Activities for battling cabin fever

With five kids, we’ve accumulated a lot of toys and books over the years. We also have a yard! And Netflix, and an Xbox, and enough devices for some communal 4-kid games of Minecraft (these have been pretty cool).

Nonetheless, with everyone home all day every day for weeks on end, cabin fever can set in. So as April dawned, I ordered a lot of kid activities to be doled out over the next month. Here’s a partial list of what made it in my cart; I welcome suggestions of other things that might entertain a 12-year-old, 10-year-old, 8-year-old, and 5-year-old.

Stick-Lets — these connector pieces make it easier to build elaborate forts in the backyard. We haven’t tried these out yet (they’re still quarantined in the garage), but with all the random sticks and logs stuck in my trees right now, I have high hopes.

Origami sets — I ordered some Harry Potter and Star Wars themed origami kits. I think origami is cool in general, but the character tie-ins might help with bumping up initial interest.

Mazes — giant activity books are fairly cheap per hour of entertainment. My 5-year-old has really gotten into mazes, so I ordered a lot of those.

Paint-by-sticker books — the 8-year-old is peeling off stickers to place them in certain spots to make animals. Kind of a neat idea.

Modeling clay — so far, the kids managed to make a model of a McDonald’s hamburger and fries (pictured). Made me hungry!

Jump ropes — a mildly challenging, but still doable physical activity. Can be used indoors and out, which is a plus.

Bubble wands — good for backyard entertainment. Cheap when you get party-favor type sets.

Sidewalk chalk — turns the driveway into art space.

Scratch-off paper — these black sheets have bright colors underneath, and you scratch off the black with a stylus. The 5-year-old has found these quite entertaining. I’m sure they have an official name but I’m not sure what it is.

Bedtime Math — OK, we’ve ordered a lot of books, but this series has been really good for getting the 5-year-old to try more challenging math work. The 8-year-old is reading the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, and the 12-year-old has been working through Twilight (and then watching each movie after he reads the book). The 10-year-old seems to be re-reading all his Rick Riordan library (I offered to purchase any new series but he’s not hunted for one yet). My husband is reading the fifth Harry Potter book to the 8-year-old and I am quite sure this will take the entire rest of this quarantine.

What would you add to the list?

17 thoughts on “Activities for battling cabin fever

  1. I bought a classic Nintendo about a month ago, but have been holding off ordering additional toys for my daughter because we already have plenty and IDK, it felt kind of precious and spoiled and, frankly wrong, of me to do that when other people have lost so much. So far she has been fine with our existing extensive supply of things to do. She’s reading the Valkyrie series and four other books as she usually does. If your son liked the Rick Riordan books he might try Kate O’Hearn if you haven’t already since they are similarly themed and there are a lot of them.

    1. Yeah. I bought exactly one thing for this purpose my last trip to Target. My next move is boxing up all the toys that aren’t played with to get rid of them, which will surely spike interest.

    1. Agree, my kids are about the same age and love them too. They are really good about not spilling/making a mess, but I do get a little tense when they don’t dip their brush in water before going back to the paint…! Haha!

      1. @Lori C – I think with art supplies I have to make my piece that they will be consumable type items, not ones that last for a long time. So yeah, all the paint will be brown pretty quickly.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing. I am looking forward to reading everyone’s comments. Here are some of our favorites (2 boys, aged nearly 5 and nearly 3).
    1- “Play, Make, Create” by Meri Cherry, or “crafts for dummies” as I like to call it. The book is full of process based art (art that isn’t really focused on the outcome) and requires only a few basic supplies. My kids have loved making Magic Wands out of sticks, and using glue and salt to make a colorful spider web.
    2- Generic MagnaTiles- the knockoffs. This is our remedy when the boys won’t stop wrestling/fighting. Guaranteed to create some peace and focus as they each build something (separately!)
    3- Shrinky Dinks- inspired by SHU’s post. I made a tiger for my husband but he was not impressed
    4- Melissa & Doug Created by Me build & paint sets- we bought the monster truck version and I think the Easter Bunny is bringing the train version. My nearly 5 year old usually does this while the little one rests. It seems to be a really good fit for his age/stage
    5- Disney+ on the TV or Peppa Pig Game on the tablet when all else fails…

  3. You can make homemade scratch-off paper by coloring over the whole surface of a piece of paper at random with multi-colored crayons, then coloring over all of that with black crayon, then scratching off the top black layer in whatever designs you like with the edge of a coin.

  4. Add some blue painter’s tape to your order. Use it to design stained glass patterns on the driveway, or just to outline any design better, then color it in. When you peel up the tape, you have a masterpiece. Each kid can have a section so they aren’t smudging each other’s work. I think a 1.5” to 2” width tape will work well?

    1. @Ruth – we have a few of these we haven’t done yet that will probably come out as the month goes on. At the moment though I am enjoying my clean dining room table…

  5. We used to make own scratch off paper stuff at school – using Crayola wax crayon put bands of colour onto a piece of paper , paint over the crayon with black paint. Wait to dry and then scratch off to make firework pictures etc!

  6. My kids (8 and 3) found a kite in the back of the shed last week and they’ve been having an awesome time with it. We can’t really take it to the park, but they run around in the backyard and up and down the sidewalk, helping each other get it aloft. It’s really cute seeing them taking turns running and holding.
    A fort building kit has also been popular with us. The older kids even get the six month old involved by building her rooms to lie in!
    I’ve also been teaching the kids to “clean” together- the older one scrubs the toilet and the younger one runs around with a spray bottle and duster. They think it’s great fun.

  7. Hey Laura,

    I’m waiting for my sidewalk chalks to arrive!

    I love the cardboard playhouses that you build and then the kids colour or paint – they’re popular here. Just remember to bring them indoors before the rain arrives!


  8. Art supplies and bikes have been our big go-tos in recent weeks. Santa brought my kids a makerspace for Christmas and it has been a lifesaver during this time. It is well-stocked with pipecleaners, hot glue, all kids of paint, oil pastels, chalk pastels etc. There has also been all kinds of bike riding going on. As for my 12 year old he has been difficult to engage, but he will play a board game. We have been doing a lot of movie nights, not just as a whole family, but with different configurations–Mom/daughter (9), Dad and little boys (6/4), mom/dad and oldest (12). Then we can tailor the movie selection to the audience. We have also still done whole family movie and game nights.

  9. This may be a bit controversial, but for rainy days when the kids aren’t motivated to move, we give them access to my husband’s Oculus VR headsets. Some virtual reality games are really physical – you can end up sweaty! Vader Mortal (a Star Wars game where you train to be a Jedi) and The Climb (a rock climbing VR game) are current favorites.

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