Fridge Frenzy and 6 More Budget-Friendly Ideas for Cooped-Up Kids
Photo: Leorah G. via Shutterstock
We’re at home for the long haul. It became more clear last week with the announcement that schools will be out for the rest of the academic year. Here are some budget-friendly at-home activities that incorporate playful and educational elements while targeting various ages and staving off cabin fever. With minimal screen time.
Movie Fashion Show: Consider this part of the “Arts & Culture” component of the kids’ education. Make a list of 4-5 classic or popular movies. Ask your older kids to find images of the main characters (or their favorites!) from each one. Raid everyone’s closets to assemble costumes. Designate an announcer and a photographer and roll out the red (or whatever color) carpet, sheet, blanket…? Add music for extra drama.
Driveway Picnic: Our neighbors—a family with a three-year-old and an infant born about five days before the governor issued the “safer at home” directive for California—made the best of a sunny day with a driveway picnic. The townhouses where we live don’t have a lawn, so they spread a blanket on the concrete out front. Of course, this works just as well in the front or back yard. If you have older kids, they can pack up a tote with supplies while you prepare the food. Ask the younger kids to set up all the stuff when you get outside.
Cardboard Stencils: Got cardboard from ordering stuff online? Reuse it! Cut out large shapes for the kids to trace with chalk on the concrete outside, or small stencils to use on paper indoors. Your older kids can look up the names of the shapes in different languages and write on them. Your younger learners can call out each one and/or write the shape names on each if they’re practicing words and letters. Drawing the shapes on the cardboard can be part of the activity—brainstorm ways to make a giant circle, triangle, etc. with the stuff you have at home. (Hint: a big salad bowl. A tissue box.) High schoolers can calculate the area of each shape.
Bilingual Post-It Vocab Practice: Grab a stack of post-its and a couple markers, or give the supplies to your tweens and/or teens. Toddlers, pre-readers or emerging readers can participate in this, too. The kids can go around the house together, finding and labeling household items. While the younger kids call out the names, the older kids write them in English and look them up in a second language (Google Translate is easy to use). Let the littles stick the Post-Its, and leave them up. The bigger kids can quiz the littles and you can test the older ones.
Hot Potato Laundry: When the laundry comes out of the dryer (or off the line) ready to fold, grab the basket and round up the kiddos. Pick up each item and “hot potato” it until it gets to its owner, who has to fold it. Add bilingual vocabulary practice by calling out each article of clothing in a second language.
Fridge Frenzy: This requires an adult or teen supervision. Your kids will think you’ve gone cuckoo, which makes it fun. Get the kids to help you take everything out of the fridge and/or pantry and spread it on the countertops and table. (You can take this opportunity to chuck spoiled food.) Designate a scribe. Name the items and make a list of everything (for an extra challenge, put it in alphabetical order). Take it a step further and plan your menu for the next couple of days, or list everything in a second language. Do a count of exactly how many things you have in the fridge. If you’re going for the “super” prize, enlist your family troops to clean the refrigerator with you while all the stuff is out. When you’re ready to put things away, do a daisy chain so everyone can participate. Someone can check the items off the list as they go back in the fridge. This works for the drawers and cabinets, too: take out all the pots, pans, dishes and utensils and learn the names en Español or Français or Mandarin.
Toy Parade: Like Fridge Frenzy, this starts with taking everything out of the toy closet or off the toy shelf. Take a deep breath, then go nuts. Let the kids line up all the toys around your home in one long parade from room to room. While everything is on display, get out the measuring tape and see if you and the kids can figure out the distance. Count how many toys you have. Share memories of your favorites. Form an audience and clap and cheer as the kids march the toys back into their storage places.
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