Category Archives: COVID-19 activities for children

Family Staycations During Social Distancing

May 30 – June 2

Whether vacation plans for the summer were cancelled by quarantine, or a family vacation was never in the budget to begin with, it’s still important to set aside a time to to exchange the same old routine for some fun and relaxation.

Every vacation takes planning. A staycation is no different. If you can’t get away this summer, or even if you can but quarantine has you in the doldrums for now: it’s time to plan a staycation. If you have a child with developmental differences, you may want to prepare for these changes with social stories or visual schedules, since changing a routine in a familiar setting may be especially confusing without some preparation.

Begin by finding out what’s important about vacation to your family. A change of scene? A change in routine? Freedom from daily chores and meal planning? Make a list with your family and start thinking about how you can create opportunities at home. Read more about planning a staycation for your family.

Engage your children as much as possible in these activities for physically transforming your home into a vacation destination. For example, do your folding with the kids a few days in advance and set the towels and napkins aside until the vacation begins. And remember, if it feels too much like work, it’s NOT a staycation. If it’s fun, fold a towel like a swan. But it could feel just as special to roll your towels up and put them in a basket.

An Inn in Your Home. If the novelty of sleeping in a new place is a named as a reason your family loves vacation, make your home extra, extra special for a week. Kids might find that rearranging their bedrooms gives them a feeling of waking up in a new space. Or would they like to sleep in a different room? Maybe swap rooms with a sibling, or sleep in a cardboard “fort” (see May 27 post). Turn your bathroom into a hotel bathroom with flowers, guest soaps, and specially folded towels. And don’t forget to fold that little triangle at the end of your toilet paper roll!

Dining Out Dining In. Probably dining out will be mentioned as a favorite vacation experience. It may be that it works for your family to visit some local restaurants. If so, to create the novelty of vacation, try some restaurants you haven’t been to before. But if weather, budget, or health concerns mean you prefer to eat at home, you can still make it new. This article on turning your dining room into a restaurant offers some great ideas. Here are a few more:

  • Rearrange your eating area or move it to another part of the house.
  • Fold your napkins like the pros. Here are a video and a set of written step-by step instructions with photos.
  • Change up your place setting.
  • And try some recipes you’ve never prepared before, or order from a new restaurant.

Backyard Destinations. Of course, there’s more to vacation than sleeping and eating. There is. Really! Mini golf is usually a vacation favorite, so why not set up a golf course in your backyard? You can make it as simple or complicated as you want. This video tells how to make a hole with a cardboard box and a cup, but you can also dig tin cans into the ground. Put some big toys near your holes to create a theme. No clubs and golf balls? Improvise with sticks and small balls. After a few rounds of golf, you’ll be hot, so you might want to visit a water park next.

What’s your favorite destination? Try entering the destination with the phrase “Turn your backyard into a …” or “turn your house into a …” Some hits will be off topic, but you’ll get some cool ideas, too. Next week-end, we’ll share some day trips that are open in Central Virginia.

Forts, Shelters, and Cardboard Cities

May 27-29

What could say constructive, creative out-of-school time better than cardboard and sofa cushions? Such simple materials can absorb a child’s attention for hours. And older children (adults too) can get just as caught up in constructive play if you exchange the cardboard and cushions for sticks and branches.

How Do You Build a Fort? Describes 7 types of forts, from something as simple as a sofa cushion fort, to a tree house contraption that could rival a treetop adventure park.

Cardboard constructions of all kinds, by no means just forts, are featured in a playideas.com blog on cardboard forts. Cars, castles, entire cities are included. Preschoolers are featured on the blog but really these constructions could be appropriate for any age, especially if incorporated into a theater activity.


As our attention shifts from lost school and after school time to the summer programs many children will be missing, it’s a good idea to be thinking about awesome outdoors activities.

There is no one, no one, too old for stick forts and shelters. I’ve seen an entire middle school art curriculum built (pun intended) around stick shelters, and adults use them for survival shelters. The can be built like giant Lincoln Log houses. They can be built with long branches and leaves. Make sure you and your children can identify poison ivy and other poisonous foliage in your yard, and be alert for insects and snakes.

Celebrating Memorial Day During the Pandemic

How will you spend Memorial Day Week-end with pools and parks closed, and social distancing guidelines still in place? A Texas website has a blog post on this question. Most of the suggestions work anywhere, but a few are specific to Texas, so if you’re looking to safely get out of the house here in Charlottesville/Albemarle, The Rivanna Trails , Claudius Crozet Park and Ivy Creek Natural Area grounds are among just a few local natural areas reopening. George Washington and Jefferson are opening some trail-heads today. If you do go out, plan for restrooms and other facilities, such as play areas to be closed.


Whether you visit a natural area or observe Memorial Day at home, Monday will be a beautiful day for a picnic. But it will be an even better day with farm fresh strawberries! Read about how local pick-your-own farms are adapting to social distancing. Due to the limited number of people allowed in farms at a time, it’s a good idea to check on the best time to arrive. You may also be interested in learning about curbside sales.


So what are you going to do with all those strawberries? You might try some of these kid friendly treats such as homemade fruit roll-ups and strawberry oatmeal bars.


Once you’ve acquired a taste for fresh strawberries, you’ll be pleased to know how easy they are to grow at home in containers. And even better news: there are varieties of strawberries that you can grow from spring into early fall. You’ll get the highest yield in a short time with June-bearing strawberries (they begin producing in May in Central Virginia.) Other varieties will keep you nibbling for months. Check with area garden stores about safe pick-ups for June-bearing, everbearing, and day-neutral strawberry plants.

Social Distancing Butterflies

May 18-19

Use materials from around the house to make a butterfly feeder. It might attract hummingbirds as well, although for hummingbirds you may need to position it differently. Craft foam is listed in the materials for the project, but we made ours without any. Use what you have on hand. That makes it YOUR project.

You’ll want to know who’s visiting your feeder, so try some of these identification activities, including the butterfly scavenger hunt.

All the butterflies you’ve been observing could serve as inspiration for some gorgeous art work. This Pinterest board is filled with butterfly themed arts and crafts activities suited to all ages.

Gifts Children Can Make at Home

April 6-7

Bath Bombs. This is just so cool. Make bath bombs with household ingredients. Be creative about using items you have on hand if you can’t find the decorative silicon ice trays.

Pipe Cleaner and Yarn Trivets. Making these lovely trivets or coasters is a simple activity, but these instructions do require a glue gun. Try craft glue, tacky glue, or paste glue if you don’t have a glue gun and/or an adult to supervise.

Once you’ve made your gifts, you’ll need a card. Wouldn’t a pop-up card be especially fun?

And you’ll need some wrapping paper of course. You can make that with supplies on-hand. These instructions call for a sea sponge, but experiment with other materials.

Every great celebration involves food. Here’s a Fruit Salad that could be a side dish or a dessert. It’s a light, simple dish a child can prepare, with or without assistance depending on age and ability. Consider substituting low fat yogurt for the sour cream and/or pudding.

Field Trips in Quarantine

May 4-5 Aquaria

(That’s the plural of aquarium not an astrological sign, in case you weren’t sure.)

As you may have heard by now, the penguins are taking field trips in aquaria (that’s the plural of aquarium. I just said that, right?) Join them on their tour of The Florida Aquarium.

Staff at The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores are working incredibly hard to keep young people engaged in learning about marine life during the pandemic with activities and an animal of the day. They even have a virtual bookshelf.

Now you know enough to make your own aquarium, and you don’t even need live animals to do it. Check out this Pinterest Board to get some ideas for making an aquarium diorama. Maybe you’ll want to make two aquariums. No wait, that’s aquaria.

Activities During Quarantine: Printmaking and Foil Art

May 2-3

This promises to be a very lovely weekend, so get outside to collect some natural materials for these captivating art works.

Foil Art. Instructions for this activity suggest drawing with glue. The effect is marvelous, but here’s a suggestion: gather some natural objects and glue them under the cardboard as well.

Sun Prints. You may have seen commercially available paper for sun prints, but did you know you can make them if you have acrylic paints and a few other supplies?

We like to start every month with a gallery crawl. Visit the National Gallery print collections online to see some examples of beautiful prints through the centuries and from all over the world.

Quarantine Activities: National Poetry Month

April 30- May 1

The end of National Poetry Month is not an end at all. It’s the beginning of a new year of exploring the many gifts reading and writing poetry can bring into our lives. So we end April and move into May with a few ideas to keep you reading and writing throughout the year.

Blackout Poetry is a type of “found poetry” that involves darkening sections of previously published writing in order to create a poem. While this type of poetry often involves the use of black markers, it can be particularly creative and exciting to use colored media to create a visual artwork that interacts with the written words. We’ve linked a Scholastic article that takes this process step-by-step to lead you into creating beautiful works of written and visual art. The artwork feature today is all offered with permission from Stacy Antoville, the art teacher cited in this article. For more exquisite student art, follow her class on Instagram @art_o_ville.


We want you to get up and moving every day during quarantine, so here’s an activity to incorporate with a daily walk. Grab a pen or pencil and notepad, or if you prefer use a notepad app. Take a walk, preferably a good long one. Write down at least 5 things you see, 3 things you do, and 1 thing you overhear. Draw a quick sketch of one thing you see. You may or may not actually decide to use this in a poem later. The point is to notice details. (Adapted from an activity offered by Erika Meitner, VQR Writers’ Conference, 2019).


There are numerous audio and downloadable poetry books at the Jefferson Madison Regional Library. Temporary library cards are available online during quarantine.


Our director, Mary Anna Dunn, will be offering an online poetry class through Charlottesville Parks and Recreation’s Adaptive Recreation Program later this summer. Details TBA.

Enrichment During Home Quarantine

April 28-29 Big Just Got Bigger

Grow Gummy Giants. Well, this certainly changes the meaning of “growing your own food.” All you need are your favorite gummies, glasses of clear water, and a spoon. For a similar experiment and other activities to try at home find a copy of The 101 Coolest Simple Science Experiments ( Rachel Miller, Holly Homer, and Jamie Harrington.  Page Street Publishers, 2016).

A Growing Girl. Speaking of growing out of control, that certainly was a problem for Alice. When she wasn’t growing smaller and smaller that is. You may have seen a movie or cartoon version, but have you ever sat down and read or listened to the book itself? As the saying goes, the book was better than the movie so chose your favorite device and enjoy:

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, audible. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, eBook.

Now Streeeeeeeeeeeeeeeetch. You may not get as tall as Alice, but still it’s a great idea to stretch those muscles, especially if you’ve been schooling online all day! Try these Simple Stretches or Wheelchair Yoga.

Enrichment Activities for Home Quarantine

April 25-27 Theme and Adventure Parks

Like Adventure Parks? This very cool activity from the Adventure Park at Virginia Beach will show you how to design your own adventure park.

How about a theme park? You can get some great ideas to get you started on creating your own theme park from Pinterest . Use what you have in your house and your own imagination to build a magnificent park.

Of course, every theme park has to have lots of roller coasters.