Self-quarantine, which is now the “new normal”, places many limitations on our functioning. However, it also offers space for creativity in reinventing the new structure of the day.
What started out as ideas of activities for teens and tweens so they don’t spend their entire day on social media and TV shows, has now evolved into the ultimate list of fun things to do for the entire family.
Visit the Smithsonian Museum, watch animals on the San Diego Zoo live cams, or join a yoga class. The options are endless and whatever your preferences are, you will find something on this list that will be fun and expand your horizons:
Table of Contents
- Activities To Engage Minds
- 1. Go To the Museum (Virtually!)
- 2. Visit the San Diego Zoo
- 3. Explore the Most Beautiful National Parks
- 4. Watch Documentary Series
- 5. Learn to Draw
- 6. Stir Curiosity With TED Talks
- 7. Learn College Level Programming
- 8. Organize Family Book Nights
- 9. Set Up A Family Theater
- 10. Learn About Space with NASA
- 11. Start a Mindfulness Meditation Journey
- 12. bCook Together
- 13. Family Unplugged Discussions Challenge
- 14. Create entries in a Quarantine Diary
- 15. Write Letters to Others
- 16. Create Solidarity Baskets for Your Neighborhood
- Activities To Engage Bodies
- A Word About Teens and Tweens
Activities To Engage Minds
The following activities stimulate creativity, help explore various interests, build skills, teach, encourage self-reflection or inspire discussion.
1. Go To the Museum (Virtually!)
Google Arts and Culture has partnered with the most famous museums and galleries across the world to give you a chance to explore from the comfort of your home.
After “visiting” a few museums you can discuss them together, have them do a presentation or write a short essay on the museum highlights.
2. Visit the San Diego Zoo
San Diego Zoo is one of the most beautiful zoos in the world. Since it is currently closed, it allows all the animal lovers to watch their favorite animals via live cams! The research can follow the observation.
For example, you can create a spreadsheet to register the animal characteristics and capture useful information: their origin, species, appearance, etc.
(A part of the list of animals to watch from San Diego Zoo via Live Cams)
3. Explore the Most Beautiful National Parks
Google Arts and Culture’s The Hidden Worlds of National Park allows you the opportunity to explore the most beautiful national parks in Hawaii, New Mexico, Alaska, Florida, and Utah. The tours are virtual and have an audio guide!
4. Watch Documentary Series
There are plenty of interesting documentaries on a wide variety of topics for all ages. Pick the series that address the topics your student or the entire family loves learning about.
After each episode, you can get together and capture the episode’s key points (and practice note-taking and summarizing!)
(Documentary series World War II in Colour with real footage of most dramatic moments, available on Netflix – https://www.netflix.com/rs/title/70254851)
5. Learn to Draw
You only need a piece of paper and coloring pencils to get started. Browse YouTube to find the videos of characters or motives your children would like to draw.
Here is a good one of step by step instructions for drawing Dora the Explorer, one of more than 50 Disney characters (drawn by the Disney character artists!), a 3-D hole, a girl, a flower or a realistic image of a dog!
Whatever they think of drawing, they are likely to find it online.
(Disney Parks YouTube Channel video on How to draw Minnie Mouse)
6. Stir Curiosity With TED Talks
Engaging influencers, scholars, explorers, entrepreneurs, and many other magnificent speakers share their stories on TED Talks.
Depending on the age and interest of your children, you can browse through more than 3300 talks to find the ones that will grasp their attention and spark new ways of thinking.
7. Learn College Level Programming
The University of Pennsylvania through the Coursera learning platform offers a Robotics specialization. This is a chance for all the students who are interested in a career in robotics.
The courses require 7 hours of learning per week. Students can learn on their own and communicate with other students on moderated Coursera forums, and they can also get their friends to join with them and learn together.
8. Organize Family Book Nights
Pick a time-slot in your week to schedule a book night for each family member to talk about their favorite book. If you have a similar taste for books, maybe you can start a Quarantine Book Challenge and set a goal to read one book a week that you can discuss during family book nights.
This is a great chance to distance from the screens and connect.
9. Set Up A Family Theater
A creative journey of playwriting and acting for the entire family! It’s really up to you what kind of story you would like to tell. Consult WikiHow’s steps on How to write a Play Script.
Depending on the age of your children, you can do a puppet show or take roles as the actors in the play. Once you are ready, you can record a show or live-stream it with your family and friends on the call. Sounds fun!
10. Learn About Space with NASA
NASA’s Glenn Research Center offers virtual tours through its facilities. Learn about the science that shapes our understanding of space.
After watching the tours, you can continue to explore NASA’s website and learn about the missions, watch NASA TV, check out the gallery to see the Image(s) of the Day, learn about humans in space and so much more!
11. Start a Mindfulness Meditation Journey
The benefits of mindfulness meditation are many. This practice is especially useful for you and your tweens/teens during the time of the crisis. Observing the feelings from the inside, focus on the breath, cultivate patience and understanding, and reduce anxiety. There are plenty of online resources and apps you can use.
12. bCook Together
Cooking is an important life skill and can be such a fun activity for the entire family. Help your teen create a list of meals or desserts they would like to make or eat.
You can share your cooking experience with family and friends online (cook or eat together) or encourage your teen to ask their friends to join them while cooking.
13. Family Unplugged Discussions Challenge
Come up together with a list of questions or topics for discussion and set a goal to spend one hour each day off of all electronics to talk about one that you randomly select. This is a great bonding activity and it can be as fun as you make it.
Here are a few ideas for the questions or topics for inspiration:
- If you could have a conversation with anyone in history, who would it be?
- What is a perfect vacation for you?
- What is your attitude towards gaming, and why?
- Your Favorite Instagram Accounts.
- Favorite music performers and favorite songs.
- What are the things that best describe you or this family?
- If you could change one thing about yourself, what would you change?
- If you could visit any place on the planet, what place would you visit?
14. Create entries in a Quarantine Diary
Your children may be experiencing thoughts and emotions they are not willing to communicate to you. Introduce the idea of a quarantine diary, their personal creative outlet.
The idea is to cultivate the practice of reflecting on their own mental processes and, if possible, put them into words. It is important to give them a binding promise that you will not read what is in it unless they decide to share.
The diary can be relatively unstructured or it can invite reflection upon some of the following questions such as:
- How do I feel today?
- What am I grateful for today?
- What has been challenging today?
- What have I enjoyed doing today?
- What have I struggled with today?
Quarantine In Pictures Family Project
What if you captured the best and the worst moments of everyday life in quarantine? You can compile the photos you can edit and add descriptions to the photos together.
If you would like to encourage others (family or friends) to join you, share the idea and agree on the date of the “exhibition”.
15. Write Letters to Others
This period of isolation can be a powerful reminder of how much we care about and need the people who are our family, friends, neighbors, teachers, mentors, coaches, etc.
Discuss with your tween/teen who they would like to reconnect with. Who would they like to express gratitude to or tell how much they miss them? Or re-tell a funny story?
Writing letters may sound outdated to kids of the modern age, but during this time it can add a gentle personal touch.
16. Create Solidarity Baskets for Your Neighborhood
This is a creative way to engage our minds and hearts in helping those who do not have enough. The idea comes from Naples, Italy, where people lowered baskets from their balconies to offer food for those who do not have enough (see the picture below).
It’s important to engage our hearts, along with our minds – and this is one of the gentle ways to do so. Make a simple basket, hang a sign that says: “If you can, put something in. If you can’t, take something out.” (You can be creative with the wording).
Add some food or products for personal hygiene. Let your neighbors know about the initiative. Put the basket wherever the biggest number of people in need can reach it.
(Image and excerpt from the Yahoo News Article – In Naples, ‘solidarity’ food baskets abound as pandemic bites )
Activities To Engage Bodies
The following activities are examples of how tweens and teens can get physically active during self-quarantine.
17. Just Dance
You can play some good music and just dance, or – dance with the app Just Dance! You can create choreographies and dance together.
The app allows you to compete while dancing too! It’s a great way to laugh, spend family time, and get some exercise at home.
18. Dutch Tape Hopscotch
Your living room can be the new playground. Make the pattern of rectangles out of dutch tape and use bottle caps as the object to toss into the numbered fields. Jump and compete together.
Though your tween or teen may feel “too cool” for this, having younger kids join or joining the game as adults may draw them into having fun!
19. Zombies, Run!
If just running or jogging isn’t fun for your tween/teen, they may want to try the Zombies, Run! app out. A runner chooses their mission to get away from the zombies that are trying to catch up with them.
For some, this may be too scary in the times of COVID-19. For others – it will be the right kind of fun!
20. Virtual Running Tours
If your tween/teen is really into running, here is a page with a few very special challenges. The Conqueror Virtual Fitness Challenges allow you to experience some of the most impressive parts of the world while running!
21. Walk with Pokemon Go
This game is the global gaming sensation that has been downloaded over 1 billion times. For those hesitant walkers, but passionate gamers – this is the app to get them out of the house and hiking!
The game is more fun when you can share it with others. Join your teen in this game as you walk together.
22. Assign Chores
Though your tween/teen may not be too enthusiastic about dusting, vacuuming, taking out the garbage, cleaning their room, the basement or the garage – still, these can all be ways to get them to move.
23. Research Fun YouTube Workout Videos
Encourage your tween/teen to find the workout videos they feel are fun. There are many interesting YouTube channels to browse from.
24. Find or Create a Fitness Challenge
Most apps and fitness platforms offer some kind of workout challenge. However, you don’t have to follow what’s out there. Instead, create your own challenge. You can customize it so that it fits your workout preferences.
25. Do Yoga!
Yoga is good for the mind and the body. Channels like Yoga with Adriene offer free videos that parents can use with their teenage children.
If you are interested in more kid-friendly yoga your tween or teen can do with younger siblings, check out Cosmic Kids where you can find free videos with practices inspired by movies like Frozen, Moana, or the Wizard of Oz!
26. Some Backyard Fun!
When the weather is nice, yard work is a great way to get family to spend more time outside. Paint a backyard fence, mow the lawn or plant the flowers.
You can pick a DIY project to work on together in the yard. For example, you can make a birdhouse, a doghouse, a wooden bench, a planter box, or a plant stand.
A Word About Teens and Tweens
Engaging tweens and teens can be especially challenging in this period.
Being away from friends, their regular school routine and extracurriculars, most teens struggle to structure their day and self-entertain. Their choices of activities in a day fall primarily into the category of “instant entertainment” – social media, binge-watching TV shows or gaming.
On the other hand, most parents will see these choices not only as unproductive but damaging.
They find themselves torn between setting boundaries and letting these behaviors slide, as there are not that many activities to offer as an alternative.
The purpose of this article has been to offer alternatives.
Specifically, to offer the resources to activities that can engage mind and bodies, that tweens/teens can do on their own or with their friends or family.
Share them with your tweens/teens.
Ask them to pick a few they would like to try on their own or with you.
Or, you can be the one to pick the activity and invite them to join you in it.
This list is not here to impose solutions to boredom.
Do not look at it as a list of tasks to complete by the end of the crisis.
This can be a list to get you started on your own brainstorming.
Have fun with it. Explore and discover what your tween/teen finds engaging.
We hope that you like the list and that you will add to it with your own ideas.
Share it with the people you know. Connect to find more inspiration.
Before you go, just a few more reminders:
- Be patient with each other. These are challenging times for everyone.
- Give your tween/teen privacy and alone-time. It’s okay not to want to spend most of their time with parents.
- Be understanding of their emotions. We all react differently.
And also, parents:
- Take care of yourselves! Give yourself the time and space to process your own thoughts and emotions, to relax and recharge.
Remember, you cannot pour from an empty vessel.
Employ your creativity and embrace the freedom of exploration. There is plenty of fun that can be discovered during this period at home – we just have to stay curious about finding it.