When #quarantinelife hit our family, we hit back with #osterhoutacademy and found a fun solution to keeping our two young kids happy, entertained and engaged during the months of lock-down… and beyond! My husband James and I certainly experienced our share of melt-downs, Disney+ filled afternoons and exhaustion, but managed to turn an extremely challenging situation into a creative outlet. Welcome to our creative COVID solution!
Our wild and curious boys, Connor (5) and Harrison (just shy of 3), loved being home with mom and dad but didn’t understand why they had to share us with the corporate world inside our laptop screens. Setting them loose in the playroom ended in fighting, epic messes and bored kids. They needed something to focus on, so I created themed weeks to give the kids something to look forward to. After a few weeks, my oldest was helping come up with ideas and set-ups!
I picked a spot in our home to be the “theme table” for all the projects, books and toys. Then I took inventory of the playroom (we have a never ending stash of sharks, dinosaurs and trucks) and built our themes using what we had on hand.
After some trial and error, it all came down to a fairly simple formula: find a theme that is broad enough to work into these categories: toys/games, books, crafts, food, songs, screen time (yes, I said it…) outdoor activities and some type of school work. I even tried to dress them in theme or incorporate it into bed or bath-time (dinos all get tucked in after naming them and what they eat and duplo blocks are great in the bath!) Oh, and Pinterest is the holy grail.
Here are some themes we loved and a few photos and ideas to inspire you to create your own engaging and fun themed weeks!
Order live caterpillars, ants or ladybugs and watch the life cycle take place. Take to the outdoors and flip over rocks and dig under mulch with a bug catcher. For snack time, make ants on a log.
After creating your own treasure map, talk like a pirate all morning! Then, learn about the parts of a ship and how a compass works, use bread slices and toothpicks to construct a lunch time “treasure chest” to fill with grapes, cheese cubes, goldfish and blueberries! End the day by curling up on the couch to watch Peter Pan!
Watch YouTube videos on how each veggie is harvested then serve that for dinner! Build a corral for your toy animals from sticks and twigs you collect in the yard, and for added fun, create an activity trying to use only animal sounds and to keep them engaged for hours, make a corn kernel, black bean and oatmeal sensory bin.
Things that go
Print up fake plane tickets, set up some chairs and pretend to jetset. Someone can be the pilot or flight attendant and serve up lunch in the sky! Set up an obstacle course for bikes or scooters with cones. Draw a train as far down the sidewalk as you can and decide what to put in ear boxcar.
Under the sea
Grab the boogie boards and snorkels and make your living room a beach, shell sorting, Cosmic yoga under the sea oasis.
Reserve ALL the Dr. Seuss books you can from the library, make green eggs and ham or Cat in the Hat pizza and talk in silly rhymes all day, like “that zink in the sink.” You can even plant a tree for the Lorax.
It’s a jungle out there
Create animal masks then take them with you on a walk and find the local jungles. Play going on a bear hunt, or pick unique animals to learn about like an Okapi or Sloth.
Dress in a set color everyday. Use food dyes to make snacks and meals match, create tie dye, make colored rock candy, teach the color wheel and go on a scavenger hunt to find “warm” or “cool” colors around the house/neighborhood.
Invest in a pancake pen!
A griddle and a squirt can turn the morning into a masterpiece. In a pinch, just use a good ole fashion plastic squirt bottle (some batters are lumpy so you will have to cut open the tip.)
All day everyday. Turn basic hopscotch into part of your theme. Three pumpkins up, Two carrots side by side and an apple at the end (by the way, all hopscotch tracks end in a mandatory dance party in this household.)
Take advantage of the AMAZING staff at our local libraries who will pull your requested book titles and deliver them to your car! Find the best selling lists or ask friends/teachers for suggestions and order them all online.
Consider making a scrapbook of your COVID year with all the unique things you did and learned. Will be a neat piece to share many years down the road when you talk about this historic time in our lives.