Toronto Zoo

77 ways to keep kids busy during self-isolation

The ultimate list of things to do, explore and make

By Jennifer Cox

It can be hard to constantly think of ways to keep your kids entertained at a time when staying at home has become the norm – for now. Check out this list of crafts, recipes, Lego challenges and more to help fill those days.

1) Have a theme day. Themes can help you find other things to do throughout the day in terms of crafts/projects, reading material, food, etc. Our favourites: outer space, focusing on a specific country (choose a country and make that country’s flag, eat that country’s cuisine, and learn some fun facts about it too!), science, art, and sports.

2) Change up the seasons. Make it summer for the day: turn up the heat, have a picnic lunch, play with magic sand (four parts flour to one part baby or olive oil), make paper fans, and drink tropical smoothies.

3) Celebrate the holidays. Christmas theme one day where everyone makes each other gifts. Make it Halloween another day and have everyone create a costume.

4) Cook together. Break out some cookbooks or scour Pinterest for family-friendly ideas.

5) Bake together. Pie dough is always fun to play with.

6) Plant seeds. Now is the perfect time to start seedlings.

7) Write letters or draw pictures and send them to a seniors’ residence. They aren’t getting visitors right now, and it could brighten someone’s day.

8) Catch up on correspondence. Send your long-distance family and friends some homemade postcards.

9) Have a theme bath. Science lab themes are easy with coloured water and baking soda (your little one will love having small containers to mix the ingredients). So are glow-in-the-dark baths (you can make this by throwing some glowsticks into the water), car washes with toy cars, and more.

10) Relaxation day. Massages, homemade face masks and mani/pedis for all.

11) Turn the hall into a town. 

Use coloured tape on the floor to make a road. Transform empty boxes into buildings.

12) Talent show day. Each family member has to prepare “an act”. Don’t forget to share the videos so others have some entertainment.

13) Make your own comic book.

14) Make your own wave bottle with oil and water (remember those?). For the how-to instructions, visit wikihow.com/Make-a-Wave-Bottle

15) Go with the classics in games: Go Fish!, Old Maid, Tic-tac-toe, Hangman, Cat’s Cradle, etc.

16) Make paper bag puppets and put on a show.

17) Play “Spy” and write secret messages in white crayon, which can be decoded (revealed) when you colour over it with marker.

18) Paint/draw what you see. Look out the window and create your art.

19) Make suncatchers. Pour school glue into a plastic lid from a yogurt or sour cream container. Add drops of food colouring and swirl with a toothpick. Let it dry, Remove it from the lid.

20) Play-dough time.

21) Make a poster collage of your favourite things.

22) Play vet’s office.

23) Play school.

24) Play restaurant.

25) Lego challenge: Build a bridge.

26) Make funny faces by cutting out different eyes, noses, mouths and other facial features from old magazines.

27) Create a family time capsule.

28) Family board game night.

29) Have fondue.

30) Make baking soda art. Create paint by mixing a bit of baking soda, water and food colouring. Paint onto paper. Then use an eyedropper to add drops of vinegar to the paint and watch the fizzing fun.

31) Transform a box into a robot.

32) Make a map and do a scavenger hunt.

33) Make tie)dye pillowcases, shirts, towels or socks with permanent markers. Colour with markers and then use an eyedropper to apply rubbing alcohol, which will make the colours bleed and blend.

34) Colour a mug or plate with permanent marker and then bake for 30 minutes at 300 degrees. (Use a microwavable mug)

35) Play office.

36) Lego challenge: Make the tallest car you can.

37) Do stamp painting using Lego bricks or rolling cars across the paint and paper.

38) Do rubs with coloured crayons. Place coins or leaves under a piece of paper and rub with the side of a crayon.

39) Paint rocks with faces.

40)  Make coffee filter planets. Colour coffee filters with markers and then spray with water – they bleed and blend and look like swirly planets. Let dry.

41) Play the classics: tag, hide‘n-go-seek, what time is it Mr. Wolf?

42) Write your own storybook.

43) Make a paper plate mask.

44) Lego challenge: Make your first initial out of Lego bricks.

45) Karaoke.

46) Library day, complete with a cozy spot to read books and make-your-own library cards.

47) Cut out stars and hang them from the bedroom ceiling.

48) Build a fort.

49) Play the classics: Rock, paper, scissors, thumb wars, limbo.

50) Draw with dry erase markers on the fridge.

51) Make magic wands.

52) Make reading pointers and test them out with a few books. These are simply long pointer tools new readers use to go word by word. Decorate a wooden dowel or long wood coffee stir stick.

53) Make your own nail polish by mixing your own colours.

54) Cut out paper snowflakes (fold a circle in half, then in half again, and cut out small shapes and details. Open and enjoy).

55) Melt old broken crayon bits in a silicone mould to create your own new crayons.

56) Turn muffin liners into cute flowers. Cut out large paper flowers and use different-patterned muffin liners as the centre of the flower. Create a spring field on your wall.

57) Make felt play food.

58) Sidewalk chalk on the front walkway, driveway, fence or deck. Trace your shadows. Play hopscotch. (Always practice physical distancing when outdoors!)

59) INDOOR scavenger hunt. Find three items that are red, four items that are blue, etc. or a theme by category hunt. 

60) Lego challenge: Make a catapult.

61) Make musical instruments. Find empty containers and fill with dried beans. Hang bells on long strings of ribbon. Use empty canisters for percussion. Fashion a microphone out of a paper towel roll and a ball of foil.

62) Have a pet rock. Decorate the rock. Make him/her a little home. Name your rock.

63) The classics: charades, jacks, yoyo.

64) Make pocket warmer bags. Sew squares of felt or cloth and fill with rice. Microwave them and pop them into your pocket before chilly spring walks.

65) Make capes out of old towels.

66) Nighttime stargazing session.

67) Make a duct tape wallet. Use coloured or decorative duct tape to create a folding wallet with pockets for cards and money. There’s a great tutorial at wikihow.com/Make-a-Duct-Tape-Wallet

68) Make “stained” glass by gluing small squares of tissue paper on cardstock and then cutting out any shape you’d like. Hang them in the window with double)sided tape.

69) Have a dance party and crank up the tunes. Play freeze dance or a version of Simon Says but with dance moves. 

70) Make a jewellery box with Popsicle sticks.

71) Make homemade birdfeeders. You can use anything, from pinecones slathered in shortening and rolled in seed, to milk cartons and water bottles, to plain Cheerios threaded onto pipe cleaners.

72) Lego challenge: Your flat building platform is an island. Build shelter. Build a source of heat. Build something to play. Build a treasure chest.

73) Coffee filter butterflies are easy to do: colour coffee filters with markers and spray lightly with water. Let dry. Bring together two ends of the filter and pinch the middle, then secure with a clothespin. Add pipe cleaner antennae.

74) Paint with only things from nature. Fashion “paintbrushes” out of leaves, grass, flowers, moss, and more.

75) Make Shrinky Dink keychains. You can order Shrinky Dink sheets online.

76) 3-D animal art is cool – find a photo of an animal from an old magazine and cut it out. Before gluing it to a piece of cardstock, “mount” it with small folded paper so it’s slightly raised.

77) Teach your child some form of sewing: knitting, crocheting, latch hook, cross stitch, etc.