Hippocrates said “for extreme diseases, extreme methods of cure…are most suitable.” In my house, we maximize extreme methods of cure. That’s because “go big or go home” means nothing when you are already stuck at home, and if there is something I am good at doing, it is being distracted—at home. So I made a list of my favorite distractions from all the times past that I have been stuck in the house with children. But you don’t always need children to do these activities. These distractions work for adults, too.
Here are some of my favorites:
- Bake polka dot bread, then make polka dot sandwiches for dinner. Use homemade or frozen bread dough. Divide the dough into two or three pieces. Using food coloring, make each piece a different color. Roll the pieces into as many two-inch balls as you can make and place them into a loaf pan, mixing up all the colors. Let the dough rise and bake according to the directions. The balls will rise to fill any gaps, and when you slice it you should see polka dots.
- Paint rocks with pretty designs or positive messages, then take a walk around your neighborhood and hide them where people can find them later. Make sure to wash the rock first and let it dry completely before you paint on it. And, especially if you use washable paint, protect your art work with a colorless sealant. Even clear nail polish will work in a pinch.
- Housebound? You might as well just chain yourself in! Cut 1” x 8” strips of paper (construction paper, wrapping paper, magazine pages, etc.) and make a giant a paper chain. When you are done, wrap the paper chain around your entire house, taping it to windows or walls as you go so that it doesn’t fall down.
- Build a highway. That giant roll of blue painter’s tape you pass in the hardware store offers an almost endless stream of distractions, but our favorite was to build a road through the house so that the Hot Wheels or Tonka trucks had a clear route to follow. Make lanes by taping parallel lines to the floor, carpeting, up the stairs, down the hall … painter’s tape doesn’t leave any residue and can be easily removed.
- Likewise, use the painter’s tape to make Hop Scotch squares, a checkerboard so you can play Checkers with cans of vegetables, or a creative Twister board on any surface.
- Or make a bull’s eye on the wall with painter’s tape (and I’d suggest using the wall around the bathtub for this). Give each child a straw and a napkin and see who can hit the bull’s eye with spitballs from farther and farther away. For young children, make a large bull’s eye; for older children, make a smaller bull’s eye.
- Build a fort out of sheets—an old, but definitely still good, stand-by. Use brooms balanced across chair backs to make taller rooms. Serve charcuterie and age-appropriate beverages as you watch the wild outside world from the safety of your fort.
- Make a giant piggy bank using a punch ball for the body and four toilet paper rolls for legs, covered in paper mache (Paper Mache Mix: Equal parts of white flour and water and stir till it is smooth). While you wait for it to dry, spend time searching for all the loose change in the house. Plan to use the money you collect for a fun activity once you can get out of the house.
- Make a giant spider’s web out of skeins and skeins of yarn. Start by tying the end of the yarn to a chandelier or a stair rail, or try taping it to the top of a bookcase or door frame. Run the yarn across the room to another piece of furniture and loop it on. Then add a third side to your frame and maybe a fourth or fifth. Try to keep your web in one plane. After you have a good frame, start to criss-cross the yarn from side to side, tying or looping it around each side of the structure then crossing it to another side, ending your web in the middle. In good weather (or around Halloween), you can make this giant spider’s web outside, starting it in a tree or a bush. Pretend you are going to catch ALL the coronavirus cooties, so you need to make a BIG web. When you are done, make a giant spider … which take us to …
- Make a giant spider—out of paper mache. Inflate a large balloon (or even a punching ball!) for the spider’s body. Roll sheets of newspaper into tight tube shapes to make the spider’s legs, then bend them in half to make spider knees. Tape the legs to the balloon. Cut strips of newspaper into about 2” x 6” strips, coat it in the paper mache paste (recipe above) to thoroughly coat, and wipe off the excess by running the strip between two of your fingers. Lay the strips all over the body and legs of the spider to completely cover it with three-to-four layers. Let your spider dry completely overnight, and the next day you can paint it and stick it onto your web.