Written together by father and daughter, Brandon May and Tatum May.
At the tail end of Spring Break 2020, my now 15-year-old daughter, Payton, and I made our own list of 20 things to do with your teen during the quarantine. Admittedly, we didn’t think this would still be an ongoing thing at that time.
I also have a 7-year-old daughter (yes, these three ladies allow only one human with a Y-chromosome to take shelter in this home), and since this whole thing isn’t ending any time soon she eventually asked for her own list.
She wasn’t too stir-crazy at first because she’s inherently lazy, but she’s developing into a totally different definition of the “Seven Year Itch.” So here’s a list of twenty new things you can do with your pre-tween to keep them from being the in-home version of “are we there yet.”
1. Find That Password: This is a fun game to play when helping your elementary-aged kid complete his or her virtual school work but are directed to eleven different sites and apps each with its own unique login and password that you didn’t get to pick. Bonus points for every time someone says, “I swear I wrote that down somewhere.”
2. Sidewalk Chalk Challenge: How much color dust can you scrape out of that tiny remnant of chalk before enduring concrete abrasions on your fingertips? Because the next order of chalk is still en route from Amazon, so I challenge you to get as much blood out of that stone as possible without getting blood out of your fingers.
3. What Can I Jump On?: Pretty self-explanatory. Your kid asks, or in most cases doesn’t ask, what he or she can jump on. The fun part is explaining the difference between what you “can” jump on and what you’re “allowed to” jump on. Examples: “Couch?” Sure. “Couch you’re currently sitting on while watching a Netflix doc that has potty mouth words in it?” No, but thank you for being specific.
4. Remember When’s (parent edition): To get your kiddos out of the house safely, put them in the car and drive by their elementary school or other places they used to complain about going to. “Remember when you never wanted to go here? Bet you wish you could now.” “Oh look! It’s the dentist! Remember when you got to leave that awful school early to watch Finding Nemo while really nice people kept you healthy? Those were the days.”
5. Booger Abstinence: I’m so sorry, but the government says you can’t harvest those anymore because of the whole “don’t touch your face” thing. This is no longer my mandate. It’s above my pay grade, and if you want mommy and daddy to get that stimulus check then we don’t need any red ink in our booger-covered ledger. This decision is out of my hands, and hopefully, the boogers are out of yours.
6. Roomba Roulette: Pick a spot in your common area and stand there. Then start that annoying, not-so-smart robo-vacuum and see who it runs into first. Points are deducted for each time the Roomba hits you before it realizes it needs to make a full 180. But hey, at least your floors look a little cleaner.
7. “Do You Trust Me?”: AKA “I Bet You Can’t Knock This Lego Man Off My Head With That Tennis Ball” AKA “Don’t Worry About What’s In It; It’s A Casserole” AKA “Let’s Allow the 7-Year-Old To Pick The Family Movie Tonight” AKA “Can Daddy Try Cutting Your Hair?”
8. Human Foosball: You need at least six people for this, maybe eight, obviously no more than ten. With a person on both sides, the kid (kicker) places his or her arms around the necks of those to their left and right and with their ankles duct-taped together, each team of kickers swings back and forth trying to kick the ball past the opponent and/or goalie for the score. Oh, and hide the breakables.
9. Name That Juice: Similar to a beer flight board, but more responsible. Pour the contents of juice boxes, Capri Suns, Sunny D, etc. into unmarked cups and have the kids guess the flavor with great detail. “I’m getting a little strawberry but with notes of kiwi.” Also, you can reward the guesser if he or she can tell if it’s really made with “100% real fruit juice.”
10. In-Home Vacation: This is where you pick a room in your home and vow to not enter that room for a week. During that time, the parents rearrange all of the furniture and put out one of those cards that says you don’t want to wash towels in the interest of being “eco-friendly.” After the week is up, the kid can vacation in this strange new room. All-Inclusive packages are optional.
11. Non-Violent Scary Stories: Most scary stories feature dead people or people who are about to be dead. For a kid-friendly version, have them tell a scary story that will shake the entire family to its core. Imagine seeing your little one, with a flashlight illuminating her precious little face from beneath the jaw, ending the story with, “and Mom and Dad never knew a moment of privacy again!” Chilling.
12. Time-lapse Ceiling Fan: You turn the fan on high speed and lie down on your back beneath it. Then you blink your eyes rapidly making the fan look like a bunch of still shots where you can see each blade individually as it spins. Yeah. We’ve actually tried this. Don’t judge. These are weird times.
13. Create Your Own Sovereign Nation: It’s easier than you think. You and your child just have to satisfy the international laws that were set forth in 1933 by the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, and then gain recognition from the United Nations and join the club. Or, your kid could just name his or her room something, make a flag, draft a list of what could be considered by an elementary-aged child to be inalienable rights, and then decide on a reasonable political system. On second thought, even this idea might need to be amended, but hooray social studies!
14. Word of the Day: There are two ways to play this game. One is to pick a new, multisyllabic word each day and introduce it to your kid in a sentence, give a definition, and help them learn to spell it. The other is to accidentally allow them to overhear you on a conference call when grown-ups are talking about the economy and job market. If you choose the second one, then “Can I jump on the couch while you’re watching a Netflix doc that has potty mouth words in it” might not be as big of a shock to them.
15. Candy Crush: All you need is a lightweight hammer and a big bag of Jolly Ranchers. It’s very therapeutic. Wear goggles though. Safety first.
16. Candy Mosaic: With all of those broken shards of Jolly Ranchers, have your child recreate the classics with a delectable mosaic version of Starry Night or the Sistine Chapel ceiling. This will completely monopolize their time and enthusiasm, but if they start growing frustrated then you just hand them that little hammer and another bag of candy to crush.
17. Indoor Cross-Country Running: A 5K is 3.1 miles, which means it’s roughly 16,404 feet. Set a course throughout the home and fire off the starter pistol. Cross-country is about battling various terrain and elements, so feel free to go from hardwoods to tiles to carpets to stairs. Open some windows, turn on a rotary fan, set up a water station with paper cups, and wear uncomfortably tiny, nylon-blend runners’ shorts.
18. Warm Towels: I’ll let you cuddle under this pile of freshly cleaned warm towels for ten minutes if you help me fold them after.
19. Open House: Tell your little beloved to pretend he or she is a realtor in this market downturn and try to sell you the house. This means they need to clean it up, make it presentable, and then tour the parents through the abode pointing out bright spots and points of interest. Make sure they pull comps. If you agree to buy, then have them draft up a contract and negotiate allowances. Then they can earn their commission.
20. And the Commission Is…: Hugs. Lots and lots of hugs. If everyone has been properly washing hands, social distancing, and healthy, then your new realtor/cross-country runner/candy crusher/scary storyteller/couch jumper/booger non-picker deserves at least a 10% commission in the monetary value of hugs.
This is a difficult time for everyone, but it’s especially so for kids who are still trying to figure out how to remember to brush their teeth each day much less understand why they can’t see their friends or go to the movies or even have their grandparents over to visit. As I said in my previous editorial, make your own list or follow this one. You’d be better off if you follow this one, but no judgments.
But keep it fun. Keep it silly. Keep it creative and happy. And also make sure that your kid doesn’t get so good at showing your home that you find out it’s been sold without you knowing it.