Fun Activities For Kids Stuck At Home (with a healthy dose of Sabbath rest)

Time at home with kids? Omgoodness we MUST need something to do!!!

I often think of America as a country of excess.

That has played out in both good and bad ways in times of crisis.

Excess buying of toilet paper – not so attractive.

Excess sharing of encouragement, grace, and activities for homebound families – so well-intentioned and sweet and generous and giving….

But yet already, I think we parents, stuck at home with our kids for the next few weeks or months, are overwhelmed with those good intentions. We almost have too much to do, too many suggestions, and it begins to add to our stress instead of taking it away as was the original intent.

My team and I began the process of collecting ideas from our wonderful homeschooling community starting the first Friday that we were out of school in Michigan. It took me a little while to finish putting together the guide, but within just a few days, I realized it wasn’t even necessary anymore. Parents had plenty to do!

And in fact, in states (unlike Michigan) where school kids are allowed to continue moving forward in their curriculum, parents are already feeling super stressed out and overwhelmed by keeping up with virtual learning.

Children are in tears.

Folks are contemplating throwing laptops across the room in frustration.

Even in this time of “nothing on the schedule,” somehow we Americans still figured out to have too much to do.

My team and I have had some lovely conversations about this in the last few days, and we see a grand opportunity for families to truly slooow down.

So instead of publishing “just” an activities guide (more on that later), let’s talk about the meaning of rest.

What Does it Mean to Rest?

Most if not every religion talks about the importance of rest and connection and taking time to be quiet.

We know that in the Old Testament, the Sabbath, once every seven days, was observed quite strictly with no work. And in most countries practicing Christianity even up to the beginning of the Industrial Age, the Sabbath was still a day focused only on church and family.

No work allowed (and even sometimes, no play!), as my third-graders read with alarm when we studied Little House in the Big Woods so many years ago when I was an elementary school teacher with no children of my own.

In farming, it is helpful for a field to be allowed to go fallow for a season. In other words – have no crops planted on it so that the soil can regenerate its minerals and vitality.

That’s in the Old Testament too, once every seven years. And then once every 50 years was to be a great Jubilee where all debts were repaid, and the people not only celebrated a Sabbath of sorts, but a joyful celebration.

We don’t really do that anymore in America. More and more stores are open on Sundays, and it still startles me to see delivery trucks traipsing through our neighborhood on the Sabbath.

But it’s our new reality.

Americans Need an Opportunity to Rest

We also know that over 80% of doctor’s visits are stress-related. So is it good that we continue to push, rush, schedule, and work every day of the week and every month of the year?

Let’s take this time as an opportunity.

How often have we yearned for rest?

How often have we thought that there’s just too much to do? We feel harried, and we are bone-tired at the end of every day.

How many to-do lists have we made that don’t even get halfway checked off by the time our head hits the pillow?

How many of us have perhaps cried to the heavens – Lord, we beg you, just give us a break!

Parents, this may very well be our break.

As supremely grateful as I am that I’m able to continue running my business from home completely as usual, I envy the at-home moms and those who have actual extra time to spend with their kids. I’m taking some time and choosing to get less done, hence the delay in this attempt at an Activity Guide. But it’s not quite the same feeling of rest, because I’m always conflicted about returning to work.

I heard a local friend share that she wanted to get the hashtag going, #cloisterednotquarantined, to remind us to put a positive spin on all of this.

What an incredible opportunity we have to finally be unscheduled, to cross off or hit delete on every event that used to be on our calendar.

To stop driving children around from practice, to game, to rehearsal.

To stop reading newsletters from all the places about what we need to bring to the next event.

To stop.

To rest.

To connect.

Family Connections are Part of Our Mission

I’ve always loved this picture of Ann and her family all working together to build cooking skills…

Here at Kids Cook Real Food we’ve always been about connection among families.

We’ve always challenged people to slow down as they enter into family dinnertime, to take a moment when they are preparing food to say, “Yes, you may,” when their kids ask for help.

These were previously difficult practices in normal American culture, but now everyone can say, “Yes, you may.”

All the families can slow down and find a little space and time on weekdays and weekends and everything in between to have lunch together, to create new routines of prayer or meditation or giving gratitude, to get in purposeful movement as a family.

To teach their kids to cook, hopefully!

So can we do this, Americans?

Can we answer this awkward call in the midst of crisis to take a Sabbath rest?

Can we crawl out of the 24-hour news notifications and realize the gift we have in front of us to be still?

To be.

I can’t imagine what it’s like to be cloistered nun in a convent and never see my family at all, to have far more restrictions on communication (with anyone but God) than all of us do in this time.

But I do plan to embrace this new cloistering where I only get to see my family, the people whom I love and have chosen to spend my life with — the people whom I truly have given life to. Time with these little souls I am responsible for raising to be healthy, independent adults and also saints in the heavenly realm. Whether that’s your family’s end goal or not, I hope you can find your own inspiration.

Science tells us, and for most of us experience eventually gets to us, that both our bodies and minds need rest.

And now it has been forced upon us.

Don’t fight it, parents.

Busyness is not a trophy. Nor is it a badge of honor to wear emblazoned upon your chest. Busyness is a shackle – a shackle from which we can finally be free!

Choosing One Thing Each Day

When I discovered I would have my children home for a minimum of four weeks including our spring break, I knew that we would need some routine lest we all sleep as long as we wanted and spend all day in our pajamas. Believe me, that would have been our reality without some little bit of organization.

Organization is not my strength and it does not come natural to me. But I happen to have an 11-year-old daughter who loves making charts.

I enlisted her help, and we immediately made some after-meal rotations so that, like at dinner, every breakfast and lunch would end with the table being washed, the food put away, and the dishes cleaned or in the dishwasher. One great result of this is that my eight-year-old learned to wash a pot for the first time the other day!

(Even as a kids cooking teacher, I can’t always squeeze it all in on a “normal” schedule.)

Another chart we made was our daily checklist. I’m not someone who can ever keep to a time schedule, but I do love checklists.

Every day, each person in our family is expected to do about nine things, ranging from the simple – like brushing our teeth,  to the novel – like doing some academic work each day.

daily family chart

On that list is a line item called “The One Thing.” That’s taken from a philosophy in business that a CEO or business person should have one thing chosen that will make the most impact in their business for the quarter, and then break that down into something smaller for the month, smaller yet for the week, and that starting each day, beginning work, that person should have One Thing that they know will move the needle the most and is their top priority for the day.

We’ve explained this to our kids and all six of us choose One Thing, every day, that is our top priority. We share it and then we check in at the end of the day.

This system has not been perfect as sometimes we forget to ask, and sometimes we forget to share. Sometimes mom sets a bad example by not completing The One Thing. 🙁 (Since procrastination is one of my strengths and badges of honor, unfortunately.)

But…it’s been a really simple way to check in, and we’re actually getting better as we get deeper into at-home time.

I challenge you to do the same.

No, you don’t have to make a chart or even explain what The One Thing is to your kids. But when you see these activity guides, get the emails from your children’s teachers and come across “one more amazing opportunity” during this homebound time, how about just One Thing?

One Thing every day that will make this family time special.

And if that’s pulling a board game out from your own dusty cupboard, great!

If it’s watching a movie with popcorn popped in coconut oil on your very own stovetop, awesome!

If it’s getting online and making use of one of the five dozen sites you have had recommended to you by your homeschooling friends, cool!

But let’s make it one thing every day… or maybe zero.

Don’t let fear of missing out get its claws into your brain. It’s not worth it.

All that said, I almost feel guilty about sharing this at all (but not quite – I have had people asking me already when this Activity Guide is going to be finished). And since my team and my amazing community all contributed their time, which I feel is one of our most valuable assets, I am going to quickly list all the overwhelming activities available to you below.

Again, out of respect for the time already put into this guide and with a strong encouragement to just choose one, or skip it all together. Sound like a plan?

SO – just in case you’re bored, here’s the Kids Cook Real Food version of wholesome activities for families to do with kids while they are homebound.

Build Life Skills: Teach Your Kids To Help You Clean and Sanitize The House

Dana White of A Slob Comes Clean has an eBook called Teaching Kids To Clean.

She’s a wonderful resource for all things chores and home organization for moms!

Not Just a Chore: Time to Cook and Bake With Your Kids During Quarantine

Obviously we at Kids Cook Real Food think cooking with the kids should be a “One Thing” goal at least a few times a week, particularly since EATING is going to happen 3-5x/day anyway…so it’s less of finding “one more activity to prevent boredom” and more of making use of the time you’re already spending preparing food.

To support this, we are offering a 2-week trial membership totally risk-free plus $19 for 2 additional months. This is 87% off our normal $149.95 price tag for all 3 levels that doesn’t expire!

This offer is open to anyone, PLUS to help those who might not be receiving a paycheck right now, all new paid members will receive a “Buy One, Give One” membership to give away to a family who needs a little boost right now.

Note: Our payment system limits us, and the only way to get you into the entire membership area for 2 weeks for free is to take payment up front. But we’ve made it super easy to cancel with a huge red button in the membership area, so if you’re all set after the 2 weeks, one click and you’re done. You don’t even have to send an email. 

We’re even doing something we’ve never done before for a free trial — access to our VIP Facebook group, where you can share photos, get tips on ingredient substitutions so you don’t have to go to the store, and connect with other intentional parents. We all need a little more connection right now, so we’re thrilled to invite you into our community during this at-home time.


online cooking class for kids

Here are some other ideas (all free!) to get you in the kitchen making use of your time at home to build life skills:

  • We’re sharing daily videos with quick recipes to make with your kids on our Facebook page.
  • 10 Snacks Your Kids Can Make (make snacks and have a family game or movie night)
  • Have your kids use their stove skills to make stovetop popcorn and eat it during family movie night/day
  • Have kids make potato salad & other picnic foods and have a backyard picnic

We also offer alllll the non-perishable supplies, including spices to make taco seasoning and ranch dressing mix for about a year, in a special box we can ship you right away. Check out our Kids Cook Real Food Packages for info on that! (Get $5 off the smaller package and $15 off the larger one now!!)

Teach Kids Why Good Nutrition Is So Important

Real Food Nutrition for Kids eBookFood Renegade’s eBook: Real Food Nutrition For Kids

This is a great resource for homeschoolers or just a little something to “take back” your schooling during this time. 100% real food, Weston A. Price inspired. 

Meal Plan with the Family

Cooksmarts is offering 20% off memberships through March 25 with the code FRESHENUP20.

They have super family-friendly meals and a lot of support for learning basic cooking skills for adults. 😉 Just in case you’re a little rusty yourself!

Kits to Order to Your House or Create from What You Have

Kiwi Crate

Save 15% off everything with code LEARN on your full KiwiCo subscription and the KiwiCo store! Act fast, this deal lasts until Wednesday, April 8th! OR better yet, looks like there’s a limited time offer of Share30 for 30% off!

Green Kids Crafts

Our kids have enjoyed building these kits in the past! They’re all eco-friendly ideas and come with everything you need.

Summer Vacation Survival KitSummer Vacation Survival Kit

This is an ebook I created back when I had just left teaching third grade, at the time for a silent auction item that was hugely popular! Most of these activities can be done with what you ALREADY have in your home, a true bonus at this time!

Build your children’s brains with critical thinking questions, creative exploration, independence and initiative, all built into the 20 activities!

Do NOT buy this book if your kids love boredom, can’t be entertained by anything that isn’t happening on a screen, or are afraid to explore, laugh, and experiment!!! 😉 (50% off sale now!)

Online Classes & Tours for Kids

Online Watercolor ClassesEmily Lex's watercolor classes

Emily Lex is a lifetime watercolorer and mom of four. She teaches an online watercolor class just for kids to spark their imaginations, build confidence and encourage them to fill their free time with making art.

Use the code KATIE15 at checkout to receive 15% off.

Virtual School Day and Virtual Summer Camps from Varsity TutorsVarsity Tutor's Virtual School Day

With Varsity Tutor’s Virtual School Day, you can get nearly 200 free, live K-12 classes available all day long intended to help parents fill their children’s day with enriched learning. Some popular classes are “Intro to Spanish for Kids”, “Coolest Women in History”, “Java Programming Basics”, and “The Story of Your Favorite Fairy Tales”. They have received exceptional ratings from thousands of parents and students.

Virtual Summer Camps are also available – free half-day summer camps are a week long, with enrichment-based classes in subjects like foreign languages, chess, theater, coding, Minecraft, how to be a detective, photography and more. These live, interactive camps will be taught by expert instructors vetted through Varsity Tutors’ platform. We already have 300+ camps scheduled for the summer and 2,000 families per day signing up.

Read or Listen to Audio Books for Children

Online Games, Learning Activities, & Apps to Keep Kids’ Brains Moving:

So Many Other Ideas People Shared!

Free Music Class for Mixed Ages – this is from one of our cooking class members who teaches music online, such a generous offer for families!!

Try your hand at gardening (how about lazy gardening, aka permaculture? You can grow food even in urban areas!)

The Organic Gardening Workshop with Melissa Norris can help you get a jump start on growing your own food – perfect for anyone trying to get their seeds started and plowing new ground, so to speak. 😉 The streaming workshop has passed, but the workshop is still available to purchase.

My favorite kids’ psychologist/nutritionist, Dr. Nicole Beurkens,  is sharing daily ideas on Instagram 

ideas for at-home time

Dr. Madiha Saeed is doing Facebook lives created by her kids: 3/16-3/25 6:30p EST “Time to Optimize Our Immune System”

Giant List of Activity Ideas For Being At Home With Kids

Another big list of ideas

HuffPo has a list of ideas for kids bored at home, curated from their community

A list compiled by a friend of a friend with help from all her homeschool mom friends!

Indoor Ideas for Kids (just remember to get FRESH AIR as often as possible! This is nice for rainy days though.)

Weather School from a Meteorologist

Actors Read Children’s Books Online

Games, Lessons & Activities about Poems

Give Manicures and Pedicures – order one of these non-toxic nail polishes that I reviewed

Free resources from Scholastic

YouTube yoga/kids workout videos/ self defense/ tai chi

Chore roulette type game – pick popsicle sticks like Wellness Mama has for summer boredom cure

Train pets new tricks

Indoor/outdoor home scavenger hunt (or just make a list of things you can’t find and send your kids looking!)

Spectrum offering free internet access to homes with students

Cincinnati Zoo doing daily FB Lives

From the Author of Lola Dutch books – Free Daily Printables & Videos for Kids

Online Resources for Elementary School

Big Life Journal – Raising Kids with a Growth Mindset

Education Resources for preschool to 5th grade – List of K-5 Science Lessons

Teachers Pay Teachers – has lots of low cost and free resources

FoodMaster – Food, Math, and Science Teaching Enhancement Resource

The Art Kit Blog – Free Printables for Kindergarten and Younger

Homeschool Giveaways – has tons of free resources

Math Geek Mama – has fun games to download, lots free

Homeschool Buyers CoOp – free curriculum and educational resources

Art for Kids Hub

Cosmic Kids Yoga – also on YouTube

Free Sewing Patterns

Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls – also on Facebook

Resources for Family-Focused Living – also on Facebook

Free Educational Websites for Kids

50 Plus Easy Indoor Activities for Kids

60+ Awesome Websites for Teaching and Learning Math

New York Public Library – over 300,000 books to download

Giant List of Companies Offering FREE Educational Subscriptions & Materials

Educational Shows on Netflix

National Parent’s Union – Online Resources

Do spring cleaning

Get an hour off — require 30 minutes quiet reading and 30 minutes quiet non-screen activity

Make a care package for the military or cards for a nursing home

Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls has awesome pages & ideas on how to use Legos

Activities and Resources For the Adults:

  • How to Homeschool Summit
  • Teaching Them Diligently (at Home) virtual Christian homeschooling conference/summit
  • (from a team member) Fit2B is my favorite home workout video streaming source, and right now they’re offering a FREE workout: Blue Bells! This workout is including in their NEW Exercise Around The World course that launches March 18th. The rest of their “blue” workouts release soon too! If you catch them March 26-27 they’re having a birthday sale where everything is 41% off!
  • Be sure to incorporate some stress mastery techniques throughout your day — we all need to recharge our own batteries!!

And a Few Important Reminders for Your “Mandatory” Sabbath Rest

I saw a list of “daily quarantine questions” to ask yourself and thought I’d share my own version, just a way to check in on yourself every day:

  1. What am I GRATEFUL for today?
  2. Have I HUGGED my kids yet today?
  3. How will I NOURISH my body today?
  4. How will I MOVE my body today?
  5. How will I feed my SOUL today?
  6. What can I CREATE today that is beautiful?
  7. How will I focus on the POSITIVE today?

What a lovely reminder from Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky: “Let every hand we don’t shake become a phone call that we place. Every embrace that we avoid must become a verbal expression of warmth and concern.Every inch and every foot that we physically place between ourselves and another must become a thought as to how we might be of help to that other, should the need arise.”

Call your mother! (I’m speaking to myself here…) Same goes for anyone you know in an assisted living facility as they are pretty much on lockdown and often bored to tears!

I interview experts about kids' health every week.


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