If you’re self-isolating, working from home without childcare, and trying to stay on top of your kids’ schoolwork, you might be ready to pull out your hair.
Though it can be frustrating to keep kids occupied while you work, there are many ways to turn this time into a fun, rewarding experience for the entire household.
How to Homeschool During Self-Isolation (While You’re Working From Home!)
Working from home and homeschooling might seem impossible, especially if both parents are working without childcare.
With or without an Au Pair, these tactics will have your colleagues wondering how you stay so productive under these circumstances. (And no, it’s not through an “electronic babysitter”!)
Plan quiet educational activities for kids ages 2-4
Educational activities are probably on the forefront of your mind. No child is going to sit still and do reading, writing, and math assignments without you standing over them.
It’s still important for your kids to do the assignments their teachers have sent them. But while you’re working, try giving your kids some activities that don’t require lots of oversight from you, but which still have educational components.
These activities teach ABCs, counting, critical thinking, hand-eye coordination, and more:
- Count how many red items there are in the house
- Build an animal out of legos
- Look out the window or sit on the front porch & count how many birds land in the yard
- Find things in the house that rhyme with “cat”
- Go around the house and find things that start with each letter of the alphabet
- Build a road & city out of blocks, then drive toy cars over it
- Draw a picture and have your child color it in (or give them a coloring book)
- Let kids cut out pictures with kid scissors (if you can supervise)
- Check out these 10 educational activities for toddlers
Math & literacy activities
Toddler learning activities (cheap supplies)
Try these educational games for kids ages 5-10 (minimal supervision)
Board games are a great way to keep kids occupied. They can also facilitate family bonding, good sportsmanship, sharing, and teamwork.
Here are some board games that are both educational and fun (sssh… don’t tell the kids).
- Scrabble Junior (Spelling)
- Uno (Numbers)
- Spot It! (Sight words)
- Great States Jr (Geography)
- In a Pickle (Critical Thinking)
- Once Upon a Time (Vocabulary)
- Mystery Matter Chemistry Kit (Science)
- Blokus (Math)
- Rummikub (Numbers)
Your kids won’t even realize you staged these free play activities.
After your kids go to sleep tonight, or before they wake up in the morning, go around the house and stage some free play areas. Your kids will naturally be drawn to these, and they won’t even realize the games were your idea.
Kids are incredibly creative. One day, I was working from home because my Au Pair was too sick to watch the kids. My 4-year-old played quietly on the floor with his blocks and train tracks.
Before I knew it, he’d built a train track going up a tower of blocks. I had to spend a few minutes helping him figure out how to balance the track, but we got it to work, and he kept himself occupied for hours.
Be sure to set these toys up in a place your kids wouldn’t normally find them. Seeing their toys in a new place will engage their attention and inspire play. Just lay the items out and let your kids imagine what to do next.
Choose one or two of these per day (if you don’t have all of the items, substitute for anything similar you have on hand).
Get kids re-engaged with toys they already have:
- Set out blocks, magnet tiles, race cars, PawPatrol figures or animal toys.
- Get into your kids’ dress-up clothes and lay their costumes out where they can be seen.
- Arrange your child’s favorite books in an interesting pattern on the floor.
- Set out some chalk and bubbles on your porch. Send the kids outside (bundled up if it’s cold).
- Fill a shallow tub with sand or dirt and add some toy tractors, dump trucks, and dinosaurs.
- Build Lego cars and a city for your kids to discover and play with. Doesn’t have to be fancy.
- Place blocks, a castle or buildings, some dinosaur toys, and a train set on the ground and let the kids decide what to do with it.
Use random supplies you already have in your home:
- Stack some Dixie cups into a tower. Place a ball or some larger race cars next to the tower.
- Lay out dolls, cardboard boxes, blankets, doll clothes, and small chairs.
- Layer the living room or dining room floor in bubble wrap. Let the kids loose.
- Leave plastic cookie cutters and kinetic sand or play dough on a kid’s table. (I prefer kinetic sand, less mess).
- If your kids are old enough, blow up a bunch of balloons. Fill a room with them if you can.
- Put a shallow tub of water outside (the bathtub or kitchen floor also work great) with some toy boats and plastic cups. Set some ground rules, and be sure to supervise little ones.
- Grab an empty baby wipe container or Kleenex box. Set it out with some toy coins and pirate treasure. Bonus points if you have pirate costume supplies!
- Give your kids some empty containers, rubber bands, and sticks, and send them outside to make a “forest.”
- Build a ramp out of cardboard or a spare 2×4. Put it on the stairs, strategically place some cars, and you’ll be good for hours.
- Build a blanket fort or bring a large cardboard box inside. Put some electric candles into a tupperware container (if you have little ones, tape the container shut) and place them inside the fort.
Here are some fun indoor activities based on science…
Here’s a hack for you… Have you watched Science Max on YouTube? My kids love this channel. We tried the tin foil boat experiment, filled a shallow bin with water, and the kids played with their tin foil boats in the dining room for hours.
And the best part? My boys don’t see this as “homework” or “science learning.” In their minds, Mom let them watch TV.
Shows like this, which lead to learning activities, can help you limit the amount of time your kids are staring mindlessly at the TV. The more positive screen time you can incorporate, the better.
Here’s some easy science activities, with any luck, will keep your kids occupied for hours.
- Science Max’s Tin Foil Boat experiment
- Build a tower out of Dixie cups and index cards
- Make silly putty out of dish soap and cornstarch
- Magnet Game from Science Kids
- Make Oobleck out of cornstarch, water, and food coloring
- Build a parachute toy
- Germinate seeds your kids can plant this spring
- Experiment with chain reactions (dominoes, etc.)
- Build homemade windmills
- Make a DIY lava lamp (safe for kids, little ones should be supervised)
Include cleaning games to build good habits (and save your sanity)
Many self-isolated parents have reconciled themselves to the mess that will inevitably result in the entire household being cooped up for weeks. But chores can also be a great way to keep the kids occupied.
Especially if you’ve tried some of the activities above, your kids probably have made messes. After each activity, have them try some of these chores.
(It’s important to realize that kids aren’t perfect at chores. They might leave things unfinished. However, it’s important for kids to practice these skills and cultivate lifelong habits… and honestly, it helps ensure that you don’t go 100% insane).
- Try our free printable chore chart. These chores are designed for toddlers, but work great for older kids too. My kids love this chore chart, for some reason picking a chore card makes them want to clean.
- Put some masking tape or painters tape on the kitchen floor in the shape of a square. Have your kids sweep the floor, sweeping their pile into the square.
- If your kids have made a mess with water, have them mop up the mess with a dust mop or towels.
- Give your kids Swiffer feather dusters and assign each of them to a different room of the house.
- Make a game out of cleaning up toys. Put on a kids’ song and challenge the kids to finish picking up one set of toys before the song is over.
- Have kids clean up once an hour, or between each game. Don’t let them dig out a new set of toys until they’ve cleaned up the last activity.
- At a loss as to how to get kids to do chores? Check out our top hacks for getting kids to clean!
Take frequent breaks and incorporate indoor play into your work day.
When you find yourself getting frustrated, it can be a good time to take a break. Unless you have an urgent deadline, take fifteen minutes to spend some special time with your kids.
For five to ten minutes, let your kids choose an activity they want to do with you. Let it be anything, as long as it’s safe. Set a timer, and during that time, give them your full attention.
It may seem like a short amount of time. But even five minutes of your devoted attention shows your children how much you care about them.
After this playtime break is over, your kids are more likely to keep self-occupied… for a while, at least.
Taking a break from work can also help you refocus and kill that to-do list. Try some of the following if you start feeling stir crazy:
- Take a walk around the neighborhood with the kids
- Check out our suggestions for outdoor play activities during self-isolation
- Try some of these indoor exercise ideas to burn off steam
Use online learning games for kids
There are many online learning websites that make education fun for kids. Today, my kids have been on ABC Mouse, in addition to their online school assignments. They’re largely able to do the activities without help, and it keeps them occupied with games that reinforce their ABCs, letter sounds, numbers and counting, math, and learning colors.
- ABC Mouse (30 day free trial available)
- Education.Com (free learning games)
- Adapted Mind (math & reading)
- Adventure Academy (one month free)
More indoor learning activities from Amanda, a seasoned Host Mom and homeschooler.
One of our current Host Moms, Amanda, was kind enough to put together a huge Google Doc with homeschooling activities. She has homeschooled her children for years and has been sharing this with other families.
Check out some of her ideas if you need inspiration!
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