Children's Hospital Colorado

Age-Specific Schedules and Activities for Kids During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Girl running outside

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted everything from our daily schedules to where we can go and what we can do. These changes can be challenging for everyone, and this is especially true for kids who thrive on routines and predictability.

To help support families during these unpredictable times, our child life specialists have compiled their best tips for how to create a schedule and plan activities for children of any age.

Note: These tips apply any time of the year, whether your kids are enjoying summer, in a virtual school setting or heading back to in-person activities like sports or school.

Creating a schedule for your family during the pandemic

Creating a routine is a great way to help reduce stress for your entire family. Here are some general tips for creating a schedule for family members of all ages:

  • Personalize your plan. There is no perfect schedule for every family. We recommend using meals and bedtime as a starting point and building your family’s schedule around those important parts.
  • Plan age-appropriate activities. To help guide you, we’ve compiled a list of ideas for activities, coping strategies and expression tools for you to incorporate into your schedule based on the age of your children.
  • Give yourself grace. You and your kids are navigating a new normal during these times. A general rhythm can be helpful but remember that your schedule will not be perfect, and that’s okay. It’s simply there to help you.

Schedule tips and activity ideas for kids ages 3 to 6 years old

Transitions are integral when managing activities for children who are 3 to 7 years old. You can help manage stress by giving toddlers and young kids time to transition from one activity to the next. For example, prior to a transition say, “We are going to be putting these toys away soon so we can do something else.” This helps your child mentally prepare to change activities.

We recommend including a variety of different categories of activities in your day. Below are a few different categories that you can include in your schedule with activity ideas that align to each category.

Kids normalize their experiences through physical expression. Giving them some ways to move helps them release their anger, frustration and general energy. This also can help you as a caregiver.

A few ideas for exercise activities:

  • Simon Says: Simon Says can focus on a variety of physical ways to move. You can also use this game to incorporate good coping strategies. For example, say “Simon Says ‘take three deep breaths’” or “Simon Says ‘blow away your grumpiness’” to encourage kids to breathe.
  • Red Light Green Light: Stand opposite from your children. Start with your back towards your children. When you shout, “Green light!” the children move towards you. You can instruct them to walk, walk quickly, run, hop, etc. When you yell “Red light!” turn around to face the children. The children must stop where they are and freeze. Any child seen moving must go back to the start. Go back and forth between green and red light. First one to get to you wins.
  • Exercise programs: Many gyms and exercise companies are offering free virtual workouts, including kids yoga virtual classes from the YMCA and various fitness classes from Beachbody Kids.
  • Dance classes: The Cleveland Inner City Ballet is offering free ballet crafts, lessons and stories.
  • Races, obstacle courses, and other family-based activities can inspire kids to stay active during a family event.

Kids need to know that they are a part of a world that is bigger than themselves. Asking kids, even young kids, to participate in chores helps them learn new skills, feel valued and understand the importance of helping.

Tips for making chore time successful:

  • Allow your young kids to identify things they are good at and can do somewhat independently. This could include sweeping, straightening up their rooms or putting away toys.
  • Make this time fun. You can set a timer or play music to create excitement.
  • Try not to expect perfection.
  • Have a time for cleanup after a play session and time for helping with family chores.

If you can do so safely while practicing physical distancing, get your kids outside for some fresh air. The outdoors is the perfect place for kids to play, make noise and run around. This creates normalcy for kids so that they can understand that despite recent life changes, some things are still okay and fun. Just remember to be creative and safe.

Outdoor activity ideas include:

  • Play catch
  • Play chase
  • Blow bubbles
  • Use sidewalk chalk
  • Play in the garden
  • Set up an obstacle course
  • Listen to and look for birds, squirrels and other creatures
  • Create a scavenger hunt
  • Play with water (always while supervised): sprinkler, baby pool, sponge balls or tub of water with cups and measuring spoons

Learning time is important even for young children. We’ve included a variety of different types of learning that you can have with your children to keep them engaged.

Reading and writing time

Let your child pick something to read. You can read aloud to them or give them alone time to look at books. Though you do not need technology to engage in great family time with books, there are online resources as well.

Online ideas for reading and writing time:

Science and exploration time

Young children are interested in learning about the world around them. Their minds are built for discovery. There are so many great opportunities for this age group online, and just around your house and yard.

Online resources for science and exploration:

  • Virtual museums:
  • Virtual zoo:
  • Germ experiments: there are some great experiments to try with your kids like this soap experiment to show them the importance of handwashing.

Due to the changes the new coronavirus has caused in your child’s world, this is a very important time to help them learn how to cope with stress by breathing and expressing themselves through art.

Breathing activities

When kids are stressed, something they can learn to control is their breathing. Encourage them to take long, slow, deep breaths instead of quick, shallow ones.

  • Breathing obstacle course: Create an obstacle course with tape, books or anything else you have around the house. Once the obstacle course is created, have your children direct a ball through the obstacle course by using their breath with a straw or simply their mouth.
  • Yoga: Cosmic Kids Yoga is a great series of videos for young children. The series covers great topics, like mindfulness and staying strong, and they incorporate your child’s favorite themes like Spiderman, Trolls and Frozen.
  • Pinwheels: Pinwheels are a great tool for helping kids practice breathing. They love to see the pinwheel spin as they take deep breaths.
  • Balloon activity: Have your children watch the balloon and follow its instructions for breathing deeply.

Art and expressive activity time

Kids are not always able to express themselves through words, especially younger kids. Giving them a place to draw, paint and color is therapeutic and fun

  • Drawing: Coloring and drawing with crayons or markers are great opportunities for expression.
  • Make believe playtime: Allow your kids to play dress up and practice playing different characters. You can put out teacups, medical supplies or construction toys and let the kids do what comes naturally to them. This is a great time to take and share photos with loved ones to help everyone feel more connected. However, do your best to let kids guide their own plan (and you can even use this time as a break for yourself).
  • Building time: Kids love to stack and build. Anything you have will work -- LEGOS, blocks, cups or even sheets and cushions for forts. Just avoid things that are breakable or may cause too much noise.

Playtime let’s kids be kids, and there’s no need to create structure or plans for every minute. There are great places to look for ideas, but it is okay to just give the kids some downtime to let them learn to create their own fun and problem solve.

  • Virtual playdates: Join a virtual playdate with Indy with Kids on Facebook. Even if they aren’t live, you can watch the videos with your kids. You can also do virtual playdates with friends and family.
  • Activities: Check out these fun activity ideas to keep your children busy and happy at home.

Creating a bedtime ritual helps your kids wind down at the end of the day and get the best sleep possible. We recommend creating a bedtime ritual for your kids – including time for books, snuggling, a bath or anything else that helps calm your child.

Schedule tips and activities for kids ages 7 to 11 years old

Children in this age group may want to review their schedule each day and choose their own activities. It will take some creative parenting ideas to keep your kids active and engaged over the summer.

For 7- to 11-year-olds, giving choices and control helps promote coping and satisfaction in their lives. This is especially true when many things feel out of control. It’s still helpful to stick to schedules and allow choice.

This age group is also more attracted to technology. Though it’s a strong distraction, do your best to provide enough time for social and interactive options, too. Children in this age group may struggle to express their emotions. That’s why we’ve focused some of our recommended activities on developing strong coping skills during difficult times.

It’s important to offer creative ways for children to express the variety of emotions that they feel related to staying at home, social distancing and missing friends and relatives.

Art and writing activities:

  • Painting: Unstructured painting can be fun and expressive for kids. Put out paints and have your child assign feelings to each color; yellow might be happy and purple might be lonely. Once they have decided what the colors represent, they can paint. Sometimes doing this outside where they can be messy and wild helps them express their emotions while they paint. Some kids feel comfortable talking about what they painted when they are done, and some kids want to keep it private. Either option is fine; the goal is letting out their feelings and not having to use words.
  • Puppets: Learn how to host your own puppet show on the Wonderspark Puppets Facebook page. They offer live puppet shows and live DIY puppet shows.
  • Opportunities for expression: Providing journals can be a great way to get kids to discuss their feelings, and they can use art, lettering, and cartooning as part of their journal if they get creative.

Choose an activity you can do with your child that allows the kids to feel like they are helping others. However, keep it simple so it can be low stress and enjoyable for you as well.

Ideas for giving back:

  • Reach out: Call an older family member or neighbor by phone or video. You can also help kids send a gratitude gram to our team members.
  • Chalk art: Create uplifting chalk art or window messages to lift the spirits of your neighbors.
  • Donate old toys

It’s normal for kids to miss their friends during these times of social distancing. You can work with your child to coordinate one phone, email or video chat a day with one friend or a group of friends. They can even play games over the call.

Mindfulness can help your child cope during stressful times. Encourage your child to try breathing exercises or yoga to help learn these skills. Try a free yoga class with CorePower Yoga to encourage your child to relax and breathe deeply.

  • Counting and breathing: The 4,7,8 breathing method is great for this age group. Have your child breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 7 counts, exhale for 8 counts, and then repeat.
  • Balloon activity: Have your children watch the balloon and follow its instructions for breathing deeply.

Now is a great time to get kids cooking. Supervised cooking allows for choice and control while also providing a math and science lesson. Baking History is a great place to start – they offer combined baking and history classes.

Getting outside is helpful to give your kids room to explore and fresh air to breathe. This can be especially important as you’re spending more time at home than usual.

Outdoor activities:

  • Photography: Use a phone camera to take photos of everything that shows that life is still happening outside – flowers, buds or animal tracks.
  • Gardening: Kids love to see the things they plant grow and change. Order seeds online and start planting according to the directions on the seed packs. You could even plant vegetables for eating throughout the summer.
  • Water play (while supervised): Set up sprinklers, squirt guns or a slide for your kids to play in.
  • Biking with a helmet
  • Scavenger hunts: Set up clues for your kids to seek out in the house or backyard to find a special item or prize.

Science is all about exploration. You can promote fun in learning by allowing your kids to identify things that they feel passionately about to inspire them to want to learn more.

  • Space classes: Tune in to space classes from the Kennedy Space Center.
  • Ocean classes: Check out Oceans Initiative on Facebook for great classes for kids interested in the ocean and marine biology.
  • Virtual museums:
  • Virtual zoo:
    • Join the Denver Zoo’s live-stream program on the Denver Zoo Facebook page, or check out their Zoo to You Safari.
    • Tune into animal feedings with the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Giraffe Cam, or participate in daily animal crafts and activities on their social media channels.
  • Garden exploration: Denver Botanic Gardens is sharing their flowers and gardens virtually through their YouTube channel. Or, visit the Gardens' Library Programs page to download and print multiple coloring sheets.

Music is a great way to learn, destress and create discussion topics for your family. Check out NPR’s list of updated free concerts and music during the coronavirus pandemic.

Let your kids look and make a choice and even try new music with them. Then talk with your kids about how we can feel so much through music, and how we can sometimes change our mood by choosing a different type of music. We don’t always have to change our mood, even when things feel hard, but it sure is cool.

Music time can also become a time of activity with dance parties.

Kids normalize their experiences through their physical expression. Giving them some ways to move helps them get out their anger, frustration and general energy. It’s helpful to you as a caregiver as well.

Schedule tips and activities for tweens and teens

While socially distancing, tweens and teens are searching for normalcy. Kids in this age group may feel isolated, miss their friends and struggle to find a way to make things better.

To help support your tween or teen, create a schedule with options so they can gain back some of the control that they’ve lost due to current circumstances. We recommend creating a general structure and letting them fill in the details. Start with chores as the foundation, and then add friends, virtual social activities, and screen-free family time.

Creative outlets can go a long way with this age group. Help your teenager find creative ways to express their emotions related to staying at home, social distancing and missing friends.

  • Painting: Unstructured painting can be fun and expressive for teens. Put out paints and have your teen assign feelings to each color. Yellow might be happy and purple might be lonely. Once they have decided what the colors represent, they can paint. Sometimes doing this outside where they can be messy and wild helps them share their emotions while they paint. Some teens feel comfortable talking about what they painted when they are done, and some kids want to keep it private. Either option is fine. The goal is for them to let out their feelings without having to use words.
  • Journaling: Journaling is a great option for tracking emotions and experiences during this time. Try asking your teen to track unusual experiences, funny stories, emotions and challenges to help them reflect on all that they are learning, doing and experiencing during the difficult days of the pandemic. Outschool.com offers a wide variety of educational topics including photography, art, sewing and acting.
  • Documenting through photography and videography: The coronavirus pandemic represents an unprecedented and historic time in our lives. Encourage your teen to document their experience by taking photos or videos each day. Using a video diary app like 1 Second Everyday is a fun and engaging way to record and share everyday moments for posterity or self-expression.

Choose an activity you can do together that allows your teen to feel like they are helping others during the pandemic. Think about ideas that are low stress for you such as a video or phone chat with an older family member or neighbor. Older teens can also organize an online fundraiser to support a cause they care about.

Your teen could also create uplifting chalk art messages, sew cloth face coverings to donate or send a gratitude gram to our team members.

Teens often feel that friends are the most important part of their lives, and it can be emotionally difficult for them to be separated from them. Finding creative ways to connect is great for their emotional health.

Encourage your teen to have one phone or video chat a day with one or a group of friends. You can help plan activities that they can do virtually but together. A virtual movie night, where the kids watch a movie together and talk about it on the phone can create a bit of normalcy in a crazy time.

Your teen can participate in a deep breathing or relaxation activity. Many organizations are offering free classes online.

Now’s a great time to get teens cooking. Cooking allows for choice and control while also promoting healthy lifelong skills.

  • Teach your teen your favorite family recipes and traditions.
  • Get a dual lesson on history and baking with Baking History.
  • Gain knowledge on a variety of cooking topics from Milk Street Cooking School. Some classes are general, and others focus on specific skills like using herbs or baking desserts.
  • Learn from a world famous chef on Kitchen Quarantine. Osteria Francescana teaches live classes daily on his Instagram.

Some outdoor time, if they can be safe and maintain distance from others, is a highly normalizing experience for teens.

Outdoor activities:

  • Photography: Use a phone camera to take photos of everything that shows that life is still happening outside – flowers, buds or animal tracks.
  • Gardening: Order seeds online and start planting according to the directions on the seed packs. You could even plant vegetables for eating throughout the summer.
  • Biking with a helmet
  • Hiking
  • Chalk art
  • Running
  • Walking the dog

Science is all about exploration. You can promote fun in learning by allowing your kids to identify thing they feel passionately about to inspire them to want to learn more.

  • Space classes: Tune into space classes from the Kennedy Space Center.
  • Ocean classes: Check out Oceans Initiative on Facebook for great classes for kids interested in the ocean and marine biology.
  • Garden exploration: Denver Botanic Gardens is sharing their flowers and gardens virtually through their YouTube channel. As spring brings new growth and blooms, you also can use their Gardens Navigator to discover the plants and trees in their collection.

Encourage your teen to check out NPR’s list of constantly updated free concerts and music during the coronavirus pandemic. They can even watch one virtually with a friend for a fun shared experience.

Kids normalize their experiences through physical expression. Giving tweens and teens some ways to move to get out their anger, frustration and general energy is important to them. It helps you, too.

  • Taekwondo: Excel Taekwondo is offering a variety of levels of free classes that help get kids moving and learning about Taekwondo.
  • Dance and yoga classes: Flux and Flow Dance and Movement are offering Yoga classes, stretching and dance classes. There are even ballet classes for young ones all the way through more advanced jazz classes.
  • Family walks: Use this time to connect with your teenager by going on neighborhood walks or walking the dog. You can walk with the whole family, or take the opportunity to check in with your teen one-on-one.

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