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How to Stay Sane With Kids in Quarantine – and Maybe Even Have Some Fun

Little girl baking cookies with dog

It seems absurd to complain about now, but just a few days before U.S. government officials began recommending everyone stay at home to help stop the spread of coronavirus, I was on vacation with my husband, four-year-old daughter, and six-month-old son. “Oh no,” I thought, scrolling through scary news reports on my phone while on the beach. “MORE family time? How can I possibly stay home with these two kids after being with them nonstop for five days?”

Things escalated quickly while we were away, and my husband and I both landed to messages advising we self-quarantine since we’d been abroad. Oh, and our daycare announced that they were closing that week, so we didn’t have much of a choice. We are now on day 16 of social distancing, and while I’ve snapped more times than I’d like to admit, I have come to appreciate and be grateful for the extra family time – well, on the weekends anyway.

Here are some creative ways we’ve managed to have fun in isolation that you can try with your kids (or maybe other adults), too:

Have a Dance Contest

There’s nothing my family loves more than a good, old-fashioned dance contest. We even get the dog and the baby involved in the action. Alternate who is the judge, blast some tunes, and bust a move.

Make It a Karaoke Night

With dozens of free karaoke apps available for both Apple and Android, you can create a karaoke bar in your own home. 

Get Dressed Up

After days in comfy clothes, it’s fun to have a reason to dress up. Put on some fancy duds and cook up a nice dinner to match. Throw in some cocktails, and mocktails for the kids, and you can at least pretend you’re in a restaurant again. If your kids are up for it, you can get them to play waiter/waitress. Another dress-up idea is to start having theme days during the week – although every day is now Pajama Day for our children.

Break a Sweat – With YouTube

The internet is full of free workout videos, including instructional dance videos and yoga for kids. Cosmic Kids Yoga is popular with many families I know, but if I’m being honest, my daughter preferred trying to replicate Shakira’s moves while watching music videos. Hey, physical activity is physical activity.

Do Some Decorating

What better time than now to finally print all those family photos or hang up the art that’s been sitting in your basement? Companies such as Mixtiles and Snaptiles make it easy to take the photos on your phone and turn them into tiles you can hang up on your wall.

FaceTime With Friends and Family

You’re probably already video-chatting with friends and family members outside your home, but don’t forget that even younger kids would love to see their friends on screen. We FaceTimed with a few of my daughter’s daycare friends this week, and she lost her mind with delight.

Get Outside (But Not Too Far)

Yes, we should all be staying far away from other people. But it’s still a good idea to make time to get fresh air at least once a day, preferably in your own neighborhood and not in a large public place. Do kids refuse to get off the couch? Set up a DIY obstacle course, or challenge them to a race. Raining? The perfect excuse to jump in some muddy puddles.

I won’t lie. There’s still lots of screen time happening in this household, and my infant may have already developed a smartphone obsession. But the biggest lessons I’ve learned from this unique situation are to lower your expectations and to be kind to yourself and your family. Try to stay positive by focusing on what you can control, instead of what you can’t. If you’re working from home with kids, some things are bound to fall to the wayside. Prioritize what needs to be done to keep your kids healthy and happy, while also prioritizing what needs to get done at work, and worry about the rest later. Our laundry may be piling up, but that’s what quarantine weekends are for! If you’re doing this parenting thing solo, you have my utmost admiration. Stay-at-home parents, you are rock stars for doing this every day. As my colleague Jaime Yates wrote recently, we are all in this together, so let’s make the most of it.