out of sorts” feelings while trying to figure out their new normal.  So, how do you keep the kids calm, engaged, and active when you’re stuck indefinitely at home?

Create a Daily Schedule

Children thrive on consistency and routine. Having a sense of structure helps them feel in control.  Each day, the routine should include getting changed into fresh clothes, time outside in daylight, and physical exercise. Have set mealtimes during the weekdays so that the kitchen is not always open. If they are engaged in online schooling, set up a workspace outside of their bedroom.  Build in time for special family fun (see suggestions below). By creating a schedule for the day, it provides a predictable plan for your family.  

Be Your Child’s Filter for Information

It is important for children to understand the reason why things have changed. However, the news and online media does not necessarily present the information in an age appropriate manner.  Sit down with your child and talk about the situation. Since it is constantly changing, continue providing updates. Ask your child if they have questions and check in with them directly about their feelings.  Answer all questions honestly, but at an age-appropriate level. 

Have Empathy

Teenagers, in particular, may have a tough time being distanced from friends and having their adolescence upended. Their age allows them to cognitively understand the importance of the situation, yet emotionally they may be unable to process their emotions at the same mature level. Acknowledge their emotions and give them the space to be heard. Commit to making the most out of the situation by checking in frequently and sharing special time with your child.  

Stay Connected with Friends and Family

Children are amazingly resilient. They adapt to changes reasonably quickly and can enjoy virtual time with their friends and family.  Encourage them to take a walk and talk on the phone while their friend is walking in their own neighborhood. Exercise together over FaceTime or Zoom.  Plan a Netflix movie watching party for a group of friends. Sign up for the same virtual PaintNite and compare finished products. Play video games together. Connect with grandparents and ask them to tell stories from their youth. Remaining in touch with outside friends and family reassures children that there are others in the same situation, providing comfort and connection for everyone involved.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

It’s essential for children to see the current changes as a temporary, yet necessary, inconvenience.  Through this experience, they will learn to adapt and be resilient, which will provide them with an excellent foundation to manage future unplanned difficulties. Lean into your family’s strengths, and you will come out on the other side of this together.


Suggested Activities

Here are some suggestions for activities that will help spark some additional ideas of your own. 

  • Cook Together:  No matter what the age of your child, cooking together can be a wonderful and educational experience. Older children can be given responsibility for an entire dish, and younger children can help with pouring, stirring, and other simple tasks. Youngsters can practice skills like counting and following step-by-step instructions, and older teens can gain real-life skills as they practice preparing food independently. 
  • Create Your Own “Movie”:  Have the kids put on a play and record it on your phone. You can send the recording to friends or family who need a reason to smile. This can be done simply, or you can let them use their imagination by creating scripts, props, costumes, and movie making apps.
  • Books:  You may not be able to go to the library, but there are lots of great options online. For younger children, Scholastic has made their Learn at Home Program free, and kids can listen and read along to simple, age-appropriate stories. Older kids can enjoy one of the hundreds of books available on Audible, many brought to life by professional actors. 
  • Outdoor Fun:  If you have a backyard, now is it’s time to shine! Picnics outside are fun and exciting. Now is just the right time to get the kids busy with some simple gardening activities. If you have a tent, why not pitch it in the back yard and let the kids camp out? Create a simple obstacle course or make bird feeders and hang them in your trees.
  • Do a Family Stem Project:   STEM projects not only get you thinking, but they also get you moving. Following directions, explaining rationales, and seeing a finished project can be fun and satisfying for everyone of all ages!
  • BroadwayHD:  BroadwayHD offers a free trial to access its vast trove of plays and musicals. BroadwayHD can provide a little culture with a binge-watching feel for the kids. There are family-friendly offerings for those younger than 13, and there’s the more mature fare for the teenagers.
  • Fun With Phones:  Have your children show yo all the fun apps they use with their friends.  Make Tik-Toks, Timer-Selfies on Snapchat, take Buzzfeed Quizzes, or play Heads-Up.  They will love that you want to use the phone instead of asking them to put it away! 
  • Take a Virtual Hawaiian Vacation:  You can take an amazing Hawaiian Vacation from the comfort of your home, no airfare or hotel necessary. Take a day to make Hawaiian recipes, flower leis, and explore the beautiful Hawaiian Islands.
  • Visit a Museum Virtually:  Just because the museums are closed doesn’t mean you can’t take the kids on a field trip. Google Art & Culture has joined forces with over 2000 museums around the world to provide virtual tours of their fantastic galleries. Tour, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City or the Sorolla Museum, in Madrid, Spain, passport not necessary.