It’s Mid March. Usually in Maine we are struggling with what to do during the latest blizzard. We have two or three feet of snow remaining, two or three blizzards still to come. All rules regarding electronics went out the window in February, and we are desperate to open the windows. Well, the best laid plans, as they say.
Now, we are facing ten “snow” days to help halt the spread of COVID-19. There is very little snow on the ground, no signs of any blizzards in our future, and the temperatures are allowing us to open the windows. However, it is still the end of winter, we still have cabin fever as our base line. GeekMom Karen has written a great guide on surviving your new schedule of daily life, set by this virus. There are a plethora of viewing guides out there, for movie lists to get you through the long days ahead. Personally I favor this Tom Hanks centric list from OnStageBlog. And of course, my favorite, some great lists of books to read during a shut in. GeekMom Dakster has curated a diverse list for us, and this is a great time to do a deep dive on your Goodreads list.
If your kids are anything like mine though, they have the attention span of a fruit fly at this time of year. My kids are four, eight, and ten. They still enjoy each other’s company, we haven’t hit middle school quite yet, and they can be cajoled into playing together for extended stretches. Here are our current favorite boredom busters.
- Sleepovers. This one is a parental life saver and all it will cost you is some snack foods. Stock up on their favorite treats, lay blankets down on their bedroom floor, and lock them in! Well, not really lock them in. But I can guarantee that my kids will be entertained, go to bed two hours early, and stay in bed at least two hours longer, if I call it a sleepover and let them all sleep on the floor in the same room. This is key for parental sanity in the winter months, and the only expense is a supersized bag of Cheetos and some Swedish Fish.
- Board Game Day. This may sound like a broken record, but around here we never tire of our bored games. Currently we are knee deep in 7 Wonders and Furry Foodies. Keep your refresh pointer finger handy, as I’m sure GeekMom and GeekDad will fully support you in suggestions over the next two weeks.
- Basement Boxes. Now is the time to be thankful that you threw stuff in the basement instead of going directly to Goodwill. Every old toy we pull out feels brand new. Every box of old junk, is a treasure trove once the boredom sets in.
- Concerning Hobbits. This is a great time to introduce your kids to classics that you have been holding off on. My ten year old started reading The Hobbit this week, to himself, and then as a read aloud when it was time to eat breakfast. This is a great time to start on Harry Potter, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Eragon, any number of series would be great to start, and possibly even complete right now.
- Blanket Fort. In much the same way a sleepover can be a bedtime sanity saver, a blanket fort can provide some great muffled voices and distraction during the waking hours. Throw all the rules out the window, turn the couch upside down, and get creative.
- Bath Time. Even if you have long converted to showers, bath time can be a great way to divert a child for an hour. We often use this to coerce our four year old into letting us play a board game without being disturbed by her little sticky fingers. Make it too hot and add ice cubes. Make it too bubbly. Let them loose with the shaving foam. Bath time, when you are not simply getting clean, can be a great diversion for kids feeling caged in.
In our house, building kits are the biggest boredom buster at our disposal, and we have many varieties. Some of these I was going to save for Easter baskets, but have found myself bringing out for “snow” day prep. Here are our current favorites:
Leap Builders Kits. We got one of these at Christmas and loved it. Right now we are playing with the 123 Fix It Truck Set, and the 123 Counting Train. These kits focus on learning numeracy skills through play. The Truck also has an emphasis on colors, and the train focuses on professions. While the skills taught by these sets, are things that my older boys have already nailed, they love to play with these kits with their little sister. They feel empowered by teaching her things they already know, and it comes in a form that all three of them prefer – building blocks. Very often they will set up a pretend school house, and these blocks have become an integral part of that learning time. Much like the set we received at Christmas, these kits feature new Leap Frog technology in the form of the Smart Star block, an interactive cube that responds to double sided smart blocks that you place inside it. The kits react to each other for a wider variety of play, and these have proven their mettle at keeping all three entertained for a decent amount of time. These kits are great value for money and can be easily obtained, there has not been a rush on them as there has been with toilet paper.
Circuit Blocks. In the same way that Leap Builders brings learning to the traditional block system, Circuit blocks combine a block system with a traditional electronics kit. These kits are durable, readily available online, and interchangeable with most other building systems you have around the house. Depending on the kit you buy, you can create and FM radio, helicopter launch pads, light shows, buzzer systems, you are limited only by kit and imagination. Their versatility is their big advantage to me, my kids have now successfully merged several different kits that we have into a behemoth of creativity. I’m not entirely sure they haven’t now fixed my heating system with these components.
Plus-Plus. We broke out our Plus-Plus Easter Bunny early this year, when the flu hit our house. Originally intended for Easter basket goodness, these new pastel additions to the Plus-Plus world were especially welcomed by my four year old, who regularly steals these from her brother. Plus-Plus are a constant source of “What has it got in it’s pocketeses” jokes in our house. We recently acquired a jumbo set, that are a novelty for use, but it is the original kits that occupy little fingers in the little hours. Like other building kits, you can follow the directions or use the pieces for your own creations. Either way, these building blocks are ingenious. They are a tactile joy, and great for fidgeters. They have the strength of traditional blocks, with perhaps even a little more versatility, and are completely novel in the way they come together.
Kinoptik kits are great for some 2-D construction. Create artistic renditions, cities, robots, gardens, or flowers, depending on the kit you buy, and watch the worlds you create come to life as you move the Kinoptik lens over your creation. This building concept combines, art, design and structure in a unique way. My eight year old sat down with his first kit and did not move for three complete hours. It was kind of amazing how much this captivated him, and made it a fast favorite for everyone in our house.
It can also be easy to forget, that when an extended stay at home is not caused by snowfall, you can still get outside. So our biggest boredom buster, as of right now, is getting outside. Playing with the remaining snow piles, getting out the summer toys, experimenting with bubble blowing, pulling out the swings early, using our outdoor building kits.
Social distancing does not have to be boring.