Family, Kids & Relationships

9 Activities To Keep Only Children Entertained and Connected

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Every parent is struggling to keep their kids busy during this pandemic, but those with only children have the added challenge of often being their child’s only playmate. Without any brothers or sisters to rely on for a quick game of catch or even some good old-fashioned sibling rivalry to keep them busy, parents of only children are left scrambling to keep their offspring both entertained and connected. Being an only child right now can also be a real downer for some kids, especially those whose relationships at school, for example, were the primary source of their peer-to-peer socialization.  

If this is your family right now, you’ve probably exhausted board games, bike rides, and Netflix binges, which means the following nine ideas designed to keep only children entertained may come in handy.

Show them old family photos.

Kids love seeing pictures of you from before they were born, but even seeing pictures of themselves as babies will likely pique their interest. Plus, it’s kind of fun to take a trip down memory lane once in a while. If you’ve got them handy, show them old-school photos of you and your friends — you know, the ones where you’re rocking those ‘80s rubber bracelets and ‘90s scrunchies. If nothing else it will get you both giggling for a bit and likely open the door to all kinds of conversations and discoveries about Mom and Dad.

Use chalk to spread happiness throughout your neighborhood.

One mom on Facebook inspired us with her idea to use chalk to spread well wishes throughout her family’s community with sweet messages and pictures drawn on the sidewalk. She and her son did just that recently and had an outpouring of gratitude from their neighbors, solidifying connections even from afar. This also shows kids that even during dark moments you can find small ways to spread joy.

Start a YouTube channel.

The platform itself has videos that teach you everything you need to know, and generally speaking, understanding the platform better may not be a bad idea given the sheer number of kids who turn to it daily. With no sign of YouTube going anywhere, you might as well engage with it alongside your child so you can see for yourself what’s on the platform, then work together to create fun content that’s both entertaining and age-appropriate. It’s a great opportunity to talk about proper social media conduct, too. Find a skill or talent that your child has — maybe they’re the family funnyman, always ready with a good joke, or a great artist-in-the-making — and share it with the world. 

Make a movie.

The beauty of smartphones is that most of us have pretty sophisticated video capabilities at our fingertips. Dive right in and write a story together that you’d like to bring to life, assign roles to different family members, perhaps even work on costumes based on what’s in your closets, then…action! Just start filming. Once your film wraps, host a family movie night where you all watch together, then share it with friends and family via email or Zoom. The endeavor will get kids’ creative juices flowing and provide something tangible that you can all look back on as a reminder of this time.

If video isn’t their thing, or if they need a wider cast of characters than they can find at home, they can try a free app like Google’s Toontastic 3D. The program lets your child tell their story through 3D cartoons, and it’s amazingly easy. They can use pre-made characters and backgrounds, draw their own, or use photos to create an adventure, funny newscast, a science report, or any other tale from their imagination.

Write a letter—or two or three.

Ahh, the lost art of letter writing. One mom told us she made a list of people that her daughter could write letters to, and she loved it. “She even received a letter or two back,” she said. “It motivates her and there’s no rush to write all the letters at once.” You can try making it an altruistic activity and have them write letters to frontline workers, or ask them to choose a friend or family member, perhaps one that lives far away, and get a pen pal situation up and running. Depending on the age of your child, this can also be a sneaky way to get them to practice spelling, punctuation, and writing in general. 

Let your child teach you something.

This was a Facebook mom’s suggestion and we thought it was brilliant! We’re always so concerned about passing knowledge to our kids, but you’d be surprised how many things they might be able to show you for a change. Whether it’s how to play Minecraft or how to make a paper airplane, tell your kiddo they’re in charge of teaching for a change and see what happens. The twist will likely delight your child, add a breath of fresh air to your same old games and activities, and help you bond even more. Oh, and you might actually learn something, too.

Make a family tree.

Include lots of fun details about each family member, or interview them in a virtual online chat to find out more. This is a great activity that helps kids feel connected to the family unit and understand their place in it while prompting discoveries about who they are and where they come from. Kids who create family trees also tend to feel confident that they’re part of something bigger than themselves, secure in the fact that there are myriad people who will always have their back—something we could all use more of in these often stressful times. 

Learn to cook together.

Don matching aprons if you’ve got ‘em, do a quick Google search for a favorite dish and cook alongside your kiddo while you watch a video explaining what to do. There’s no shortage of quality videos out there about cooking with kids. If you need to shop for the essentials, that will add to your time together, keeping you busy for a while longer.

There are tons of benefits to cooking with kids that extend beyond the obvious. For example, kids are more likely to eat foods they make themselves, so it’s a good way to introduce new, perhaps healthy food options. Plus, exposing them to cooking has been known to help develop a more mature palate, so they won’t always be asking you for French fries. The earlier they learn to cook, the sooner they’ll pick up one of life’s essential skills, too. All that cooking together adds up to a whole lot of quality family time! The New York Times pulled together a collection of more than 50 videos and recipes called Quarantine Cooking With Kids that’s filled with yummy dishes most kids like. Or, if you prefer, take the opportunity to teach them how to make a traditional family favorite, or pull in grandparents or other loved ones via Facetime or Zoom to teach you both how to recreate their best dishes.

Have a nature scavenger hunt.

One mom shared this fun rundown of items you can easily find outside, with specific amounts or colors for each item as guidelines to keep kids on their toes. Copy hers or make your own, depending on what your child is likely to find where you live. The activity will not only get them outside in the fresh air, it will likely help them appreciate nature a little bit more, too.

This quarantine has been hard on most kids across the world, but with activities like these they can still feel connected to friends and family and stay happily entertained—whether they have siblings to play with or not.

The former Content Director at Parenting, and several other brands, Ana Connery is a writer and content strategist whose work appears in USA Today, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, Cafe Mom/The Stir, Momtastic, and others.