Ideas for Entertaining Small Children During Isolation

How to Keep Everyone Sane During Quarantine

a child playing with colorful clay

As a mom to a very active almost 4 year old boy, I’ll admit the idea of quarantine for weeks at a time has me stressed. If you have a young  child, changing schedules so drastically can throw them off and keeping them busy and regulated during isolation is not an easy job. This is especially true if you’re still tasked with doing your real job from home. I’ve compiled a comprehensive list of different activities and tips to keep everyone sane and happy during these unique times. 

To put things into perspective, remind yourself, humanity has survived worse. Older generations have lived through war time rations, other epidemics that didn’t have the luxury of modern science to address, and natural disasters, all without Amazon Prime, internet, tablets, or even TV. We are blessed to live in a time with so many conveniences to support us through this. 

Mother, father, son and daughter gathered hugging in kitchen
Stop to take a moment to focus on the gratitude for this extra quality time with your family during the Covid-19 Isolation.

Focus on Gratitude

In challenging Moments Slow Down and Be Grateful

No matter how busy we try to keep our kids and ourselves, things will feel overwhelming at times. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed, acknowledge the fear and stress you feel, pause and take some deep breaths, and put some pressure on your breast bone, with your own hands or through a hug- this helps reduce your body’s fight or flight response to stress. Now remind yourself in the fast paced world we live in we are blessed to have this time to truly connect with our families. With many homes having two working parents, utilizing daycare and preschool, and fitting in extracurriculars for everyone- we have much less quality time together as families. Yes we’re used to the fast pace, and it helps distract us by being busy all the time, we’re practically addicted to being busy in today's society. Take this gift from the universe to slow down. Appreciate your family. One day we will look back at this time and hopefully remember the fun antics we shared as a family. 

Image Courtesy of Katie Greer 

Stick to Routine

Kids Thrive on Routine Especially When They are Anxious

You may have seen some routine templates floating online, if they work for you great, if they don’t, make your own. Children thrive on routine, especially when anxious or during big changes, it helps them feel less powerless because they know what’s coming next. If you know your child’s preschool or daycare routines, like when they nap, snack, and play, try to loosely stick to it! 

Whatever your routine try to:

  • Eat meals at the same time each day, together as a family
  • Get moving inside or outside
  • Engage their brains
  • Provide down time
  • Put them to work around the house
  • Stick with a consistent bedtime 

Isolation doesn’t mean our grooming habits are out the window either, stick with your usual teeth brushing and bath time routines, and try to get out of your PJs everyday. 

two young girls playing in leaves
Get outside for fresh air and movement each day while in isolation

Get Outside / Get Moving

Fresh Air + Social Distancing= Sanity

Yes I know we need to isolate, if you’re lucky enough to have a yard or a deck, you’re set. If you’re in a busy city, if you’re not officially quarantined from exposure or in total mandated lock down, a safe walk keeping a distance from others will make a world of difference. If you’re able you can even take a drive for a change of scenery, take a dog for a walk, head to some isolated nature and take a hike. If outside time is simply not an option, fresh air from open windows and some vigorous movement will do. You can find great kids exercise or yoga classes online, set up an indoor obstacle course, or encourage some heavy labor- as simple as carrying a “heavy” (to them) bag or box across the room. Perhaps the funnest option is impromptu dance parties throughout the day!

When my son is wound up in the bitter winter, my husband and I sit at opposite ends of the room with a pillow and my son runs back and forth between us. Sometimes we add a thinking game to it, like each turn we name a food or vehicle that starts with a letter A through Z.

For those with their own outdoor space, get your kids moving in fresh air, if it’s still chilly bundle up, as long as it’s not below freezing, even 15-20 minutes of fresh air will help. 

  • Take a nature hike Grab a special bag or box,  let your child decorate it, and take your time to let your child explore nature. Let them gather rocks and leaves, inspect bugs, and play in the mud. 
  • Bubble Play If you’re out of supplies you can make your own!
  • Obstacle Course (Inside or out) Test them for feats of strength or speed. It doesn’t need to be complicated but any series of tasks- run to the fence, hop over the rock, spin around 3Xs, etc, all counts. Encourage them to try over and over to beat their time.
  • Chalk Drawing If you have sidewalk chalk, encourage some outside art time in the sun. For extra fun a bucket of soap and water or hose to clean it up can be a fun game too. 
  • Gardening If you already have a garden have your littles ones help water it and check on it. If you don’t have food plants even watering whatever plants are around counts!

You can find all kinds of creative outdoor activities from Tinkergarten!

boy with hands and face covered in rainbow paint
Get their creative juices flowing to break up your day while in isolation

Be Creative

There are so many ways to create even with very little supplies

Try to keep their creative juices flowing! From coloring to building to imaginary play, exercise the creative sides of their brains. We’re a big building family- LEGOS, Magnatiles, and wooden blocks. But even if you don’t have those on hand, you can build with cups, boxes, or all that toilet paper you stockpiled. There are so many great DIY kits available for kids as well, and many allow you to purchase one-off kits without the subscription. We just ordered Kiwi Crates and had loads of fun building and playing with the medieval set. You can order craft kits or building kits from Target and Amazon as well. Make a “volcano” with some baking soda and vinegar. Bring some messy play or paints into the bath for extra messy fun with easy clean up. Play with or make some homemade playdough!

Here are some great subscription boxes for kids:

Other DIY Creative Ideas:

  • Build a fort with pillows and blankets
  • Don’t touch the lava with pillows on the floor
  • Homemade puppet show
  • Paper plate art
  • Family mural (on paper or boxes)
  • Toilet paper/ Paper towel tube creations
  • “Magic” shows
  • Domino courses (if you don’t have any on hand, blocks or households objects work too)
  • Make different sensory or theme boxes for them to play with independently
child looking down reading book
The brain is a muscle and your little one needs to exercise it each day while in isolation.

Daily Learning Activities

If you’re not cyber-learning or without worksheets and lesson plans your kids can still learn

The brain is a muscle, even for younger pre-K kids, we need to keep working this muscle. If your child is resistant, don’t push too hard, or they’ll resist harder, or try to make it fun! Digital apps and screens can make learning more enticing. Or simple flash card activities, measuring things around the house, counting objects, naming the first letter of objects, puzzles, and plenty of reading keep their brains busy. Try some simple science experiments, encourage water play in the bath or sink, or “play school” letting the kids be the teachers. Let them practice writing letters, and make it more fun by switching up the medium, draw letters in sand or soap, trace on windows and in books or wherever you see letters around you on boxes and containers. 

Great Online Learning resources:

Even just 30 minutes to an hour a day of some learning will keep that muscle busy!

Play, play, play! Young children learn through play, whether through sets and figures or games- get them playing everyday.

Other Activities

From chores to Independent Play

Even with all of these suggestions there are many hours left in the day to fill! 

Chores Even the littlest ones can help with some chores. “Washing” dishes in the sink, loading and unloading the dishwasher, setting the table, helping with vacuuming, helping fold or put away clothes, or my son’s favorite-dusting! Empower them to feel like big kid helpers with the simplest of tasks. Don’t worry about them doing it perfectly and avoid correcting them too much as they help. 

Quiet Time / Rest Time These slower activities are important especially when kids drop their last nap. Find a quiet dim area to slow down. Read them a few books, or let them explore an engaging flap book on their own. Provide some dolls or blocks for simple playtime. Listen to audiobooks for kids. (Audible is offering free kids books now! Epic is good as well.) Make a shadow puppet show. Snuggle up. While “TV” isn’t supposed to count for quiet time, it won’t hurt to snuggle for an hour and watch some calm shows like Daniel Tiger or Sesame Street. 

Screen Time Speaking of TV time, don’t beat yourself up if you exceed the recommended limits during these unique times. Hopefully with all these ideas they will have plenty to do besides watch a screen, but if they plop down for a Disney+ marathon or Netflix binge, it’s okay too. In fact it may help your sanity if you encourage at least 1 hour of screen time a day, so you can check in or unwind for a bit yourself. 

Independent Play Make sure they get some time to play alone when you are not actively engaging in their play. Again some blocks or action figures, Hot Wheels or Barbies can fill this time and give you a much needed break to cook a meal, do some chores or decompress from a day of engaging the kiddos. 

Games! Age appropriate board games, card games, physical games- play all the games! From Chutes and Ladders to Charades to Pictionary. You can even encourage your kids to make up their own games. Or to get them moving, some hide and seek, duck, duck, goose, or chase works too! Try to spend the time after dinner doing Game Night to wind the day down. 

Cooking Whether they help with making simple snacks, cleaning the veggies for salads, or get their hands dirty helping you bake, it’s a great real world learning experience for kiddos. 

Music Time! Make it, listen to it, dance to it. Make your own instruments, put on a concert, or parade, do karaoke, have a dance off, or simply relax to your favorite tunes. Add some music to every day. 

Connect Digitally with Loved Ones Whether it’s Facetime, or good old fashioned phone calls, let your kids connect with extended family they are isolated from, or perhaps even a brief virtual playdate with their BFF. Let them share their day and see some friendly faces besides mom and dad. It’s also a good time to check in on the most susceptible population, the elderly, making sure grandparents, aunts and uncles are safe and have what they need. 

Image Courtesy of

Talking to Your Kids About COVID-19

It’s important not to display any anxiety or concerns you may be feeling towards your kids, but to also provide open dialogue for any of their questions or concerns. 

  • Remind them they are safe, especially in isolation, and you and amazing doctors (if needed) will take care of them. 
  • Model healthy habits. Make a song or game for washing hands often, model covering coughs and sneezes, keep it silly and light and playful.
  • Answer their questions, if you have older kids ask what they’ve heard to dispel any inaccuracies. 

Find a balance of helping them feel safe and keeping them mindful of other’s safety. 

mother, father and daughter
Remember to enjoy this extra quality time with your family!

You Can Do This!

We will come out of this closer and stronger

This deeper connection is needed in our ever too busy lifestyles, and can foster and develop some amazing new connections and skills for your little one. Families lived much more isolated lives for centuries, we have lost the connections those families once had. Soon things will go back to normal and we can distract ourselves with all of our regular to dos, this won’t last forever. Take each day one at a time, hour by hour, moment by moment, and do what works best for you and your family.

Lani Redinger

Lani Redinger is a professional writer, editor, and bibliophile from Pittsburgh, PA.
See All Posts >>

You Might Also Like...