As many families are thrust into homeschooling and working remotely--and everything from parks to libraries are closed--parents have to find ways to keep their kids occupied. Sure, electronic devices and Netflix can help, but parents need a screen-free backup plan.
That’s why we’ve compiled a list of 15 easy crafts and activities that do not require screens. While they are designed for kids of all ages (preschool - high school), you may need to make modifications depending on your child’s age. If your kids are different ages, they can work on the activities together. The best part? There is no online shopping required. Most, if not all, of these activities use supplies you already have at home.
#1 Hand Washing Experiment
Given the current global health crisis, now is the perfect time to teach your kids about germs. Visuals work wonders when it comes to teaching. For instance, have your kids do the “bread experiment.” Using clean gloves, pick out one piece of bread and place it inside a plastic Ziploc-style bag and seal. Then, using bare, clean hands, pick out a second piece of bread and place this piece in a different plastic bag. Finally, using hands that have not been washed, place another piece of bread in a third plastic bag. Observe how the different bread slices change over the next few days and point out the differences between the bread that was handled by clean hands versus dirty hands. The bread handled by unwashed hands will show more mold than the rest, making it a great visual lesson for handwashing.
#2 Marshmallow Tower Building
Give your children the task of building a marshmallow tower using only marshmallows and toothpicks (or uncooked spaghetti noodles). Challenge them to build the tallest tower possible. This is a great at-home STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) activity that is also tons of fun for kids.
#3 Shadow Drawing
On a sunny day, grab a few random small objects from your home, pencils, and white computer paper. Once outside, set up the objects in front of the paper so that the object’s shadow is visible on the computer paper. Then, have kids trace the shadows. This activity is a win-win. The kids get fresh air with something fun to occupy them.
#4 Homemade American Ninja Warrior Course
Whether your child is a daredevil or more cautious, a homemade American Ninja Warrior course (or a fancy obstacle course) is a great way to get them off the couch and get them thinking. Typically, these courses require participants to balance, climb, and get around obstacles. Have your kids design the course, build it (using items like pillows for inside courses and tree roots for outside courses), and then run it.
#5 Storm in a Glass
Using only a clear water glass, water, shaving cream, and food coloring, you can shock and delight your kids with a “Storm in a Glass.”
Here’s how to do it:
- Fill a glass ½ full with water.
- Add the shaving cream to the glass and fill until ¾ full. Spread the shaving cream evenly over the top of the water. Make sure it’s flat.
- In a separate container, mix ½ cup water with 10 drops of blue food dye.
- Gently add the colored water to the top of the shaving cream, spoonful by spoonful, and watch it storm!
As the cloud becomes full, the rain (blue colored raindrops) will release from the shaving cream cloud into the water below.
#6 Homemade Bird Feeders
Bring some natural joy to your backyard or deck and make bird feeders. Using a pine cone or an empty toilet paper roll, tie a string around it, and have your child cover it in peanut butter and birdseed. If you don’t have birdseed, you can use pieces of nuts or small pieces of fruit. Hang outside your windows, sit back, and watch the feeding frenzy begin! Take it a step further and encourage your kids to identify what types of birds they see.
#7 Toilet Paper Rainsticks
With all the toilet paper people have stocked up on in the past few weeks, toilet paper rolls should be readily available. With a TP roll, rice, aluminum foil, glue, and a rubber band, you can create an instrument (by filling the roll with rice and sealing with the aluminum foil) that is fun to shake and turn upside down. Plus, kids can use their artistic skills to decorate their rain sticks.
#8 Indoor “Laser” Maze
If you have painter’s tape, you have an amazing kid-friendly activity tool. Painter’s tape can be used to make racetracks on carpets, hopscotch, and the favorite, an indoor laser maze. Use painter’s tape to create an indoor laser maze down a hallway in your home, in doorways, or through a smaller room.
#9 LEGO Bridge Building
If you have kids, chances are you have tons of LEGO bricks lying around. Now is a great time to get them out. Legos not only help kids use their imaginations, but they can be used for great STEM activities, such as building bridges. Give your kids a challenge to build a bridge that can hold a certain weight. The new reality show LEGO Masters did a recent episode where the contestants built bridges that were able to hold 2,000 pounds!
#10 Design Your Own Board Game
When kids design their own board game, it requires them to write rules, create a game board and pieces, and experiment with math. Set aside a day where you encourage your kids to design their own board game using items from your home (cardboard, construction paper, extra game dice, markers, etc.), and then spend the evening playing the game as a family.
#11 Tasty Rock Candy Experiment
This is a 5-10 day science experiment the whole family will enjoy. All you need is skewers, food coloring, clothespins, mason jars, granulated sugar, and warm water. It may take up to a week for the rock candy to form, but it’s fun to watch the sugar crystals grow.
- 2 cups water
- 4 cups granulated sugar
- Optional: 1/2 to 1 teaspoon flavoring extract or oil
- Optional: 2 drops of food dye
Here’s how you make it:
- You’ll need four 12-ounce jars or one quart-sized mason jar. Make sure they are clean.
- Wet a wooden skewer with water and roll it in granulated sugar. This base layer gives the sugar crystals something to grab when they start forming. Set these aside to dry while you prepare the sugar syrup.
- Bring water to boil in a medium-sized pan, and add one cup of sugar at a time, stirring after each addition. Continue stirring the sugar until it is completely dissolved, and then remove the pan from the heat.
- Let the syrup cool a little bit and then pour the syrup into the glass jars. If you are using food dye or flavorings, add them as well. Stir well.
- Lower one sugared skewer into each jar until it hangs about 1 inch from the bottom. Use clothespins balanced across the top of the jar to hold it in place.
- Carefully place the jars in a cool place where it can sit undisturbed, but where the kids can still see them. Cover the top loosely with a paper towel or plastic wrap.
- Sugar crystals should start forming within 2 - 4 hours. If you see no change after 24 hours, boil the syrup again and dissolve 1 more cup of sugar into it. Then, pour back into the jar and insert the skewer.
- Let the rock candy grow until it’s the perfect size, then remove it carefully and let it dry for a few minutes.
- Eat it right away or wrap it up for later!
#12 No-Sew Duct Tape Project
If you have tweens or teens, then you are probably aware of their love of duct tape. Kids have found creative ways to use duct tape to make no-sew pouches and wallets that are functional and cute. Using only duct tape and a freezer bag (plus colorful permanent markers and scissors), kids can find n0-sew duct tape patterns online, on sites like Instructables, to create something unique.
#13 Water Bottle Spiral Hangers
Why not find something to do with all your empty water bottles? This is a craft kids love and they are beautiful hanging from your deck, patio, or in your yard.
Here’s how you do it:
- Remove the caps and let the water bottles dry out. Also, remove any labels on the bottles.
- Give your kids permanent markers and have them color the outside of the bottles.
- Use scissors to remove the flat bottom of the bottle. Next, cut circularly in a spiral from bottom to top of the bottle. You can cut the spirals as thin or as thick as you’d like.
- Place the spout opening of the bottles on a stick. Then tie a ribbon or string loop on each end of the stick.
- Hang the spirals where you can see them from an inside window and enjoy!
#14 Rock Painting
If you live in an area where it’s possible, send your kids on a backyard scavenger hunt to find some rocks. Set up a place where your kiddos can safely paint or draw on the rocks with acrylic markers. When the rock art is dry, allow the kids to hide them around your yard or inside your house for others to find.
#15 I Spy Jar
When a soda bottle is empty, clean, and dry, it can be turned into a magical I Spy jar. All you have to do is fill it with dry rice and several small random objects from your child’s bedroom (like LEGO bricks, colored beads, or coins). These objects will disappear and reappear as the bottle of rice is turned around and flipped upside down. Once the bottle is filled and sealed, ask your child to see how many objects he/she can find, or give specific objects to look for by saying, “I Spy a yellow LEGO.”
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply