Most states have lifted stay-at-home orders. But that doesn’t mean life is back to normal. A lot of Americans are still avoiding public spaces. In fact, you’re probably sticking close to home, too, if you live near a virus hotspot, if you have health problems or have family members in a high-risk population.
The truth is, we all have to be careful about catching and spreading Covid-19. And the best way to do that is with social distancing and avoiding crowds. If your family is choosing to stick close to home for the time-being, you should know you’re far from alone! Schools are still out, summer camps have been canceled and parents are still working from home.
One way to help everyone stay calm and centered is by doing some fun family activities together. Also, the more you can keep younger kids on a schedule, the better for their sanity and yours. The Child Mind Institute says, “Consistency and structure are calming during times of stress.” Doing fun family activities together, including some that have exercise built in, will help reduce family friction and get everyone feeling more relaxed.
Here are a few ideas for fun family activities.
#1 Coloring inside the lines
Most kids enjoy coloring and for grownups, adult coloring books have been proven to reduce anxiety and depressive symptoms. One reason coloring is appealing to adults, says Psychology Today, is because it’s nostalgic. But that doesn’t mean you have to doodle pictures of cartoon characters or Disney princesses. Experts say that books like Mandalas offer exactly the types of designs that can help grownups feel more relaxed and less anxious. And based on book reviews, kids love them too.
#2 Draw and sketch freehand
Not all of us are cut out to color inside the lines. Some people just need a blank sketch pad and some colored pencils or watercolors. US Art Supply has a 162-piece deluxe painting and drawing kit, which comes with everything you need to create works of art from scratch, including oil pastels, watercolor cakes, an extra heavy-weight watercolor painting pad and an 80-sheet sketch book. It also has 60 crayons, so even little kids can get in on family arts and crafts time.
#3 Solve an expert-level jigsaw puzzle
For generations, families have used jigsaw puzzles to pass the time while on summer vacation, during rain storms and now, as a way to cope with pandemic anxiety. It turns out that demand for jigsaw puzzles right now is so high, it’s fueled a surge in hiring at Puzzle Warehouse in St. Louis. When you’re browsing for the perfect shelter-in-place jigsaw puzzle for your clan, look for one that’s not too easy to solve.
In ordinary times, that might mean starting with a 500-piece puzzle. But with all this extra time on our hands, it’s OK to plunge right in with 1,000 to 3,000-piece puzzles. And puzzles that don’t have a lot of distinct patches of color are notoriously difficult. That’s exactly what you’re getting with the Areaware Gradient Puzzle, $25. Even self-proclaimed jigsaw puzzle experts are saying this is one of the hardest puzzles they’ve ever tried to solve.
#4 Play an old-fashioned, analogue board game
While kids typically love activities that get their heart rate going, when stuck inside the house, it’s really hard for most to resist more slothful pastimes, like playing video games and watching YouTube. But there is one analog game out there that, after more than 50 years, still gets families’ blood pumping. Twister ($12.29) is that game where players compete to keep hands and feet on the giant game board. It’s fun and funny and can help the family easily breeze through another two hours of work-from-home and study-from-home time.
#5 Give each other mani-pedis
Salon in many states are now open for business. But it’s understandable that some folks want to hold off on a professional mani-pedi for the immediate future. So family mani-pedis are all the rage!
The only supplies you really need are a nail clipper, nail file, and a few shades of nail polish and polish remover. You can purchase everything you need a la cart, or check out Creativity for Kids Day at the Spa mani and pedi kit. It’s a 30-piece set that comes with a pedicure pool, nail dryer, pedi slippers, toe separators and five bottles of water-based nail and glitter polishes.
#6 Take dress-up to a whole new level
Give everyone 30 minutes to dig through drawers and closets and find outfits that resemble their favorite TV, movie or cartoon characters. If your family can’t pass up a good zombie flick, consider buying the CokoHappy special effects kit, $27. The package includes makeup wax, coagulated blood, gum adhesive and a spatula tool for molding scars, warts, wounds and other types of bruises.
#7 Learn how to decorate cakes
If there ever was a “why the heck not” activity, cake decorating is it. It’s a skill that no one really needs to have. It’s something you may not ever use again. But if it turns out that you have a talent for decorating cakes, imagine how much use you’ll get out of it when everyone starts throwing parties again.
The RFAQK beginner box ($26) is a 117-piece cake-decorating kit. It has everything you need to decorate baked goods like a professional, including an instruction ebook, turntable stand, a pastry bag, dozens of icing tips and a pattern chart.
#8 Plan your next family vacation
Before we know it, this whole thing will be behind us and we’ll all be free to travel anywhere we want. So why not think about your next family vacation right now? You can still book flights, make hotel reservations and create an entire travel itinerary without leaving your living room sofa.
At Costco Travel, you can plan a four-day trip to Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort in Orlando, Florida. It includes early-admission tickets to Volcano Bay Water Theme Park or The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. And for a more inclusive vacation-planning session, have everyone write their destination of choice on a piece of paper. Put all the submissions in a bowl. Then pick a winner!
#9 Take an aromatherapy vacation
Of course, imaging all the places you’ll visit some time in the future can be depressing if you’re doing it after three months of sheltering-in-place. So consider taking an entirely different kind of staycation right now.
The Pure Daily Care aromatherapy set, $70, includes 10 essential oils. While oils can’t literally transport you and the family to a different location, it can transport your frame of mind. For example, clove oil has stress reducing properties, and eucalyptus and peppermint can improve mental acuity.
This kit comes with a noise-free diffuser and humidifier with more than a dozen light combinations. And there are tons of free videos and links to websites about the power and benefits of essential oils.
#10 Grow an indoor/outdoor herb garden
If you don’t have space for an outdoor garden, there are still ways to keep a thumb on the pulse of Mother Nature. Gather the family around the kitchen table and plant culinary herbs with FatPlants Cedar Planter Box herb garden, $65. You choose three types of organic culinary seeds: cilantro, thyme, parsley, oregano, basil or chives. If you do have a small yard or garden, you can use this starter kit to germinate the seeds and then transfer sprouting herbs into your outdoor garden bed. (Scroll to the bottom of this page to read about how you can grow a healthy indoor garden.)
#11 Learn how to cook with fresh herbs
Now that you’re a master gardener, think of all the delectable dishes you can cook up! Any come to mind? Any at all? Well, don’t fret. The Herb Garden Cookbook ($15 to $30) has more than 150 delicious recipes. Plus, you’ll find instructions for using your fresh herbs to make butters and different types of flavorful vinegars. The author also provides indoor and outdoor gardening tips. This book is available in paper and hardcover. But if you need it ASAP, just download the Kindle edition.
Indoor gardening tip
Every gardener knows that most plants need at least four hours of direct sunlight. If your apartment doesn’t get a direct beam of light for that long, then just use an ultraviolet bulb. The YoyoMax indoor grow light, $26, has the most common light spectrum for fueling the growth of all types of indoor plants. And there’s a bonus for folks who aren’t getting enough direct sunlight right now: You might be able to use your grow light to increase your vitamin D levels. According to Boston University School of Medicine, the ultraviolet light emitted by indoor grow lamps can produce vitamin D in human skin. Of course, always check with your doctor before taking online medical advice.