A good friend from my youth, Steven Stay, posted his “365+ ideas of things to do inside that didn’t require screen time” Google Sheet on Facebook. Five summers ago, when his family was living in Qatar, he had to spend a whole summer stuck pretty much exclusively indoors. He made this list of ideas of things to do inside that didn’t require screens, many supplies, or more than five minutes of set up or clean up. He shared this list again now as it seemed appropriate to post at a time like this.
I asked if I could repost it here at remoteworkingfromhome.com. He agreed and noted he wrote a piece for dohanews.co (now offline) which I am reposting here (with minor edits). Thanks Steve! –Joshua McNary, Host of remoteworkingfromhome.com
If you’re like me, you find it emotionally and mentally draining to think of something new to do every five minutes when your kids’ attention span runs out yet again.
So try this as your first summer activity: In each room of your house, look at each object in every cupboard and on every shelf and ask yourself, “What could the kids and I do with this that would keep us genuinely entertained for just five minutes?”
Then write all your answers on a numbered list. Then, when anyone needs something to do, just pick a random number and do whatever the list says.
Some of the ideas we came up with include smelling spices, doing a treasure hunt and letting the kids be the boss for 15 minutes.
See the list of ideas here, where I’ll be posting a short video about each and every one of the activities I’ve been doing with my kids.
Keep it simple
The key to making these activities work is to not over think them. Those lists of summer ideas people pass around on Pinterest and Facebook all sound delightful, but a lot of them require you to do the activity outside, buy supplies, or make a significant mess. These are all things I don’t want to do.
If you don’t either, then make some rules about what’s allowed on your list. Here are my list’s rules:
- We should already own the necessary supplies;
- We should be able to find them and start the activity in less than a minute;
- If the supplies get used up, they should be inexpensive to replace;
- It shouldn’t take more than a minute to clean up; and
- It shouldn’t make me too tired to stay cheerful until my next chance to rest.
Simple activities don’t have to be dull for you or for your kids.
For example, I like math and science, and my son has come home from kindergarten talking about 3D shapes a few times in the last month (cubes, pyramids, rectangular prisms, etc.).
So when he asked me about some strangely-shaped dice he found in our house a few weeks ago, I grabbed some raisins and toothpicks from the kitchen and taught him the shapes’ names and the patterns that make them.
He still mentions it to me whenever we eat raisins or he sees the dice!
Don’t rely on electronic entertainment
I’m not a Luddite – I love technology, and I love my screen time. However, you can have too much of a good thing, so set a time limit for how much screen time your kids can have, and save those electronic activities for the times when you know you’ll need a break most.
Also, filling your time with the activities on your list will help you avoid eating too much out of sheer boredom.
Let out your inner kid
You can probably remember games, rhymes, songs, and pastimes from your own childhood that your kids have never experienced. Preserve your family and/or national culture by teaching them to your kids.
My parents did this a lot, teaching us all the games they played as kids (Hide and Seek, Tag, Duck Duck Goose, Kick the Can, etc.) and even making up lots of new ones.
Here are a couple of my favorites:
- Mother, May I? is a game in which one person pretends to be Mom standing at one end of a space, and everyone else pretends to be kids at the other side. Each kid’s goal is to reach the Mom first. The kids take turns saying things like, “Mother, may I take three dinosaur steps?” or “Mother, may I do ten bunny hops?” or some other ridiculous mode of locomotion. Then Mom decides whether to say “Yes, you may” or “No, but you may take three alligator crawls,” etc. Take turns being the Mom and be as zany as you can with your ways to move.
- In The Gingerbread Man game, a parent is the baker, and the kids start out rolled up on the floor pretending to be balls of dough. The baker rolls out the dough/kids, shapes them into gingerbread men (with a lot of tickling involved), then throws them in the “oven”(meaning the couch or a bed) to “cook” and pretends to fall asleep nearby. Then the kids try to sneak out of the bakery and run through the house saying – or more likely screaming- the famous line “Run, run, as fast as you can! You can’t catch me! I’m the gingerbread man!” while the baker tries to catch them and put them back in the “oven.”
Share the fun
Chances are you know somebody else spending this summer in Qatar with kids, so work out a babysitting trade – for example, you take the morning, and they take the afternoon, or just take turns spending the day at each other’s house.
The kids will keep each other entertained, and you’ll get the grown-up conversation you so desperately need. You’ll make your friends’ summer better, too.
“But what about cabin fever?” you might be wondering. “We’ve got to go out sometimes!”
Of course you do. I’m not suggesting that you never leave your house, never spend money for entertainment, never go to the mall, or never have another Netflix binge-watching marathon.
I’m just advocating for moderation and providing some alternatives to two solid months of wandering the malls staring at our phones.