When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When life gives you a quarantined house with nine kids, mother and father-in-law, three dogs, a kitten, and an “essential” husband who leaves you for work every day, you make pandemic games.
Six days a week, I gather the family together for a game or some type of competition. We have been keeping score. Everyone gets a point for participating. Extra points are awarded to winners and runners-up. We have played common backyard games like Kan-Jam and bocce. On days when the weather is not cooperating, we have had dance competitions, Wii bowling tournaments, and Lego creations. At the end of our quarantined time, the persons with the most points will get a gift card to a local business of their choice.
I thought I might share with you some of the more unusual and fun activities we have done, in case you need some new ideas to keep your children busy and having fun.
What You Need: a balloon, a streamer or yarn taped across the room or a large doorway
How to Play: The server on one team must hit the balloon over the streamer. The other team has three hits to get the balloon back over the streamer. The balloon gets volleyed back and forth until either the balloon hits the ground or three tries does not get the balloon over the streamer to the other team. Normally, only the serving team can score points. If the non-serving team wins the volley, they become the serving team with the opportunity to score. First team to 15 points wins. These rules can be modified to play with younger children, of course.
Another option: Balloon Badminton
Same as above but use a badminton paddle to hit the balloon instead of using your hands. To make a badminton paddle, have your child decorate a paper plate. Tape a popsicle stick or a dowel to the back of the plate. Duct tape is always best, but packing or masking tape works well, too.
What You Need: Two or more small puzzles with the same number of pieces. We used 48-piece puzzles. You can buy puzzles perfect for this challenge at a dollar store.
How to play: Choose a partner or go solo. Keep the puzzle pieces in the box until the judge says, “Ready! Set! Go!” Then empty the pieces from the box and quickly put the puzzle together. First to complete their puzzle wins.
What You Need: a golf club and ball (plastic play ones for little kids; larger kids may want to borrow dad’s – ask first!), 3-6 plastic cups, tape if playing indoors/tees if playing outside, a few obstacles of your own design.
How to set up: Let each child design a “hole,” as they are often more creative than we are, but parents may need to help. Place down tape or a tee for the beginning spot. The cup, placed on its side, is the hole (it may be necessary to put a rock in the cup so it does not roll around). Let your child think of an obstacle or some type of challenge to have to hit around or under, but not over! Stuffed animals, chairs, boxes with holes cut in the bottom, hills made from old sheets are examples of obstacles. Outside, we used rocks, patio furniture, tricycle, cones, even a bike ramp! Be creative.
How to play: Once the course is set up, let the children take turns hitting the ball into the cup. If you wish, you can keep score by counting the number of hits before the ball rolls into the cup.
Home Run Derby
What You Need: A wiffle bat and a couple of wiffle balls, and the side of your house with the fewest windows!
How to play: Determine beforehand how far from the house your child needs to stand in order to be able to hit the house, though not too easily. Different age children may need different home plates (we had two frisbees marking home plate for our older and younger kids). Parent pitches. Each child gets 10 “outs.” An out is any hit that does not hit the house. Three strikes (swing and miss) also equals an out. A “home run” is any hit that makes contact with the house without hitting the ground first. Keep track of how many home runs your child hits.
What You Need: Pool Noodle, glue, googly eyes, all the left-over craft materials you have lying around
What to Do: Cut the pool noodle into smaller six-inch pieces. Give a piece to each of your children. Place glue, eyes, and craft materials before them. Tell them to make a creature out of the supplies. You can give them a theme, like space aliens or Seussical creatures. If you choose Dr. Seuss, you can read some stories to them first for inspiration.
Cookie Wars (or Cupcake Wars)
What You Need: next time you have to go to the grocery store, grab sugar cookie (or cupcake) mix, colored icing, sprinkles and/or small candies, plastic knife, spoon, and toothpicks.
What to Do: Make the cookies with your children. After the cookies bake and cool, let your children decorate them.
To Score Crafty Competitions: We took pictures of the children’s creatures and cookies and posted them on Facebook to allow our family and friends to vote for their favorites. The ones with the most votes won the points for that activity. My family and friends have enjoyed seeing what the family is doing and being involved in some little way.
Please Note: Playing games during this serious time is in no way meant to belittle the epic difficulty our world is experiencing with this pandemic. As a mom, though, I want there to be peace in my home and in my children’s hearts. They know that there are seriously sick people in our state, our country, our world. Many are dying — dying without loved ones to comfort them. They know doctors, nurses, and hospital staff are putting themselves at risk to help the sick. They understand that they must stay home and cannot attend any of their activities in order to keep themselves and others safe. We have been praying together as a family every night for all those affected by this deadly virus.
If, however, when my youngest children are all grown up, and they look back on this time and say, “I didn’t realize how scary it all was because my mom made our time of being quarantined fun,” well then, the Pandemic Games did their job.
Copyright 2020 Kelly Guest