15 Ideas for spending time at home with your family

Advice from an introverted work-at-home mom on self-isolating

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In an effort to contain the COVID-19 virus and keep from overwhelming healthcare facilities and workers, a good portion of the U.S. population is at home for work and school right now. Along with that, health and government officials are recommending that we self-isolate — basically stay home and avoid contact with other people.

And that is pretty much a normal day in the life for me. I work from home and have since 2003. The last couple of years, my husband has joined me in working from home as well. Add in that I’m also an introvert who recharges with time alone and have chronic health issues that sometimes keep me from being able to get out, and I’m pretty much the poster child for self-isolation.

As my kids get older, I get out of the house more often to take and/or pick them up from school. They each also get to pick one extracurricular activity a week that we take them to, but even that my husband and I usually divide so we only are going to one activity a week.

But my happiest days are the ones where I never leave the house. I love to find ways to be productive and to be lazy. I feel most free at home.

Of course, my feelings are not shared by everyone. Statistically speaking, introverts are a minority (and even among introverts, my INFJ type is the least common). So I can only imagine that there are a lot of extroverts being told to stay home right now that are kind of at a loss.

Folks who are constantly on the go and seldom home. I once joked that our neighbors (who have since moved away) were a family who was almost never home and they probably thought we were a family who was always home. I’m sure we seemed different to them in the opposite way they seemed different to us.

So, I’ve been thinking about what to do at home. What do I enjoy about being in my own house with my husband and kids? What makes this my happy place? The answer has nothing to do with the actual house itself and everything to do with the people inside it, my attitude about it and the activities going on within it.

1. Do some work.

This is probably a no-brainer. Right now, people are working from home and schools are sending home assignments. So, clearly one of the the things you can do at home is work. One of the things your kids can do is schoolwork.

Finding the motivation to do that while at home can be a challenge for some, so I offer things I’ve learned through the years.

Get dressed. You’ll be more likely to be productive in clothes versus PJs, even if it is yoga pants and a T-shirt.

Designate a work area. If you have a space dedicated to work then your mind will go to work when you get there.

Work together when you can. While I usually work in my home office, when the kids are doing e-learning, working at the kitchen table is easier so I can help them. (Plus it creates a feeling of solidarity that we are all working together!)

Minimize distractions. Keep the TV off and, if you play music, go for something not distracting. Instrumental music works really well!

Have set work times to help you stay motivated to start working when you’re supposed to. Set work time also helps you stop and switch to home mode.

Communicate with your family. If you have a time busier than others or calls scheduled, let your family know ahead of time. Work out a system for what they should do if they need you during that time.

Keep realistic expectations. When my kids are home for e-learning or off on a break, I know that I will not be able to get quite as much done as when they are not here. I modify my priorities accordingly.

If your kiddos don’t have schoolwork sent home with them or need additional ideas, finding educational apps they can use or things you can print out for them to work on while you work. Check out the following:

Scholastic Learn at Home
– Free weekly broadcast with do-at-home activities through the Cincinnati Zoo’s Facebook page
12 museums that offer virtual tours
List of over 30 virtual field trips
PBS Kids Daily weekday newsletter

2. Enjoy family meals.

Eating together for dinner can be a challenge for some families. Having a chance to eat breakfast and lunch together is impossible for a lot of families. Times at home are great for togetherness over food. Even if you’re just having bowls of cereal together for breakfast counts. Turn off electronics and chat.

3. Read together.

Even if you’re kids can easily read on their own, reading a book out loud together is special! Check out your local library’s website to download e-books or consider signing up for Kindle Unlimited through Amazon, which I LOVE! If you need ideas of books to read, check out this list of more than 100 children’s books worth reading; it has ideas for toddlers to tweens.

Another great option is Epic!. Right now, Epic! is offering a month free. It has all sorts of books for school-aged kids and includes the option to have the book read aloud, which is great for early readers and non-readers. We love Epic! so much that we’ve had a monthly subscription for a couple of years.

You can also have a nice time just sitting snuggled together or in the same room reading to yourself.

4. Watch movies together.

Thanks to streaming services like Netflix and Disney Plus, you don’t have to leave home to watch a movie together. We love movie nights at my house and having a chance to have them more often when we are all home together is nice. You can combine it with mealtime or snack-time with easy finger foods while you watch. And then, of course, you can also snuggle together!

5. Find new television shows to watch together. (Or watch family favs you are behind on!)

We’ve found a few shows our family enjoys watching together through the years. Recently “Green Eggs and Ham” on Netflix was something we all four enjoyed. We also like baking competitions, “America’s Funniest Videos,” “LegoMasters” and pretty much any of the Scooby-Doos series.

You can also get some culture in by watching one of the Metropolitan Opera’s free nightly broadcasts being offered right now.

6. Cook together.

My kids have loved helping in the kitchen since they were toddlers. They like a chance to bake with me in particular, but even doing meal prep can be fun for them. Cooking with kids usually takes a bit longer, so times being at home are ideal to do so. This is also a great time to try out new recipes or old favorites you haven’t had time to make for a while.

Some of our favorite foods to cook or bake together include the following:

Pumpkin bread
Whipped pudding pie
BLT pizza
Peanut butter honey nut cereal clusters
Brownies
Pizza subs
4-ingredient lemon squares
Cookies, especially toffee cookies

7. Organize or clean together.

Cleaning isn’t so fun, but the more time I have at home, the better condition my house is in. Time at home is great for cleaning and organizing. Work on tasks you need to do but never get around to. Clean out and organize your pantry. Sort through your kids clothes and pull out things that don’t fit. If you feel really ambitious, clean out toys!

In the end, you’ll all feel satisfied with a job well done and be able to do something fun afterward to relax like watch a movie and eat snacks.

8. Get creative together.

Remember all those Pins you saved on Pinterest of stuff you want to make with your kids? Being home together for a while is a great chance to do them. Or pull out craft kits your kids have forgotten about and finally have time to do.

If crafts aren’t your thing (they aren’t mine), then make art together in a low-key way. My family enjoys coloring together. We all work on pictures we want. I use crayons and don’t get detailed. My husband uses high-quality markers and adds lots of detail and shading. My daughter and son each have their own styles as well. But we all have fun!

9. Play games together.

We love games! Being home is a great time to pull out board games, card games and even video games you can play together. We have a wide variety of games our kiddos like. Various types of Uno card games are one of their favorites at the moment. (If you’ve got a younger kiddo, consider getting a playing card holder to help them out. My first grader loves it!)

My kids also love Story Cubes and Toilet Trouble, which are easy for non-readers to play as well! If your kids are solid readers, consider Fluxx, which is a fast-paced card game where the rules constantly change.

Another family favorite of ours is Mad Libs. These are bonus, educational fun because your kiddos have to identify parts of speech!

10. Have unstructured play time together.

Having time at home without other things going on is great for just playing together. My kids’ love any chance for one-on-one playtime with us. My husband and I will set a time for 30 minutes or an hour and play with one child during that time. When the timer goes off, we switch and do the same with the other kiddo. My kids absolutely love it!

11. Make a list of independent activities.

I’d love to say that having extra time at home means we will be doing fun and productive things with our family all the time. But that’s not reality. We still have to do things like work, shower, clean and even just relax! I’ve found having a list of ideas (either written or in my head) that my kiddos can do on their own helps when they come to me and tell me they’re bored.

This can include chores, things they want to do, activities you know they’ll like, etc. You could also encourage them to do something nice for others. Maybe they could make cards to mail to extended family members or those in nursing homes right now.

12. Shop online together.

Sometimes our downtime at home involves online shopping. With warmer weather coming, my kids are going to need some new clothes. While my 7-year-old son doesn’t care so much about his wardrobe, his 10-year-old sister does! Having a chance to look online at some clothes together is always good. Showing my son a couple of options to pick from or scrolling through items with daughter works.

You might not buy everything right now. (Hello, budget!) But, at least you’ll know what you need or want to order over the next couple of months. It can also be a good time for kids to plan what they want to save for or how they’re going to use their spending money.

13. Have spa time.

OK. Maybe not spa time, per se, but being home is a great time to do some beauty sort of stuff you don’t usually get to do or don’t always have time to enjoy. You can do this with or without kiddo involvement.

My daughter and I have recently started doing face masks together and it’s so fun! We also enjoy painting our fingernails. Once I did temporary hair color gel in my kids’ hair. It doesn’t have to be complicated or over-the-top. Just have fun with it!

14. Blare some music.

When my kids were toddlers, they loved dancing around the house with me. Even now at 7 and 10, they still do sometimes. If you’re bored or doing something physical, crank up some fun music and let loose. I can’t tell you how many times I have danced around while baking. One of my favorites is the soundtrack from the musical “Wicked.”

15. Just be.

My favorite thing about time at home is the chance to just be. I love having a chance to just fully be myself. Home is the place where I can be dorky, crazy, quiet, silly or anything else. I can be me.

Some of our best memories have been made during times we aren’t doing a darn thing. We all pile onto our bed or the couch and giggle over silly things. These days the puppy get into the mix and adds some craziness. We just have fun together.

My goal is to let my family just be themselves at home. Of course there are rules to follow and chores to do and all that responsible stuff. But above all, I want them to feel free to be who they are in their own spaces.

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