All kids love a treasure hunt, right? Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using either a GPS-enabled device (the hard way) or the official Geocache app (the easier but certainly still challenging way). Download it, navigate your way to a cache, read the clues and search for it. Be sure to bring a pen because when you find it, you log that you were there and then you note that you found it on the app. Some caches are tiny and have only room for a little scroll; others are boxes with trinkets inside. Take one; leave one. The free version lets you find hundreds in the St. Louis area (there are 647 in St. Louis County parks), but for $29.99 a year, get the upgraded version to find the tougher (and more fun) ones. Go to geocaching.com for more info.
Are your kids already starting to go stir-crazy? Are you? Here are some ideas for things everyone can still do around your house and even around town (responsibly!) to stay busy.
For more ideas, join a Facebook group like Covid-19 & Keeping Kids Busy.
Download that Pokémon Go app again
Remember how you and your kids used to love catching Pikachu and all his friends on the once-popular Pokémon Go app? Well, it's still around (though there have been many updates since perhaps you last played). Pile in the car and drive around to areas where you can catch them or battle a gym as a family. Or walk around a park to see how many you can collect.
Have your kids start a journal
These are historic times, and kids can process and record the day’s happenings in a journal. Common Sense Media offers reviews and recommendations for journal apps, online diaries and digital scrapbooks. Or keep things old school by using an ordinary notebook or special journal you may have already stashed away.
Many golf courses in the area are still open, and if you have your own clubs, you are out in the open and not having contact with anyone, so why not enjoy that at least? (But it is recommended you don't share a cart.) Even if they shut down, there are a number of driving ranges that are not human-operated, you just put a coin in a machine that dispenses balls, take your clubs and start swinging. If you have a putter and a ball, set up a min-golf course at home. Also, disc golf courses in many area parks are free.
Go for a hike
Some trails in the area are still open for hiking, and fresh air and exercise do a mind and body good. Even little ones can be packed in a stroller. Download a walking app or recharge your fitness band to keep track of your steps, and compete against yourself or other family members. Put on a crazy hat or costume while you walk — make others smile or wonder. For older kids or just for after this is all over, try some more strenuous options, like the Lewis and Clark trails, as well as some of our other favorites, which you can find at stltoday.com/lifestyles.
Or a bike ride
Pack up the bikes, hitch up the trailers and grab the tricycles. Go for a ride on an area trail, or just hit the streets of your neighborhood. Have the kids decorate their bikes and pretend it's a parade.
Play basketball on the neighborhood court
There's a good chance someone in your neighborhood has a basketball hoop. Get out there and play a game of one-on-one with the kids (or two-on-one or even Horse or whatever silly game they want to make up). Balls and hoops are fun.
Teach them to cook, and embrace dining together
Age-appropriateness may vary, but now’s the time to show your child how to use the stove, set the timer on the oven, and measure, chop and stir ingredients. Older kids can plan and make dinner, or work together to set a menu for the week. Break out the linen napkins and candles when it’s time to eat, and use a prompt (what was the best part of your day? The worst part of your day?) to fuel conversation.
Play yard games
First, you may have to clean out the garage to find some of these, or order on Amazon and have them delivered to your door. A good, competitive yard game is a little bit exercise, a little bit mental stimulation and fun for everyone. Horseshoes, bean bag toss and cricket are some good options. But we have a few other favorites.
Spikeball: This 2-on-2 game is a cross between volleyball and foursquare. Players are allowed up to three touches before they need to bounce the ball off the net to change possession. It's big on college campuses, so think of this as preparing your kid for college.
Ladder toss: Throw the rubber bolo around the ladder rung for varying points to win the game.
Kan Jam: Throw the flying disc to get a hit on the bucket, in the bucket with the help of your partner, or directly into the bucket (a direct hit that wins the game- it's hard!).
Create minute-to-win-it games
There’s no lack of ideas online for “minute to win it”-style games, so put your kids in charge of researching games and setting up a competition. Use straws to suck up and pick up mini marshmallows and place into cups, stack a coin tower, keep a balloon in the air for one minute with or without hands, place a cookie on your forehead and use your facial muscles (no hands!) to get it into your mouth.
Have a picnic
Even the littlest kids love a picnic. So instead of making those peanut butter and jelly sandwiches you've been making all week and sitting them on the table, make it a little fancy. Pack them up in a basket with some fun drinks and fruits and veggies and spread a blanket on the ground (and hope for sunshine).
Build a fire, roast s'mores and tell stories
Learn some techniques from any scouting group (Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts, Baden Powell Service Association) and learn how to build a proper campfire. Use this as a chance to clear the yard of kindling and fuel. Roast s’mores or dinner over the fire (try foil packs, Dutch oven cooking, or food on a stick) and teach one another camp songs or tell camp stories. If you’re up for an adventure, pitch a tent in the yard.
Make bird feeders and identify birds
First, see what you have around the house to make a feeder: peanut butter spread on a pinecone or a toilet paper tube and then rolled in birdseed will do the trick. If you don’t have seed, put nesting materials like string, yarn, or pet fur into a dish or an old onion bag. Visit a site like the Audubon Society of Missouri (mobirds.org) and download their bird checklists to see if you can identify visitors.
Build an indoor playground or obstacle course
If you have a short piece of board and a length of stronger rope, fashion a rope swing in your basement. Drill a hole in a ceiling beam and tie the rope through it. Look online for indoor playground equipment options: a small indoor trampoline will help burn off energy, as well as indoor trapeze bars, swings, and ladders that can clamp into doorways. Build an indoor obstacle course for kids with chairs, beanbags and buckets, couch cushions and a jump rope, and challenge one another.
Have a fashion show (sort through everybody's clothes)
Use this time to sort through closets and drawers, storing away winter clothes and figuring out what’s too small or too stained to wear. Make it a fashion show, sort items into colors and teach folding techniques. Have them help clean out mom and dad’s closet as well, and let the kids try on your clothes to compete for craziest outfit.
Sort through your books and share them, but take precautions
Use this time to sort through the books on your kids’ bookshelves. Maybe you’ll discover some old favorites, and set aside a box of books to get rid of. If you are not sick, put those books on your porch or front walk and make a sign to invite passers-by to take what they want. Visit littlefreelibrary.org to see if there’s already a Little Free Library in your neighborhood. Follow the Little Free Library’s practices for sharing books during the outbreak, which include not sharing books if you are sick or showing symptoms and using hand sanitizer when you pick up someone else’s books.
Get creative with paper
Now’s the time to give origami a try, perfect your paper plane making technique, or build the longest paper chain ever. Fold a triangle “football” for old-school flick football game, make a cootie catcher and pick themed questions for it (what should we make next?), or make a paper balloon to bat around or fill with water, or try your hand at more complicated folding techniques to build something beautiful. Mark your calendars for OrigamiintheGarden, set to come to the Missouri Botanical Garden later this spring.
Make the most of your extra pet time
If the pets seem confused by the sudden flurry of human interaction, take more time to work with them, teach them tricks, groom and bathe them, and amuse them. Get advice from sites the American Kennel Club or Purina about how to train your pet. See what you have around the house to make cat or dog toys.
Create a scavenger hunt
We know of a Post-Dispatch reporter who used to delight in hiding random bags of Ramen in the newsroom. Whoever found it would hide it next, and the game continued. You can set up a similar scavenger hunt at home or in the neighborhood in countless ways: hide pennies, make your own “Where’s Waldo?” — like cutout, ask kids to look for items matching each letter of the alphabet, or hide the Easter eggs early. Add a treasure map or make up riddles to lead to objects outside or around the house. Follow #StayAtHomeHunt or #StayAtHomeHuntSTL on Twitter to play another treasure hunt online. When the weather gets nicer, and you get braver, consider making a mud pit. Fill a dirt hole with mud, then fill it with pennies for a Muddy Penny Hunt. The kid who finds the most wins.
Make a movie, stage a play
Help kids explore movie-making software on your computer or download an app on your phone. Explore stop-action movie making with Barbie dolls, Lego minifigs, clay figures or small toys. Kids can make a slideshow of family pictures, make a documentary of their time at home or record a video diary. Have siblings produce an old-fashioned play to perform on the porch, and invite neighbors to watch from a social distance. Be sure to record it to share with friends and relatives!
Family game night
Break out the old board games. See our board game review at stltoday.com/lifestyles. And when your board games get boring, do a swap with your neighbors.