These past couple of months have been incredibly hard for so many. I can’t pretend to understand or relate to the trials some families and individuals are facing, from jobs lost to loved ones passing away to intense loneliness and isolation. Even those of us not directly affected by the current health and economic crises have had to make significant changes to our habits and lifestyles. I think it’s safe to assume that NONE of our lives look quite like they did two months ago.
I’ll be the first to acknowledge my own family’s privilege within this tumultuous environment. We are physically healthy and financially secure, and in this time when many are adjusting to remote work and schooling for the first time, our day to day lives have remained largely unchanged thanks to Luke’s remote job and my status as a stay-at-home homeschooling mom. Factor in our homebody tendencies and familial introversion, and we are basically the ideal candidates for quarantine life.
That said, event cancellations and social distancing restrictions have put a halt to my daily outings with the kids. And while we have plenty of diversions to occupy us during this time at home, it’s taken quite a bit of effort and creativity on my part to keep Charleston occupied during our long days cooped up inside the house (or, at most, our neighborhood).
Last week, in a moment of exasperation after hearing Charleston complain for the umpteenth time that day that he was bored, I grabbed a sheet of paper and sketched out a Bingo-style grid made up of twenty squares. Inside each square I jotted down a task or challenge for Charleston to accomplish, with the promise of a small reward if he was able to check off every box by the end of the day.
What was a spontaneous act of boredom-busting desperation quickly proved to be one of my brightest Homeschool Mom moments. Charleston not only completed the challenges within the hour, but he immediately asked for more—and has continued to do so every day since! This daily practice has worked out so well for us, I wanted to share it here for other moms who may be seeking some easy stay-at-home ideas for their kids.
Before I get into the specifics, I want to emphasize how low-key this activity has been. My charts are not at all fancy, and other than attempting to include a variety of different activities, I haven’t put much thought into the types of challenges I include each day. I also don’t put any pressure on Charleston to complete the activities: they are entirely optional and can be completed within the hour, the day, the week, or not at all (though Charleston doesn’t earn his prize—usually a small piece of candy or twenty minutes of ipad time—until each task on the board is complete).
Part of the success of our daily challenge boards has been allowing Charleston to contribute his own ideas for items to include. His suggestions tend to be a little silly and fairly easy to check off (“flap like a bird seven times” or “talk like a robot” or “make my body into the number three”) so I balance these out with some harder, more time-consuming items. Our challenges have tended to fall into a few distinct categories: academic, creative, physical, and fun. Here’s a look at some of the items that we’ve included.
+ Count out loud to 100.
+ Write numbers 0-30.
+ Write out the alphabet.
+ Alphabetize letter flash cards.
+ Match upper and lower case letter flashcards.
+ Write (verbally dictate) and illustrate a story.
+ Learn about another country and plan a pretend vacation there.
+ Write five new words.
+ Learn a new phrase in Spanish.
+ Conduct a science experiment.
+ Write and solve ten addition or subtraction problems.
+ Come up with ten pairs of rhyming words.
+ Ask three questions and find the answers.
+ Do a Mad Lib.
+ “Read” three picture books to Kali and Sully.
+ Go for a tricycle ride.
+ Walk backwards around the whole house.
+ Skip/hop/run ten laps around the house.
+ Balance on one foot for a minute.
+ Practice jumping rope.
+ Do a kid-friendly workout.
+ Jump on the trampoline for five minutes.
+ Swing on the backyard swing for five minutes.
+ Practice doing a headstand.
+ Learn a new yoga pose.
+ Learn a line dance.
+ Practice doing a cartwheel.
+ Play hopscotch.
+ Practice soccer moves.
+ Play fetch with Arlo.
+ Paint a picture of a garden.
+ Make play dough.
+ Create a menu for a pretend restaurant.
+ Try origami.
+ Draw our solar system.
+ Learn pointillism.
+ Design a tree house.
+ Make something out of Legos.
+ Create something out of Silly Putty.
+ Piece together a collage using pictures from a magazine.
+ Make a card to mail to a friend or family member.
+ Design a maze.
+ Complete a color-by-number page.
+ Make a collage with sidewalk chalk.
+ Do an online drawing lesson.
+ Complete a jigsaw puzzle.
+ Host a stuffed animal birthday party.
+ Invent a new game to play.
+ Play a game of cards or a board game we haven’t played for a while.
+ Go on a neighborhood scavenger hunt.
+ Pretend to be a zoo animal for five minutes.
+ Build a tower out of dominoes.
+ Play Simon Says.
+ Play balloon volleyball.
+ Have a three-minute dance party.
+ Design a new train track.
+ Play Pictionary or charades.
+ Construct a blanket fort.
+ Put together a treasure hunt.
+ Play “Would You Rather.”
+ Practice calling mom’s and dad’s phone numbers.
+ Practice reciting our address.
+ Try a new food.
+ Bake muffins with mom.
+ Choose three toys to donate to charity.
+ Clean up the playroom.
+ Listen to a kid’s podcast.
+ Give each family member a hug and a compliment.
+ Memorize a Bible verse.
+ Take a virtual tour of a museum or travel destination.
+ Interview a family member.
+ Make a list of favorite movies/books/characters/foods.
+ Try a kid’s meditation app.
+ Start a collection (of leaves, rocks, stickers, etc.).
+ Complete an act of service for someone in our family.
I’ve loved watching Charleston work through these tasks, and have been impressed by his enthusiasm for checking off boxes and his strategy for doing so. (He likes to tackle the more difficult items first to “get them over with.”) While many of the things on these boards are activities we were already doing, I like that these challenge boards give Charleston a sense of accomplishment and purpose as he approaches his day.
I’m sure that the novelty of these daily challenges will soon wear off, but for now they are serving an effective role in helping Charleston (and me!) feel a little happier and more fulfilled during our time at home.
Have you done anything like this with your kids? What types of activities have made it onto your lists? We’d love to hear your suggestions!