Kids’ eyes are glazing over as they try to pay attention online. Teachers try desperately to keep them interested. Whining ensues. Parents try to help with homework, but don’t always know what was assigned. Then, when they find out what was assigned, some are still lost. Multiply this chaos by the number of children you have.
But… help is here. A few years ago I wrote two books about fun activities for families: The Family Funbook: More than 400 Amazing, Amusing, and All-Around Awesome Activities for the Entire Family, and Five Minute Miracles: 373 Quick Daily Projects for You and Your Family to Share (Running Press). I love generating ideas, and here are seven fun and different ways to approach learning—for all ages– while you’re sequestered in your house:
- Make a board game. Yes, you can call it a “bored game” if you like. Just give your kids some poster paper and markers, and let them devise a game. It can be based on what they’re studying in school, what they’re learning in Seminary, or on Family History information. Use a spinner, dice, or cards to move game pieces (they can sculpt these) around the board. Older kids can make it more elaborate with cards that have secret powers or tough questions to answer. Geometry and math come into play as they design the game, spelling is a must, and history facts must be accurate. For those learning a foreign language, they can even make it in that. We learn best when we’re teaching, and as your child explains the game to you, she locks in those chemical symbols or names of battles or famous artists she’s studying. An even simpler version is to make a deck of cards and play “Go Fish” until you have four President Nelsons, four matching temples, etc.
- Make a movie. Let your kids write the script, put together the costumes, pre-record sound effects, rehearse then videotape it, and edit it together. (Or put on a play.) Will there be flubs? Yes, and those bring laughter. Your movie can be about the Pioneers, the French Revolution, the Wild West, Space Exploration, Volcanoes, Ocean Life, whatever. Share it with family. Now watch it in reverse for even more entertainment.
- Start up a Family Newsletter. It can be online, with computer graphics and links your child can include. First, they’ll need to interview relatives, then type up their news story. Photos, drawings, riddles, recipes, new babies—let them include whatever they like. Will this be a monthly publication? Can other families take a turn? This fosters unity and closeness along with teaching dozens of school lessons.
- Compose and perform a song or poem about what you’re learning in school. (What rhymes with Egypt?) Little ones can pound on drums made of boxes, while older ones can strum actual instruments, or hum like a beat box. Who knows—if you post it on YouTube your kid could be the next pop sensation.
- Have a Surprise Supper. Each child must make some kind of food that relates to what they’re learning in school (if only we could always study Baked Alaska. I mean Alaska). At dinnertime everyone else has to guess what subject the food represents. It could be carrot slices served only in Prime Number amounts. It could be a little Ferris Wheel made of pretzels and marshmallows, to represent a wheel of Iron ions which are known as ferrous, a fun science pun. It could be crackers that teach fractions, or a root beer float that teaches ounces and volume. It could even be an hors d’oeuvre, and then everyone tries to spell that. The best ideas will be ones the kids come up with, themselves.
- Another supper idea is to prepare foods from the countries of your heritage, honoring relatives you’ve found searching family history.
- Let the kids host a Family Feud or Jeopardy!-style quiz show. As they make up tough questions, they’ll learn the hard answers themselves. And don’t forget prizes or treats for the winners.
- Play Temple Jenga. Collect cardboard tubes, bits of aluminum foil, wooden block, even pointy ice cream cones. Have them research various temples and choose one to build. Now go around the table and let each person add a piece. Keep going even after you complete the design (if it doesn’t fall first), and see how tall it gets before it falls and you have to start all over. Don’t forget to take pictures!
- Play “Who Said It.” Gather quotes from Church leaders and see if the family can guess who said each one. Remember to let kids be in charge and host whenever possible.
- Make the world’s largest family tree. Okay, maybe not the world’s largest, but it will seem so to your kids. Let them paint your genealogy on a wall, including drawings of various ancestors. You can use the fan shape, an actual tree with limbs, or the graduating grid we often see online. And if you don’t want to devote a wall in your home to this, how about a wall in the garage? Or a giant sheet of particle board that can slide under a bed when necessary? As you work, talk about the importance of family sealings, and why they matter.
Most of these ideas will take hours—even days—of creative energy. Kids learn to cooperate, compromise, and laugh together. But they’ll be learning as they go, and may even discover talents they hadn’t known about before. Yes, we’re all eager for the schools to open up permanently, but in the meantime, let’s “go big and stay home.”
Hilton’s books, humor blog, and Youtube Mom videos can be found on her website. She currently serves as an Inter-Faith Specialist for Church Communications.